Editor of Webometrics: “Internet solutions must be a part of a university’s strategy”September 25, 2015
On 23 September, representatives of leading Russian universities participated in a seminar entitled “International recognition of Russian universities in the Internet environment fr om the point of view of the Webometrics rating.” This important event was organized by Project Office 5-100 and National Research Nuclear University MEPhI. The developer of the Webometrics rating – the Spanish research group Cybermetrics Lab was represented by Isidro Aguillo, head of Cybermetrics and Chief Editor of the ranking.
The speaker, relying on the information available regarding the websites of Project 5-100 universities (which is analyzed by Webometrics) pointed out the typical shortcomings of these very sites (including their content) -- and listed the actions which need to be taken in order to improve and promote them in Webometrics. One of the growth factors named by Professor Aguillo was the involvement of everyone in meaningful association with the university, including senior management, researchers, librarians and alumni -- in generating content for the university website and its pages in social networks. “You must involve everyone, not just IT and PR departments”, the expert recommended. Among other recipes for success, the speaker named the development of an institutional repository (an online storage for research papers and publications of the university), development of detailed profiles of the authors of articles and professors on the website, expanding the amount of English language-available material, active cooperation with social networks and Wikipedia, and the hosting of external organizations which may be useful to the university (for example, local museums or libraries). “Internet solutions must become a part of a university’s strategy”, Aguillo concluded.
The presentation of the Spanish expert was preceded by a round table entitled “Best practices of international internet promotion of the leading Russian universities, discussion of the methodology and the results of the Webometrics ranking”, in which the leading Russian experts debated the advantages and drawbacks of the ranking.
Ivan Sterligov (Head of Analytics, Department of Academic Expertise at Higher School of Economics) devoted his presentation to the “Excellence” indicator – one of four indicators utilized by Webometrics.
Nadezhda Polikhina (Deputy Executive Director, Project Office 5-100) spoke about the latest changes in the Webometrics methodology: since the summer of 2015 the ranking evaluates only those websites that are online 24 hours a day. Moreover, when a university has more than one site, only the newest one is evaluated (and not the best of the two as before). Polikhina also focused extensively on the Webometrics’ struggle with the so called “bad practices” which are used by various universities, such as the artificial breakdown of articles into smaller segments to get more traction, the driving up of incoming traffic, and the creation of bogus domains which provide links to the main domain, etc.
Vladimir Uzhva (Provost at MEPhI) warned that one should not expect any quick victories in Webometrics: “They evaluate a university’s performance over a 5-year period, and if you think of winning today, you should have started working toward it a while back”. When speaking of MEPhI’s position in the ranking, Uzhva emphasized that his university is in 4th place in the ranking among Russian universities, and its main strength lies the fact that the university has a lot of highly-cited publications.
“Those universities that are outside the top 200 should not expect any special treatment. Not all changes made in the ranking consider the interests of these universities; in fact, some can hurt them quite badly”, said Alexei Okunev (Provost for External Relations at NSU). He also pointed out that some parameters are “closed”. For example, in order to calculate the number of external links, “you need to use special tools that are not free. Even more effort must be made to compare your parameters with others,” Okunev added.
He was supported by Maria Didkovskaya (Head of Internationalization at ITMO University). “We can only guess which of our efforts will contribute toward positive results. In these conditions it is quite difficult to decide what should be done with our web resources”.
After the seminar the attendees participated in a master class for IT directors, web specialists, employees of e-libraries and other information repositories, wh ere Professor Aguillo showed how external open tools are used in the Webometrics ranking and how university specialists can use them and other indicators which are evaluated by the ranking, in order to better track their own performance. He also said that the changes which are made to the methodology of the ranking are carried out in order to eliminate “bad practices” and noted that none of the Russian universities has ever been accused of unfair competition in the Webometrics ranking.