Upgrading the Quality of Science: Does Funding Source Matter?

Extended Abstract – MINING NOVEL DATA SOURCES session at “1st Global TechMining Conference” 2011

Author(s): Abdullah Gök and Philip Shapira (University of Manchester)

This paper examines the effect of differential and multiple funding on the quality of science in the Czech Republic. We explore several propositions. Firstly, we investigate whether European Union research sponsorship is changing the field orientation of Czech science, compared with the structural long-term trend of change since 1980. Secondly, we ask whether the European Union research sponsorship has had a positive influence on the quality of Czech scientific papers compared with other national and international funding sources. Our measures of quality include accrued citations and journal impact factors.

Political and economic restructuring has prompted many developments in science systems in Eastern Europe over the past two decades, including changes in the sponsorship of scientific research. In the Czech Republic, scientific activity has been greatly influenced by the collapse of the Soviet bloc (1989), the country’s emergence from the former Czechoslovakia (1993) and entry into the European Union (2004). The change manifested itself in a wide variety of structural quantitative and qualitative shifts, including the amount of scientific publications, relative importance of scientific fields, relative productivity of institutions, national and international collaboration and scientific quality and impact. Among many different factors that shaped the structural shift of the Czech Republic science, sponsorship is a key one. While multiple and international funding was present in the former Czechoslovakia, in recent years a variety of multiple national and international sponsors, including the European Union, now sponsor Czech scientific research.

While we focus on the impact of European Union funding in general, we differentiate by several categories. Structural funds, for example, are given by the European Union while they are allocated and managed by national and local authorities. Similarly, in most of the cases the conditions attached to them are not as strict as other European Union funding. For instance, they do not have to be collaboratively used with other European Union scientists. Framework Programme funds, however, exhibit completely different characteristics as they are allocated and managed centrally, they have strict conditions attached, they are more competitive (the success rate is lower), and multi-national collaboration is generally required. There are a number of other EU-wide programmes which the European Union funds or co-funds. We also look at the impact of national funding sources as well as bilateral and other international funding.

We draw upon the funding acknowledgements data now available in the ISI Web of Science (since 2008), using VantagePoint for data cleaning and analysis, as well as a larger database of Czech publication records for the period 1980 through 2010. Thirty-years of publication data is available to determine the general trends of the Czech science system. Funding acknowledgements data is available since mid-2008. We compare international collaborated publications (i.e. publications with at least non-Czech Republic address) with national publications (i.e. those published by only-Czech addressed author(s)). We acknowledge limitations in the Web of Science in terms of the journals it captures, although it remains one of the largest and most comprehensive sources.

Our findings indicate that European Union funding is influential only in structural change in relation to funds allocated and managed by European Union itself. Similarly, quality is increased in such cases. European Union funding in the form of structural funds does not exhibit significantly different characteristics than national funding. Furthermore, European Union funding has more influence when it is supported by other national and international sources of funding.

The paper considers the implications of the results for national research policy in the Czech Republic and for broader European research policy. The paper highlights some of the new opportunities for research and policy analyses offered through the linking of funding acknowledgements with other bibliometric data, and also comments on the limitations of this new field.

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