Svetlana Ред. 16.09.2020
Scientific publications: Scopus and WoS arouses deep passions
The science of our country has not been all right for a long time and it is not just a matter of lack of funding: scientists do not understand how to write an article; journals are unable to achieve compliance with international standards; there are few promising journals and they “move” abroad.
There are mandatory barriers in the career of every Ukrainian lecturer or scientist; the requirements of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine should be fulfilled in order to overcome them. For example, articles should be published in Scopus or Web of Science Core Collection (WoS) indexed journals in order to take a scientific degree or academic rank. Some universities have even started the practice of including such requirements when concluding contracts with lecturers.
Fulfilling these requirements is a real but difficult task. In order to do this, a number of steps should be taken: to get original research results, to choose a journal, to master the communicating process with the editorial staff and to have at least six months or a year to ensure that the article is published on time. The Internet significantly simplifies this procedure and opens up the possibility of publishing an article in a journal anywhere in the world. There are even journals where the author can publish an article free of charge.
This year the Ukrainian scientists got the opportunity to access full-text resources of Scopus and WoS databases. It is clear that not all of them, but only those who work at universities included in the list of the Ministry of Education and Sciences of Ukraine for free use of resources of these bases.
However, the question arises: does the availability of these opportunities mean that someone will use them? We wish we could believe it but we are sure that it is not enough.
Let us give you an example of this. In the spring time of this year our publishing house (LLC “KVK “Dіlovі perspektivi”) decided to provide an opportunity for lecturers of national universities to publish their articles for free in three Scopus journals of economic profile (of course, providing with favourable reviews). We announced the competition, wrote emails to all universities and distributed information in social networks. At the same time, we were ready to publish 15 articles for free and another 15 articles – with a 50% discount. You must admit that this is quite a lot, if we assume that only about 50 universities in Ukraine published 15 articles or more in 2016 in Scopus journals.
The results were stunning. We can assume that some scientists chose more Top-rated journals, some of them did not know and others did not believe in this opportunity. Imagine that only 17(!) articles were sent to the competition; unfortunately, half of them was not even qualified as an article.
Universities and academic institutions also demonstrate a certain infantile nature, without encouraging their employees to do so by no means. However, some universities bid for Scopus systematically and for many years. The winners are highly ranked in various rankings, have funding for postgraduate programmes; and they have improved chances of receiving grants...
This concerns Scopus. But the vast majority of our scientists do not even dream of publishing in journals indexed by WoS because the standard is too high for them. Although many universities around the world not only require publication on WoS or Scopus, but also a minimum impact factor value or quartile for the journal chosen by the author to publish the article.
A natural question arises: is it better maybe to promote national scientific journals to leading scientometric databases, and not to promote individual articles to foreign journals from these databases? Is it not clear that their presence in the world's leading scientometric databases and libraries will certainly add a positive image to Ukraine? This situation is nothing short of catastrophic.
So, the situation is as follows
There are three the most important platforms in WoS: SCIE (Science Citation Index Expanded) – about 8300 journals; SSCI (Social Science Citation Index) – 2900 journals; AHCI (Art and Humanities Citation Index) – 1600 journals. Try to enter the word “Ukraine” in the search and you will see that there are no journals with such affiliation in SCIE and AHCI. There are just four Ukrainian journals in SSCI (Condensed Matter Physics – Institute for Condensed Matter Physics of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine; Journal of Mathematical Physics, Analysis, Geometry – B. Verkin Institute for Low Temperature Physics and engineering of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine; Symmetry, Integrability and Geometry: Methods and Applications; Ukrainian Journal of Physical Optics – Vlokh Institute of Physical Optics of Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine). Just four?!
As for Scopus, today more than 20,000 journals are added in this database and they are active; only 44 (give or take) of them can be uniquely identified as Ukrainian journals (Ukraine was indicated as the country of publisher for their correspondents with Scopus). The situation with economic journals is one of the worst. Only six(!) journals are added in Scopus database. The fact that no one of these six journals have university or academic institute as its founders arouse no enthusiasm.
You can take into account the opinion of some representatives of human sciences that it is much more difficult for them to publish an article in Scopus journals and provide the admission of these journals as Scopus journals. Perhaps, we should agree with them because both Scopus and WoS treat journals in physics, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, medicine, etc. with indulgence (even if they do not meet some international publication standards).
Do our journals deserve to be added in these metrics? To be more precise, how many of our two thousand scientific journals can deserve it? And how many of them are included in these metrics mistakenly?
In order to answer these questions, we started a compliance degree evaluation project of Ukrainian journals with international standards in publishing practice one year ago. For this purpose, JIC Index (Journal’s International Compliance Index) as an indicator of such compliance was proposed. An ideal journal would have an index 1.0. For this purpose, it must fully comply with ethical principles, have all the necessary formal attributes, be indexed in renowned databases, invest in development and technical support, be transparent in its activities, advance dynamically over the years, etc. Altogether, this evaluation involves the analysis of up to a hundred different factors and indicators.
Currently, there have been evaluated about 200 journals, including almost all of those that are added in Scopus and WoS databases. The analysis has shown that the editorial staff of most journals do not fully understand the essence of the processes involved in peer-reviewed scientific journal creating and developing. That is why there are few our journals in Scopus and WoS databases. In addition, they are unsatisfactory in content, not English and short of international standards.
The fact is there are also scientists who are embarrassed by the Ukrainian origin and tend to hide or not to advertise it at all when promoting their journals on the global stage under certain circumstances.
