Why Researchers Should Consider Publishing in Southern Journals, Wherever They are Based
INASP has just published a blog post on our AuthorAID website in which two UK-based professors, Edwin van Teijlingen and Padam Simkhada, explain why they choose to publish some of their research papers in Nepali journals hosted on the Nepal Journals Online (NepJOL) platform.
They give several good reasons, some of which are tied up in personal convictions about open access, some of which are particular regard for their chosen journals and some are particularly about journals published in Nepal being the best place to publish research about Nepal. I won’t repeat all that was in the blog, although I do urge you to read it; it is really interesting.
Interesting for me, in addition to the blog itself, were the comments we received. Some people were clearly encouraged by the publishing choices of the authors but others were more wary, raising questions about peer review, impact factor and other perceived quality-related issues for southern journals.
These are very reasonable concerns for somebody to make – about any journal, in fact – in choosing where to publish their research. Researchers understandably want to publish in the best and most appropriate place they can. The importance of thinking carefully about where to publish is a key part of the advice and support that INASP’s AuthorAID project gives to early-career researchers through training and mentoring in research writing. It is also the reason why INASP is one of the founder members of the Think. Check. Submit. campaign, which reminds researchers to think through questions about things like quality, reputation and robust publishing processes.
INASP is committed to supporting southern research and its impact on national and international development. Some of this is addressed by improving research information access and some is addressed by our support to researchers looking to get their work published. However, these things on their own are not enough to bring equity to the global research system.
For many researchers, the desired destination is an ‘international journal’ and we certainly don’t tell developing-world researchers that they can’t aim for the world’s highest-impact factor journals. However, such journals are inevitably concentrated in North America and Western Europe – a concentration that is represented in and perpetuated by the dominance of these titles in listings such as the impact factor. As well as economic and knowledge imbalances between the north and south, such a scholarly bias can discriminate against issues that are of particular importance to a certain country or region in favour of research that solves more global or northern challenges.
Our Journals Online project (of which NepJOL is one of the regional platforms) aims to redress that balance. Journals are evaluated before inclusion on the platforms to ensure that they meet certain criteria such as having a robust peer-review process. They are also currently being assessed against a new set of detailed publishing standards, which we hope to be able to share more about over the coming months. In addition, INASP works closely with the managers of the Journals Online platforms and with the editors of the individual journals to provide training in journal publishing processes, as well as ensuring that the Journals Online platforms are at the forefront of international standards and publishing initiatives. For example, we work with organizations such as CrossRef, iThenticate and Kudos.
One aspect that I have been particularly excited about over the past six months or so has been attracting media attention for some of the research published in NepJOL and, more recently BanglaJOL and SLJOL. Inspired by the press releases that many high-profile journals send out for each of their issues and which I used to receive regularly in my former career as a science journalist, we began working with a local journalist in Nepal to highlight some of the interesting research being published in the country.
The research selected for coverage – only a snapshot of the large body of research published in Nepal – tells some interesting stories. The press releases we have published so far reported on research, for example, into the difference that education can make to HIV rates in migrant workers; the risks of disease spread with street dogs; the link between anaemia and malnourishment in pre-pubescent girls; and how changing the planting schedule for rice can reduce the negative impacts of climate change on crop yields. All of our research press releases can be read here.
What’s more, once we started distributing these stories via the AlphaGalileo press release service, we have seen interest in Nepali research from news outlets all over the world, as well as within Nepal.
It is right for researchers to question and check where they publish – and we urge all researchers to do so. It is also true that few journals from the Global South are currently included in international journals rankings (for more discussions about this, I recommend this LSE Impact blog article written by two of my colleagues). However, it is also important not to dismiss journals simply because they have been published in a country like Nepal rather than, say, the US or the Netherlands.
In selecting where to publish, Professors van Teijlingen and Simkhada made not just ideological choices about open access but also practical choices about their audiences for their research. As they write in their blog post:
“…an additional advantage of publishing in NepJOL is that physical copies of the journals are often available in local college libraries in Nepal. We have visited several colleges in Nepal that had a collection of NepJOL journals, available for students as well as staff without internet facilities and who cannot access the online version. As we do a lot of research in Nepal on maternity care, migrant workers, post-earthquake disaster relief, etc. it makes sense to use NepJOL journals to disseminate our work.”
Yes, impact and reputation are important but, at the end of the day, the reason for doing research into things like earthquake disaster relief is to make a positive difference to those affected and to development goals. Research in Nepal, often carried out in conjunction with local researchers, is important to the challenges facing the people of Nepal so it is vital that Nepali researchers can easily access and build on it.
Thank you to Sioux Cumming, INASP’s Programme Manager for the Journals Online project, and to my communications colleagues Sangita Shrestha and Thakur Amgai for turning the research press release vision into a very successful reality.
Siân Harris is Publications and Engagement Manager at INASP. Previously she was editor of Research Information magazine for almost 11 years and a writer and editor on several publications at the Institute of Physics Publishing. She has also worked as a freelance science and technology journalist for many others publishers, including SPIE, Institute of Engineering and Technology, Royal Academy of Engineering and Nature Publishing Group; authored white papers on open access on behalf of SAGE; and written case studies for several major companies in the engineering and healthcare sectors. She has a PhD in inorganic chemistry from the University of Bristol, where she also worked part-time for the university library.