Korean Academic Publications Hold Up Poorly

      May 30, 2012 12:03

      Korean universities generally rose in the 2012 Asian University Rankings, but the quality of academic papers, a key criterion for university competitiveness, still fell short of international standards.

      In the rankings by Quacquarelli Symonds and the Chosun Ilbo, 13 Japanese universities were among the top 20 Asian universities in terms of citations per paper, a major criterion for evaluation. Three universities from Hong Kong, two from Korea and one each from Singapore and the Philippines also ranked among the top 20.

      Tokyo Medical and Dental University topped the list with an average of 5.8 citations per paper. The two Korean universities, Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) and Seoul National University, came 14th and 20th, with averages of 4.1 and 3.8 citations per paper.

      This is a poor performance for Korean universities compared to the fact that three of them were among the top 10 in total rankings, taking into consideration various factors such as the number of publications in international journals and graduates achieving success in global corporations.

      The quantity of papers published does not mean much if the number of citations is small. Conversely, a handful of important papers can have an enormous impact on academia.

      Reform-minded Korean universities have obsessively pumped out research papers over the last five or six years, but not many of them have had an impact. Experts say that Japanese universities scored much higher in terms of citations per paper because they have a strong base in the basic sciences.

      "Many Japanese scientists have conducted pioneering experiments or invented equipment, so scientists in other countries cite Japanese scientific papers in their research," said Bae Young-chan, a professor of engineering at Hanyang University. "Korean scientific papers are less cited because they are rarely groundbreaking."

      Min Kyung-chan, a professor of mathematics at Yonsei University, said, "If Korea wants to achieve a per-capita GNI of US$40,000, it needs to be competitive in creative research in basic sciences instead of just trying to get short-term results."

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