19 February 2019
In recent years Iranian universities have begun to make their presence felt in international and regional rankings. There are now two Iranian universities in the Shanghai Ranking top 500 and another 11 in the 501-1000 group. The Round University Rankings include 11 Iranian universities led by Tehran University of Medical Sciences in 237th place. Most remarkable is the citations indicator of the Times Higher Education world rankings where Babol Noshirvani University of Technology holds first place.
The presence of Iranian institutions in the international rankings is a result of an impressive increase in the output of scientific papers and other documents, especially in medicine, engineering, chemistry and agricultural science although the increase in citations is less significant.
An article in University World News by Wagdy Sawahel suggests that this achievement may be superficial. The author refers to a working paper from the Stanford Iran 2040 project by Sadra Sadeh, Matin Mirramezani, Mohsen B. Mesgaran, Amin Feizpour, and Pooya Azadi.
The Stanford paper reports that the number of papers by Iranian scientists and scholars has increased from 1,000 in 1997 to over 50,000 in 2018. It also finds that Iranian research is characterised by high rates of plagiarism and retractions and that a large proportion of the research is produced by graduate students with inadequate supervision from senior faculty.
The report concludes that Iran’s scientific achievements are largely illusory and represent an inefficient use of public resources.