EMZAR DJGERENAIA, SOPHICO SICHINAVA
The president signed a new provision on the rule of conferring scientific degree that might soon put an end to the development of science in the country, i.e. there was such a paragraph in the provision that turned defence of thesis for doctor degree into a fantasy.
This provision was developed by a small SAC (Scientific Attestation Council) group secretly. The issue was not raised in any of sessions where similar documents are usually considered. Professor Lado Papava speaks about it. He retired from the membership of SAC presidium and chairmanship of branch section.
– The new provision contained paragraphs that make it impossible to defend thesis in economics, and not only in economics, but also in other sciences, as under the provision, no less than three articles should be published in impact-factor magazines.
– What does impact-factor mean?
– It is a system that has been developed in the world since 70s, i.e. it is a magazine where published articles are further cited in other magazines, i.e. such magazine is a modern and leading one for science. It is an American system and it is, mainly, English. Imagine, no matter whether my thesis is good or not, it will not be entered in an English magazine. The situation is as follows: a scientist who has claims for doctorate should have three articles published in the magazine with impact-factor. However, there is one particularity proper to our economic science. If we take the list of impact-factor magazines, we will see that it does not include Russian magazines. Thus, famous and authoritative economic magazines of Russian Academy of Science or Science Academy of USSR are not entered in the list. It is explained as follows: for one thing, these magazines are in the Russian language, their history started since the Soviet epoch and they, mainly, dealt with socialistic economy so articles published in the magazines were not worth citing. The old system was destroyed, yet ten years are not enough for the magazines of economic science to enter in impact-factor regime. If you find list of impact-factor magazines on Internet, you will see that it does not include economic magazines dealing with problems of transition economy. This is explained by the fact that these magazines are new with no more than 10-12 years’ history.
Economic science has its own tradition. Yet, transition problem is left out in this tradition as it is a new one. This formal decision has shown one thing. There is an unfavourable situation: when you are a Georgian or an economist of post-communist epoch or if you work on transition problems, your articles should be published in the magazines of this profile. Other magazines will not accept your articles. Magazines of the Russian Academy such as: “Issues of Economy”, “World Economy of International Relations”, “Economics and Mathematical methods” are not included in impact-factor list as they dealt with socialistic problems 13-15 years ago and afterwards with transition economies. There can, certainly, be no mentioning of Georgian magazines.
What is the situation with Georgian economists? Unfortunately, I will have to speak about myself. Personally I belong to the group of persons who have more than 20 articles published in the USA, England, Germany, Turkey, Russia. When I saw the impact-factor list, I found out that only one of my articles was published in an impact-factor magazine in 1996 while the second one is prepared for publication now in 2003. The situation is even more unfavourable in the Doctor Thesis Council. There issuch a paragraph in the provision: if a new member is accepted to the Council, he should have no less than five articles in impact-factor magazine.
– So we have no such scientists.
– Now imagine. Old members will be left in the Council, but there will be no one who would defend thesis and strengthen the Council in the future because, as I have already told you, for the time being I am the only one to publish two articles in such magazines. What are the results? We will have doctors who defended their doctoral thesis on socialistic problems in 1960, 70, 80s. We will not be able to accept anyone to the Council who would defend dissertation on transition problems. Therefore, this provision is a great step backward for the assessment of dissertations. There is another very important problem concerning the way the paragraph has appeared. Though I was considered a member of SAC and chairman of Branch Section, these issues have never been raised in any of sessions where similar documents are usually considered. This was done secretly. I had to face the fact like any other reader who learns about public acts through various means of information. It is already an issue of principle: many economists thought that I was mixed up in it as if I were interested in stopping defence of dissertation in the country and in limiting science. I have not taken part in it apart form what I have told you. I have not taken any steps on purpose before I met with the SAC chairman. I met with him and the first thing I did was to express my opinion about this ? if I am a member of the Presidium, why should not I know about decisions that are taken secretly? If anyone does not need me, if I do not suit anyone, then I should no more stay in the Presidium as well as in SAC. I have also explained to him that this provision was a problem for science. Personally I have not broken any provisions or instructional records of SAC. Many members of the Presidium did not have membership right as they broke SAC provisions regularly. It is very bad when a small SAC group takes decisions secretly without considering the opinion of scientists. Thus, I made up my mind to declare that I would not stay in the Presidium and in the chairmanship of the Section, moreover, I would also leave SAC after the provision is enforced.
