The University Grants Commission has found over 3,000 Indian journals unsuitable for academic publication but has allowed higher education institutes to take a call on papers that have already appeared in journals not part of a drastically pruned list it has come up with.
Only 521 Indian journals, from across disciplines, are on this “reference list” the higher education regulator notified on June 14.
“Any paper published in any of the journals on the reference list can be considered a scholarly work. But the reference list does not necessarily mean publications in other journals are worthless. The university awarding a PhD degree or the selection committees concerned (for hiring faculty) would have to take a call on the merit of the publications in journals outside the UGC’s reference list,” Prof. Bhushan Patwardhan, the commission’s vice-chairman, told The Telegraph.
According to UGC norms that came into force a decade ago, assistant professors and associate professors need to publish research papers or books to be eligible to go further in their careers, while doctoral students are required to publish a paper in a referred journal.
Patwardhan said this requirement led to a proliferation of predatory journals where authors get papers published against a fee.
To check such unfair practice, the UGC had in 2017 notified an “approved list” of about 35,000 journals. Papers published in any of these journals were to be accepted at face value.
The list, however, led to complaints of omission, prompting the UGC to allow universities to suggest left-out journals that could be included.
“The universities suggested journals without proper checks, resulting in inclusion of dubious journals in the list. India has been maligned globally because of the predatory journals. Many predatory journals flourished in India during the last ten years,” Patwardhan said.
Earlier this year, the UGC decided to bring out a new reference list and asked all stakeholders to submit names of journals for scrutiny. It set up a Consortium of Academics and Research Ethics at Savitribai Phule Pune University, which went by the content of the journals.
The UGC then notified the new reference list, which kept intact the over 30,000 largely foreign journals mentioned in global databases such as Scopus and Web of Sciences. But the commission made drastic changes to its earlier list of Indian journals.
Among the 1,445 science journals analysed, only 250 made it to the list. The corresponding numbers for social science journals were 1,118 and 177.
Only 83 arts/humanities journals among the 791 analysed made it, while 11 out of 407 multidisciplinary journals were included.
In all, only 521 journals found mention in the latest list among the over 3,800 that were analysed, including 60 with duplicate titles.
Prof. A.K. Mohapatra, who teaches in Jawaharlal Nehru University, said candidates might face problems because of the deletion of journals from the earlier UGC list.
“Now many universities are in the process of recruiting faculty members. Many good journals have been deleted from the latest UGC list. Candidates who have published in earlier journals will face difficulties,” Mohapatra said.
But Patwardhan defended the idea of a reference list of peer-reviewed journals and pointed out that universities have been allowed to take a call on papers published in journals outside the list.
Rajesh Jha, a member of the executive council of Delhi University, said universities or selection panels were unlikely to deviate from the UGC list and consider papers published in other journals.
“Selection panels in most universities will follow the UGC list, which is practically the final list. Thousands of candidates will be victims,” Jha said.
Patwardhan said the onus was also on vice-chancellors and expert panels. “Selection committees for appointments to faculty posts need not just follow the mechanical method of counting the number of papers published by a candidate but look at the quality of work. Good experts should be on the panels.”
Mohapatra said the UGC should rank journals based on their quality.