BAHÁ'Í STUDIES REVIEW, Volume 5.1, 1995|
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Seena Fazel and John Danesh
An upsurge in academic Bahá'í activity began in the 1970s. The number of doctoral theses written in English about the Bahá'í Faith increased from merely five during the entire period before 1970 to eighteen during 1971-1985.(1) According to the Arts and Humanities Citation Index, the world's largest non-science bibliographic index, the number of articles on the Bahá'í Faith in non-Bahá'í journals doubled from nine during 1976-80 to eighteen during 1986-90. The Religion Index, another bibliographic reference, documented a fourfold increase from three to twelve articles during the same periods.(2)
Part of this trend is explained by the growing interest of non-Bahá'í academics in the religion. Scholarly stirrings within the Bahá'í community, on the other hand, were prompted by a combination of exceptional scholars, institutional directives, and the formation of formal networks of Bahá'ís interested in scholarship. The works of Hasan Balyuzi, in particular, sparked many Western Bahá'ís. The Six Year Plan (1986-92) of the Universal House of Justice stated as a target a "vast increase" in the publication and dissemination of Bahá'í literature. Another landmark was the formation of the Association for Bahá'í Studies in 1974. Its North American affiliate alone has published twenty issues of its journal, two academic monographs, and three volumes of essays since 1988. Moojan Momen, in a survey of Western academic Bahá'í scholarship, suggested, "It was not until the 1970s that the Bahá'í community grew to the extent that it could 'sustain' the luxury of a more analytical type of scholarship."(3)
Yet, it is difficult to assess the impact of such increased scholarly output on the Bahá'í community without extensive studies (such as conducting community-wide surveys) or resorting to vague qualitative judgments. However, studying the effect of scholarship in a particular group, such as contributors to Bahá'í journals, is more readily quantifiable. Journal authors are a proxy group for segments of the community interested in Bahá'í studies. Studying the footnotes and references published in their articles is a method called "citation analysis." It is a widely-used measure of the effects of published research, especially of journal articles. Citation analysis differs from both gross publication counts, which are often misleadingly used as indicators of academic "productivity," and from qualitative analyses by experts, which are subjective, time-consuming, and expensive. Citation analysis' basic premise is that important and influentialworks are cited frequently by authors.
What are this measurement's strengths and weaknesses? A number of studies show that citation analyses correlate well with qualitative indicators of intellectual merit. For example, lists of most cited authors in the Science Citation Index often predict Nobel-prize winners.(4) Citation data also orrelate closely with other measures such as peer ratings, academy memberships, access to resources, and quality of higher education.(5) A survey of 543 distinguished academics revealed that they considered their most important works to be ones that broke new ground, and which were widely cited.(6) Hargens and Femlee's literature review concluded that "the number of citations to a scientist's work is often recommended as the best single indicator of scholarly recognition."(7)
Similar correlations hold for academic journals: peer-reviewed journals receive significantly more citations than journals which are not peer-reviewed.(8) Librarians and journal editors use citation ratings to gauge journals' performances. Citation analysis has influenced academia in other ways. Administrators, policy makers, and funding bodies such as Britain's University Grants Committee use it to assess grant applications. One study showed that "a substantial proportion of biochemistry, and a majority of sociology departments" in America use it as part of hiring, promotion, and salary decisions.(9) Business administration programmes, for example, are often ranked by their faculty members' citation rates.(10) Trend-watchers use citation data to identify emerging specialities and promising fields.
Like any quantitative measurement, citation analysis is limited by distortions which creep into inaccurate or incomplete data. Excessive self-citation, for example, can spuriously boost an author's citation rating. A citation may suggest a criticism of, rather than concurrence with, the cited paper, especially in the social sciences literature. The problem of "delayed recognition," the lag time until an important paper is noticed, contrasts with the bias of "obliteration by incorporation," the absorption of a researcher's work in a field to the extent that explicit citations are omitted. Research in the "hard" sciences receives more citations than comparable work in the social sciences which, in turn, surpasses citations in the arts and humanities. The exclusion of books from citation databases also tends to bias against the social sciences and the arts and humanities. However, failure to be cited does not necessarily mean that a paper has not been read, such as in the case of a useful didactive paper.
Hence, caution is necessary in interpreting the results of citation analysis since it reflects a distinctive dialogue within an intellectual community during a limited time. It supplements rather than replaces qualitative assessments of intellectual merit.
We have performed a citation analysis on articles in English about the Bahá'í Faith published in major Bahá'í and other journals during 1978-83 and 1988-93. We aimed to identify: i) the most cited journals, books, articles, and authors; ii) any changes in such citation patterns between the two time periods; iii) the contribution of female authors to Bahá'í studies; iv) any emerging trends in the content of Bahá'í studies.
