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Abstract

Many researchers in the developing world feel trapped in a vicious circle of neglect and -- some say -- prejudice by publishing barriers they claim doom good science to oblivion.
TRENDS IN SCIENTIFIC COMMUNICATION
Lost Science in the Third World
Many researchers in the developing world feel trapped
in a vicious circle of neglect and—some say—prejudice
by publishing barriers they claim doom good science to oblivion
by W. Wayt Gibbs, staÝ writer
L
uis Ben’tez-Bribiesca waxes nostalgic as he recalls the
early years of Archivos de Investigaci—n MŽdica, the
Mexican medical journal of which he is now editor in
chief. Soon after the publication was founded in 1970, the
Institute for ScientiÞc Information, a private Þrm in Philadel-
phia, agreed to include the journal in its Science Citation In-
dex. The SCI lists articles from roughly 3,300 scientiÞc jour-
nals selected from the more than 70,000 that are published
worldwide. Inclusion in the SCI and a few other top databas-
es guarantees that a journalÕs articles will be seen when sci-
entists search the literature for new discoveries in their Þeld
and decide which previous work to cite in their own papers.
Of course, there were conditions: to remain in the SCI,
Archivos had to publish its issues on time, provide English
abstracts for its Spanish articlesÑand purchase a $10,000
subscription to the index. All of which the journal did, until
92 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN August 1995
MAINSTREAM SCIENCE, viewed through the astigmatic lens of the most inßuential jour-
nals, gives a colored picture of the world. Analysis of the papers published in 1994 by
some 3,300 journals included in the Science Citation Index, a commercial database wide-
ly used by researchers, yielded the table above. Countries in the map were then shaded
to reßect their participation in the so-called international scientiÞc literature. The near in-
visibility of less developed nations may reßect the economics and biases of science pub-
lishing as much as the actual quality of Third World research.
SINGAPORE 0.179
CHILE 0.176
NORTHERN IRELAND 0.140
SAUDI ARABIA 0.129
VENEZUELA 0.093
THAILAND 0.086
[NIGERIA, KENYA] 0.073*
MALAYSIA 0.064
PAKISTAN 0.063
[ROMANIA, SLOVENIA,
CROATIA, SERBIA,
BOSNIA AND
HERZEGOVINA,
ALBANIA,
MACEDONIA] 0.053*
PUERTO RICO 0.050
LEBANON 0.041
PHILIPPINES 0.035
KUWAIT 0.034
[MOROCCO, ALGERIA,
LIBYA, TUNISIA] 0.033*
[LITHUANIA, LATVIA,
ESTONIA,
BELORUSSIA] 0.032*
[IRAN, IRAQ] 0.030*
CUBA 0.029
ICELAND 0.029
JAMAICA 0.029
[MOLDOVA,
KAZAKHSTAN,
TAJIKISTAN,
TURKMENISTAN,
UZBEKISTAN,
KYRGYZSTAN] 0.024*
[ZIMBABWE,
SENEGAL] 0.024*
[JORDAN, SYRIA] 0.021*
GEORGIA 0.021
[COLOMBIA,
ECUADOR, PERU] 0.019*
SRI LANKA 0.019
TRINIDAD AND
TOBAGO 0.013
[PARAGUAY,
URUGUAY] 0.013*
INDONESIA 0.012
[NEPAL, MYANMAR,
BANGLADESH] 0.012*
BAHRAIN 0.011
BOLIVIA 0.010
[MALI, NIGER, SUDAN,
ETHIOPIA, SOMALIA,
GHANA, ZAIRE,
CONGO, CAMEROON,
UGANDA, TANZANIA,
ZAMBIA, NAMIBIA,
MOZAMBIQUE,
BOTSWANA] 0.009*
[YEMEN, OMAN, U.A.E.] 0.008*
[GUATEMALA,
HONDURAS,
NICARAGUA,
COSTA RICA,
PANAMA] 0.007*
[CAMBODIA,
LAOS, VIETNAM] 0.006*
[GABON, GAMBIA,
BURUNDI, CENTRAL
AFRICAN REPUBLIC,
CÔTE D’IVOIRE, BENIN,
RWANDA, TOGO] 0.005*
MONGOLIA 0.004
U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS 0.002
[HAITI AND DOMINICAN
REPUBLIC] 0.001*
GREENLAND 0.001
BAHAMAS 0.000
AFGHANISTAN 0.000
U.S. 30.817
JAPAN 8.244
U.K. 7.924
GERMANY 7.184
FRANCE 5.653
CANADA 4.302
RUSSIA 4.092
ITALY 3.394
NETHERLANDS 2.283
AUSTRALIA 2.152
SPAIN 2.028
SWEDEN 1.841
INDIA 1.643
SWITZERLAND 1.640
CHINA 1.339
ISRAEL 1.074
BELGIUM 1.059
DENMARK 0.962
POLAND 0.913
TAIWAN 0.805
FINLAND 0.793
AUSTRIA 0.652
BRAZIL 0.646
UKRAINE 0.578
NORWAY 0.569
SOUTH KOREA 0.546
NEW ZEALAND 0.426
SOUTH AFRICA 0.415
GREECE 0.411
HUNGARY 0.398
ARGENTINA 0.352
[SLOVAKIA,
CZECH REPUBLIC] 0.332*
MEXICO 0.332
EGYPT 0.280
TURKEY 0.243
BULGARIA 0.220
HONG KONG 0.205
PORTUGAL 0.201
8.000
U.S. 30.817
0.000
PERCENT OF TOTAL ARTICLES FROM ALL NATIONS
SOURCE: 1994 Science Citation Index;
SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN
research.
