Reforming academic journals

For those not familiar with the 21st century world of academia, the name of the game is publish or perish. In its quest to join the ranks of leading science countries, China is not spared from the lab race. There too scientists scramble to get their research results published in Chinese academic journals in order to ensure promotion and funding.

The problem? Scientists in need to publish in quantity (and in quality) are too often resorting to incremental work and plagiarism – Nature reports that 31% of the papers submitted to one campus journal contained plagiarized material. One academic estimates that only 5–10% of these campus journals (an important channel for academic publications in China) are worth saving. The government has proposed a “survival of the fittest” solution to solve this issue, i.e. “weak” journals will be terminated. But given that scientists will still need to publish, the question really is whether such a strategy has any chance to succeed. Like the phoenix, journals will be able to rise from the ashes, under a different name.

A solution that could make sense? Make sure that the Chinese journals have an English version, rigorous peer-reviewing and a ranking  mechanisms. The impact factor would take care of solving the quality issue!