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Report of the 2017 Annual Conference of the Asian Council of Science Editors

Kakoli Majumder | Aug 28, 2017 | 2,096 views
The Asian Council of Science Editors' Annual Conference, 2017

Earlier in August, Kakoli Majumder, Senior Writer & Editor, Editage Insights, attended the 2017 annual meeting of  the Asian Council of Science Editors in Dubai, UAE, accompanied by Daniel Prathipati, Senior Managing Editor, Publishers and Institutions, Editage. This is Kakoli's personal account of the two-day event.

The 2017 meeting of the Asian Council of Science Editors (ACSE), held in Dubai on August 13 and 14, 2017, was an interesting experience. I attended this meeting along with my colleague Daniel Prathipati. Attended by around 150 professionals from various walks of scholarly publishing, including journal editors, publishers, consultants, and research scholars, this meeting provided interesting insights into the challenges faced by authors, journal editors, and publishers in the developing countries of Asia and the Middle East. The speakers at the conference aimed to provide information about best publication practices and emerging trends in academic publishing to equip them with latest knowledge and tools that would enable them to address these problems.  

Day 1 began with an interactive workshop on “An overview of publication ethics” by Phillip Purnell, Director of Research & Publishing Services, at Knowledge E (a provider of knowledge and consultancy services to publishing professionals in the Middle East) in which he discussed ways to deal with ethical issues such as self-citations, citation cartel, fake peer reviews, etc. The session spawned a lot of discussion around how authors, universities, and journals deal with these issues. Some interesting questions were raised around how authors could deal with coercive citations, whether relevant self-citations should also be discouraged, and what could be some solutions to counter the effects of negative citations and self-citations on citation metrics in general.

This workshop was followed by an interesting session titled “A deeper look at COPE guidelines” by Mohamad Mostafa at Knowledge E. The session focused on identifying questionable practices by COPE from journal editors’ and publishers’ perspective. Mostafa explained the Think.Check.Submit initiative from the editor’s point of view and emphasized the need for journals to ensure complete transparency and use effective mechanisms to establish their credibility. The recommendations included displaying the names, ORCID IDs, and affiliations of editorial board members; providing clear information about the article processing charges; declaring the journal’s policies with regard to publication ethics and malpractices, open access, archiving, etc.; getting the journal indexed; and joining learned societies and associations recognized by the industry.

Lars Bjørnshauge, Managing Director and Founder of the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), delivered yet another session focusing on journals. Titled “How to enlist a journal in DOAJ,” Bjørnshauge provided detailed insights into the criteria used by DOAJ to select journals before taking the audience through the application form and the application process, and explaining some of the common reasons why applications could be rejected. The session sparked some interesting discussions around the mass delisting of journals from DOAJ, the true meaning of open access, and the significance of the DOAJ seal in promoting best publication practices.

The day ended with a panel discussion by Prof. Gazi Mahabubul Alam and Dr. Anwar ul Hassan Gilani, President and Vice President of the ACSE respectively, Dr. Mehmet Ozaslan, Dean of Gaziantep University in Turkey, Dr. Zabta Khan Shinwari, General Secretary of Pakistan Academy of Sciences, and Philip Purnell. Titled “The Editors’café,” the session addressed some of the challenges faced by authors and journal editors in Asian countries. Intense pressure to publish, difficulty in finding reviewers, lack of understanding of international publication standards, over-reliance on the impact factor, and difficulty in gaining global recognition emerged as some of the top challenges. One interesting conclusion that came out of this discussion was that it is important for decision makers in Asian countries to avoid over-reliance on the impact factor and other associated metrics and focus more on the quality of research.

Day 2 had a long line-up of sessions on a wide range of topics. The day started with an address by Prof. Gazi and one by Dr. Ghilani, and moved on to a session on the DOAJ Ambassadors Project by Lars where he shared how the program with a one-year funding support and a group of volunteers has been successful in promoting open access diverse regions and sub-regions across the globe, covering Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and Russia. Apart from promoting DOAJ, these ambassadors have worked with regional publishers to promote best publishing practices and identify questionable ones.

A session with a completely different flavor was Dr. Zabta Khan Shinwari’s talk on “Responsible sciences under one health.” He emphasized the need for science to make an impact on human lives; consequently, it was crucial for scientists and policymakers to interact and be on the same page so that the benefits of research could filter down to individual lives and thereby have a positive impact on society.

This was followed by my session “What's broken in the academic publishing process from an author's point of view?” where I presented the interim results of a large survey that Editage Insights is conducting with authors to understand their views on various aspects of academic publication. The survey sheds light on strong views authors have about issues like journal communication, time to publication, publication ethics, open access, and more. The session aimed to provide useful insights into the pain points and expectations of authors, and stimulate discussion on how editors can make their journal processes more author friendly. I received quite a few questions and comments. One question that I found particularly interesting was whether the survey had considered editors’ views as well, and if so, whether they corroborated with authors’ views.  

One session that Daniel and I found particularly intriguing was “Journals are in the Assertions Business - Sustainable Model for Scholarly Publishing” by Jason de Boer, UK Client Development Manager at Aries Systems Corporation, the company behind Editorial Manager. Boer presented a novel approach towards academic publishing: the journal should think of all the information they are publishing in terms of audit assertions. Thus, since journals are making claims or assertions on behalf of the author, they should use various tools or stamps of credibility to make sure that these assertions are valid; for example, using ORCID for the author’s identity, iThenticate to ensure that the content is not plagiarized, and a host of other such tools.

Overall, the conference gave us an opportunity to get a wide perspective of how journal editors and scholars from the Asia region participate in various initiatives in publishing such as open access, indexing, etc. to gain more credibility. Also, it was fascinating to hear from editors and authors of their frustration with the processes during the Q&A sessions. The conference also gave us an opportunity for to connect with scholars and government leaders from the Asia region, especially from Pakistan and the UAE.

Here are some of the tweets that capture the events and discussions at the conference:

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