At the same time, I spoke to Gogi Kharadze on the future of science. He admitted that the paragraphs with such approach towards impact-factor and other issues did not prove to be quite good. It was said that certain softer measures should be taken so that the impact-factor shadow would not spread in all spheres and that magazines recognised by the Russian Academy should become equal to impact-factor.
– It turns out that we again attach ourselves to Russia.
– Impact-factor leaves Georgian science in the offside. However, situation will change if Russian magazines are equalled to impact-factor. The Presidium might take the decision in its session, still it will not have legal force as this requires modifications in the President’s order. SAC is not competent for this.
– How is the process organised in Russia, America and other countries?
– Absolutely different. The organisational model of science in the West except Germany envisages for it that Master’s degree is not a scientific one, but rather an academic one followed by doctor of philosophy. Doctorate is one degree ? one defence. As for Germany, mechanism that is equalled to the scientific degree of candidate is the same as professor assistant. There are two steps in the Russian system. If we accept one-step defence, we will find ourselves in a very difficult situation. Nowadays, our higher education establishments do not provide students with necessary education. Works of Master’s degree holders do not even reach the level of course work of students in the West. Works of our Master degree holders are not performed on a deep scientific level. In the 19th century, Georgians aspired to the titles of tavad ?aznaur (titles of Georgian noblemen). Phenomenon of Solomon Mejganuashvili is a clear example of it. The same is the problem of Keto and Kote. Today we have another difficulties. There is no title of tavad nowadays. Instead, there is the title of professor, doctor. As you know, many people in Georgia and not only in Georgia, but also in the whole post-communist area, do their best to become doctors as soon as they find good posts or money. Everything is done for title so that the people might once have a beautiful inscription on their gravestones. I think that two-step system should be preserved unless radical reforms are not performed in higher schools and unless the country would have highly-intellectual and well-prepared specialists.
– What do you think was the aim of provision authors?
– I understand that the authors want the system to become more strict so that to prevent unqualified persons from penetrating into the system. I share all of the criteria. It is true that we should stop people’s aspirations to the title of doctor or professor. However, there is a certain objective reality in all sciences. If an economist of post-Soviet epoch manages to publish an article in a good English or Russian magazine and if it is not so easy to publish articles in the magazines unless they are entered in impact-factor list, where should he place his articles then ? in the magazines where they are not accepted a priori?
– How many magazines are entered in the impact-factor list? Is publication paid or free?
– It is not paid anywhere. The number of magazines reaches 200. All of them are in the English language though some of them are issued in Sweden and some in Japan. I remind you once again that none of the magazines deals with transition problems. Almost none of the magazines dealing with transition problems has impact-factor. There is such a magazine: “Emerging markets”. Emerging market can also be found in developing countries as well as in post-communist ones. This magazine has impact-factor, but it does not directly deal with transition problems. Let us say that magazine dealing with such problems comes out in America, but it does not have impact-factor.
I decided to leave SAC because I would not be able to explain to my colleges the decision of SAC. Personally I think that the decision was unjustified and unacceptable.
– Does SAC exist in other countries?
– No. All Universities have their defence systems. It is a quite democratic system, but all Universities have their own traditions. You cannot defend thesis by chance in, f.e., Harvard, Massachusetts Technological University. The same is in Chicago University where most winners of Nobel Prize in economics work. There are no such traditions in our country. If our higher education establishments are given the right of thesis defence, this will lead to a complete chaos. We have a great number of academicians today; almost all of them are members of a certain Academy and all of them have diplomas of private educational establishments. They will have similar diplomas of candidates and doctors. Thus, it is necessary to have a certain regulating agency that will regulate the issues in transition period. However, I think that the work style of SAC leadership is wrong. This will only cause strengthening of negative attitude towards SAC.
