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Lost Science in the Third World What has changed since 1995?. W. Wayt Gibbs, Senior Writer Scientific American +1.415.397.0226 wgibbs@sciam.com. LDC Research is Invisible. OECD+ Authors are found on 72% of items in 1994 SCI. LDC Authors could be found on 5.6%.

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Lost Science in the Third World What has changed since 1995?

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Lost Science in the Third WorldWhat has changed since 1995?

W. Wayt Gibbs, Senior Writer

Scientific American




LDC Research is Invisible

  • OECD+ Authors are found on 72% of items in 1994 SCI.

  • LDC Authors could be found on 5.6%.

  • LDC representation in 1994 in:

    ScienceNatureThe LancetCell



1994 Science Citation Index


LDC Journals Slipping into Obscurity


Change in Impact Factor of 10 LDC Journals, 1988-1992


The Matthew Effect

“Unto every one that hath shall be given… but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.”

—Matthew ch.25

Robert K. Merton, Science, 159(3810):56, 1968


“There is no science there.” — Jerome Kassirer, NEJM

“Many [LDC journals] do not deserve… to be published.” — Manuel Krauskopf, Univ. of Chile

Poor English

Page charges (more in US than Europe)

LDC libraries get few journals

“First-Worldism”— Wielend Gevers; “inherent prejudice” — C.N.R. Rao

Bias against applied research



Local journals have low impact, low prestige, no cash incentives

LDC researchers send their best work to SCI journals

Vicious Circles

  • LDC journals

  • do not meet criteria for indexing

  • Submissions are

  • too low to support rigorous peer review and regular publication



  • ExtraMED, ExtraSCI

  • Incentives for publishing, especially in SCI-listed journals

  • Journal donation programs of AAAS, INASP

  • LDC culling of weak local journals

  • Africa One & direct satellite Internet access


What Would We Cover Now?

  • SCI (3,430 journals in 1995) replaced by the Web of Science/SCI-E (>5,500 journals)

  • Access to citation data in many LDC institutions seems to be falling further behind.

  • Increased size of SCI-E has increased number of LDC-authored items in database. 1999 SCI-E has double or triple the number of the 1994 SCI for many LDCs.


1999 Science Citation Index-Expanded


LDC Journals Inch Upward


Impact Factors Rise as Well


A New Look at Matthew

  • Manfred Bonitz, bonitz@fz-rossendorf.de

  • Matthew effect for journals. Most skewed:

    Nature: 33,901 Matthew citations

    Physical Review B: 15,380

    Science: 14,271Lancet: 7,427

    NEJM: 6,502J. Biol. Chem.: 9,559

  • Parable of the Talents  “Olympic Games”


Reviewing Peer Review

  • Special issue of JAMA, 15 July 1998

  • Retrospective study of all papers submitted to Gastroenterology in 1995 & 1996 detected significant bias (p=0.001; OR=1.49)


118 MS randomized to masked or open at Ann. Emerg. Med., Ann. Int. Med., JAMA, Ob. & Gyn., Opthalmology

68% success against guessing (less for well-known authors)

No difference in review quality, acc. to authors and editors

467 MS randomized to masked, unmasked, control at BMJ

58% success against guessing.

No significant difference detected in review quality by editors or authors.

No significant difference in acceptance rates.

Trials of Double-Blind Review


Past Initiatives

  • ExtraMED: Back in publication after >1 year hiatus. 307 journals, 20,850 articles. Still struggling financially. Has 50 subscribers, ~half in LDC; none of the major US research libraries subscribe.

  • ExtraSCI:


Journal Donations Drop Off

  • AAAS Program dead for several years

  • M.I.T. exchange program halted

  • India Institute of Science receives 1,500 journals now, down from 2,000 in 1995.


The Internet: Broadening the Gap...

  • Monthly cost of Internet access  monthly salary of African researcher.

  • Total national bandwidth of majority of African countries is  64kbps.

  • AAAS study: 2 of 4 African universities could not download PDF files.


…or Bridging It?

  • AfricaOne: $1.6bn fiber optic ring to be completed in 2002. Two dozen landing points will share ~80Gbps.

  • Brazil: SciELO (http://www.scielo.br/) hosts 42 e-journals. Link to Internet2 will increase bandwidth 77-fold in 4 cities. FAPESP has invested in Web of Science access for Brazilian universities and research labs.

  • Asia-Pacific Advanced Network extended to link with Malaysia biodiversity and bioinformatics network.


Internet Hosts per capita, July 1999


Some LDCs show dramatic increases in Internet activity


But the gap between rich and poor nations is enormous


Geometric growth in both rich & poor nations suggests that LDCs are ~5 years behind developed nations in use of Internet


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