*Average for countries in this group.
SHARE OF MAINSTREAM JOURNAL ARTICLES (PERCENT OF TOTAL FOR ALL NATIONS)
Copyright 1995 Scientific American, Inc.
SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN August 1995 93
1982. ÒBut then the country went through a terrible econom-
ic crisis, resulting in a delay of publication for six months,Ó
Ben’tez recalls. Although the editors explained the situation
to ISI and pleaded with its managers for patience, Òthey
couldnÕt care less,Ó he says. ÒWe were out of the database.Ó
Since then, the journal has struggled to make itself attrac-
tive enough to be allowed back into the inner circle of sci-
ence. It ran English translations beside every Spanish paper.
Then it stopped publishing the Spanish versions altogether.
Finally, it hired an American editor, insisted that all authors
write in English to avoid translation errors and changed its
name to Archives of Medical Research. Meanwhile the jour-
nal assembled an editorial board of top Mexican researchers
and an international review committee of 15 American, Can-
adian and European scientists. Last December the Mexican
national science agency gave the journal its highest rating.
And despite a devaluation of the peso in January that has
raised the journalÕs costs by 40 percent, this year Archives
released its summer issue a month early.
ÒBut ISI says we still donÕt meet their criteria,Ó Ben’tez la-
ments. The scientists on his journalÕs editorial board, he has
been advised, have not been cited often enough. (Thanks to
citation databases like the SCI, many researchers are now
rated by the number of times their papers have been listed as
references in other articles.) ÒOur editorial board was select-
ed by choosing the 13 highest-cited biomedical scientists in
Mexico,Ó he argues. ÒWhy are we held to such a high standard
when new American journals, announcing in Science or Na-
ture that their Þrst issue will be appearing in six months,
can advertise already that they will be indexed in the SCI
Ben’tez is not alone in his frustration. Throughout the de-
veloping world, many of the more than 100 scientists and
journal editors interviewed for this article point to structural
obstacles and subtle prejudices that prevent researchers in
poor nations from sharing their discoveries with the indus-
trial world and with one another. Although developing coun-
tries encompass 24.1 percent of the worldÕs scientists and
5.3 percent of its research spending, most leading journals
publish far smaller proportions of articles by authors from
these regions [see table on page 97 ].
The invisibility to which mainstream science publishing
condemns most Third World research thwarts the eÝorts of
poor countries to strengthen their indigenous science jour-
nalsÑand with them the quality of research in regions that
need it most. It may also deprive the industrial world of crit-
ical knowledge, observes Richard Horton, editor of the Lan-
cet. ÒOne of the reasons why infectious diseases such as the
Ebola virus are emerging is that economic changes in devel-
oping countries are bringing humans into contact with pre-
viously isolated ecosystems,Ó he says. ÒThe only way to un-
derstand that process and its eÝects is to publish work from
local researchers.Ó
Although the proportion of mainstream science coming
from underdeveloped nations has hardly grown in two de-
LAURIE GRACE
cades, several initiatives may help
change that. The United Nations has
sponsored three commercial indexes of
Third World journals. A number of de-
veloping countries have set aside mon-
ey to reward their scientists for pub-
lishing and their local journals for
maintaining lofty standards. But the
change that holds most promise for
linking scientists in the Third World
with those in the FirstÑthe rapid
movement of scientiÞc communication
onto the InternetÑmay also perversely
widen and fortify the information gap
between the poorest countries and the
rest of the world.
