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Brazilian Scientific Journals: challenges, (dis)incentives and one fundamental question

There are more than a thousand journals that publish research results from all knowledge fields in Brazil. Despite the existence of centennial journals such as "Memorias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz" or "Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciencias", which started publishing in 1907 and 1929 respectively, Brazilian researchers do not consider international journals published here as a source of academic prestige. Following the steady growth of Brazilian science in the last quarter of the 20th century, Brazilian researchers have been engaged in an evaluation and rewarding system that push them to look for journals granted as having more influence and visibility in the academic world. These journals are usually owned by big publishers from USA or Europe.
We deem that time has come to ponder on the reasons causing the misalignment between the fast-paced scientific output over the last 40 years in Brazil and the loss of prestige (or its absence) of the Brazilian journals. There are at least five key points for reflection:
1) Why the Brazilian scientific environment does not offer incentive for researchers to submit the best science to Brazilian journals despite the availability of dozens of journals in each branch of major fields?
2) Can the Brazilian journals be considered good vehicles to knowledge dissemination according to good publishing practices?
3) Should we define a given number of journals to be supported as "world class journals" by our major funding agencies?
4) What influence should the funding agencies (CNPq, CAPES, FAPs) have in this process? Should they develop a specific strategy for scientific publishing?
5) What is the role of the science education and graduate programs? Universities? Scholar societies, e. g. Brazilian Academy of Sciences, Brazilian association for science advancement?

Giving answer to these questions demands a rigorous data collection and analysis of all stakeholders involved in the publication of science in Brazil, which is not feasible in the very short term. However, some thoughts are worth taking.
Under the current national Science & Technology system, the journals published in Brazil in the natural sciences (biology, physics and chemistry) face important barriers to get manuscripts reporting the best results from Brazilian researchers. Among the reasons, one gets prominence: the incentives researchers are offered to publish theirs articles do not favor the Brazilian journals, making them the last choice for submission of their manuscripts. These incentives are grounded on two factors:
a) heavy emphasis on the journal impact factor, an index that lists all Brazilian journals at the very bottom;
b) the understanding that manuscript analysis by non-Brazilian editors and peers imprints prestige, facilitates grant approval and, especially for the younger researchers, boosts the career.

The scenario for science publishing in Brazil shows that we are in an urgent need of a virtuous publishing cycle: a journal that publishes high quality research stimulates researchers to send new manuscripts in quality similar to those already published, thus contributing to the increase of the journal prestige and ranking, which in turn attracts more good manuscripts and so on. In fact, we have a vicious publishing cycle: journals publishing research poor in novelty that do not stimulate researchers to send their best manuscripts to these journals, which continue to receive and publish more research results poor in novelty, which in turn lowers journals ranking and prestige.

The challenge facing our journals is how to evade this vicious cycle. The rules set out by the Brazilian graduate education agency has to a large extent made it difficult for journals to exit this vicious cycle with its own resources and practices. One strategy would be the promotion of an innovation culture that could move the spotlight from "where the research has been published" to "what has been published". An additional pathway is the integration of journals to the science internationalization efforts in Brazil. But what does science internationalization means? If we ask a typical researcher, he/she might give us two possible answers:
1) to collaborate with foreign researchers and publish exclusively in NON Brazilian journals;
2) either collaborating or not with foreign researchers, publish in Brazilian journals that fulfills requirements for science publishing at global level
From an editor perspective, any Brazilian journal aspiring to be "international" must display the following attributes: English as lingua franca, professionalism, academic and/or full time editors, editorial innovation, sustainability, credibility, adherence to good publishing practices, adequate technology infrastructure, open access, editorial transparency.
Regardless of which option is the best for our academic culture and national regulations we must answer a fundamental question:
" Should the researchers and funding agencies support the editing of world class journals in Brazil?" In other terms, "do we really want to nurture in this country journals whose published articles mean prestige to authors? "
Let us give the word to scientists and planners of the Brazilian national strategy for science, technology and innovation!

 

Adeilton Alves Brandão
Elisa Cupolillo
Claude Pirmez

Editors

 

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