In one of the recent Nature issues, there was a piece called “France’s reforms: the costs of competitiveness”. In a nutshell, this is about the creation of Paris-Saclay, a behemoth conglomerate of research organizations that earned France (for the first time, as emphasized in the article) a place among the top 20 best universities in the world. France has apparently spent more than €5B on this effort. And this is just one example of a country where efforts to improve the ranking of its universities become a national (state) agenda.
But what does it mean to be the best university? The Shanghai ranking of universities, for example, is based on several criteria. However, only three of the indicators (highly cited researchers, papers published in Nature and Science, papers indexed in SCI-expanded and SSCI) contribute to 60% of the total score. Thus, it is fair to say that these international rankings heavily rely on publications in high-IF journals.
We often discuss that greater research rigor may result in more negative data and less breakthrough findings with the consequence of fewer high-IF publications. If this is true, can we go to the French (or another) government and ask to invest into research rigor?
Yes, we can… but we can also predict what the answer most likely will be…