What is the Real Motivation Behind the Islamic Science Citation Index?

Islamic Science Citation Index

Islamic Science Citation Index

Note: This is a guest post by a professor from an Iranian University.

Before the Islamic Revolution in Iran, some Iranian universities were almost as good as some outstanding universities (e.g., MIT, UCLA, etc.). When the Islamists overtook power in 1979, almost all of the fine Iranian university professors fled Iran for fear of their lives. The universities were closed for a couple of years. Before they re-opened, a team of hard-liner Islamists headed by Professor Abdolkarim Soroosh formed a ‘refinery’ group which came to be known as the “Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution” whose job was to make sure no secular professors would remain employed in Iranian universities. Non-academic criteria (such as wearing the Islamic Chador, having a beard, saying prayers, participating in pro-regime political shows, etc.) were adopted as the criteria for employment, and the job vacancies were filled with so-called virtuous instructors/professors some of whom had fake diplomas (e.g., Ali Kordan).

A few years later, a new cancerous university with hundreds of branches even in far-off villages of Iran came into existence which was called Islamic Azad University; it may be amusing for non-Iranians to know that there is joke among Iranians which says, ‘If someone asks you to say a phrase which includes three BIG lies, just answer “Islamic Azad University”.’ The standards of academic quality were compromised even more, and Iranian universities began to race down the list of top universities of the world. Plagiarism, self plagiarism, fake books and papers, pseudo science, and the like began to grow like a cancerous tumor. All of a sudden, the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology as well as the Ministry of Health, Treatment and Medical Education noticed that Iranian university Professors were no longer able to publish in scholarly journals—they were not university material any more.

The people in charge in the two ministries agreed to do a survey whose purpose was to find the possible causes of this undesirable situation; a pathology/etiology study was performed, but the final report was quite amusing. The people in charge had concluded that universal prestige academic journals were sinisterly not willing to publish works from Iran simply because such journals belonged to Zionists who had decided to practice academic apartheid against Iranians—a justification which is very much in line with what Freud called projection. Everything in this country is explained that simply. There is always a western demon behind whatever goes wrong in this country. The whole world has just one thing to do; to plot against us.

Now that the cause was known, a remedy was in order. This gave birth to the Islamic World Science Citation Index (known as ISC). The ISC was launched as a rival to ISI, JCR, ERIC, etc. Now that we have our own ISC, assistant professors publish in predatory journals and get promoted to the rank of associate professor in no time; by the same token, associate professors become full professors. University rankings, too, have been drastically affected. After all, ISC indexes many predatory journals. Just see the list for yourselves:  http://mjl.isc.gov.ir/Searchresult.aspx?Cond=0. The very fact that ISC has recently added an ‘Excluded Journals from ISC’ link (http://mjl.isc.gov.ir/ExcludedJournals.aspx) on its website testifies to the fact that ISC had indexed them on shaky grounds in the first place; now you can guess the rest of the story. The rest for me now is silence.

17 Responses to What is the Real Motivation Behind the Islamic Science Citation Index?

  1. Joe Thomas says:

    This article reaffirms my view that religion is antithetical to science, and I suspect will become even more so in the future. It is reminiscent of the Institute for Creation Research which started what I believe was called the Journal of Galilean Physics to create a venue for its papers.

  2. Res/Sir

    Thank you for this long informative article about ISC. I request you to visit http://www.socratesjournal.com. This is website of the journal SOCRATES ISSN 2347-2146 (P) & ISSN 2347-6869 (OA). As the journal is multilingual and Persian is one of the languages, I wish to get the journal/ Persian research papers indexed at ISC.

    I consulted the regional centre of ISC Via Email a month back , but got no response.
    Kindly provide me with the relevant informations and links.

    Thanking you.

  3. beebe2013 says:

    We recently had a similar experience with a group from Iran. They published a study using fairly primitive methods that gave values for oxygen levels in fluid removed from the front of the eye that were four times higher than we had measured in situ. We demonstrated the inherent error in their methods in a letter to the editor, but could understand that they were doing the best they could with the equipment to which they had access. They replied, accusing us of scientific bias and prejudice, but never dealing with the facts, They also failed to cite our published work in their paper, about which they were aware, as we had raised the issue when reviewing a previous submission of their work to another journal, which was rejected. It appears to work for Iranian scientists to attack, rather than to discuss. This puts science in Iran in a sad state.

  4. Samir Hachani says:

    Sorry to say that but sounds very much like Algeria !!!!! Jeffrey I do think ( in fact I affirm) Islamic shenanigans have something to do with the situation NOT ISLAM per se !!!! Whenever Islam has been used as an umbrella for a hiden agenda, it has given this kind of results !!!!!

  5. Liam Mac Liam says:

    Thanks for a very informative post and for providing a perspective that I for one don’t have much access to. I have often wondered at the fact that I come across so many good Iranian researchers working in far-flung institutions (in Lisbon and California for example).

    Have to agree with Samir: surely this is not so much a problem of either of the religions Joe mentions (Christianity and Islam) but rather one of powerful bigots furthering their own agendas in the name of religion.

