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To Bangkok Conference programme

65th IFLA Council and General

Bangkok, Thailand,
August 20 - August 28, 1999

Code Number: 058-84(WS)-E
Division Number: VII
Professional Group: Library Theory and Research: Workshop
Joint Meeting with: -
Meeting Number: 84
Simultaneous Interpretation:   No

Using information research techniques to track the effects of recent changes in Australian science policy

Kerry Smith
Department of Information Studies
Curtin University of Technology
Perth , Western Australia


This short paper outlines information research techniques being considered and used for a research topic on Australian science and technology funding policy in the geoscience context.



de Solla Price (c1965) uses the quantity of scientific output in the form of journal papers produced to assist his claims regarding the exponential development of science over time. The use and need by the scientific researcher for the scholarly journal paper and extensive bibliography to account for research performance has been well documented (e.g, Donohue, 1973, Lancaster, 1991) and indeed much bibliographical and bibliometrical analysis of science is based on this measure.

This demonstration of research productivity has been the accepted measure in Australian science and has been studied recently by Bourke, Butler and others in a series of projects which have been reviewed in the thesis. Their work used the proven methods of citation analysis to carry out research evaluations and performance indicator analyses in the Australian research domain, in order to verify whether or not the new funding regimes as described in the thesis were having an negative impact on Australian research outputs. It was generally found that Australian research output was as high as it had been in the past.

A major task of the thesis will be to test the validity of these measures in today's Australian geoscience research climate.

Brief discussion

According to Lancaster (1991), the bibliometric criteria for assessing research productivity, and hence research performance, include:

  • the number of publications produced; the quality of the sources in which the published material appears;
  • how much of the work is individual, grouped, or organisational;
  • what is the quality of the citation, as judged by the perceived quality of the citing journal; (Lancaster, 1991, p. 6)

Lancaster's measures of an individual's productivity are:


    Number of publications
    Number of pages


    Type of publication
    Source of publication
    Internal qualitative indicators
      number of sources cited
      types of sources cited
      age of sources cited

At this stage it is not known whether all of these measures will be investigated in the thesis.

Another issue is that of the rise, as described by de Solla Price, of big, i.e. collaborative science with its consequent joint or multiple authorship of papers. Bibliometric studies have shown that jointly authored work tends to be cited more often than others (Lancaster, 1991, p. 17).

The issue of the scholarliness of a publication will be considered, i.e. it is generally assumed that the more bibliographical references a paper includes, i.e. cited, the more scholarly it is. Also to be considered are the role and changes in scholarly publication in today's electronic environment. The type of material cited (formal vs informal, primary vs secondary) will be considered as might the individuals and institutions cited.

The study

The thesis topic is: Performance measures for Australian geoscientific researchers in the new Australian funding regimes.

The following questions have been asked:

In general:

  • Have the new funding regimes for the Australian geoscientific researcher had an impact on scholarly publishing in the geosciences?

and more particularly:

  • Is the scholarly journal paper still the most useful and valid measure of performance for Australian geoscientific researchers?

  • Has the output of scholarly papers for Australian geoscientific researchers changed under the new funding regimes?

  • If Australian geoscientific researchers are not publishing in scholarly journals to the same extent as prior to the new funding regimes, is their research being disseminated?

  • Are Australian geoscientific research results reaching the public domain? If not why not? If so, how is this happening?

In addressing the above questions, the following hypotheses will be tested:

  • The research output of Australian geoscientific researchers continues.

  • The scholarly journal article is no longer the single most valid way of judging the research performance of the Australian geoscientific researcher.

  • The research output of the Australian geoscientific researcher is not reaching the public domain as quickly as in the past.

The thesis includes:

  • a Bibliometric Overview, covering issues including using bibliometrics to measure researcher productivity and the impact of research, individual impact, journal ranking, a review of the work of the Australian social scientists Bourke and Butler on Australian research output;

  • the Scientific Setting, including discussion of issues including the sociology of science covering scientific prestige, the commuting scientist, collaboration, the role of conferences and scientific exchange; scientists and their writing covering prolific writers and multiple authorship, scientific publishing and the public domain;

  • The Australian Scientific Research Setting, including the historical context, Australian research centres (Special Research Centres (SRCs), Key Centres for Teaching and Research (KCTRs) and Co-operative Research Centres (CRCs)), research performance measurement, funding regimes covering initiatives like the R & D Taxation concessions, the Australian Research Council (ARC), commercialisation of research and Australian geoscientific research and its funding.

The proposed methodology is still under review but will essentially comprise a bibliometric analysis along the lines of the methods outlined above in the brief discussion, of most, if not all, of the geoscientists over the life of their research centre in one each of the three categories of research environments: the SRC, KTCR and CRC. It will, if possible, compare this with earlier output, i.e. research activity before the life of their involvement in the newer research environment.


This paper is a snapshot of the work to date for the author's PhD. It is hoped that the results of the thesis will provide an insight into the validity and value of changes in the funding regimes for Australian geoscientific research.


Bourke, P. and Butler, L. (1993). A crisis for Australian science? ANU performance Indicators Project Monograph Series No. 1. Canberra: Australian National University.

Butler, L., Bourke, P. and Biglia, B. (1997, September). CSIRO: profile of basic research. ANU Research Evaluation and Policy Project Monograph Series No. 4. Canberra: Australian National University.

de Solla Price, D. (c. 1965). Little science, big science. New York: Columbia University Press.

Donohue, J.C. (1973). Understanding scientific literatures. Mass: MIT.

The effects of resource concentration on research performance. (1993, November). National Board of Employment, Education and Training, Commissioned Report No. 25. Canberra: AGPS.

Hill, S. and Turpin, T. (1993, October). The formation of research centres in the Australian university system. Science and Technology Policy. pp. 7-13.

Lancaster, F.W. (1991). Bibliometric methods in assessing productivity and impact of research. Bangalore: Sarada Ranganathan Endowment for Library Science.


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