Letters

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Prioritise local science journals

SCIENCE journals have become a prime medium to expand scientific knowledge. They have been deployed since the early beginnings of scientific research. We cannot deny the fact that knowledge can only grow through the sharing of the fruits of research. Knowledge will have problem growing otherwise. And in the pursuit of scientific knowledge, journals perform an important function of curating and validating the findings generated by scientists. Over the years, journals have undeniably demonstrated their worth as effective platforms for the communication of science among peers. It is through such communication that new ideas are born. It is also through the writings in the science journals that scientific theories are enriched and improved to eventually develop into technologies which are consequently harnessed by societies for their betterment.

In the West, science journals have been transformed from a free for all scientific publication in the early years of scientific discourse to one that now command attractive and even lucrative business value. There is money to be made in the management of science journals. Many of the so called Tier 1 branded journals even charge publication fees for articles submitted for inclusion in their publication. The fees are not inexpensive. In Malaysia, because of the KPIs imposed by universities in their quest to be ranked high, much has been spent to load science articles by their lecturers and professors in such journals. Inadvertently, such journals, a majority of which reside in the more developed countries, become even more valuable in the eyes of the scientific community. The unfortunate part of it all is that local journals are largely ignored. They are mostly put on low priority.

We have many local science journals. Each university may have a few in the different disciplines. Some of the research institutes also have their own science journals. Some do attract overseas scientists. One example is the journal of palm oil research hosted by MPOB. So far the journal has no problem attracting research articles on the oil palm from outside the country. Maintaining the quality of the journal is key to its long term sustenance. At one time the Malaysian Rubber Board’s natural rubber journal was also in the same category. Natural rubber (NR) scientists from all over the world gave priority to get their works published in that NR journal. Not any more. The latest we hear is that it has been struggling to meet deadlines. Some say it may die soon. There are many other journals in the same boat. It may be time for the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation to think of a strategy to raise the profile of our local science journals. We must remember that funding for R&D to drive innovation is incomplete if we do not also pay attention to the vibrancy of our science journals. We must make sure our local journals are also suitably nurtured to become world class. We may need to identify a few key journals to support and nurture.

The Science Journal of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia is one which deserves support in terms of funding not only to effectively manage the production but also to aggressively market it as a premier journal for the country and the region. At the moment it is lowly prioritised in terms of allocation. As a result it is just waiting to be declared impotent. It would be a real pity if the journal is not given the attention it deserves. The Academy’s journal is supposed to represent the pinnacle of scientific research in the country. Through the efforts of past years, it has already achieved the Scopus index. (Scopus is the world’s largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed research literature.) In order to migrate to the higher level of being ISI indexed, the journal must demonstrate not only quality articles but also the timeliness of release. It may be time to give the journal a dedicated allocation to effectively sustain and raise its reputation. It would be a mistake if we are to continue to depend on external journals to send our scientific messages. With the present 300 over fellows helming the Academy, there is no reason why the feat to be a top class world journal cannot be achieved!

PROFESSOR DATUK DR AHMAD IBRAHIM

Fellow Academy of Sciences Malaysia

Tags / Keywords: Letters , Science , writing

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