Ernest Dempsey — Since academic promotion for faculty in institutions of higher learning was associated by the authorities in education with the number of one’s research publications, many “scholars” and “scientists” teaching at various universities have found easy means to climb up this nominal leader of progress. This scheme of promotion has left the process of research publication muddy and questionable.
Though the quality of research in science is plain inferior when judged by international standards with hardly a few journals in the country having any impact factor, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) allowed research work published in various categories defined nationally as acceptable for promotion of a university teacher. The point here in effect says, if you can’t produce research of international standards, keep your head low and keep walking ahead, posing that you are at least a scientist by national standards.
Many journals were launched at universities and by societies having a claim to scientific interest. Some already in existence changed names to sound more of something. Yet, one practice quickly became common and now stands as the rule rather than exception: publishing one’s own research in journals where one is the editor or closely related to the editor professionally and/or personally. This is common knowledge in the academic circles—if we could call them so. There are journals whose editors are either heads of the institutions that publish the journals, are included in the editorial board, or known to them as professional counterparts with whom they enjoy friendly terms. Some journals add names of a few foreign graduates or researchers to make the journal look professional and reliable. Whether those foreigners do review the submitted papers is another story.
The fact that a journal published by an institution mainly includes papers from its own faculty or research students without an independent reviewing process puts its credibility in scientific research to speculation. Another interesting fact is the “group publishing” nature of research publications in these journals. There is hardly a paper published by only one or two persons in a scientific journal. A single paper with 4 to 6 authors is the norm rather than exception in these journals. What happens is that one person’s effort (whatever little it means), usually a junior or subordinate faculty member or research assistant, is authoritatively appropriated by senior faculty and administrative officials and they include their names prior to the subordinate’s in the paper. The subordinate can’t breathe a word of what happens for fear of his/her job or career.
Family is also an important factor in these group publishing credits. Married couples in an institution, or in two different institutions of related disciplines, include each other’s names in their papers when in fact one of them is hardly even aware of what the research was about and when it was done. This “name placing” has high value for all faculty members desiring promotion—the more names in papers, the sooner the next upper rank in the faculty, and of course, the higher their pay. Since there is no accountability process by which the “authors” may be checked for their knowledge of what goes into a paper, the favoritism doesn’t face any hurdles in bringing 6-figure incomes to many professors who otherwise won’t even go beyond teaching the basics of their subject to freshmen.
Still, journals in Pakistan continue to publish papers written by their own people and usually reviewed by people chosen by the editor in collaboration with a group of people with one single interest—taking as much from the government as available without risk. It all makes a closed circle—people who are dependent on one another for promotions, appointments, and maximum earnings—failing to cause any benefit to the nation that out of its ignorance and indifference considers them as “experts” and “scientists”. No surprise then that in a country full of scientists and scholars, there is no technology to produce alternative energy and solve the power crisis that has left Pakistan paralyzed.