A leading university in eastern China recently courted controversy after taking into account online click rates as part of their assessments of academic work by students and teachers.
A report by state-owned Xinhua News Agency said Zhejiang University applied their rule whereby works published by major media outlets such as the People’s Daily and Guangming Daily, would be recognized as equal publications in authoritative domestic journals if they are viewed as influential.
The rule also applied to major commercial portals such as Sina, Sohu and Netease, and other major news outlets and social media websites and apps, such as WeChat and Weibo.
A document on the ruling reportedly stipulated a minimum of publication of 10 mainstream media outlets and 100,000 page views on WeChat.
The criteria would be considered among “Excellent Internet cultural achievements” as academic requirements for promotion or prizes. The ruling also applied to original articles, video, animation works.
Unsurprisingly, the rule which took effect earlier this month turned into the subject of debate over its potential to devalue academic work.
However, the university insists it is an exploration of academic evaluation and outstanding online work would receive recognition by a committee of experts in June every year.
Zhu Wei, a communication researcher at the China University of Political Science and Law, was quoted as saying the academic value and influence of some online works far exceeds those of core journals.
“Given the trend of media convergence, a number of professional scholars, institutions, and government departments are more willing to publish their academic works through new media first,” Wei said.
Zhu Haijiu of Zhejiang Gongshang University echoed the sentiment.
“In the era of the Internet, only recognizing publications in journals as academic output, is like only recognizing work done with brushes in the era of the pen,” Zhu Haijiu said.
Others, however, were not too fond to the ruling.
“There may be some problems with the current promotion and evaluation system, but academic value should not rely on the number of clicks,” said Yin Jun, a teacher at Shenzhen University in Guangdong Province, as quoted by Xinhua.
Another teacher at Zhejiang University said: “Papers have strict evaluation procedures, but it is hard to assess articles published in public media.”
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