Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Publish or perish

As the attitude of publish and perish spreads indiscriminately in the developing countries, new problems emerge. In a recent article titled Science paper trade booms in China, the author states,

He defined five questionable paper-publishing practices in China: charging exorbitant publication fees, where instead of a peer review systems authors pay hundreds or thousands of yuan for publication in a journal; the establishment of illegitimate journals; ghostwriting of papers; paper brokering, where authors pay agencies to get their papers published in particular journals; and the fabrication of awards by illegitimate journals.

The open-access as well as the e-only journals have had an effect, which was not originally intended. Thus many dubious publishers have started new e-only open access journals, which bypass the peer review process and publish anything by charging exorbitant publication fees ranging from $1000 to $3000 per paper. Thus, we have a situation where nearly 5000 journals are published in India but less than 50 journals are actually indexed in Web of Science. In many institutions (not IITs), a point system is followed wherein 1.5 to 2 points are alloted for a publication in an international journal and 1 point to a national journal. In these institutions, selection and shortlisting for an interview call is done by an administrator who does not know the difference between a paper in Nature and a paper in some unknown non-peer reviewed journal.  The administrator just looks at the names of the journals and classifies them. For example, a paper in proceedings of the national academy of sciences (PNAS) is often classified as a national journal while a paper in International journal of beekeeping would be an international journal.

Despite the flaws and subjectiveness of a peer review system and a selection committee, it seems essential in this age of fake journals and dubious publishing practices.


Anonymous said...

Is there any evidence of such activities in India?

Rainbow Scientist said...

Anon, 4.35pm

yes, definitely. In my state university where I got my PhD, there are people who have 30 articles from their PhD(in Physics) in journals nobody ever heard of. And this definitely helps them because ultimately in state universities and colleges, judges of your productivity are babus (sometime IASs but its the same).
I think though in IISc and established IITs these things could be very rare.

Anonymous said...

In my college, there was one person who was promoted to a professor based on a large number of publications (>25). After I came to USA for graduate studies, I find that none of those journals are ever known and certainly not indexed by Web of Science.

Rainbow Scientist said...

Forgot to add another valuable information on the subject in my previous comment.

To make matter simple, my college (a third tier city in north India) has started its own research journal. Last year, I got invitation from my previous colleague to contribute. What could be more simple to increase the number of publication?

Although in an ideal note, its a good idea to make record of scientific activities in the institute/area/state, only it should not be called a publication in a sense of peer reviewed research publication we count, but who cares?

Anonymous said...

Dear Rainbow Scientist:

Does Vice Chancellor not have a say in the promotion of these faculty members in state universities? Usually VCs are not babus but academicians. I would expect that at least all VCs would know the value of impact factors and quality journals and would try to instill some quality. Are VCs also too political and act like Babus or just dont want to improve the system??? Since I was in one of the IITs, I have never had any experience with state universities in India.

TA (Professor in US)

Rainbow Scientist said...

Dear TA,

It depends on who is the VC at a time. Most of the VC appointments are political (state government decides about the VC and minister of higher education forwards names to the Governor given to him/her by chief secretary, I guess). Many a time local faculty becomes VC (sometime in the same university sometime in another state university) who actually are the product of the system and interested in the way it is working. You can only become VC if you are interested in local politics and you are the part of the gang supporting congress or BJP so when time comes you have some chance.

State colleges have different system though. Here promotions are time based (in most cases commissioner higher education decides depending on the confidential report), and CR asks about the publications. so it is actually a babu deciding about education policies. Currently, in my state college faculties get order from commissioner on all matters including syllabus.

And believe me, until I went to IISc (and later abroad) I had no idea about journal impact factor (although I had international publications thanks to my supervisor who was product of IIT Kanpur), and I think most of the VCs as well have no idea about all these things. In our university there are no international journal available. there is simply no money to buy any. The money is used to buy books which could be used for teaching or advance knowledge in general subject field. There are some books you can buy depending upon your research interest, but again it will be one or two in the whole library so in most cases you have no idea what is going on in the world in your field. I visited 3 times to IIT during my PhD to get the idea for latest publications in the field.

Situation can be improved though if state universities get online access to international journals through IIT/IISc. And more faculties from state colleges and universities get chance to visit IIT/IISc on sabbatical and vice verse. They have been neglected far too long. This will automatically improve overall awareness and quality of our education system/research.

Rainbow Scientist said...

Our college is the oldest (170 years old) and was most prestigious at a time. We still have bounded volumes of top Physics journals until 1970 in the library and instruments dating back to middle of 19th century which were probably at the top level at the time. So there were people who were interested in the current knowledge and also they had resources. Probably around 70s, these things started to change as the political climate changed and IIT system gained over the colleges and universities.

I think the deterioration in the education system started in 70s. I can think of few reasons, 1. the IITs were given over-emphasis and more resources and, 2. politics came in the campus in university and college system (there are congress and BJP wings in most campuses). 3. education spread widely so the minimum bar of quality changed. 4. Finally Indian had control over the system but they didn't had knowledge of world university system, so we can think that the current system represents our own vision/level of the universities.

Anonymous said...

Dear Rainbow Scientist,

Thanks for your detailed reply. Is there no "real" effort to improve the situation at state level universities, even though they may be baby steps?

I am more disappointed with NITs because they are decently funded but research output is very poor. I have had some active interaction in last 12 months with one of TOP rated NITs. The research culture simply does not exist (with few exceptions). In fact some HODs were completely ignorant of the advances in their own fields. Govt. may spend tons of money on these institutions but how to change the mindset towards research is a major challenge. It is too slow of process.


Anonymous said...

The probation period is IIX is 1 year. Is this period extended sometimes. I mean legally is there a provision for the same.

Giri@iisc said...


Yes, the probation period is sometimes extended beyond one year. Legally, it can be extended for one more year before possible confirmation or termination.



Rainbow Scientist said...

How to change research culture? I don't know. I guess the problem is more psychological than the fund.

I think at the state university or NIT level, probably people don't believe that they can be competitive. we also have culture of idolizing, so in education it is the elite institutes. The slow system plays an important role too. There are hard working and smart people everywhere, but they easily get demotivated (or even punished) in the system. Problems are many and at multi levels, and it may take long time and sincere efforts to improve things.

Rainbow Scientist said...

about the "real" effort to change the system? This is the question probably faculties at the state universities can answer better. As far as I know, my supervisor is hoping that things will be better, but he don't know how many promises are real/deliverable.

Anonymous said...

Read this (it talks about NITs and research there)

Anonymous said...

i recently accepted an offer from one of IIT. Soon after that I got a second offer from another IIT which was my first choice. Hence there is a grt dilemma in my mind which way to go. If anybody has been in such situation or know of similar instances then please email anonymously or otherwise at
Your advice and information will be appreciated.

Anonymous said...

One can safely go to his preferred IIT even if he/she has offers from other IITs as well. There have been many such instances in the past.

Anonymous said...

Yes, you can change especially if you had not kept the other IIT waiting for six or more months. for example, you got an offer in Jan 2010 from IIT-1, which you accepted and you have now got an offer from IIT-2. You can accept IIT-2 and inform IIT-1 that you are not joining.

Anonymous said...

Is maid servant easily available in Bangalore especially IISC campus.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:31 PM,
In regards to your response to anon 10:44 am, what is the point of a written acceptance then if it can be declined.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:31 PM,
In regards to your response to anon 10:44 am, what is the point of a written acceptance then if it can be declined

Vasanth said...

International Journal of Beekeeping... This sounds funny

ram said...

Hii sir... i m getting 27.33 in gate - civil engineering... can i have a chance of getting score card?