We manually searched for citations in articles on the Bábí-Bahá'í Faiths published during the years 1978-83 and 1988-93 inclusive in two sources: i) non-Bahá'í journals listed in one of four large multi-disciplinary bibliographic indexes (Arts and Humanities Citation Index [AHCI], Social Sciences Citation Index [SSCI], Religion Index, Index Islamicus:(11) keywords "Baha'i+" and "Babi+" were used for AHCI and SSCI); ii) the following Bahá'í journals: World Order (WO) [Wilmette, USA], The Journal of Bahá'í Studies (JBS) [Ottawa, Canada], The Bahá'í Studies Bulletin (BNB) [Newcastle, UK] and The Bahá'í Studies Review (BSR) [London, UK]. World Order issues were dated according to copyright date rather than issue date. For the 1978-83 period, the study included only World Order and the Bahá'í Studies Notebook (BSN) [Ottawa, ABS] as the other Bahá'í journals did not exist yet.(12)
Criteria for citations
We followed the convention of citation analysis and included only original papers and research notes in the analyses, and therefore omitted books, essays in books, monographs, book reviews, commentaries, reports (including US Senate/Congress submissions and resolutions), corrections, editorials, and poems.
Editors of volumes did not receive citations if an article in their work was cited unless the editor had done original research and analysis, such as Momen had in Some Contemporary Western Accounts. Translators did not receive citations unless their translation was part of an analytic study in the BSB. Works cited because scripture was quoted from them (for example, if an author quoted Bahá'u'lláh and cited Esslemont's Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era) did not receive a citation. Reprints did not count as citations.
A = citations in 1992 and 1993 to articles published in Journal X during 1988-92
By contrast, the "uncitedness index" suggests how many articles published in a particular journal did not receive a single citation during 1988-93.(15) For this measure, self-citations are not excluded. It was worked out for Journal X in the following way:
A = total number of articles of Journal X cited at least once in 1988-93
Table 1 summarises the output of Bahá'í journals by the sex of the articles' authors for the periods 1978-83 and 1988-93. 82 (49%) of all Bahá'í journal articles published during 1988-93 appeared in JBS. 35% (29/82) of such JBS articles were written by women compared with 18% (4/22) female authorship for WO and no female authorship in BSB or BSR (chi-squared=22.7, p < 0.001; columns of data for BSB, BSR, and other were merged to perform a valid chi-squared test). The percentage of female authors published in all Bahá'í journals was 31% in 1978-83 compared with 21% in 1988-93, a 10% difference which did not reach statistical significance (95% CI, -2% to 22%; p=0.12).
|Table 1. Number of articles published in various Bahá'í journals by sex of authors|
|No. female authors||29 (35%)||4 (18%)||0||0||2 (8%)||35 (21%)|
|Total no. articles||82 (100%)||22 (100%)||23 (100%)||16 (100%)||25 (100%)||168 (100%)|
|p < 0.001|
|No. female authors||17 (31%)||6 (75%)||1 (8%)||24 (31%)|
|Total no. articles||56 (100%)||8 (100%)||13 (100%)||77 (100%)|
|* Other = articles in non-Bahá'í journals.|
|Table 2 reports the "impact factors" (the number of times a journal was cited per article it published x 100%) of four Bahá'í journals during 1988-92. The range of scores varied by almost an order of magnitude (5% for WO v 42% for BSR), but such large differences between the four journals failed to reach statistical significance (chi-squared=6.6, 0.05 < p < 0.10) owing to the small numbers of articles cited in any of these journals. Table 3 reports the "uncitedness index," the proportion of articles in a journal that have never been cited. The rankings are the same as in Table 2: articles published in British-based journals tended to be significantly less uncited than North American publications (chi-squared=16.5; p < 0.001). WO's uncitedness index during 1978-83 was 89%, similar to ten years later.|
|Table 2. Impact factors for Bahá'í journals, 1988-1993|
|No. articles 1988-92||76||19||19||12|
|0.05 < p <0.10|
|Table 3. Uncitedness index for Bahá'í journals|
|No. of articles cited 1988-93||17||24||17||4|
|Total no. articles||82||274||72||16|
|p < 0.001|
Other Bahá'í periodicals such as Herald of the South, The American Bahá'í, One Country, Dialogue, and the British Bahá'í Journal all received nil scores on the impact factor.
