Raising Up Journal Publishing Standards in Emerging Economies

“Bangladesh … is a very small and highly populous country in South Asia, better known for its natural disasters and other climatic impacts,” explains Dr. Haseeb Irfanullah, Programme Coordinator for the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Executive Editor or the Bangladesh Journal of Plant Taxonomy. “But we do research, and we do publish our journals. And you’ll be amazed to know that there are lots of journals being published from Bangladesh with support from the government.”

Dr. Inrfanullah is joined by Sioux Cumming, International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) program specialist, to discuss the evolution of Bangladeshi contributions to scholarly publishing, and best practices applicable to all emerging economies. Since 2016, Africa Journals Online and INASP have developed detailed publishing standards and a publication quality ranking system intended to guide local researchers and editors and spotlight their work. JPPS – the Journal Publishing Practices and Standards – is a framework for providing accreditation and support for journals that are hosted on the Journals Online platforms (JOLs). These include BanglaJOL in Bangladesh as well as others in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Mongolia and Latin America. JPPS has been shortlisted for the 2018 ALPSP Award for Innovation in Publishing, which will be announced on Thursday, September 13, 2018.

Interview highlights

Dr. Haseeb Irfanullah: “One of the purposes of this particular dialogue [about cultural change in Bangladesh] was being self-critical and regarding what can be done realistically because we can set our target really, really high, but it is not physical. (sp?) So one thing we did – I can summarize all the things we do in, say, four points. The first thing is what we can do on a short-term basis. For example, if we are not having quality manuscripts, what can be done? So there are some action points. How to (inaudible) your journal, how to make them attractive to (inaudible) authors.

“A second point is kind of a peer pressure. We proposed that, and it could be done, Bangladesh Journal Watch, it’s a kind of a watchdog which will kind of monitor whether a particular journal is doing well or not. You might be (inaudible) a new system, JPPS, Journal Publishing Practice and Standards, which is kind of a joint venture of African Journal (sic) OnLine and INASP. They tried to put stars on BanglaJOL journals, and only handful of actually got one or two stars out of three stars, and most of them actually found not doing that well. So that kind of peer pressure could be quite an interesting thing to have.

“The third thing I would like to say is more like a policy intervention. We don’t have any regulation from the government side, so what about having a national science publishing policy that will guide us what to publish, when to publish, and how to publish so that the journals can keep a particular standard.

And the final thing is one of the major issues why we publish so much, we want to publish, we focus on numbers – quantity – rather than quality because academics, they need to show that they have been publishing quite a lot, so they are trying to publish so many papers – (inaudible) papers and others. So we need to influence the academic system, our universities, and both private and public, so that they can actually shift from that kind approach, publish or perish, rather than focus on quality. So these four things can be done if we want to make a real change and be self-critical as well as innovative.”

Sioux Cumming: “We’ve been working with journals from these countries that you mentioned for a number of years now. Of course, African Journals Online started back in the 1990s, when most of these journals were largely invisible. They were housed in universities on bookshelves, and it was really difficult to get hold of this content. So we started this project largely to make these journals more visible. That was our aim at the beginning – just visibility, getting the journals online so that they could be discovered and so that this really valuable research being done in these countries was accessible to a global audience.

“As the project progressed, we began to realize that visibility was not all, that a lot of these journals are published by individuals, by scholars – what we call scholar journals – who have a limited experience of the publishing industry. While the research that they were publishing was fine, the publishing practices surrounding journal publishing were often not as good as they could be. So particularly in the last five years of a project at INASP, we focused very much on helping these journals to improve their quality.

“Prior to that, their policies were not as good as they could have been. They were not aware of things like copyright to a large extent, licensing permissions, the importance of explaining things like their peer review process. And then in the last three years in particular, both AJOL and ourselves have focused on helping the editors to address those publishing practices.

“I want to emphasize here that we’re looking at publishing practices. We’re not looking at the content. We are not subject specialists. So we can’t assist the actual content of the articles and the research that they cover. But we can look at the way in which the journals are being published.”


Read the full transcript here.


Author: Christopher Kenneally

Christopher Kenneally hosts CCC's Velocity of Content podcast series, which debuted in 2006 and is the longest continuously running podcast covering the publishing industry. As CCC's Senior Director, Marketing, he is responsible for organizing and hosting programs that address the business needs of all stakeholders in publishing and research. His reporting has appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, The Independent (London), WBUR-FM, NPR, and WGBH-TV.
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