Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Final score

As an update to something I blogged about last year, I thought I'd look at the final version of the IPCC AR5 WG1 report to see how Japanese scientists fare. It's important to not take this too seriously, as weight of papers, and even numbers of citations, are not really that good an indication of scientific quality. But on the other hand, they are better than nothing as a rough guide.

Choosing to look at IPCC citations is far from arbitrary - right from the outset, our institute has always been heavily focussed towards climate change research, with this publicity pamphlet talking of "the final goal, predictions of global changes" and even now RIGC's web page boasting of our "active participation in the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change". This metric also introduces a modest element of quality control compared to purely weighing papers by number or page count.

I didn't restrict my attention to team leaders this time, but instead started off by considering the Senior and Principal Scientists at RIGC. These grades should represent well-established researchers with significant records, typically in their late-30s at least. We are the lower of these two grades. And here's how they did. Each symbol is a person, with the x-axis indicating total number of papers they have co-authored, and y-axis their number of first-author papers, that are cited in the IPCC AR5..

I was rather surprised to find that getting on for half of them - 28 in total - are not cited once. That is, they have collectively not even co-authored a single paper that the IPCC considered worth a mention. A further 19 have at least got their names on papers, but not written any themselves. Only about 18 have actually written anything at all.

There are plenty of active researchers in Japan, at all levels from junior to senior. I looked up a number of people who I expected to have made a significant contribution, including the Japanese IPCC Lead Authors, prominent professors, and other active scientists at more junior levels. Sure enough they had mostly contributed a decent number of papers. Some of them are mostly managers hence not writing a lot (but co-authoring with their group members) but some are quite young and writing a lot of good stuff.

Jules and I took our responsibility to contribute to the IPCC seriously, and basically top the list (well, one person has co-authored one paper more than either of us, but they have not written many). A combination of a bit of good fortune, combined with jules' good management, has resulted in us collaborating with many of the best people here. And maybe we helped them a bit, too. But it's clear enough that JAMSTEC simply doesn't care, hence the demotion for jules last year and the destruction of our group.

Someone else suggested an alternative metric, which is to simply count the number of times that each name appears in the report. This may better represent the case where someone has written one or two highly influential papers that crops up again and again. It's also a lot easier to count (apart from multiple and partial names). This time, jules is top by a huge margin, with 90 mentions to my 68, with the top Japanese appearing in the high 40s. Of course the point is not to claim that we are really the best or more prominent scientists here, but merely that we've done well enough that actually punishing us was, and remains, an astonishing decision that demolishes the notion that JAMSTEC has any interest in performing scientific research, more specifically climate change research.
A couple of weeks ago, I had an exit interview with the Executive Director of JAMSTEC. Along with shrugging his shoulders and claiming that none of what had happened to us was any of his responsibility, he also explained that his future vision for JAMSTEC was as an outward-looking international organisation. He didn't explain how our treatment fitted in to that plan.

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