There are no incentives to publish on Brazilian journals, says scientist

Publicação: 8 de March de 2017

Low impact factor creates a vicious cycle that must be broken

Matéria Fator de impacto

The trend among all researchers, encouraged by graduate studies, is to seek high IF journals and thus greater Qualis indexes

The impact factor (IF) was created aiming to measure the quality of scientific journals. Today, its use is very diverse from what Eugene Garfield had in mind, since, besides measuring a journal’s influence and quality; it became a tool to measure the researcher’s reputation and prestige. “Clearly, this model of science measurement must be revaluated, at risk of having a science evaluated from a completely artificial method, that does not assess the repercussion or impact an article can have”, says Doctor Claude Pirmez, editor at the Oswaldo Cruz Institute Memories.

The IF is computed annually dividing the number times the journal was quoted in the past two years by the number of articles this journal published during the same period. This means an IF today reflects the articles published three or four years ago. For Doctor Pirmez, pathologist physician at Oswaldo Cruz Institute, a journal’s visibility is something important to be revaluated, since it can strongly influence the IF, since an article can only be quoted if it has been seen. Within this context, variables as language, indexation and access to articles have a significant weight for a journal to become more visible and, consequently, potentially more quotable.

It must be clear that a personal citation index is different from an impact factor. While the first detects your published article repercussion in the academy, the second only measures if the journal can be known as a journal publishing high-quality articles. Since the IF is computed as an average, what happens is that it can be high due to only one or a few articles. Pirmez explains that high IF journals can have many uncited articles and a few with many citations. Nevertheless, these numbers carry the journal’s prestige and, despite the IF being only an average of its article’s impact, it actually reveals the journal’s quality standards. “Unfortunately, this is how the academia acknowledges a good article. This makes funding easier for researchers whose articles were published in high impact factor journals, what consequently, makes that laboratory have better working conditions and, at the end, to publish more”, she complements.

In Brazil, publications are proportional to the evolution of the graduate programs. One of the evaluation criteria for courses is Qualis, a Brazilian indicator that classifies journals using IF as the main ranking criteria. Since most of the Brazilian journals have low impact factor, very few are at the top of this hierarchy. “Nevertheless here we find an important paradox which deserves some thought: if, on one hand, the government releases public notices for editorial support, on the other hand there are no incentives for graduate students to publish in our journals, once they would not hold an IF as good as a Qualis able to rank the graduate school among the best in the Country. This is surprising when we look at the public spending with the Portal Periódico: with public money, Capes pays to release the content for free to graduate students”, she says.

According to Pirmez, the Portal Periódicos without a doubt played a strong role boosting the Country’s scientific production, and it is a very important infrastructure for Brazilian science. “However, think about the dilemma, the graduate course must publish in ‘Qualis A’ journals in order to maintain or level up, and to publish in these journals, it must be paid for. This means we are paying twice, once to publish and another time to access what we have published”, she says. Many Brazilian journals are free of charge, both for the author and the reader (which is the case of Oswaldo Cruz Institute Memories). Yet, the trend for every researcher, stimulated by graduate studies, is to seek high IF journals and thus, ‘better’ Qualis indexes. According to the scientist, unfortunately, there are no incentives to publish in Brazilian journals, since at most, they have a low impact factor, creating, this way, a vicious cycle that must be broken.

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