What you do not know about research publication: A note for education minister

Hi! I wrote this opinion after receiving shocking news from Indonesia, my homecountry. The minister of education made a regulation that all students, including undergraduate students, have to publish! It became a hot discussion among us in the room (because many of my friends are lecturers in Indonesia public University). It published in Jakarta Post.

You can read the article here or directly from the link: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2012/02/18/what-you-do-not-know-about-research-publication-a-note-education-minister.html

What you do not know about research publication: A note for education minister

Rayenda Khresna Brahmana, Kuala Lumpur | Sat, 02/18/2012 1:39 PM

Let’s say there are two professors. Professor A has about 300 published articles in international journals but only 1 percent were in top-tier journals, while Professor B has only nine published articles but all were in top-tier journals. Which one is the best?

That question will plunge any researcher into a dilemma between quantity and quality. The answer is pretty obvious. It is Professor B, who published quality research papers, not Professor A, who just aimed to publish a lot of publications.

The easiest example is Richard Feynman, a professor in physics who won a Nobel prize. Not many of us know that Feynman only published around 37 papers and has a Nobel in physics. You can compare him with many professors who have probably published hundreds of articles but not won any prizes.

Thus, the answer seems to contradict the new policy introduced by the education and culture minister. Through the directorate general of higher education’s circular letter No. 152/E/T/2012, the ministry forces students to publish their research in a bid to avoid plagiarism, to disseminate quality research, to enhance academic knowledge, and to close Indonesia’s gap with other countries in terms of the number of publications. What a weak argument which only shows the ministry’s lack of knowledge about research publications.

Avoiding plagiarism is actually not related to how many publications are published online. It is a matter of willingness to invest in anti-plagiarism software. Rather than pushing students to get their papers published, the education authorities can assist universities in installing plagiarism software, which can be obtained for free like Chimpsky, CopyTracker, or Plagium or at a price like Attributor, Copyspace or the famous Turnitin). Indeed, to be detected by the software, the universities have to publish mini-thesis and dissertations online.

Dissemination of quality research cannot justify any policy that forces students to publish as many papers as possible. There are many online journals, but only a few are good. An author may receive many invitations to submit manuscripts to the online journal each day.

However, many of those journals are questionable and profit-oriented. Many online journals only eye submission fees from authors not for a matter of quality, but for the purpose of money.

Surprisingly, the education minister maintains that there are many online journals available for students to submit their works. But, how about the quality? Are we ready for a status as a nation that produces many rubbish papers? Who will pay submission fees to the online operators? The students, their lecturers or the government? Furthermore,
establishing online journals university-by-university, as suggested by the minister, is not a solution.

If one thinks that establishing many online journals can drive a research environment in Indonesia, he or she might not know about indexed and skeptical journals. Chasing up the number of publications produced in Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia, which is one of the justifications, is not by making a brand-new online journal, which is not indexed in any indices. Those three countries emphasize on publishing in at least Scopus index, not any random online journals. Note that only Scopus is considered for QS ranking as the well-accepted index worldwide.

Moreover, back to the example of Professor A and Professor B, if the education minister emphasizes more on numbers, it will harm the research environment in Indonesia. Do we need research papers or
“research paper”?

So, what actually is going wrong in Indonesian higher education?

Unconsciously, there are four flaws in the education minister’s policy that actually discourage the research publication of Indonesian lecturers.

First, Indonesian higher education only admits one international research publication each semester as a point for promotion. Second, Indonesian higher education does not submit research publications published during study leave. Third, if an undergraduate student has to publish his or her work (research mode), how about those who do not do a mini-thesis as a requirement to graduate?

Note that Indonesian higher education admits two modes to be graduated from bachelor’s degree: research-based (using mini-thesis) and the coursework mode.

Fourth, the education minister forgets that there are no research-based universities in Indonesia. Imposing that policy will cause financial problems for many universities as they are teaching-based universities. Additionally, it is also very rare to find a university with a research base for postgraduates (MPhil and PhD) in Indonesia.

This implies that the foundations for a more research-based education in Indonesia have not been established yet. Supposedly, Indonesia’s higher education has to pay attention to these policies first rather than make more misleading policies.

As many issues are not known by the education ministry yet, there are solutions to increase the number of publications. First, the minister has to revoke policies that hinder Indonesian researchers from publishing more (such as those aforementioned four points). The education minister also has to force professors to publish papers in high-impact journals. If our minister does care about university rankings (the QS one, not the Webometrics), a lecturer has to publish in at least the Scopus index journal. Another solution is to give more incentives to lecturers whose works are published in top-tier journals.

However, that solution does not yet answer the quality of the papers. Nowadays, Malaysia and Singapore are focusing on the quality of papers or on the citation of the papers. For them, a professor with hundreds of publications is nothing if he or she does not have high h-index or numerous citations.

Moreover, how can a lecturer push their students to publish? Alas, most lecturers still use the word jurnal (journal) instead of “article”. Some of them do not know the difference between Elsevier and Cabell’s. There are many who do not know the terms in research such as Scopus, high impact, h-index, skeptical journals, SJR, self-citation, or self-plagiarism.

Why not provide training on how to get published for lecturers first? How can a lecturer or supervisor lead their students to get published if they are lacking in research?

The writer is an Indonesian who worked as a research fellow at the School of Management, Universiti Sains Malaysia. The opinions expressed are his own.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s