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Under-reporting research relevant to local needs in the global south. Database biases in the representation of knowledge on rice


  • Rafols, Ismael
  • Ciarli, Tommaso
  • Chavarro, Diego


Although the main bibliometric databases (Web of Science (WoS) and Scopus) claim to include journals on the basis of scientific and publication standards, there have long been concerns that its coverage is biased in favour of journals from industrialised countries and towards topics relevant to these countries. In this article, we investigate this claim for research on rice, comparing the database CAB Abstracts with the mainstream databases. We find clear evidence that for a field such as rice, statistics based on WoS and Scopus strongly under-represent the scientific production by developing countries, and over-represent production by industrialised countries. More importantly, we also find a substantial bias in coverage of different research topics. WoS and Scopus have a ~75% coverage of publications in molecular biology and issues related to consumption, but a much lower coverage (20-30% in WoS and 30-50% in Scopus) for research more directly related to rice production such as plant nutrition, diseases and characteristics. CAB Abstracts coverage is above 80% for all topics except consumption. The study suggests that statistics based on mainstream databases provide a significantly distorted view of the amount of research and diversity of agendas in most countries. Given that bibliometric statistics are often used for benchmarking and evaluation purposes, the database biases may translate into policy framings that undervalue domestic capabilities and research agendas more attuned to local needs in the global south.

Suggested Citation

  • Rafols, Ismael & Ciarli, Tommaso & Chavarro, Diego, 2015. "Under-reporting research relevant to local needs in the global south. Database biases in the representation of knowledge on rice," SocArXiv 3kf9d, Center for Open Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:osf:socarx:3kf9d
    DOI: 10.31219/

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Éric Archambault & Étienne Vignola-Gagné & Grégoire Côté & Vincent Larivière & Yves Gingrasb, 2006. "Benchmarking scientific output in the social sciences and humanities: The limits of existing databases," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 68(3), pages 329-342, September.
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    4. Éric Archambault & David Campbell & Yves Gingras & Vincent Larivière, 2009. "Comparing bibliometric statistics obtained from the Web of Science and Scopus," Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, Association for Information Science & Technology, vol. 60(7), pages 1320-1326, July.
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    1. Ciarli, Tommaso & Ràfols, Ismael, 2019. "The relation between research priorities and societal demands: The case of rice," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(4), pages 949-967.
    2. Rafols, Ismael & Noyons, Ed & Confraria, Hugo & Ciarli, Tommaso, 2021. "Visualising plural mappings of science for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)," SocArXiv yfqbd, Center for Open Science.
    3. Jonathan Iyandemye & Marshall P Thomas, 2019. "Low income countries have the highest percentages of open access publication: A systematic computational analysis of the biomedical literature," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 14(7), pages 1-11, July.
    4. Confraria, Hugo & Mira Godinho, Manuel & Wang, Lili, 2017. "Determinants of citation impact: A comparative analysis of the Global South versus the Global North," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 265-279.
    5. Pitambar Gautam, 2017. "An overview of the Web of Science record of scientific publications (2004–2013) from Nepal: focus on disciplinary diversity and international collaboration," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 113(3), pages 1245-1267, December.
    6. Cassi, Lorenzo & Lahatte, Agénor & Rafols, Ismael & Sautier, Pierre & de Turckheim, Élisabeth, 2017. "Improving fitness: Mapping research priorities against societal needs on obesity," Journal of Informetrics, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 1095-1113.
    7. Jonathan P. Tennant & Harry Crane & Tom Crick & Jacinto Davila & Asura Enkhbayar & Johanna Havemann & Bianca Kramer & Ryan Martin & Paola Masuzzo & Andy Nobes & Curt Rice & Bárbara Rivera-López & Tony, 2019. "Ten Hot Topics around Scholarly Publishing," Publications, MDPI, vol. 7(2), pages 1-24, May.

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