The Impact of Lebanon's Political Crisis on Academic Publication and Higher Education
It doesn't take a genius to tell you that violence and triggered wars are occurring in the Middle East. As much of a pain it is to witness such violence and hate, there should be no place for pessimism. Therefore, this post is not aimed at discussing the reasons, but rather the impact of the political conflicts of the last decade on research publication in Lebanon, a small study that I hope will touch others, whom share the same responsibilities.
At first, if you are not familiar with SCImago Journal & Country Rank, I suggest you get to know the SJR metric. It basis it algorithm on the information contained in the Scopus database (Elsevier) since 1996. It allows you to visualize, compare, and analyze the ranks of journals, countries and even regions. I based my analysis and study on the results generated by SCImago on the region of the Middle East; particularly on Lebanon.
Lebanon ranks 9th in the Middle East in terms of total number of documents (citable and non-citable) published since 1996 until 2012 (see Fig. 1 for more details). Turkey holds the first position in the Middle East and twentieth worldwide, with 291 814 citable documents, which is less than 4.5 % of the total citable documents of the United States, the leading country with more than 35 % of the total published documents of the Top 10 list. In 2012, Turkey's publication formed 27.95 % of the entire Middle East research documents, and Lebanon, as mentioned before ninth in the region, recorded only 1.4 % (the highest recorded percentage is 1.65% in the year of 2000).
The numbers of the United States of America are extraordinary. Notice that 7 our of the 8 countries that represent the G8 leaders are in this list, with Russia excluded and holding the 12th spot overall. As stated before in my previous blog post on Tips for Publishing in ScientificJournals, the H-Index is an excellent metric that illustrate the impact of a journal, the impact of a scholar and even in our case evaluate the impact of a particular country in terms of citable research publication. The US has an H-Index of 1380, meaning that 1380 articles have received more than 1380 citations.
Citations per Document
Top 10 countries based on the total number of published docs between 1996-2012 (Source: SCImago)
Fig 1. Documents and citable documents of the Middle East (Source: SCImago)
So where does Lebanon rank on the overall chart ? 69th, behind the Kuwait (68) and ahead of the Philippines (70), Lebanese publishers have published 13 677 documents since 1996 till 2012, with roughly 94 % citable documents. If we compare this percentage with Turkey's percentage of citable documents which is about 95 %, we can accept the notion that Lebanon's publications focus towards valuable research.
Citations per Document
Lebanon's neighbouring countries in total published docs between 1996-2012 (Source: SCImago)
Fig 2. Co-citation network subject map for Lebanon between 2011-2012 (Source SCImago)
Over the last decade, Lebanon's reports show a fall back in research contribution. Between 2011 and 2012, the number of citation per document decreased from 2566 total citations (1.72 cites/doc.) to 550 citations (0.32 cites/doc). The highest recorded year was 2006, with an average 8.99 cites per document, a total 8993 citations.
If we rapidly recap the major chronological events that comprised the last decade, we can understand the direct correlation between research publications and the political unrest in Lebanon.
2005 (February): Rafic Harriri assassination
2006 (Summer - Fall): July war + resignation of 5 ministers + anti-government rally in Beirut
2007 (May - September): War of Nahr l Barid
2008 (May): Presidential election after 6 months of political deadlock
2009 (March): Formation of Saad Harriri unity government
2010 (October): Boycott of the UN Harriri tribunal
2011 (January): Collapse of the government
(June): Najib Mikati government
(March): Beginning of the conflict in Syria
(March): Beginning of the conflict in Syria
2012 (Summer): Clashes in Tripoli
(October): Wissam Al Hassan assassination
2013 Refugee crisis and border tensions with Syria
(May): No Parliament elections
(Summer): Military clashes in Sidon, Tripoli and Bekaa + European sanctions + Bomb attacks
(November): Beirut bombings
2014 (February): Tammam Salam forms new government after 10 month
(April): UN announces more than 1 Million registered Syrian refugees
So how much of an impact do these events have on research publications ? I invite you to take a look at the Figure 3. In orange I indicated the documents cited during the respective year and in blue you will find the percentage of cited documents for the citable documents only since as a general rule, non-citable documents are not a valuable metric in my study. The blue arrow includes the major events of the Lebanese timeline over the last decade. Before 2006, the average cited documents in Lebanon was rising (from roughly 3000 citations in 1996 to a maximum of 8993 in 2006). The direct impact of the 2006 war is noticeable by a decrease of the average of citations per document from 8.99 to 7.82 in 2007 (take a close look at the Fig 4.). Since 2006, unfortunately Lebanon`s numbers have failed to recover.
Fig 3. Cited docs vs. % cited docs with Lebanese political timeline (Chehouri A. © based on SCImago)
Fig 4. Cites per document (Chehouri A. © based on SCImago)
What does it take to get these curves to rise again requires us to look in depth as to the causes. Above I mentioned milestone events, mostly related to security, violence and internal conflicts. Regardless of your political opinion, you may stand in the far left, far right or somewhere near the middle, we have to admit that the citizens of Lebanon, all citizens without exclusion hold the same level of responsibility as the state. China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, Japan and India are all examples of countries that had their share of civil wars, revolutions and economic crisis and yet believed in their educational institutions. Yet we find Vietnam, Kenya, Cuba, Colombia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Egypt and Taiwan (no point intended and all my respect to the mentioned nations) all are ranked above Lebanon. I sincerely wish that I will come across a study about the success of Lebanese researchers and scholars outside Lebanon. Individually, we succeeded, but as a nation we fail to unite under one state, one flag, and one land.
I conclude, this study by quoting Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a declaration that we take pride in participating in its foundation. I have faith in the Lebanese people, not the Lebanese system.
- (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
- (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
- (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the ind of education that shall be given to their children.