In Aril, 2013, Pakistan Council for Science and Technology (PCST) awarded billions of rupees to Pakistani researchers that got their research published in different disciplines. Apparently, policy of supporting and encouraging researchers in different scientific disciplines is appreciable in the sense that it is a necessary evil to promote a culture of science and technology in the universities and research organizations. However, it raises important questions about the credibility of research that Pakistani researchers are performing to claim high academic and research profiles.
Before going through details, it is highly important to mention and clarify that how the research at international level is assessed. Generally, at international level, quality of published research article or journal is determined by the number of times it is cited by the other articles/journals. Predominantly, number of citations determines the worth of that journal in total, and its ranking is done in terms of so-called “impact factor”(IF). The higher IF of a journal portrays its higher quality in specific scientific discipline. The “International Scientific Institute” publishes journal citation report or IF on the web of science in the last week of every June yearly. Overall, total number of citations earned by a journal determines its IF.
Since the advent of IF, an unnecessary race in publications is started where researchers are blindingly publishing their junk research in lower ranked journals that are at the bottom of their fields. This kind of publishing in low IF journals seems like a “mass production of article”.
Some researchers are involved in mass production of junk articles in low IF and self-cited journals in a race to claim high IF regardless of the quality and implications of their research to the country.
That kind of mass production of articles does not guarantee quality and fundamentally, novel research rather it is being done to claim higher number of publications and IF. For instance, if a researcher published 100 articles in lower ranker journals ranging in IF from 1 to 5, he may proudly claim an IF of 100 to 500 regardless of the fact that his research is at the bottom of scientific quality or other words, it is simply junk science. Consequently, he masks his poor quality research in the eyes of research evaluating agencies/institutions. More than 99 percent of Pakistani researchers are publishing this kind of research, and it is awfully saying that government agencies like HEC and PCST are honouring this junk science blindingly and promoting a culture of junk science and research in Pakistani universities. Even world leading publishers of fundamentally novel research like nature publishing group (NPG) and Science Magazine have published articles to create awareness among researchers to boycott/avoid these junk journals.
Many Pakistani researchers have wasted millions of US dollars in publishing their junk research in third class African journals to claim so-called high IF, and this dilemma is just going on. Many Pakistani journals are also involved in this dirty business
The magnitude of dilemma can be gauged from that fact that, for instance, many Pakistani researchers are publishing in African third class journals while paying thousands of US dollars since the advent of IF. For instance, only in academic journals (African-Kenyan) Pakistani researchers spent millions of dollars to prove high research profile. Since 2001, Pakistani researchers published thousands of articles in these junk journals with a publication charges of 200$ per article. This practice is underway by many other Pakistani and third world journals.
Similarly, there are many junk published that are publishing junk books and book chapter for earning money. Our researchers are also excessively wasting institutional or personal money in this race of publications and IF to claim their excellence in their research and academic profiles. Author strongly believe that doing nothing is much better than publishing junk and wasting HEC and other organization money on these junk papers. The millions of dollars that Pakistani researchers are wasting on these junk journals can be utilized to conduct pioneering novel and innovative research that can easily be published in top tier journals without any publication charges.
The third major dark side of this research is the excessive self-citation of published junks. As a well-established fact, Pakistani researchers are not only producing junk papers but they are also self-citing their excessive junk research. That kind of self-citing junk is also common practice in Pakistani junk journals to attain higher IF. This kind of self-citation is another way to mask the eyes of quality assessing institutions like HEC and PCST.
Following strategies can be adopted to address and stop the junk impact factor research in future including but not limited to these.
• Universities, HEC and PCST immediately must ban the publishing of article in third world (African, Indian, Asian) low ranked national and international journals.
• Research incentives in terms of research grants and allowances must only be awarded to the researchers who published in top tier journals in specific discipline.
• Universities, HEC and other related domains must strongly discourage the low quality research, and ensure higher standards in applied and basic research.
• Universities must take strong action against those mass junk article publishing researchers and self-citers. Because this kind of mass production in lower ranked journals has nothing to do in terms of serving country or science.
• There are some predatory researchers that got names in the papers of their colleagues on the bases of political favor but actually do nothing. This practice must end now.
• Universities must ensure quality not quantity. Even in some cases if research is not publishable but it is likely to help industrial/applied sector, those researchers should be encouraged and honored.
Promotions at academic and research positions must be based on top tier research profiles of the researchers but neither on the bases of their dirty political backups nor on the bases of their mass junk impact factor publication production.
Universities, HEC and PCST immediately must introduce and educate researchers how to get themselves on research papers. Internationally, normally students names come first on research papers while principal investigators/supervisors names are placed as corresponding authors at the end of the authors list. However, here in Pakistan many researchers do not know the way their names should appear on the manuscripts. It is a highly important matter, and it may help in assessing who is publishing and what the parent lab is where this work was conducted and who was the principle investigator of this research project?
Promotion at higher level in the universities at department chair, dean and VC levels must be based on high quality research not on the bases of dirty political supports or massive junk publications. Presently in almost all Pakistani universities, people, who are incompetent and expert in dirty politics, occupy the higher posts and many talented peoples are just ignored because of having no political support. Following these strategies is critical to streamline the research and technology sector in our universities, and concerned authorities must take legitimate effort to upgrade the quality of research in the county.