– Dr. Mina Nath Paudel is Editor In-Chief of the Agronomy Journal of Nepal & Chief of the National Agriculture Genetic Resource Centre (Gene Bank) in Khumaltar, Lalitpur, Nepal. We asked him about his experiences of publishing his society’s journal and using the NepJOL platform.
In this photo, Dr Poudel shows effects of Climate Change on agricultural production in Nepal. Read more about his research in the INASP press release based on his article published on NepJOL. Photo credit: Thakur Amgai
How did your journal start?
The Agronomy Society of Nepal (ASON) was formed in 1994. We started publishing our first journal – ‘Agronomy Journal of Nepal’ – when I became its president in 2010 with an aim to publicize scientific works done by scientists in this field. The first volume of ‘Agronomy Journal of Nepal‘ was published in 2010. This year (2016) we have recently published its fourth volume.
How did you get online presence?
We wanted the journal to have wider readership in Nepal and abroad. We had limited copies in print and not everyone could afford a subscription. Even this year, we published only 300 copies. So, we wanted to keep it online and give full and free access to anyone who wanted to read it. We registered a website and paid for a year’s hosting. But the account got suspended after a year as we did not have enough funds to renew subscription to the website.
I started searching on the internet for options to put the journal online for free. I landed on the NepJOL platform and found that it was exactly what I was searching for. I looked for the correspondence address. I found Sioux* Cumming’s name and email and I corresponded with her. She replied and offered to help and the journal was uploaded onto NepJOL in February 2013. Ms Sioux was kind enough to keep Agronomy Journal of Nepal (Agron JN) online giving all the help and technical assistance we required. Up to this day this journal is online due to the help and cooperation provided by Ms Sioux and her team at INASP.
What has been the result?
We got more viewers for our journal after we put it online. Many people call and tell me that they have read the articles online and comment about the articles. So much circulation would not have been possible with only hard copies. We have also formed a Google group of agronomists and we have regular discussions about the journal, research articles published on it and other related issues, after a journal is published. I have also received submission enquiries from authors in foreign countries after putting the journal online.
How has INASP supported your journal?
A few years after putting the journal online on NepJOL, I got an opportunity to take a training course on journal editing and publishing with INASP at Tribhuvan University Central Library in Kathmandu. The training was quite fruitful as I learned a lot of new things. In particular, I learned about Digital Object Identifiers (DOI), something I had never heard of before. Likewise, I learned standards of citation. And most importantly, I learned the nuances of plagiarism. In Nepal, although we have heard about plagiarism, we don’t know much about it. I think plagiarism might have affected some of the papers in our journal in the past despite our efforts to discourage it.
Plagiarism & Journal Quality in Nepal
Plagiarism is, arguably, the single biggest challenge in journal publishing in Nepal. Many articles submitted for publication are poorly presented, do not follow the prescribed format and submission guidelines and are heavily plagiarized. Often submitters, especially students, are unaware that ‘plagiarism’ is wrong. They are unaware on how to present a research article because they may not have been taught about it in university. Most of the students graduating in Nepal don’t know what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it. Plagiarism is still an issue even in research articles submitted by university teachers and other researchers. Editors, too, face a problem in quality control because they may not be fully aware of plagiarism checking tools.
Presentation of journal articles is another big issue. Often Nepali writers of journal articles present the results and skip the discussion part, thinking that discussion is not required when the results are presented. The discussion or the analysis is the core of any research findings, but many Nepali authors just present the tables and data and move directly into the conclusions without presenting the discussion.
The problem is not unique to Nepal. It is a common trend among many developing countries including South Asian countries. This is the reason that professors in many reputed universities advise their students against citing journal articles published in these countries barring exceptional cases.
What is the situation of publishing and being published in Nepal?
Journal publishing in Nepal is not easy. The awareness level is low and journal publishing and writing for journals is not considered highly even in research and teaching institutions. It is often considered to be a chore. Students at Masters’ Level and Doctorate level write journal articles for academic purposes; university teachers and other academicians write articles or publish journals for promotion or other career gains. Carrying out research, writing journal articles and publishing journals with the pure intention of contributing to the enrichment of knowledge in a field of study is not seen to be high priority. There are exceptions to it as well and one can find dedicated and bonafide researchers in Nepal too.
Resource constraint is a big challenge in publishing journals. Professional societies and universities alike lack funds to publish good journals. Researchers lack funds to carry out good research. The lack of resources is reflected in the quality of journal articles. As a result, journals don’t receive good articles for publishing while authors find it difficult to get published because they don’t meet the standard criteria.
What positive signs are there?
Given Nepal’s short history of journal publishing – spanning only about half a century – the progress is quite impressive, although we still have a long way to go to elevate Nepal’s journals to an international standard.
Researchers should be encouraged in Nepal. Reviewers must get some incentives. With better training opportunities and exposure, researchers will be better motivated. Opportunities to present their papers in national and international seminars will incentivize them to work harder on it. It’s a gradual process, and it will progress in coming days. We have come a long way since the publication of the first journal in Nepal, which, interestingly, also happens to be a journal in agriculture – Agriculture Journal of Nepal. Unfortunately, this journal has now ceased to publish. Personally, I have strong interest and commitment to improve journal quality in Nepal and I will continue working on it even after my retirement from office.
Any final words?
I am happy that INASP has taken the initiative to promote research articles by writing their press releases and circulating to the media for wider coverage. It is the first time I have been approached this way for comments on a research article published on our journal, and for sharing my experience in journal writing and publishing in Nepal. It’s a big boost to the morale of researchers and journal publishers like us.
About Dr Mina Nath Paudel
Mina Nath Paudel is a leading agronomist in Nepal. He is a Principal Scientist at the Nepal Agricultural Research Council. Currently he is posted as the chief of the National Agriculture Genetic Resource Centre (Gene Bank). He has been the President of the Agronomy Society of Nepal (ASoN) since 2010. He is the Editor-In-Chief of the Agronomy Journal of Nepal (Agron JN), a peered reviewed professional journal published jointly by ASoN and Crop Development Directorate. Dr Paudel holds a PhD in Crop Production and Management from the University of the Philippines at Los banos (UPLB) in Philippines and MS in Agriculture Planning and Management from the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Bangkok.
* Sioux Cumming is a Programme Manager, Journals Online at INASP. She has worked on and managed INASP’s Journals Online project since 2003. During this time she has helped establish and maintain eight JOLs platforms, which together host over 340 journals. Her role involves identifying new journals for the project; recording and publishing usage statistics; working with the editors of the journals to load new issues; and keeping the information about the journals as up to date as possible.
This interview was conducted by Thakur Amgai, Communications Consultant at INASP, on September 27, 2016 in Lalitpur, Nepal.