Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Misplacing Lessons in Ramadhan

It was only yesterday that we got the pleasant news that UPM was listed as one of the top 50 Asian universities by QS University Rankings. But then came another piece of news that shocked us all: allegations of Malaysian researchers' misconduct in publications. Even though the group of researchers are from a different university, I hesitated to post the news here, feeling ashamed, as a Malaysian, that this is happening in Malaysia. In any case, the news is now all over the social media and our mainstream media (see here) and we simply have to face the bitter truth. What are the allegations, you can read it here: All the little joy we just had moments before reading the post vanish into thin air.

Me and my colleagues had short and long chats about the above matter and worry about the direction of the academia in Malaysia. Like everyone else, we talked much about the KPI culture and the academic pressure that it entails. It seems easy to blame it on KPIs but are these really to blame? Elsewhere in the world, others are also worried about KPIs, just as we are. If KPIs are to blame, it is probably our misplaced emphasis on them since they are merely tools of management and monitoring. The real culprit is our lack of instilled ethics, professionalism and perhaps immature research experience in some of our researchers. We have to take bitter lessons from this episode.

Misplaced or not, we are still having our KPI and Strategy workshop for the institute tomorrow. Among the KPIs to be discussed is the percentage of our publications in Q1 & Q2 journals. How the journals are ranked with respect to the various quartiles are still based on their impact factor within a subject class. It doesn't really say anything about the quality of our publications published there but merely indicate that one is able to penetrate the competitive barrier for acceptance in these journals. Personally, I have been telling my own students, publish where one's own work find more use or where the community of the subject matter flocks to. The Q1/Q2 categories themselves change over time. Anyway, my RA, Hazazi has managed to list (non-exhaustively) the Q1 & Q2 journals that are probably relevant to the institute (see below).

By being informed of what journals are there, one can scan the materials in there and see their technical level and the depth (plus what is considered interesting by the international community). Wherever possible, one can emulate the sophistication and scientific qualities into our research, then publish wherever it is appropriate.

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