In Pakistan, researchers’ worst nightmare is that the publication in which they got their studies published gets blacklisted, or, even worse, delisted by the Higher Education Commission (HEC). The research culture in Pakistan is quite modest, but there remains active in the shadows a secretive network of ‘researchers’ and the ‘journal mafia’.
The HEC a few years ago launched the HEC Journal Recognition System (HJRS) website, which contains a list of all the approved national and international journals. The journals are divided into three categories, with W being the top category comprising journals with the highest impact factor, followed by the X category indicating a lesser impact factor, and the Y category with the lowest impact factor.
Anyone in Pakistan who can write around 4,000 words and, more critically, has Rs40,000 to Rs50,000 to invest can simply become a published researcher. This undermines the credibility of the research process, and lumps those who have paid for publication or utilised touts, together with those who have done proper research, adhered to correct ethics, undergone a proper editorial process, and subsequently got published.
Many in the academia assist their students in getting published, utilising their connections, and, in exchange, they ask students to add their names among the co-authors, improving their own profiles. Because of this, professors now have a large number of publications, which, depending on their career, may only be achievable if they publish a research paper each day.
Additionally, some professors threaten to fail students if they do not add their names to the publications. Many students out of fear add the names of their teachers to escape the ‘punishment’. We need to curb this trend if we really want to see the local research culture getting promoted.