– Though there is SAC and its head organisation (in Moscow), the category of people that you, too, belong to, do not have any difficulties with defending dissertations. Thus, SAC does not warrant that the viciousness that we have spoken about will soon be eliminated.
– SAC does not certainly warrant this, but it sets requirements for dissertations. Perhaps, you will agree with me that if the functions are passed to higher education establishments, requirements will become of much lower level. In fact, defence of dissertation will be no more a problem.
– Let us consider the problem from different problem of view, as we cannot put an end to false dissertations and false science. Let everybody defend dissertations, then it will become clear who is a good or a bad doctor. Otherwise, no matter how many barriers we would create, powerful people will still find ways of evading them while others will lose any stimulus.
– What you have said, fits in the ideology of market economy. Sooner or later, we will follow this way in science, too. There is one moment here: we have accepted this way in the educational system. You know well that I can name some successful higher education establishments, but this number is not great. At the same time, we have lots of higher education establishments, both state and private, with their level of education being beneath any criticism. Therefore, higher education establishments have lost the function of training highly qualified specialists. I understand that professors do not have salaries, they cannot subscribe to magazines in order to learn about new achievements. If there are computers, there will be no electricity, Internet will not be used because there is no money for it, etc. How can we talk of science and education in such a state of affairs? However, certain standards should be preserved in science in a particular stage. When I was a member of SAC and a chairman of the Section, we considered some doctor and dissertation works as plagiarism. We forbade the people to defend dissertations. I am pretty sure that but for the SAC mechanism and the principal attitude of my colleges, all of them would become doctors. I will tell you that we exposed some famous University professors of plagiarism. If we were more principal, we would dismiss such people from scientific attestation. I do not mean that these people struggled to make me retire from SAC. But they, certainly, had a hand in it. In fact, it is unacceptable to me when a small group of SAC presidium does not inform other SAC members of its decisions.
– Does any scientific branch of Georgia have a world-recognised scientist?
– I do not know other spheres well, but if you look through mass media, you will see that another unique discovery was made in Georgian archaeology. Archaeologists have brought Georgia out to the world level. I have heard of some physicists who have received basic education in Georgia and who now work in the leading scientific centres. What else can I say? It is difficult to require anything from scientists who do not have money, magazines and Internet. They read lectures in institutes and universities trying to make some money to keep their families. The difficult situation in the country leads to it that it is very difficult to pass five-year University course, three-year post graduate study, and afterwards work on dissertation and defend candidate dissertation. This takes ten years so someone should keep you for all these years. The main thing is to become candidate, professor assistant or doctor. However, there are no career possibilities. The doctor who defends dissertation in Chicago has minimum 10 000 dollars’ salary.
In the rest world, scientists do not have such a high salary, but, at least, they have half of the sum. They are not rich, but, at least, they are well-off. I speak about those who work in the University as professors though high-rank Universities, certainly, offer high salaries. You will have 10 000 dollars’ salary if you work in an international organisation, for instance, in the World Bank or IMF, besides, you should have a good post.
– In this situation, someone who decided to devote himself to science should, perhaps, be a fanatic. Otherwise, he would not have the desire for research.
– There are two trends: the first is, what you have just said, that a person is a fanatic and has the wish for work, but his possibilities are limited both in life and scientific circles. At the same time, unfortunately, there are many occasional people. Everybody knows that sometimes those who defend dissertations do not have any notion of it. It is also known that candidate dissertation costs approximately 3000 dollars while doctoral dissertation does not exceed 5000 dollars. I am neither a prosecutor nor an investigator to blame anyone, but everybody knows that it is so. Dissertations were defended by people who cannot even express their thoughts or cannot write a correct sentence, not to mention their education in economy. Instead, they have money.