At the end of 2015, I had the opportunity to participate with two presentations in the event led by CORPOICA in Bogota, Colombia, called I Congress on Scientific Information Edition and Management: Metrics, Databases, and Useful Tools for Information Management.
Before providing some important considerations so that authors and editors improve their positioning and scientific productivity, I would like to highlight three very relevant conferences to start solving the different problems found in Latin American journals and, specifically, national journals in the case of Colombia.
The first conference that was given by Saray Córdoba from Costa Rica, where she talked about the development and operation of Latindex since 1995 as a platform to improve regional journals, made specific contributions to scientific writing through eight good practices:
Which are the good practices?
- Review by peers as a common and necessary practice for journals.
- Observance and surveillance of copyrights and other ethical aspects.
- The manuscript sent by the author should be refined, coherent, well argued, well written, and with sufficient data.
- The text submitted to a journal must be original or unpublished.
- The bibliography included should be updated, relevant, and exhaustive.
- When writing, the author should address a reader from anywhere in the world.
- The paper must follow a structure according to its type.
- The author should always observe the instructions for authors of the journal that will publish it.
There are rules but also conventions.
Another successful contribution was about Creative Commons Licenses, whose lecturer Carolina Botero explained the use that journals should make of them and how educational institutions should include those licenses within their Open Access policies. Here it is worth clarifying that authors should never assign their rights, but facilitate authorization for dissemination, that is, recognize and allow reproduction, distribution, and public communication of their work by applying four simple icons.
The third contribution was made by the Mexican Eduardo Aguado, director of Redalyc, a network from which an interoperable public platform has been developed to benefit the whole region regarding the development and visibility of scientific production. Thanks to it, now it is possible to know, from a different perspective, the narratives of cooperation networks as a roadmap of how science is made in Latin America. Here it was mentioned that the use of JATS contributes to the editor keeping control of their Internet contents, regardless of the platform where they are made available. The most important thing is that each journal have their own voice and that their participation be active and constant in international debates.
The forum was attended by three main actors in terms of scientific documentation: 1) the researcher, who consumes and produces scientific writings, 2) the editor, who normalizes and standardizes such writings, and 3) the librarian, who manages and promotes their consultation while analyzing their visibility and scientific impact.
Therefore, in order to conduct these processes, various tools may help us both manage these resources bibliographically and analyze the use, application, and impact caused by the same. Like everything else, there are tools of public nature (Redalyc, SciELO, Google Scholar, among others) that are openly found on the Internet and there are others that may be consulted by subscription (Web of Science, Scopus, among others), though they are costly. At the time of making a diagnosis, all of them must be included and analyzed in terms of representation.
These tools of informetric, bibliometric, cybermetric, webometric, scientometric, and altmetric nature ―which have been historically controversial for favoring certain sectors and economies― manage to cover the universes partially but, when responsibly coordinated (see The Leiden Manifesto) with experts in such measurements, enable us to view the manner in which researchers mingle with their peers and to know how they produce new knowledge. This process is known as scientific communication.
But what happens when the first actors ―researchers― are not listed on these databases? The first thing we should consider is the fundamental importance of having scientific profiles that provide full name of researchers and the institutions they belong to; these may be created in different databases ―either open or by subscription―. So far, ORCID has proved to be the most compatible and accepted system in the scientific community: a system that allows signing in and generating a name with a numeric identifier at no cost. Such systematization enables the user to recognize their own production and know firsthand their contributions without being attributed others that are not of their authorship since ambiguities and variations in terms of names are latent in Latin American countries. This simple action ―sign-in and recognition― significantly contributes to accuracy in metrics getting closer to reality, although many times it is not very encouraging due to low production of or endogamy in scientific documentation.
Another significant factor is that, when published, it is not checked if journals are included in these systems and are of open nature in order to be able to measure the transcendence or impact that can be achieved through the creation and publication of an article. This analysis can be performed from the time when the editorial committee has accepted the contribution and it is published and disseminated since it includes topic, co-authorship, location (whether local or not), temporality, and even the citation of the article. Such analysis should not only be quantitative but qualitative because it is relevant to know with whom, why, when, and what for this information has been consulted and whether it is, in a strict sense, favorable.
Another important factor is co-authorship. It is important that researchers validate their knowledge with peers from other countries or regions; by this, I do not mean European or North American countries, but peers who discuss and research topics that may be endemic or from similar economies and realities. Co-authorship should break boundaries: If, for instance, researchers attend congresses, these opportunities are to be exploited for creating an international scientific community, motivating joint publication of new findings.
For achieving individual, institutional and, ultimately, national visibility, it is important that a country like Colombia establish, jointly and consensually with its scientists, editors, and librarians, an open scientific information policy. In addition to guaranteeing financial resources and experts in the field and in infrastructure, such policy should consider the creation of ex professo metric indicators designed for diagnosing their own reality, responsibly involving all tools existing today. Thus, the in-depth study of scientific documentation will be clearer, and ad hoc mechanisms may be built to implement improvements continuously.