Suggesting sweeping reforms to promote the quality of research in India, a UGC panel has recommended that publication of research material in “predatory” journals or presentations in conferences organised by their publishers should not be considered for academic credit in any form.
They include selection, confirmation, promotion, appraisal, and award of scholarships and degrees, the panel has suggested. The committee, which submitted its 14-page report to the UGC recently, has also recommended changes in PhD and MPhil programmes, including a new board for social sciences research.
The four-member committee — headed by P Balram, former director of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru — was formed by the UGC late last year after The Indian Express published a series of investigative reports on how India has emerged as one of the biggest markets for “predatory” publishers of substandard research journals.
The reports showed how over 300 “predatory” publishers bring out journals that claim to be international and publish papers for a “charge” ranging from $30-$1,800 per piece. Some of the prominent publishers featured in the investigation were OMICS, Austin, Science Domain, IAEME and IOSR Journals, which together bring out over 1,200 journals on subjects ranging from medicine to management.
Last week, the UGC launched the Consortium of Academic and Research Ethics (CARE) to approve a new official list of academic publications.
In its report, the Balram committee has recommended the creation of a board under the UGC for research in social sciences and humanities with separate allocation of funds. It has also suggested the appointment of a Dean for research and development in every university linked to externally funded grants and projects.
Explained: How the pay-and-publish business works
On predatory journals and conferences organised by their publishers, the committee’s report said: “The mandatory requirement of publication in journals/conference proceedings for award of doctoral degrees and as a metric in evaluating faculty under the API (Academic Performance Index) score has resulted in a proliferation of predatory journals and conferences, which have abandoned classical peer review as a method of quality control.”
When contacted by The Indian Express, Balram said: “We submitted the report recently. It is a very brief report on the improvement of quality of research. It is up to the UGC, HRD Ministry and state governments to implement it.”
Bhushan Patwardhan, UGC Vice Chairperson, confirmed that the Commission has received the report. “It will be considered by the UGC in its next meeting scheduled in July,” he said.
Apart from Balram, the committee includes Sharad Deshpande, former professor and head, Department of Philosophy, Savitribai Phule University, Pune; Shridhar R Gadre, Distinguished Professor, Savitribai Phule University, Pune; and, Anitha Kurup, Dean, National Institute of Advanced Studies, IISc campus.
For the effective implementation of its recommendations, the committee has suggested that an empowered panel of eminent academicians be set up to work with UGC nodal officers for new schemes. It has also asked the UGC to revamp its regional centres and initiate capacity building programmes for its staff to build in-house expertise.
NEW BOARD, R&D DEAN
Key recommendations of UGC panel:
-Papers in predatory journals won’t count
-New board for social sciences research
-R&D Dean in every university
-Short-term internship in policy organisations
-100 post-doctoral fellowships per year in social sciences, humanities
-Translation programme for regional research