Towards a Corporate Governance system for journals

Towards a Corporate Governance system for journalsIn the previous post, I suggested the idea of ​​using the corporate governance model but for academic journals and research, a kind of Journal Governance system, aligning journal practices with each other and with the scientific environment in which they operate, which would lead the academic publishing industry towards a Corporate Governance system for journals.

In corporate governance there are two leading models: that of the Shareholders (in our case the journal would seek wealth maximization), monitored by the market, that is, their readers, paper rejections ratios, subscriptions, indexation in high ranked indexes, publication prestige, etc.; and that of the Stakeholders, having into account a dense network of journal collaborations; but the trend is to use a mixed model, in which the publishing world could have the following key Journal Governance Variables.

The internal forces, those directly responsible for determining both the strategic direction and the execution of the journal’s future:

  1. The journal owner (publishing company, faculty/university, scientists): Maximization of the journal value.
  2. The editorial board: Transparency and international approach.
  3. The editors (Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor):  Independence and loyalty.
  4. The peer-reviewers: Knowledge and ethics.

The external forces, those interested in the journals behavior and success:

  1. Readers, looking for quality, innovation and rigor of published research.
  2. Authors, seeking the prestige of the journal.
  3. Funding institutions, in need of project validation.
  4. Universities and faculties.
  5. Databases and indexes.
  6. Accreditation agencies of professors.
  7. The regulation of each country on education and teaching.

Many of these forces are currently existing, but in a weak way and not incorporated or regulated by a comprehensive model, for example forcing journals to publish a sort of Journal  Governance Annual Report, among other practices, which would be compelling as other quality practices, such as peer-review or independence of the academic board.

Anyway I’m not naive, I know that this hypothetical system of Journal Governance wouldn’t be infallible either, but would be the best we could come to have in the medium term, don’t you think so?

The xenophobic Europe emerged from elections, is it so also on scholarly publishing?

The xenophobic Europe emerged from elections, is it so also on scholarly publishing?According to the discussions opened on various forums about whether academic journals are racist when it comes to accept and publish articles from foreign autors (Do you think that journals are fair when evaluating the manuscripts to be published?), I found a general feeling, by authors from countries outside Europe and USA, that there is some discrimination from these two geographical areas, because Journals don’t trust either the quality of their research, their universities of affiliation, or their English writing.

Instead, the result of the poll has shown the opposite of what I expected for these comments in social networks just mentioned:

  • 56% – Yes, journals are fair when evaluating the manuscripts to be published
  • 44% – No, they are not

But the recent European election on May 24th, 2014, in which there has been clear progress by xenophobic parties, has made me to rethink the issue: It’s just a feeling on the part of the authors to justify the rejection of scientific articles in journals? Or is there something that we can do from Europe and USA to improve scholarly publishing and that perception?

Although this survey is part of a blog, and was not intended to be the basis of an academic research, but only investigate the feeling I had, collected on the Internet; now I think there is room for a good project on the causes of discrimination in the publication of articles by authors from non-Western countries, and what kind of corporate governance policies could be implemented in scientific journals to prevent this unfortunate perception of rejection to foreign research (racism).

Many of you’ll think: “The only thing that was missing in academia: policies for journals of affirmative action for authors (and not why for women) from countries outside of Europe and USA.” It’s all for the good of fair play, the development of research and its dissemination.

 

* The poll was posted in April and May 2014 in many academic discussion groups. Around 450 answers were collected.

Peer-review revisited. The last journals’ scandals effect

Peer-review revisited. The last journals’ scandals effectLately there have been some scandals regarding some low quality academic publications or fraud involving several journals, an issue that is not new and that is affecting the current model of journals and peer-review system. So much so that The Economist has written an interesting and intricate article on this subject (How science goes wrong), in which scolds the industry, coming to say that:

  1. Peer-review system is not enough to guarantee the quality of research
  2. It is important that research results can be replicated, and in many cases have not been made by tech firms, because data were allegedly manipulated.
  3. Also blames journals, which may be selecting the more sensational or interesting articles for their readers.

To solve this problem it raises fairly complex ideas, difficult to implement in practice from my point of view for all fields of knowledge, such as including a system of post-publication evaluation, or even registering the research protocols, so it can be monitored and trial data can be tested and inspected.

Currently, publish in journals is an elephant pregnancy, 22 months: once the draft research is ready, it must be passes to a paper format, with the following peers and co-authors revisions; then you have to choose the right journal; adjust the paper to its specific format and translate  it to the proper language, if necessary; then you have to send it to the journal, which usually have up to 90% of rejections, and take up to a year to be re-reviewed and eventually accepted.

Therefore, I think that complicate the process would be counterproductive, but I agree that something certainly should be done because this system gives rise to errors and fraud, which could lead to a slower advance of science and humanity.

As a researcher in finance, it comes to my mind the implementation of corporate governance practices but applied to academic journals and research (Journal Governance), which is somehow already being done. The prevailing logic would be that journal practices are aligned with each other, as well as with the academic environment in which they operate.

(It will continue.)

Back to basics: The roll of journal indexes

I wonder about the contribution of journal indexes / databases to the assessment of research quality.

Lately, and against what would be logical given the major changes being experienced by the publishing industry, professors are increasingly required to publish in journals indexed in Journal Citation Reports (JCR), both statewide for accreditation as at universities, especially in private ones.

journals

If indexes and impact indicators were a kind of accreditation on the quality of journals’ processes, particularly on peer review quality and editorial board, I would understand all this alarm about publishing in first class reputable indexes. But apparently not:

  • Being in JCR, journals have to demonstrate to be a regular publication, printed in English, have an international editorial board and other requirements that have little to do with the quality of the papers within.
  • Having a journal indexed in Scopus and other known ones, it is enough to filling out a form giving them permission to use the journal data.
  • Following the same line, other similar indexes (generalists, regional or specialists), only require an application form to be filled.

So, what are the main sources of prestige for a journal? I pointed just a few:

  • Large base of readers.
  • Quality of authors and papers.
  • Sound peer reviewer processes, with good reviewers and feedback.
  • Good Editorial board and clear editorial line, objectives, etc.

If that is somehow true, then, what makes the difference with un-indexed peer review journals? I have not it very clear, it looks like a kind of complex corporate governance system for journals: different publishing stakeholders (indexes, journals, professors, researchers, universities, departments, accreditation bodies, governments, readers, peer reviewers, editors, journal owners, etc.) taking care of research prestige and reputation.

Many voices in academia call for a change, but, is there a better system than journal indexes and impact indicators to assess quality of research?

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