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The issues raised in Joshua’s article and tweet of Friday 23 August 2014 are easily solved by reading pages 5 and 18 of the Addendum-1 and referring to tables IV to IX published in the main document entitled: “Assessment of Scientific Production in the African Union, 2005–2010“. Both documents are posted on the AOSTI website

a) On page 5 of the addendum one can read: “the definitions of various concepts used in this addendum and details on the grouping of scientific fields are found in the main document”.

b)Page 18 of the addendum states that: ”countries included in the analysis have more than 30 papers over the period under consideration” and the tables starting from Table IV on page 21 to Table IX on page 21 in the main document apply the threshold of 30 to each category of the field of science under study.

We show here below that a simple perusal of the two statements (a) and (b) above and chapter 5 (p. 21-30) of the main document would have well informed Joshua and avoid the wrong conclusions he arrived at.

The AOSTI responses to Joshua’s queries are grouped in two cases as follows.


Case 1. Joshua wrote “.Graphs for four nations — Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of the Seychelles and Sierra Leone — indicate that these countries only produced a scientific output in one field…… There is no way that these countries produce [research output] in only one field.”

AOSTI Responds.

This self-made conclusion by Joshua is false.

The addendum set a threshold of 30 papers for computing the value of an indicator such as the Average of Relative Citations (ARC) in each scientific field under consideration. This is a cut-off point from which the scientific fields with the most activities have been displayed. The period or window of study was 2005-2010. It is the same as saying that scientific fields which score less than 30 will not be displayed. This does not imply that there were no publications in area of sciences which score less than 30. No display does not mean No publications.

Interested readers may refer from Table-V to Table-IX in the main document for more details. They will find out why certain fields are not displayed. In these tables, countries with less than 30 papers in the fields under study have their corresponding ARC and Specialization index (SI) indicators not computed. The score in this case has been labelled “n.c” which means “not computed”.

Henceforth Joshua inference ofthese countries only produced a scientific output in one field” is clearly not from AOSTI but a self-made construct.

Case 2. Joshua wrote: “…. a search for authors affiliated to Angola publishing between 2005 and 2010 returned 91 results filed under ‘medicine’ (which the country’s graph represents as a large bubble). But it also returned 41 in ‘agricultural and biological sciences’, 22 in ‘engineering’ and 17 in ‘social sciences’. None of these fields are displayed on the graph. Similar results were obtained for the other three nations…..

AOSTI Response ..

The count “22” in engineering and “17” in social sciences are less than the threshold and hence trivially excluded as stated in (b) above.

The score of 41 in agricultural and biological sciences is indeed possible. Beware as explained in (a) that classification matters. For this study, three categories namely “Domain”, “Field” and “Subfield” of science have been used. Table IV in the main document gives details of these categories. In this classification, agricultural sciences is a field defined in the domain applied science whereas biological sciences is a field in the domain natural sciences. Obviously, these two fields are not in the same domain. One should not do a simple count of publications in agriculture and in biology and then sum them up. Such addition is meaningless.

The tweeter may have made a mistake in trying to compare the results he obtained from his personal queries to Scopus and the statistics published by AOSTI without prior defining the domain in which these numbers are applicable. Such oversight has lead him to wrong conclusions.


The methodologies used in the two AOSTI papers are robust and the results thereof are sound. Countries are encouraged to use the indicators thus generated.

The conclusions which appeared in the Joshua article have been hastily reached at, ignoring the underlying complexity and comparability issues which rise when computing bibliometric data. They have ignored the threshold and rationales clearly stipulated in the publication (pages 21-23). By grouping publications into one category (e.g. biological and agricultural sciences), they have ignored the value of and rationale for the classification we provided under each category (page 16). In general, context matters when dealing with STI indicators. Failure to ignore this advice could lead to erroneous conclusions.

By putting its publications in the public domain, AOSTI ensures that inconsistencies and errors are eliminated. However, if a reader is convinced of errors in the AOSTI documents, she/he is kindly encouraged to drop us an e-mail to  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ;  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . We will be happy to learn from them.

AOSTI is a Technical Office of the African Union. It has been created to assist African countries to develop and use STI indicators to support their development agendas. AOSTI looks forward to working with all interested parties.

We trust this helps!!

Philippe Kuhutama Mawoko

Executive Secretary

Category: News and Events

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