  6. Farid says:

    Let me talk about the positive side on Islamic Azad University, In fact, I do believe this post is bias and does not consider all the facts,
    1. Based on Webofknowledge, all Islamic Azad University branches together have published more than any individual governmental Iranian university in Iran. If you search webofknowledge, you could easily verify that many high quality papers are published by students and university professors in Islamic Azad University.
    2. One of the most popular and well-known journals in the field of environmental science is published by Islamic Azad University named International Journal of Environmental Science and Technology ISSN: 1735-1472, http://www.ijest.org. This journal is ranked A, listed on ISI and maintain a high IF. Note that this journal has been indexed by ISC too.

  7. David says:

    This is not totally paranoia on the part of Iran. We were informed by Elsevier that the American government prohibits Americans from handling manuscripts submitted from Iran and so non-American editors must handle them.

    • The Iron Chemist says:

      I’m not sure how accurate that is. I’m American and have reviewed a couple of manuscripts from Iranian labs.

  8. vasiliy vlassov says:

    This is a blue story. It is not about Iran only. Many societies who feel that they are underrepresented in the SCI want to have their own citation index. Of course, different motives are intertwined. E.g. in Russia there is a long (at least 70 Soviet years) period of isolation, when publications in Soviet journals were possible only. So, the mostly publishing-in-Russian is continuing and Russian language periodicals are underrepresented in SCI (etc.). Naturally the idea of creating the Russian index (elibrary.ru) is blossoming. It helps to self-esteem, but slow the reintegration of Russia to international science…

  9. tafandrew says:

    Let us know the list of reputable journals where we can publish?
    Sent from my BlackBerry wireless device from MTN

  10. Sh says:

    While most of the points in this post have some sides of being true to some extent, but its general perception is off a true objective manner.
    Current Iranian academic body have more merits than 34 years ago (even despite very high rate of brain drain that happens in Iran), simply because of changes in time, academic institutes expansions and population. As an evidence you might refer to its recent years growth:

    At the same time there exists publishing troubles for those who do research in local-context social science disciplines in languages rather than English. This can be more problematic, if they work in theology or fields similar to that.

    And the sanction of Iranian authors (actually sanction of editing their works, specially without any other non-Iranian author in the list) is a true story.

    At the end, the quality of ISC index or the possibility of abuse cases can of course be a matter of concern, but these do not reject the need for a localized indexing system, regarding the current cultural and political settings and barriers.

  11. Jose Frink says:

    I’ve certainly reviewed at least one submission from an Iranian scientist. I’ve also received inquiries about postdoc opportunities from Iranians. And I work for a US government agency!

    Does anyone reading this know anything about Sahand University of Technology in Tabriz? Is it legitimate or like Azad? I’ve got a couple of papers by a group there with some tantalizing lab data, but the data are buried within papers focused on modeling. Inquiries to the authors for primary source materials for the lab data were seemingly deflected; in any case I’ve never seen any primary sources.

    • Sh says:

      Well just as a sample: http://www.elsevier.com/connect/trade-sanctions-against-iran-affect-publishers . Of course as far as I know the sanctions has been modified (or clarified) in recent years to exclude academic only affiliations (it was not so for example in 2004). And of course offering post-doc or other kinds of affiliations is not considered as a problem as this would change the affiliation (but not in many fields which were considered sensitive somehow).

      Sahand university is a mid-ranking university as far as I know. But about Azad (and also Payam-noor) , one should note that they are huge non-homogenous academic bodies. Azad has more than 1.5 million students and 100 branches! one can imagine that at least some of its institutes or branches have some degree of quality.

      And as a general rule, results from any one should be verified, and should be verified more closely when the authors or the research group do not show previous credits.

      • Jose Frink says:

        Thanks. As an aside, the real problem with the Islamic SCI is that science is intrinsically a secular process. If the basic laws of physics had been worked out by Muslims in Iran, they would be no different than what Newton, Maxwell and so on worked out in Europe, in dominantly Christian societies..I get the idea that people in some countries might feel that the expectation of publishing in European or North American journals is unreasonable and a form of cultural imperialism, but it has nothing to do with religion.

      • Sh says:

        Actually that “Islamic” attribute does not have much relation to being islamic in concept! (some how similar to “christian science monitor” that is not about christian news!). That simply means the institute is affiliated with some elements of power structure in Iran.

        I just had a look into both Persian and English sections of the site, there are journals such as “Sufistic Literature (in Persian)” which might show the need for such SCI, there are ISI rated ones also in the list, such as “international journal of environmental research” but there also English and non-special-discipline journals with no other international ranking that are probably non-qualified scientific journals.

        At the same time the list of top scientists impact-factor looks so politically influenced. Therefore I do not reject the possibility of “system tuning” for better serving individual’s interests.

  12. Mico says:

    This may be of interest, too: Spelling errors may harm rankings of Iran’s universities http://www.scidev.net/global/education/news/spelling-errors-may-harm-rankings-of-iran-s-universities.html

    • Liam Mac Liam says:

      That’s interesting about the impact of spelling and translation inconsistencies on rankings of Iranian institutions. Some internal research at Portuguese universities came to a similar conclusion and Portugal’s largest university (recently created by a merger of Lisbon’s classical and technical universities to achieve critical mass) has now instructed all its researchers to use “universidade de lisboa” as the standard affiliation.

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