Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Journal of Biosciences, India: kicking and alive, or struggling to excel?

The Journal of Biosciences is the only 'high impact' journal of life sciences published from India under the aegis of the Indian Academy of Sciences. The journal has established an impressive rapport among life sciences communities in India and elsewhere. Sadly, however, it was flagged recently in a meeting (read ahead) that not many of its well-wishers themselves consider to publish their best of the best research in J Biosci. I attended the meeting of the Editors of the J Biosci recently wherein all interested to the cause of the journal were invited. I found morale of the associates of the journal and the authors quite upbeat, also in the aftermath of recently released 'journal impact factors' – JIF 2008; the J Biosci has recorded a 'comfortable' IF of 1.7! However, I think they need to be careful on the statistics part because the number of papers published by the journal has been traditionally very low; it published about 70 citable articles in a 2 year period. Given this, I thought it will not be appropriate to celebrate the jacked up IF, but to introspect as to why the acceptance rate is so low (just 7%) and why so many commentaries and secondary content being published and not much original research? I guess the board members, might consider to follow the example of PLoS journals wherein many of the PLoS advocates first published their high quality (the so called 'Nature, Cell, Science, PNAS quality' of stuff??) research in the journals they stood for. Well, this proposition didn't go well – there were arguments in favor and against and the excuses given were vivid. We can understand the hesitation, but as someone said, 'charity begins at home'! Other hindering things could be the extraordinarily long time taken by the journal, as told, for completing the peer review (somewhere near 3-4 months) and for eventual publication after acceptance (2 more months). Keeping aside these deficiencies, I think we are looking at an emerging journal coming up from a developing country domain and I am all in favor of publishing there as long as the journal follows an Open Access policy although Springer has already started selling the contents through paid views/downloads under an agreement with the journal/academy.