In WoS and Scopus databases journal affiliations are determined not by its founder (owner), not by the editorial office location, but on the basis of the country where the publisher is registered. As a result, the statistics of national journals is short of a few worthy journals. For example, such journals as Journal of Water Chemistry and Technology, Materials Science, Theoretical and Experimental Chemistry and others are counted towards the United States according to Scopus database. This is because of Springer Nature that is the publisher of the English version of these journals, or any other foreign publishing house.
We also have academy publications that print a journal directly abroad, for example Neurophysiology, which is published by the same Springer Nature. This is not an individual case and it should be taken into account that such a policy may lead to the loss of Ukrainian origins by some journals, for example, as it was with the Journal of Nonlinear Mathematical Physics. This journal was founded by the Ukrainian scientist V.I. Fushchych, and then Taylor & Francis started to publish it. English articles in mathematics and physics by Ukrainian scientists were published there. However, when the founder died (in 1997), the articles of Ukrainian scientists less often appeared in this journal. Currently, the Journal of Nonlinear Mathematical Physics has definitively lost its Ukrainian identity.
There are also more interesting cases. For example, there is the Journal of Telecommunications and Radio Engineering that is indexed by Scopus and published by Begell House (USA). It is indicated on the publisher's website that the journal publishes translations of articles from the journals Radio physics and electronics (O. Ya. Usikov Institute for Radiophysics and Electronics of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine – RPE, Kharkov), Radiotehnika (Kharkiv National University of Radio Electronics – NURE), Telecommunications (Company Ltd “Science and Technologies”, Russian Federation, Kursk).
These journals then actually publish the articles in Telecommunications and Radio Engineering. The Radio physics and electronics journal even has a form of license agreement, which provides for the publisher right (RPE) to translate and publish articles in the Telecommunications and Radio Engineering. It is likely that the university (?) has a certain contract relations with Begell House. And then the publisher sells the annual online version of the journal for $4,518, with access to a separate article for $35-50 each.
It is difficult to say who really owns this journal, because it is often promoted as an English translation of Elektrosvyaz and Radiotekhnika, which does not exist at all. However, the presence of Ukrainian origins can be confirmed with certainty as three Ukrainian chief co-editors are working for it: Vladimir Yakovenko (Honorary Director of RPE), Anatoly Fisun (scientific researcher of RPE) and Nikolay Slipchenko (Prorector of NURE).
There are examples when Ukrainian scientists, who are the managers of state scientific institutions, actually take articles and journals beyond Ukraine.
A vivid illustration of such “offshoring” is Nonlinear oscillations journal that has been published in Springer since 2002. But since 2012, the English version of the journal has actually ceased to exist; and translations of articles from the Ukrainian version of the journal are published “under false colours”, that is, as part of the Russian Journal of Mathematical Sciences (also Springer). According to a similar scenario, Ukraine has also lost the English versions of such journals as Ukrainian Mathematical Bulletin and Mathematical methods and physicomechanical fields.
It is clear that the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine or the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, including compliance with the principles of publication ethics, must consider all such cases. But why does this happen? There may be several motives: the desire to step up activities for the publication of articles by national scientists, the promotion of journals in various databases (of course, it is much easier for Springer), obtaining some financial benefits, etc.
One more question remains to discuss. By way of illustration, we should return to Symmetry, Integrability and Geometry: Methods and Applications (SIGMA). It is associated with Ukraine in WoS and Scopus databases indeed (and this is true), but it is no coincidence that we did not named its founder when we first mentioned it, because it is impossible to do definitively. The fact is that this is an electronic journal, so its registration is not provided for the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine. In such cases, dishonest founders (they are publishers in almost all cases) have a desire to specify more beneficial source data. Even if the founder adheres to the publishing ethics principles, certain misunderstandings may arise. Fortunately, this does not apply to SIGMA, but the founders are not identified on its website. However, it is noted that this is a non-profit, volunteer project led by scientists of the Institute of Mathematics of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. WoS indicates that this is a journal of the Institute of Mathematics of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. Scopus also states that the publisher is a department of this Institute. However, there is no any mention of this journal on the website of the Institute of Mathematics. By the way, the journal is published from regular sponsorship of the Foundation Compositio Mathematica and the University Library of the Radboud University Nijmegen (University of Nijmegen, Netherlands).
This is an example of “delicate” data manipulation. There is another less “delicate” example. It concerns the journal Theoretical and Experimental Chemistry, which we have already mentioned. The journal was founded by L.V. Pisarzhevsky Institute of Physical Chemistry. This is an Institute of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and the journal is published by the Institute (state), but for some reason you can find the articles not on the Institute websites or at the Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine, but at the Russian Scientific Electronic Library.
We can give such examples more; and they demonstrate incomplete compliance with ethical principles of the best national journals. What can we say about others then?
Therefore, in our opinion, the state needs a comprehensive programme of support and development of scientific journals. In practice, this may go something like it is planned to do in Russia. In 2012, the task was to reach the share of Russian publications in WoS to 2.44%. In this regard, a set of measures to stimulate publication activity, including organizational and financial support for the founders of journals that are indexed by WoS and Scopus databases was introduced in 2016. The Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation funds the programme (35 million Russian roubles in 2017) which provides for: compiling a preliminary list of scientific journals (at least 2,500 journals), selection of the best journals (500 journals at least), final selection of 100 journals and their support. It should be noted that the journals published abroad and English versions of Russian journals are not taken into account during the selection.
Thus, the process of solving the fully understandable problem has been successfully simulated for many years. Even the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine is incapable to be clear about the scientometric databases we acknowledge. So, we send our articles to the foreign journals, as unfortunately, we work on the principle a prophet is not recognized in his own land.
Authors: Serhiy Kozmenko, Doctor of Economics, professor, Liudmila Ostapenko, Ph.D. in Economics