Saturday, December 16, 2017

MJMS: CREAM Award and The Changes

Another major happening during my quiet period was the surprise award to the institute's journal Malaysia Journal of Mathematical Sciences (MJMS), published by our university press, Penerbit UPM. We knew about the CREAM award since last year (when we didn't win). CREAM is the (twisted) acronym for Current Research in Malaysia Awards given to academic journals published by publishers in Malaysia. When MCC requested our journal's data, our publication officer Azlida simply submit the data but we did not pin any hope of winning anything. Then sometime in September, we received the surprise letter from MOHE stating that MJMS is a recipient of the CREAM award. We were told to keep this under wraps until the event on 5th October (see pic below).

The event was held at PICC and unlike the previous year, the setting in the hall seems to be a high-tea setting with invited guests sat at designated tables. I found myself sitting together with Prof. Rozehan who is the chief editor of the Bulletin of Malaysian Mathematical Society, which was also one of the recipient.

I found myself a bit nervous since this is probably the first time I am going up the stage in a high-profile ceremony. Also feeling awkward, I was wearing batik while most of the other recipients are wearing coats and ties. Finally the moment the award was announced, and I braved myself to go up the stage to receive the award from the Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Datuk Mary Yap Kain Ching.

The award includes a grant of RM9000 for the use of the journal. Besides, the CREAM award there was also the announcement of the Malaysian Research Star Awards for which UPM bags a few.

Thereafter we took some group photos.

After the event, we received many congratulatory messages. Thanks to the MJMS team that we are able to get this far. We also received belittling remarks but I guess these days some people just need to feel good or superior themselves with the easy way of belittling other people's achievements. Pity.

Having given this recognition, I guess we must take note whatever changes that we have made to the journal's practices. The good ones, we need to continue them. When I joined the editorial team years ago, it was still publishing two issues per year. In 2015, we increased it to three issues per year. Besides that we have also started publishing special issues for conference papers. Thereafter, I was then asked to be the Chief Editor in 2016 for which I accepted, not knowing of the responsibilities to come. There was a little ceremony of handing over the task which you can read it here. Soon after the event, I got to know that an applied mathematician was unhappy with my appointment, perhaps due to my affiliation with the Physics Department and not the Maths. It is embarrassing that one needs to show credentials for this but here goes. My B.Sc. (Hons.) was from the Department of Mathematical Physics in University of Adelaide. Later I joined Part III of Mathematical Tripos at Department of Applied Mathematics & Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge. My PhD was from Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Durham. Here is my mathematical genealogy. Still not maths enough? Anyway, I'm not that bothered about the boundaries of any particular discipline; they often blur when reaching frontiers. Having said that, I will be happy to relinquish the post once my term is finished.

To continue, the other thing that we did was to adopt ScholarOne for managing our journal article submissions. This was right after I took over, when our University Press decided to adopt the system for the other journals. It took sometime for us to be familiar with it. Presently we receive most article submissions through the system. The special issues are however not done through this system but will be managed by the conference (scientific) committee. We have developed guidelines for us to publish special issues. We have also limited the number of special issue at maximum the same number of regular issues. Proliferation of special issues might not augur well with our attempt to get into JCR Web of Science.

As Chief Editor, I look into the overall process of the journal submissions, reviews and publications. To avoid conflict of interest, I have barred my students from publishing articles in the regular issues of the journal. Before an issue is out, I look into each paper for mostly visual checks. Occasionally, I do find mistakes and even change in decision. The most time consuming task is to look into the articles' references, to make sure they are correct. This is most important for citation indexers. In the future, we hope to adopt DOI (Digital Object Identifier) and that will require more inspection. With DOI, our articles will be more visible and accessible to readers worldwide. We hope that our journal gets selected for the MCC grant in adopting DOI.

What possible future changes and improvements that we would like to see for the journal? Well, we hope to have better international coverage (with respect to submissions from all countries worldwide). We hope that we get more willing reviewers that will keep the quality of the articles high. Sometime in the future, we hope that the journal can increase its frequency to four issues per year. Most importantly, we hope that the journal will develop some form of character to which there will be a steady community of followers.

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