Game of Academic Publication: A Memo for Indonesian Lecturers

“Publish or perish” is a famous jargon in academia world, and yet, it is not well-known among Indonesian lecturers. Questions such “Why should we publish?”, “Why Scopus?” or “What is impact factor?” are common questions asked by Indonesian lecturers in facing a recent research regulation imposed by Indonesian higher education ministry.

Interestingly, the recent incentive scheme from the ministry, which will give Rp50 Million to Rp 100million per publication, attracts many attentions of Indonesian lecturers. The criterion is pretty easy: has impact factor than 0.1 and cited more than 3 times (for the Rp50million). Surprisingly, this criterion creates noise on social media among Indonesia lecturers. It goes to one conclusion which is many of Indonesian lecturers are still illiterate about the game of publication, and perhaps, the minister may also mislead this game of publication.

The main question in this game of publication is “why should we publish?” Idealistically, the findings of research are to improve the society. If there is no research about polio vaccine or green energy, what the world would be. Yet, this ideal situation has changed into a strange new direction. It forces academia to publish and publish for the sake of quantity. Look at the new regulation, such as professors have to have two publications, or doctorate candidate has to have one publication, or even undergraduate has to publish nowadays. Why? It is simply because of the university ranking game.

For example is Malaysia. The Malaysian government chases the number of publications because university ranking is one of the KPIs for their higher education ministry. Malaysian government aims to have their universities in the top 100 universities in the world, and this plan is well arranged in their 2015-2025 blueprints. To achieve the objectives, Malaysian higher education (MoHE) invested Rm4.3billion (approx USD1billion) in the higher education sector from 2007 to 2013 with the output of quantity and quality research publications. The result is surprisingly good for Malaysia, where 3 Malaysian universities in top 300, and 4 universities are in top 50 for the category of under 50 years university.

Note that to achieve the stage of world class university, Malaysia has to go through different level of academic publication game. For example, in early 2000s, the lecturers were imposed to publish in any index journal. In the mid of 2000s, the lecturers were forced to publish in Scopus index journal only. The last phase is in 2012, the game is changed to impact factor journal publication. Malaysia does not jump directly to enforce lecturers publishing in certain index such Scopus. Malaysia also does not force their doctoral candidate to publish at least one nor undergraduate to publish. It needs patients in this publication game.

Yet, Indonesian government has forced their lecturers (including students) to publish, and it has to be Scopus Index journal. Interestingly, there are not many Indonesian lecturers knowing what Scopus is, but it already a consensus that lecturers have to publish at Scopus index journal or at impact factor journal. So, what is Scopus? Why Scopus? What is impact factor?

Scopus is only bibliographic database used as indexation for librarian. Indeed, there are many indexation companies such as Ebscohost, Cabell’s, Proquest, etc. But why have to be scopus? First, many countries use QS ranking as the benchmark of university achievement. In this QS ranking, research is one of the criteria. To measure the research dimension, QS ranking uses Scopus as the benchmarks. This means that number of publications and number of citation for QS ranking is based on those journals that indexed in Scopus. This leads many governments encourage their academicians to publish in Scopus so their university ranking will increase.

What is impact factor? It is a measurement to show the magnitude of research quality by quantifying the number of citation. The widespread impact factor used is ISI web of knowledge (WoS) and Scimago Journal Report of Scopus (SJR). Indeed, there are many companies offering other types of impact factors such as Universal Impact Factor (UIF) or Global Impact Factor (GIF), but Indonesian higher education minister has to stand still and encourage the lecturers to aims only and the only impact factor from WoS or SJR. Why? because of the game of university ranking. The QS ranking will count the quality research based on the number of citation of those impact factor journals from Scopus. Hence, does Indonesian higher education use QS ranking as benchmark, so it forces Indonesian lecturers to publish in Scopus and impact factor journal? Does Indonesian higher education have really thought about this?

Another important note in this game of publication is predatory journals. There are many journals out there claiming as the fast publication, and as long as the lecturers pay certain amount of money it will get published. Some of those journals are Scopus index journals, and some of them are impact factor journals. This bogus journal asks around USD100-USD1000 for publication fee. It is important for Indonesian higher education ministry to identify these journals, and make black-listed journal lists to ensure the quality of the research. The common practice worldwide is following what so called as Beall’s list which is coined by Jeff Beal of Colorado University. The current black list of Indonesian higher education has to be improved. Moreover, this list has to be broadened not only to open-access journal, but also close or pay-per-view journal.

Presuming the Indonesian higher education minister has the blueprint in chasing Top 100 universities in the world based on QS ranking, there are several important notes for the minister. First, to achieve the world class university, it is not only about publication, but also incentives and compensation. Those top 200 universities has a total annual income of more than USD750 thousands per academics, and the total research income is more than USD230 thousands per academic. In terms of staffing, the student-to-staff ratio is 11:1, not 40:1 like in Indonesia. Moreover, those top 200 universities hire more than 20% international lecturers, and have more than 19% international students. This implies that it is need a huge investment for Indonesia to achieve this top 200 universities ranking, and it is not solely due to publication.

Additional note for Indonesian lecturers is that having high impact factor does not mean our research have high impact to the community. To have impact to the community is still through good teaching. This publication thingy is only a university ranking game. Please do not forget the main objective of being lecturer is educating the society for a better world. Yes, we can publish in an impact factor journal, but teaching is not less important than publication.

So, should we publish?

Published by:

Rayenda Brahmana

About research: google scholar: Others: twitter: @raye_brahm instagram: kolom.riset email: kolom.riset(at) raye_brahm(at)

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