Europe may have eclipsed the Middle East during the Renaissance, but as the number of publications from Iran grows, a revival seems to be gathering pace. It has been suggested that this may be related to the importance that Iran attaches to the development of nuclear technology. Another reason could be the positive effects of reformist president Mohammad Khatami, who has shown a strong commitment to higher education (1).

In a recent study (2), Zouhayr Hayati and Saeideh Ebrahimy analyzed the scientific output produced by institutes and organizations in Iran, motivated by the observation that the “recent policy of government officials to increase participation has substantially increased the number of Iranian scholars in international journals.”

They compared universities to research institutes and other organizations and found that there was no difference in the citation impact of the papers produced by the three groups, but there was a difference in quantity: universities produce more papers.

Productivity reaps citations

Using Scopus data, Research Trends identified the top-five prolific and cited Iranian universities and institutes in 2007 (see Tables 1 and 2 respectively).

Top-five prolific institutes
Number of articles in 2007
1. University of Tehran
2,006
2. Sharif University of Technology
1,122
3. Daneshgahe Azad Eslami
1,011
4. Daneshgahe Tarbiat Modares
879
5. Amirkabir University of Technology
746

Table 1 – Scientific output of the most prolific institutes in Iran in 2007 Source: Scopus

Top-five cited institutes
Citations, two-year rolling
1. University of Tehran
1,960
2. Daneshgahe Tarbiat Modares
1,260
3. Sharif University of Technology
1,135
4. Daneshgahe Azad Eslami
1,027
5. Shiraz University
778

Table 2 – Number of citations in 2007 to publications from 2005 and 2006 for the most-cited institutes in Iran Source: Scopus

There is little difference between the two Tables; the most productive institutes are typically also the most cited.

Indeed, Hayati and Ebrahimy show a positive correlation between an institute’s scientific output and the number of citations for all three groups (Pearson’s correlation = 0.94). They also found that the average number of citations per article – a measure of the impact these articles have had in the scientific community – was higher for more productive institutes (Pearson’s correlation = 0.21).

When trying to replicate these correlations with Scopus data, we investigated articles published in 2005 and 2006, and citations to those articles in 2007. We did not distinguish between the three groups of institutions. We found a very strong positive correlation between article output and citations received (0.94), but this can hardly be considered surprising; as the number of articles written increases, it is a given that the number of citations will also increase.

To show that the number of citations per article rises as the number of articles that are published increases, there would need to be a positive correlation between output and citations per article. In Hayati and Ebrahimy’s study the Pearson’s correlation was low, and in this present study it is lower still, at a mere 0.0002. Taken together, this suggests that no such relationship between productivity and citation impact exists for universities and research institutes in Iran.

Attracting international attention

When looking at international collaboration, we see the same pattern. If an institute publishes many papers, the number of international collaborations is also high (Pearson’s correlation = 0.73). However, when we look at the correlation between the number of papers and the percentage of articles that are written in collaboration with international partners, the correlation becomes less convincing (Pearson’s correlation = 0.53).

In a broader context, Iran as a whole is on the right track. Figure 1 illustrates how the number of Iranian articles published has shown year-on-year growth of 25% over the last 12 years.

Figure 1 – Number of articles from Iran published between 1996 and 2007 Source: Scopus

Figure 1 – Number of articles from Iran published between 1996 and 2007 Source: Scopus

Figure 2 shows how citations to Iranian research have also increased over the same time period, and that this increase cannot solely be explained by increased self-citations from Iran. Internationally, Iranian research is being cited more and more.

Figure 2 – Percentage of self-citations for Iran as a rolling two-year measure (citations in 2007 to articles published in 2005 and 2006) Source: Scopus

Figure 2 – Percentage of self-citations for Iran as a rolling two-year measure (citations in 2007 to articles published in 2005 and 2006) Source: Scopus

Findings in both the article by Hayati and Ebrahimy and the present study show that Iranian institutes are on the right track when it comes to increasing the total number of articles and the total number of citations. Relatively speaking, citations per Iranian article remains constant, as there is not a strong correlation between increased output and the number of citations received per article. As global perceptions of Iranian science shift over the coming years, we may see Iran begin to take its place among the scientific nations of the world.

Reference:

(1) Editorial 'Revival in Iran' (August 17, 2006) Nature, Issue 442, pp. 719–720
(2) Hayati Z. and Ebrahimi S. (2009) 'Correlation between quality and quantity in scientific production: A case study of Iranian organizations from 1997 to 2006', Scientometrics, Vol. 80 issue 3, pp. 625-636
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