Circles within Circles
Ben’tez says he will continue to ap-
ply to ISI for admission into Òthe
Club,Ó as the collection of so-called in-
ternational journals published largely
in the U.S. and western Europe is some-
times called in less industrial regions.
Although he realizes that his chances
are slimÑthe number of Third World
journals covered by the SCI has declined
from 80 in 1981 to 50 in 1993Ñhe also
recognizes that until Archives is in-
dexed, work published in its pages will
reach few.
Rogerio A. Meneghini of the Universi-
ty of S‹o Paulo showed just how few
when he studied the papers published
by 487 Brazilian biochemists over a 15-
year period. The articles they sent to
international journals had received 7.2
citations each, on average. Those sent
to Brazilian journals, only three of
which are included in the SCI, garnered
one ninth as many. Such low visibility
is the norm: 70 percent of Latin Ameri-
can journals are not included in any in-
dex, according to a study by Virginia
Cano of Queen Margaret College in
Scotland. They thus Òare condemned to
a ghostlike existence,Ó Cano wrote.
Unfortunately, since database pub-
lishers rely on citation rates to select
the journals they include, Òthis is a vi-
cious circle,Ó Ben’tez observes. ÒWe
donÕt get many citations, because the
journal is not well known because it is
not in the international indexes.Ó By-
passing the databases and going
straight to library shelves is not an op-
tion, adds Christopher T. Zielinski, di-
rector of biomedical information for the
World Health OrganizationÕs Eastern
Mediterranean Regional OÛce. ÒSince
Western research libraries acquire only
journals with a high impact, they do not
subscribe to journals outside the magic
circle of citation analysis. It is clear that
we have a self-perpetuating and closed
system of review and citation.Ó
ÒBeing unrepresented in the SCI or
MEDLINE or INSPEC or many other
databases is just another cruel fact of
the way science in the world works at
the moment,Ó responds David A. Pen-
dlebury, an analyst at ISI. Ten years ago,
recalls Eugene GarÞeld, the companyÕs
former chairman, an opportunity to
change that fact passed untaken. ÒI
sponsored a meeting at which the
Rockefeller Foundation and the Nation-
al Science Foundation proposed raising
the $250,000 necessary to pull in some
300 Third World journals,Ó he says. ÒI
thought it was a fantastic idea. But nei-
ther Rockefeller nor the NSF nor any-
body else would come up with funds to
index the additional journals.Ó Still, he
adds hastily, Òif anything really signi-
Þcant is discovered [in a developing
country], it gets into the mainstream
journals that we are indexing.Ó
Ben’tez and others challenge that as-
sertion. ÒTake cholera, for example,Ó
Ben’tez says. ÒRight now cases are in-
creasing in Mexico. Our researchers
have interesting Þndings about some
new strains. International journals re-
fuse our papers because they donÕt con-
sider cholera a hot topic. But what if
these strains spread across the border
to Texas and California? They will think
it important then. Meanwhile the pre-
vious knowledge about the disease will
have been lost. Scientists searching the
literature will not Þnd the papers pub-
lished in Mexican journals, because
they are not indexed.Ó
Equally important, Horton points out,
Òit is vital that developing countries
communicate their research to one an-
other. And it is hugely unethical not to
have a way for [Third World] research-
ers to share ideas with the medical
infrastructure.Ó
Of course, not all local journals are
competent to serve that role. ÒMany do
60
40
20
0
–20
40
60
80
100
PERCENT CHANGE
SCIENCE IN CHINA, SERIES B
BULLETIN OF KOREAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY
INTERCIENCIA
(VENEZUELA)
SOUTH AFRICAN MEDICAL JOURNAL
JOURNAL OF ASTROPHYSICS
& ASTRONOMY
*
(INDIA)
JOURNAL OF THE SCIENCE SOCIETY OF THAILAND
REVISTA MEXICANA DE ASTRONOMIA Y ASTROFISICA
MEDICINA-BUENOS AIRES
(ARGENTINA)
BRAZILIAN JOURNAL OF MEDICAL
AND BIOLOGICAL RESEARCH
JOURNAL OF GENETICS
*
(INDIA)
* Since 1988. † Since 1985.
SOURCE:
Journal Citation Reports; S
CIENTIFIC
A
MERICAN
research.