Bahá'í books, articles, and writers
|Table 4: Most cited Bahá'í books, 1988-1993.|
|Total no. citations (less self-citations)|
|1||Smith, Peter. The Babi and Baha'i Religions: From Messianic Shi'ism to a World Religion. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1987.||16|
|2||Balyuzi, Hasan M. Bahá'u'lláh: The King of Glory. Oxford: George Ronald, 1980.||15|
|3||Towards an Ever-Advancing Civilization. Bahá'í Studies Notebook. Vol. 3, Nos. 3-4. Ottawa: Association for Bahá'í Studies, 1984.||11|
|4||Studies in Honor of the Late Hasan M. Balyuzi. (Studies in the Babi and Bahá'í Religions, volume five) Ed. Moojan Momen. Los Angeles: Kalimat Press, 1988.||10|
|5||Hatcher, William S., and J. Douglas Martin. The Bahá'í Faith: The Emerging Global Religion. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1984.||10|
|6||Browne, Edward Granville, comp. Materials for the Study of the Bábí Religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1918.||10|
|7||Momen, Moojan, ed. The Bábí and Bahá'í Religions, 18441944: Some Contemporary Western Accounts. Oxford: George Ronald, 1981.||9|
|8||Taherzadeh, Adib. The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh. Vol. 3. Oxford: George Ronald, 1983.||8|
|9||Esslemont, John E. Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1923.||8|
|10||Amanat, Abbas. Resurrection and Renewal. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1989.||7|
|10=||In Iran: Studies in Bábí and Bahá'í History, Volume 3. Ed. Peter Smith. Los Angeles: Kalimat Press, 1986.||7|
|10=||Taherzadeh, Adib. The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh. Vol. 1. Oxford: George Ronald, 1974.||7|
|Table 5 lists the most cited articles or monographs during 1988-93. Three of the top seven articles were published in Religion, a journal of religious studies. Table 6 lists the ten most cited writers during 1988-93, and provides a comparison with their relative positions during 1978-83. The first six authors were all based in the British Isles when they produced their works. Edward Granville Browne and Denis MacEoin are the list's only non-Bahá'ís. The four authors who did not appear in the 1988-93 listing but who appeared ten years earlier were Robert Hayden, Louis Gregory, Alessandro Bausani, and Comte de Gobineau.|
|Table 5. Most cited short Bahá'í publications during 1988-1993|
Total no. citations (less self-citations)
|1||Momen, Moojan. "Relativism: A Basis for Bahá'í Metaphysics," in Moojan Momen, ed., Studies in Honor of the Late Hasan M. Balyuzi. (Studies in the Bábí and Bahá'í Religions, volume five) Los Angeles,: Kalimat Press, 1988: 185-218.||7|
|2||Cole, Juan R. "The Concept of the Manifestation in the Bahá'í Writings," Bahá'í Studies, no. 9 (1982).||6|
|3||Smith, P. and Momen, M. "The Bahá'í Faith 1957-1988: A Survey of Contemporary Developments," Religion 19 (1989): 63-91.||5|
|4||Afnan, M. and Hatcher, W. "Western Islamic Scholarship and the Bahá'í Faith," Religion 15 (1985): 29-51.||5|
|5||Barrett, D. "World Religious Statistics." In Britannica Book of the Year. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, annually.||4|
|6||Cooper, Roger. The Bahá'ís of Iran. Minority Rights Group Report no. 51. London: Minority Rights Group Ltd., 1982.||4|
|7||MacEoin, D. "From Babism to Baha'ism: problems of militancy, quietism, and conflation in the construction of a religion," Religion 13 (1983): 219-255.||4|
|Table 6: Ten most cited authors, 1988-1993.|
|* "revised" means total citations less self-citations.|
Books and articles
How do the citation rankings compare with the qualitative assessments of Bahá'í scholars? Only five of the fifteen articles which received three or more citations were included in Robert Stockman's 1993 draft Curriculum Guide for the Bahá'í Faith (for university courses).(21) Several "classics" of Bahá'í scholarship are ignored by citation data, such as Juan Cole's "Problems of Chronology in Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet of Wisdom"(22) (the only article highlighted in Collin's profile of Bahá'í periodicals because it opened up "exciting debate"(23)) and John and Linda Walbridge's "Bahá'í Laws on the Status of Men"(24) (referred to by Stockman as "the best research done on the Bahá'í Faith" since Cole's "Concept of Manifestation"(25)). World Order celebrated its 20th anniversary in 1989 by reprinting four notable articles, none of which received a single citation.(26)
Our findings suggest that the practice of self-citation is relatively common among Bahá'í scholars. About 17% of the citations to the leading Bahá'í authors were self-citations, a result consistent with studies reporting, on average, greater than 10% self-citation rates.(29) This finding is unsurprising since researchers tend to build on their own work, particularly in a currently immature and narrow specialty as Bahá'í studies.
How would table 6's list of most cited authors compare with the Bahá'í community's perceptions of its most influential writers? Only a properly conducted community survey could reliably answer this question. However, the fact that three (Martin, Momen and Taherzadeh) of the eight living, most cited authors have given Hasan Balyuzi memorial lectures, a yearly recognition of distinction in scholarship awarded by the Association for Bahá'í Studies, suggests some overlap of community opinion with citation results, at least among circles interested in Bahá'í studies.
Themes and content
Books about Bahá'í history dominated the list of most cited books during 1978-83 (results not shown)(32) and, to a lesser extent, during 1988-93 (table 4). Our study suggests that a new trend in Bahá'í studies may be now apparent. We found that articles about Bahá'í theology were prominent among the most cited short publications, including the two leading pieces by Momen and Cole, respectively (table 5). This development may help to fill a lacuna noted by scholars such as Udo Schaefer, "The theological doctrines...which are at the very core of a religion, have not been stressed as much in our research."(33) In a sense, important research on the Bahá'í Faith has progressed partly from studying historical origins to exploring Bahá'í doctrines. Presumably the next stage will be how to apply these beliefs.
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