Tag Archives: Academic publishing

Low representation of women in academic publishing is only a reflection of lack of opportunities
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Dr Sabina Bhattarai addressing an international conference on dermatology, 2016.

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Dr Sabina Bhattarai is an Associate Professor and Vice Principal at Kathmandu Medical College, Sinamangal and Editor-in-Chief, Nepal Journal of Dermatology, Venereology & Leprology. The Journal is published in NepJOL, supported by INASP. We asked her about her experience in journal publishing in Nepal and the challenges she faces as a female journal editor.

– Interview by Thakur Amgai

When and how did you get into research and academic publishing?

 I have been doing research for a long time now. It’s part of my job. All professionals in medical fields do research as part of their job. Apart from the regular medical practice of consulting patients and providing them treatment advice, I am also a teacher in a medical school, which requires me to do more research. Writing and editing is my passion. I remember enjoying writing even as a child. I used to participate and be awarded in writing contests at school. Perhaps, that’s the reason that my teachers and friends recommended me whenever opportunities to publish wall magazines, chart papers, or bulletins came up. This continued and even flourished when I passed high school and joined university. And here I am now – editing a professional journal.

That sounds very inspiring. How is it that you got such good opportunity as a female child at that time in a country where many parents marry off their daughters before they turn 18?

I was lucky in that matter. I was born and I grew up in central Kathmandu’s Baneshwar area in an educated liberal family. I got the same equal opportunity as my brother for education. My mother was a scientist at Nepal Agriculture Research Council. She always encouraged me to study. I got the best of education available in Nepal at that time. It was much later in life that I witnessed the unbelievable discrimination and harsh life girls were facing in the country.

Could you tell me about your current work in research publication and how you got there?

Currently, I am an Associate Professor of Dermatology & Venereology and Vice Principal at Kathmandu Medical College, Sinamangal. That’s my full time occupation. Apart from that, I am the Editor-in-Chief of Nepal Journal of Dermatology, Venerealogy & Leprology. We have formed a society of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology in Nepal, of which I am a member. The society publishes this journal. I have been its chief editor for eight years now. Before that I used to contribute to it actively.

What challenges do you face as a female editor-in-chief of the journal?

There are challenges that all journal publishers in Nepal face irrespective of gender. I have experienced that external mobility is a bit challenging especially at odd hours.  Having to go to the printing press and sit behind the layout designer looking for errors on the copy for long hours is not an easy job. But this challenge would be there even for a male.  Being a female hasn’t affected the process and output of the journal in anyway.

In general women face a lot of challenge in workplaces in Nepal. However, the situation is quite the opposite where I work. Unlike many other academic institutions women are in the majority at Kathmandu Medical College. Both men and women at KMC are very supportive here.

Do you think that the gender roles in Nepalese society hinder women from coming forwards and succeeding in their academic career?

Of course! It is not just the academic career ̶ women in general face challenges in everyday life. I also face challenges despite being privileged and receiving equal opportunities in terms of my education and upbringing. For example, once I was driving on the road and a bus hit my car from behind and ran away. Although the bus driver had caused the accident, he would not accept fault. When he finally had to accept after eyewitness accounts he said, “how would someone who must have been doing dishes drive well?” That is the kind of perception of some men in the society even today.

Do you think the representation of women on editorial boards is changing?  

There are very few women engaged in academic publishing but a lot has changed lately. You can see three of the top positions of the country – president, speaker of the house and the chief justice – are women. And 33% of the MPs are women. All women need is opportunity and a little bit of confidence.

I believe that an environment of collaboration and sharing among women writers and editors would benefit all. At present even the few women writers and editors in this industry are working on their own without any support.

Do you see gender bias in the composition of editorial boards in journals published in Nepal? 

Of course, there are a low number of females in editorial boards of all journals (with a few exceptions). However, this bias did not originate at academic publishing level. It is just a proportional representation of other areas. What I mean is, the ratio of female to male who complete further studies is low. Then, the ratio of female to male who work in this industry is low. So, the number of women in journal publishing is proportional to the number of educated women in Nepal but disproportional to their total population.

What can an international institution like INASP do to promote career of female researchers?

Organizations like INASP could help bring women together on a platform to facilitate sharing and learning, which would ultimately help raise awareness and increase their confidence.

I have taken part in an INASP workshop on publishing earlier and have found it to be very useful. If there is an opportunity, I would love to be a part of INSAP gender programmes in Nepal which would help enhance career of female researchers/editors as we definitely need to have more representation of women in academic publishing and of course it is not that you cannot work as well as men, it’s just a matter of opportunity.

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Journal publishing in Nepal is challenging
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– 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.

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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.

 

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Open Access plays a vital role in developing-country research communication
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In an article first published in a special Open Access-themed edition of  ISMTE’s EON Magazine, INASP’s Andy Nobes considers Open Access and its role in developing-country research communication. Open Access (OA) has always resonated strongly with INASP’s vision of improving access, production, and use of research in developing countries. We meet many researchers, journal editors, and librarians who are passionate about OA as a means of revolutionising access and research communication (both locally and internationally), aiding global collaboration, and helping them to reach their development goals. Knowledge and implementation of OA principles amongst researchers is growing but remains patchy across different regions, and there are many misconceptions about what it means in practice. Meanwhile, OA journal publishing in the global South is progressing, but there are still barriers to overcome. Confusion over definitions of Open Access In our work with researchers in lower-middle income countries in Africa, Latin America, and … Continue reading

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Reconciling business interests and development needs
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How can publishers ensure developing countries have access to the research they need? A successful partnership INASP’s partnerships with publishers have always been an essential part of our work to support access to research in Southern universities and research institutes. Through the two phases of the Programme for the Enhancement of Research Information (PERI) we’ve been able to make many thousands of e-journals available and in some cases e-books too. 2013 saw 4.5 million full-text downloads, with 65,000 full text items available in our partner countries – and this is of course on top of access achieved through Research4Life and other initiatives, as well as the wealth of resources now open access. The world of research communications has changed significantly in the last few years. OA has advanced rapidly, making a significant volume of research freely available, and there have been some steady, but marked improvements in the research systems … Continue reading

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Responsible engagement with developing countries: what can publishers do?
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We’ve put together some key principles to guide publishers wanting to ensure they engage responsibly with our partner countries, and to support genuinely sustainable and effective access. Make an effort to understand the country context, which institutions are members of the consortium, and what their needs are. Try to look beyond the capital city – connectivity for each is often very different. You can do this through direct discussion with the consortium, but also by participating in Publishers for Development events. Where a country wishes to negotiate as a consortium or purchasing club, respect this – don’t try to find alternative routes and don’t withdraw access before or during negotiations. It could damage reputations and relationships. Don’t make sudden changes – if you wish to develop a direct relationship, communicate with the consortium or national coordinating body early to explain your plans, and give them time to prepare. A 3-5 year … Continue reading

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Publishers, Zanzibar and chimpanzees
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Maaike Duine is leading on a pilot project entitled “Strengthening Indigenous Academic and Digital Publishing in Tanzania”. The project aims to increase the quality of academic publishing in Tanzania through the creation of a consortium of academic publishers and through training, skills development and capacity building. This is the second blog outlining her experiences working on the project. One of the first goals of the project is to get a clear picture of academic publishing in Tanzania. What kind of journals and books are being published? What knowledge is already available? In which areas of academic publishing is training necessary? What content is available online? In order to answer these questions, we are currently visiting publishers throughout Tanzania to carry out the needs assessment. Most academic journals in Tanzania are being published by the Directorates of Research and Publications at the different universities, whereas most scientific books are being published … Continue reading

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