Meng Fanrong, Professor of Xi 'an Jiaotong University: "Leading Force" as a New Index for Evaluation of Science and Technology Associations

"How far is China's science and technology community from the world-class?" This question is in urgent need of an intuitive, scientific and credible evaluation system to answer. With the global scientific and technological innovation entering an unprecedentedly intensive and active period, scientific and technological associations have become important participants and leaders in the development of modern science and technology. A first-class scientific and technological social organization, its strong member cohesion, high-quality academic guidance, important basic guarantee, etc., plays an increasingly inestimable role in promoting front-line scholars to carry out academic work.

"In areas where others rarely set foot, we take the lead"

"So far, the ranking of scientific and technological associations is missing, and there is also a lack of evaluation research for scientific and technological associations in the world". Meng Fanrong, a professor at the School of Public Policy and Management of Xi'an Jiaotong University, said in an interview that academic associations in various countries are affected by the topics of concern and it is difficult to have a universal evaluation system.

In December 2018, the Academic Department of the Chinese Association for Science and Technology launched the "World-Class Science and Technology Association Evaluation" project, which has been carried out for two phases so far. As the chief expert of the project, Meng Fanrong led the team to form a research group with the China Science and Technology Policy Research Association, and released relevant results at the annual meeting of the China Association for Science and Technology for two consecutive years.

Meng Fanrong introduced that whether it is universities, think tanks, or some social organizations, there will be more or less market considerations, and then it will inevitably produce some rankings that are born to attract attention. In addition, compared with universities, science and technology associations have certain uniqueness-the data of university teachers, discipline construction, and student employment are relatively open, while the complete database of science and technology associations is not easy to obtain. Coupled with the complicated topics of academic organizations in different countries and regions and in different fields, these factors have added many difficulties to the comprehensive evaluation of scientific and technological associations.

Meng Fanrong said that this field is full of challenges and few people have set foot in it, but it is very meaningful. "We are trying to seize the first opportunity. No matter whether we do it well or not, someone should start first and then improve it step by step. What's more, the so-called" throwing bricks to attract jade "may lead to the development of other related researches?"

This year's new "leading force" evaluation of science and technology associations

In the project achievements of Meng Fanrong and his team, the development law of world-class scientific and technological associations is vividly expressed by a big tree: first-class universities, disciplines and industries are described as "fertile soil", while periodicals, conferences and awards are the "trunk" of trees. Under the action of trunk, which is the driving factor, the big tree of scientific and technological associations extends four connotative characteristics and a series of extension characteristics.

Meng Fanrong said that science and technology associations mainly develop and play a role around knowledge production. Of course, a first-class science and technology association cannot do without connotative elements such as historical inheritance of its own advantages, clear strategic vision, and efficient internal governance, but what is more needed is products that gather outstanding peers, enrich knowledge resources, gain leading academic reputation, and widely carry out digital applications, to ensure the strong "hematopoietic function" of science and technology associations ". "A science and technology community is an organization with no clear and fixed boundaries, and needs to bring together scholars, engineers and other relevant industry groups to pool first-class knowledge resources around the discipline, thus gradually creating a virtuous circle of government, industry, academia and research. A first-class science and technology community usually has such a capability, which is part of its extensibility feature in the evaluation system."

Relying on the multi-dimensional and multi-level cognition of the development of science and technology associations, Meng Fanrong's team has constructed a science and technology association evaluation system with four dimensions of organization, cohesion, leadership and influence, ten secondary indicators and 22 tertiary indicators through questionnaire survey and expert evaluation.

Meng Fanrong introduced that compared with the research results of the project in 2019, this year's evaluation system has added an important dimension of "leadership. The brief introduction of the evaluation indicators of the report shows that the "leading force" includes six specific evaluation criteria, such as journal platform, science and technology award, conference exchange and science popularization. "Leading power is intended to evaluate the driving ability of a science and technology association to promote scientific and technological progress, industrial development and policy formulation. It is a direct manifestation of the knowledge construction and dissemination ability of the science and technology association, and its importance is becoming increasingly prominent."

"Scientific and technological associations should take the project as the leading factor to carry out substantive international cooperation"

In the interview, Meng Fanrong specially stressed the importance of international cooperation between scientific and technological associations for discipline development and community construction. "Academic cooperation can help scholars broaden their horizons, while the development of the discipline needs the joint promotion of world-class scholars". The international cooperation of science and technology associations provides an important opportunity for scholars' international vision and discipline development. In Meng Fanrong's view, "science and technology associations can provide scholars with a very extensive communication network, and academic ecology will also produce a virtuous circle."

However, the international exchange of science and technology associations cannot be based on simple exchange visits by scholars. Meng Fanrong also believes that "substantive international cooperation should be project-led. Science and technology associations should have the ability to drive scholars to conduct scientific research and provide scientific and technological support services, and inviting and organizing scholars to study and solve major practical problems is part of reflecting and playing their leading role."


Source: Popular Science China

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