Human progress is fuelled by research. Research is the way forward when it comes to exploring new concepts through careful observation and making the best decision at the correct time. In this process of knowledge creation, constructive discourses emerge in the shape of dissertations, research articles, and scientific deliverables published in reputable journals around the world.
Unfortunatly, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan and public universities are engrossed in a game of numbers. Students must publish their work in order to advance academically or acquire recognition, especially at the university level. Publications, not one’s worth or desire to make a difference in the community, are utilized to evaluate performance at varying tiers. Publications have been given a vital role in deciding annual performances and job interview selections, among other things.
However, because the only focus is on numbers, it has caused a serious damage to our higher education institutions. We require high-quality research, but quantity reigns supreme.
The faculty has also dabbled in self-promotion by publishing worthless articles or supervising unregulated postgraduate research for monetary benefits.
How has this publishing rat race resulted in awful outcomes? Firstly, it has impacted teaching dramatically, as academicians have begun to prioritize research over teaching. Maintaining a balance between the two core activities has become a challenge for the faculty engaged. In the evaluation process particularly for induction and promotions, the quality of teaching is assigned little weight, so imparting knowledge has a low incentive. Further, in most universities, quality of teaching parameters such as course evaluations, peer evaluations, and time spent on instructional activities are merely formalities.
Secondly, the quality of research has declined. The adage in academics is “publish or perish”, which is also evident in the research culture in Pakistan — quality has been compromised to enhance quantity. Critical thinking and logical arguments are extremely crucial for successful research, advancement, and invention. Unfortunately, our fellow scholars are lacking in these areas. As a result, bogus journals, plagiarism, and citation rackets have grown in popularity. Also, inadequate research supervision and flawed research evaluation processes are prevalent.
The faculty has also dabbled in self-promotion by publishing worthless articles or supervising unregulated postgraduate research for monetary benefits. Additionally, faculty members seeking to publish to progress in their careers, hunt for collaborators who can share the costs in exchange for their names being listed as second and third authors. This has led to an upsurge in ‘ghost authorship’.
First, high-quality teaching should be given large weightage in the evaluation process for promotions and job appointments. Second, the scoring of research articles should be set so that the first author has an edge over the others.
Some local research journals are predatory in nature, charging writers a hefty sum in the form of bribes to publish articles. Likewise, illicit practices have been observed in the awarding of research grants. This has made the standard and quality of research questionable in the country. The minimal number of publications and research work required for appointment as a senior faculty member is specified in job advertisements.
This attitude on the part of academics is allowing dust to build on their knowledge and abilities, yet they gain recognition as researchers and academically-qualified for senior positions.
As an academician, I urge HEC to devise a comprehensive policy to support high-quality research rather than rely exclusively on the number of publications to determine success. First, high-quality teaching should be given large weightage in the evaluation process for promotions and job appointments. Second, the scoring of research articles should be set so that the first author has an edge over the others. Third, rather than emphasizing on the number of articles published, senior academics should be chosen based on the quality of their research efforts. Fourth, predatory journals’ malpractices should be curbed in order to improve quality, and funding should be extended on the basis of fairness and societal utility. Last, and most significantly, linkages should be cultivated between research and industry. The value of indigenous knowledge sourced from local academics must be leveraged for product development and commercialization as well as the influence of research on society.
The writer is an assistant professor at Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org