When the assessment creates new walls

A story from Indonesia


A bit of context

Here’s a story from Indonesia, a SE Asia country which lies between Asia and Australia continent. A country with more than 54,000 of coast line (apparently, we’re the 3rd in the world) made from 17,000 to 18,000 islands and rich bio-diversity (we’re one of the 17 mega diverse countries). In terms of man power, Indonesia has more than 190,000 lecturers/researchers, a huge sum of scientific journals, 1331 journals (2nd rank, after UK) listed in DOAJ (29/06/2018). The number had doubled in 6 months (Fig 1). Now Indonesia is racing its way in international rankings, eg: QS Times Higher Education.

A plot showing the growth of Indonesian journals in DOAJ database (Nov 2017-June 2018)
Fig 1 A plot showing the growth of Indonesian journals in DOAJ database (Nov 2017-June 2018)


SINTA, named after a queen in the Ramayana, an Indian poem, is the newest tool launched by the Ministry of Research, Technology, and Higher Education (MRTHE) of Indonesia This tool consists of 3 sections:

  • Authors: SINTA calculate SINTA Score (S-Score) of each author using Google Scholar and Scopus data. It harvests the data regularly to update the numbers. SINTA team uses the following equation: 

          S-Scores = ((A x 40) + (B x 15) + (C x 1) + (D x 4) + (E x 4) + (F x 16)) / coefficient, with:

                 A = total documents (articles) in Scopus

                 B = total documents (non-articles) in Scopus ("non-articles": not clear)

                 C = total citations in Google Scholar

                 D = total citations in Scopus

                 E = H-index in Google Scholar

                 F = H-index in Scopus

                 Coefficient = another calculation (not clear)

  • Affiliations: SINTA aggregates S-Scores from authors based on their affiliations
  • Sources: This section contains list journal rank based on H5-index, H-index, and the sum of citations. The other list is book list and intellectual property rights (IPR). There is no rank for the books and IPRs.

New walls as the new impact

In short, aside to cultivate the spirit of competitiveness to lecturers/researchers, SINTA has caused negative impacts:

  • The most frequent question asked by Indonesia’s author will be, “is this journal/conference indexed by Scopus?” This phenomenon is massive enough that marked by Google Trend (Fig 2a and 2b). Significant peaks started in 2009-2010 .
The search for
Fig 2a (upper) and 2b (lower) The search for "scopus indexed journal" in Google (Google Trends) (flickr-link)

     Authors are asking about the indexing more than they worry about the quality of the article. Data validity and analysis are the last thing to be asked. We haven’t even reached into deeper aspects of open science, such as the reproducibility crisis, English language imperialism, and pluralistic modes of rationality and methodology, as have been discussed by many parties (personal communication with Surya Dalimunthe).

  • The misconception of open access (OA) journals. In author’s perception, their work has higher chance to be accepted by OA journals than paywalled journals, and also, OA means article processing charge (APC). The willingness to pay APC is USD 400 or equivalent to IDR 5,000,000, according to casual interviews.
  • As the final results, we have created new walls around us based on the existing metric used by SINTA (Fig 3).
A sketch note how an assessment could create new walls around scientists
Fig 3. A sketch note how an assessment could create new walls around scientists

Our mission

Observing the current situation, we are promoting the following activities:

  • Collaborative preprinting: Aside to make a draft the usual way using offline authoring tools, we are promoting authors to upload their drafts in to repositories, in this case INArxiv or other OSF-family repositories, Figshare, or Zenodo (all are offering free-open repositories) as their venue to build an academic ecosystem. While the main draft is still retained by the original authors, but the data and the method could be forked and replicated by other potential authors. This way more authors could make use of the same data or concept. To make the tracking less painful, we introduce other platform like to store laboratory/experiment protocols, so other researchers could easily re-use your method and cite it for their own experiment.
  • Mentoring system: We also promote mentoring system, where the experienced authors becoming the mentor for the less-experienced. The mentoring system is cross institutions, using the most popular messaging apps in Indonesia, WhatsApp and Telegram. This way, hopefully, we could lower the walls encircling authors.
  • Reducing the sense of data ownership (or opening up data ownership): Science is about public data. Hence, public data must be turned into public goods. With the less research funding in Indonesia, freshly gathered data are not distributed evenly across universities. Mature universities are still getting more funding compared to new ones. Another goal to promote data as public goods is to to extend its lifetime. We endorse researchers to use CC-BY license in this case, especially CC-BY 4.0 International to ensure its application to wider community. By applying CC (Creative Commons) licenses, we could push down the sense of data ownership. Instead, we are introducing the terms "data creator" and "data collaborator". Here we pinpoint the concept of data fluidity, that data could be created by someone, and completed, added, or remixed by someone else without losing its connection, the forking and committing work flow. At this point a “GitHub-like” platform is useful. In this case, detail documentations could be written as Wiki pages for anyone to read and to contribute.

Closing statement

The following are some take home messages. Science is:

  • about data. Hence, data must be turned into public goods. You only create it, not own it.
  • meant to be openly shared and improved, not to be owned and locked in,
  • about communication and nurturing. It’s not about creating walls and securing your place on the leader board.


This blog post is part of the following activities:

  1. Funded project by MRTHE (2018), Collaborators: Dini Sofiani Permatasari , Lusia Marliana Nurani
  2. Open Science Indonesia Team, Collaborators: Afrilya, Surya Dalimunthe, Juneman Abraham, Sami Kandha Dipura.

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