BY Balaram Gajra
Publishing research work in a good-quality peer-reviewed journal is not only a dream of research scholars, but also mandatory to fulfill the minimum criteria to submit a thesis or receive a research degree like a master’s or doctorate. Publication also plays a vital role in getting a job, promotion, or prestigious recognition.
The main agency that regulates and controls education in India is the University Grants Commission (UGC). UGC has issued guidelines called the Academic Performance Index (API), which has led to the stimulation of publishing research. Previously, when a paper was not accepted by a peer-reviewed journal, authors tried to search alternate journals. This vicious circle ultimately resulted in the birth of many poor-quality journals beginning with the word “international.” Journal publication—either subscription based or open access—is more of a commercial activity in India than a scholarly one, where the publisher and the editors want to publish the work without delay and thereby they compromise the quality of the content. It has been observed that the policy of many of these journals is equivalent to “pay and publish.”
Other reasons for the poor quality journals, as narrated by one of India’s scientists, are: 1. Poor quality of research, 2. Undue importance given in India to the impact factor (IF), 3. Overall low IF of the Indian journals, 4. Lack of research infrastructure and the facilities for the quality research, etc. All these factors lead to poor science, poor journals, and poor recognition of research work.
The IF is the preferred parameter to determine the quality of any journal throughout the world. In fact, the most recent IFs were released by Thomson Reuters this week. For many reasons, IF has been greatly criticized, including the lack of transparency and the Matthew effect, where a paper published in a high-IF journal receives more visibility and potentially more citations, causing the journal’s IF to grow even more. IF has created a race for scientists to publish their work in high-IF journals, and authors end up wasting precious time and energy trying to play the IF game, framing their papers to be acceptable by IF-conscious journals and hyping their work to receive more visibility and thus more citations.
The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), initiated by the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) together with a group of editors and publishers of scholarly journals, aims to free science from the obsession with IF. DORA has started a campaign to get the signatures of people who believe that the assessment of scientific research needs change. The number of original individual signers has reached 11,214 and organization signers reached 492. This shows that this initiative by DORA has been welcomed by the scientific community.
Looking into the complexity of evaluation of research by IF, the National Institutes of Health in the USA has already begun taking steps while analyzing the applications received from scientists for research funding in the form of information filled in Biosketch format.
As far as the Indian scenario is concerned, many universities are not capable of subscribing to the good-quality journals. At the same time, poor-quality journals, many of which are open access, are easily and freely available, increasing the chances of citations from these journals, leading to an increase in the IF in the long run.
In conclusion, where to publish is up to the scientist’s attitude toward the research. Is the research important enough to submit to only high-IF journals? Is getting the article published quickly more important than publishing in a high-IF journal? These factors matter greatly and can only impart the quality of the research. The rest is up for debate and discussion.