Friday, 5 August 2011

Some indicators on Sudanese research output (I)

  This week I was lucky to meet my colleague Niamh Brennan at the Repository Fringe 2011 in Edinburgh. Niamh works at the Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland, where she's Programme Manager at the Research Information Systems & Services Unit. She's in charge, among other things, of the TCD Institutional Repository TARA and its integration with the pioneering TCD CERIF-based CRIS system, as well as involved in the development of the Irish National Open Access Research Portal RIAN. Niamh does also take part in the Irish-African Partnership for Research Capacity Building (IAP), which since 2007 promotes institutional collaboration for development-related knowledge generation, knowledge exchange and mutual learning. As part of her work for IAP, Niamh took part in the Open Access advocacy workshop in Malawi: "Maximising research quality and impact" held at the Kamuzu College of Nursing, University of Malawi in Oct 2009.

When she was told about the work we're currently carrying out at the University of Khartoum she was eager to share with us some data about the Sudanese research output in top-quality journals (that is, as determined by the ISI in Philadelphia, US) and its evolution. We will disseminate this information in a series of posts devoted to the situation of the Sudanese research output with regard to other African countries and to several interesting aspects of Sudanese research, such as main countries which authors at Sudanese institutions collaborate with, average number of citations received by Sudanese main publications or main subjects of the Sudanese top-class research output. All these results were obtained from the ThomsonReuters InCites application, which will only account for research papers published in ISI journals. Therefore it's just an estimation and by the way a severely biased one (read Eve Gray's article "Access to Africa’s knowledge: Publishing development research and measuring value") but since those papers published in these high impact-factor journals are critical for research assessment, we consider it to be information of interest. Incidentally, it would be really useful to know how many researchers in Sudanese institutions do actually have free electronic access to this top-class research papers produced by themselves or their colleagues based at Sudanese institutions.

In this first post devoted to Sudanese research output indicators we will examine coauthorships by countries in Sudan ISI research papers in two periods, 2006-2011 and 2000-2005. This will allow for an analysis of the evolution in the area of coauthorships in Sudan along the last decade.

The countries in Table I below are those with a highest number of (ISI paper) coauthorships with researchers based in Sudanese institutions along the period 2000-2005. The total number of papers published in ISI journals along those six years is 672 (the complete table for this period is available here).

2. USA 51
6. SWEDEN 38
7. FRANCE 37
9. JAPAN 28
10. DENMARK 26

The evolution of the coauthorship indicator may ne analysed by comparing the previous table with the results of the same indicator for the period 2006-2011, for which the number of papers published by researchers affiliated with Sudanese institutions has grown to 1323, that is, nearly doubled. Even if there is now a substantially higher numer of journals being accounted for at the ISI estimations, the evolution of research produced in Sudan is clearly very positive along the last decade.

SUDAN 1323
1. USA 147
2. ENGLAND 138
3. GERMANY 135
6. JAPAN 58
7. FRANCE 55
8. EGYPT 54
11. KENYA 51
12. CHINA 50

There are several aspects to highlight from the comparison of both tables. First one is the remarkable increase in the number of publications along the second, most recent six-year period. The second table includes those countries with 50 or more ISI papers written in coauthorship with researchers in Sudan (full list available here). If we had made that restriction at the first table the US and England would have been the only countries above that threshold, while now it's 12 of them.

Then it's interesting to analyse geographical adscription of the featured countries: while in the period 2000-2005 most of them were European, save for the exception of Saudi Arabia, in 2006-2011 African countries such as Egypt, South Africa and Kenya have a relevant number of coauthorships with Sudanese institutions, plus a given number of Asian countries that were not there before such as Malaysia and China.

As a conclusion of this first analysis, Sudanese research coauthorship pattern in the last decade seems to be both spreading (there are less blanks in the second map, US and UK being left intentionally blank in both) and gradually shifting from European to African and Asian countries (with the US in very high positions in both 6-yr periods), and the number of high-impact papers has doubled in the meantime.

Nest post will deal with the evolution in the affiliation of the researchers who published these top-quality papers, and with the subjects in which Sudanese research is a world-class one.

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