Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Research productivity in soil science in the Philippines 

Contributed by:
Dr. Ian A. Navarrete, Humboldt Fellow
Soil Science of Tropical and Subtropical Ecosystems
Georg-August Univesity Göttingen
Gottingen, Germany

Scientific publication is the lifeblood of science and the center of any scientific activity. It is a process by which research results are communicated, exchanged and verified (Merton 1968). Any scientific activity is not complete until research results, whether positive or negative, are made known to the public through scientific publication sensu strictu in a peer-reviewed journal. Because scientific publication is a widely accepted yardstick for scientific productivity, the success of any scientific career is strongly dependent on good publication record (Hartemink 2002). Specifically, the publication is an objective measure for hiring, career promotion, job tenure and justification of annual budget allocation (Fleet et al. 2006). While most studies on research productivity evaluation through scientific publication in the Philippines have been done in education and psychology (Vinluan 2012) and science and engineering (Lim and Saloma 1998; Valencia 2004), no similar study has yet been reported recently in soil science. Exactly 70 years have passed since Pendleton (1930) published his analysis of the state of soil science in the Philippines. Since then our research interests in soil have increased immensely and that scientific understanding of soil has expanded. Understanding the direction and magnitude of soil science publication in the Philippines is crucial in formulating research priorities and funding allocation.

In the present study (Navarrete and Asio, 2013), we conducted an in-depth analysis on the total number of publications and the total number of citations of soil science publications collected from Thomson ISI database. Results revealed an upsurge in soil science publication from 1970 to 2000 as indicated by exponential increases in the number of publications with no indication that this tendency is slowing down (Fig. 1). Increases in the number of citations with time are consistent with increases in the total number of publications (r = 0.93; p < 0.05). Nevertheless, the apparent research biases across soil science sub-disciplines highlight the need for a paradigm shift in research priorities from dominantly rice nutrition research (Fig. 2) to environmental research particularly in understanding the nature and properties of degraded soils, quantifying changes in soil carbon stocks with land-use change, estimating anthropogenic greenhouse gas fluxes, soil pollution and bioremediation.

Specifically, the poor understanding of the nature and properties of degraded soils (Asio 1997; Asio et al 2009; Navarrete et al 2009; Navarrete et al 2011) help explains why until now soil  degradation is a major agricultural and environmental problem in the Philippines (Asio et al 2009; Navarrete et al 2013).

Since foreign soil scientists contributed largely to increases in soil science publication in the Philippines (Table 1), we propose four important points that will likely increase publication output among Filipino soil scientists. First, universities that offer a Ph.D. degree in soil science should require at least one scientific article in an international peer-reviewed journal as prerequisite for graduation. Second, since scientific publication is a widely accepted yardstick for scientific productivity, it must be a benchmark for research productivity evaluation in universities and must be the basis for job tenure, promotion and awards. It is perceived that this will result in an arduous competition to publish. Third, funding institutions should require at least one article published in an ISI journal for each funded research or Ph.D. scholarship grants. Fourth, because of limited research facilities in the country, building an international network of collaborators will likely increases publication productivity. Finally, because not many funded studies ended up as scientific publication, future studies should focus on identifying factors that influence scientific productivity of most Filipino soil scientists in the Philippines.

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Navarrete, I.A., Tsutsuki, K., Asio, V.B., Masayuki, T., & Sueta, J. (2011) Chemical, mineralogical and morphological characteristics of a late Quaternary sedimentary-rock derived soils in Leyte, Philippines. Soil Science, 176, 699-708.
Navarrete, I.A., Tsutsuki, K., & Asio, V.B. (2013) Characteristics and fertility constraints of degraded soils in Leyte, Philippines. Archives of Agronomy and Soil Science, 59, 625-639.
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Correct citation*: Navarrete IA, Asio VB. 2013. Research productivity in soil science in the Philippines. Scientometrics. DOI: 10.1007/s11192-013-1202-6.

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