HEC Must Accept ESCI, Scopus etc For Social Sciences
The HEC’s existing structure of national journals is classified as W (high), X (medium) and Y (low) category where the W category is believed to be very impactful academically and socially. Ironically, since the adoption of this scheme, none of the national journals from the social sciences could qualify as W category while X/Y etc., could not, overall, establish principles of objective scrutiny, rigorous peer-review, transparency, academic and social impact.
Consequently, our national social sciences journals have not led to any meaningful debate on the most pressing issues at home, let alone engaging with (extra) regional challenges such as climate crisis.
Moreover, owing to below average research produced by these journals, Pakistan, as a state, lost the strategic space to other nations particularly India when it comes to foreign policy debate on, for instance, Kashmir and/or Afghanistan. Comparatively, high-quality contents produced by a few Pakistani social scientists in internationally recognized social sciences journals have projected Pakistan globally.
Sadly, their research has been rendered unacceptable by the HEC since 2012 on account of institutional incompetence and disciplinary bias. How cruel and criminal that the HEC only accepts research published in the Journal Citation Report (JCR), hosted by Clarivate Analytics – formerly hosted by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), Thomson Reuters. The said JCR, on average, consists of highly impact factor journals, i.e. Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), and it is quite a challenge even for an American social scientist to publish in the JCR list.
Interestingly, none of our national journals from the social sciences and huminites have any match whatsoever with even journals categorized as Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI) maintained by Clarivate Analytics, which is commonly known as the Web of Science Group. The ESCI as a category has achieved universal recognition on account of rigorous peer-review, organizational transparency and objective knowledge production. However, as per the HEC policy, lots of Pakistani scholars and students, who happened to have published in the ESCI journals, are discredited and discriminated against institutionally for their research articles are not recognized by the former. The irony is most of HEC’s funded PhD scholars have published in the ESCI and/or Scopus but their original scientific work is not accepted by the HEC.
Latest act of discrimination
To add insult to injury, the HEC, in one of its latest notifications, has established certain procedures to bring national journals at par with international standards. Interestingly, the Commission has stipulated that, from July 2020 onwards, national journals would have to be indexed in the Web of Science and Scopus. Though it is still not clear whether the HEC meant JCR or Master Journal List. Regardless, such a policy emphasis has, on the one hand, reflected the Commission’s inability to ensure quality enhancement of national journals in the past and, on the other, generated more uncertainty on the prospects of getting indexed in highly recognized global indices since we could not have a single W category journal in social sciences in the past.
In view of the foregoing, the HEC is advised to ponder over the following suggestions in order to right the wrong. One, to put a permanent end to discrimination of International Journals of Social Sciences, the Commission must adopt the following three categories: one, SSCI journals (based on, but not limited to, Web of Science); two, ESCI (ibid ) and non-ESCI list that consists of indices and publishers based, for example, in Singapore , i.e. World Scientific, and/or China since the number of Pakistani scholars and students who are publishing in Chinese journals is increasing. However, in this respect, the Chinese Social Sciences Citation Index (CSSCI) can be adopted.
Our national journals must be pushed to get indexed accordingly. Such a policy, if implemented in letter and spirit, would put an end to proliferation of third-rate local journals with their poor content.
It would also provide equal opportunities to researchers from across the disciplines. Lastly, articles published in impact factor journals (SSCI/SCI) be counted accordingly while making appointments/promotions. It is hoped that the HEC chairman, who incidentally has a social sciences background, not only feels our sentiments but also addresses the problem on a priority basis.
The author is political and military analyst with a PhD from Heidelberg and Postdoc from Berkeley. He is also DAAD and Fulbright fellow. He tweets @ejazbhatty