Third World Journals: From Mainstream to Slipstream
Although many developing nations have
been increasing their investment in
scientific research in recent years, Third
World journals are struggling just to remain
on the margin of the international scientific
community. The fraction of those journals
among the publications covered by the
influential Science Citation Index—never a
large proportion—has fallen by 40 percent
CHANGE IN IMPACT FACTOR OF 10 THIRD WORLD JOURNALS, 1983–1992
THIRD WORLD JOURNALS IN SCIENCE
94 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN August 1995
3.0
2.5
2.0
1.5
1.0
PERCENT
1980 1982 1984 1986
SOURCE:
1994 Science Citation Index;
S
CIENTIFIC
A
MERICAN
research.
LAURIE GRACE
Copyright 1995 Scientific American, Inc.
not deserve,
from the scien-
tiÞc perspective,
to be published,Ó points out Manuel
Krauskopf, a biochemist at the Univer-
sity of Chile who has studied Latin
American science publishing for many
years. ÒWe need to face the fact that
some journals contaminate the endeav-
or with their poor quality.Ó
According to K. C. Garg of the Nation-
al Institute of Science, Technology and
Development Studies in New Delhi,
only 20 percent of the more than 1,500
journals published in India are refereed
and appear regularly. Meneghini re-
ports that Òvirtually all of the about
400 Brazilian scientiÞc journals have
either a very lenient editorial policy or
none at all.Ó In such gray literature, as it
is known, Òcorrectness of methods and
the authorÕs knowledge of scientiÞc lit-
erature are seldom checked because we
are short of qualiÞed referees and be-
cause the journalsÕ limited accessibility
discourages foreign experts from serv-
ing as referees,Ó says Flor Lacanilao,
former chancellor of the University of
the Philippines in the Visayas. ÒPhilip-
pine journals may even be harmful by
perpetuating the wrong research prac-
tices. Although it is hard to admit,
through them much of our research
funds are wasted.Ó
Such indictments have stirred debate
throughout the Third World about how
to encourage and identify the good sci-
ence that is too often tossed out with
the badÑand how
to share it with re-
searchers in other
poor countries as
well as with the
Club. ÒResearch re-
sults such as the
lessons learned
from Senegal and
the Gambia about
the eÝectivenessÑ
in the ÞeldÑof oral
and injectable polio
vaccines are poten-
tially also relevant
in South Asia, for
example,Ó suggests Esther K. Hicks, gen-
eral secretary of the Advisory Council
for ScientiÞc Research in Development
Problems in the Netherlands. But such
lessons, if published at all, rarely cross
national borders.
To change that, several institutions
have launched incentive programs that
reward scientists for publishing in peer-
reviewed journals, with some success.
ÒAt the Southeast Asian Fisheries De-
velopment Center [SEAFDEC], I intro-
duced the requirement of publication in
journals covered by ISI for promotion
in 1986 and for a cash incentiveÑ50
percent of the researcherÕs annual sal-
aryÑin 1989,Ó Lacanilao reports. By
1993 the average number of publica-
tions per scientist had increased seven-
fold. Manuel Velasco, who heads Vene-
zuelaÕs Research Promotion Program,
boasts that SCI-listed articles are up 57
percent since his program began in
1990. BrazilÕs research funding agency,
which offers lucrative fellowships to
scientists who publish in international
journals, has seen the number of pa-
pers from Brazilians working with col-
leagues in the U.S. or Europe quadruple
since 1980.
The reward programs have had their
drawbacks. ÒDesirable as these incen-
tives are, they may also breed shabby
research, Ôleast publishable unitsÕ [mi-
nor papers produced by stretching a
single research Þnding] and redundant
papers in the race toward publication,Ó
warns Teodora Bagarinao of SEAFDEC.
Already in the Philippines, two scien-
tists have been caught publishing es-
sentially the same paper in one journal.
ÒAnother problem,Ó says Enrique M. Avi-
la, a marine biologist at the University
of Philippines in Cebu City, Òis stale
publication. I know of two or three re-
cent cases in which data from the 1970s
were retrieved and published so the re-
searchers could receive incentives.Ó
More ominously, some scientists warn
that by favoring papers published in
international journalsÑin Brazil, South
Africa and the Philippines such papers
are awarded twice as many points as
those published domesticallyÑincen-
tive programs may forever doom local
journals to leftovers. Hebe Vessuri, a
sociologist of science at the Venezue-
lan Institute of ScientiÞc Research, re-
calls a UNESCO meeting to analyze the
weakness of Latin American journals.
The specialists concluded that Òthe pub-
lications were locked up in a classic vi-
cious circle: domestic journals did not
gain prestige and international circula-
tion because scientists published their
best results abroad, but Latin American
researchers published abroad because
domestic journals did not take their re-
sults to the scientiÞc world.Ó
That meeting was held in 1964. In 30
years, Vessuri notes, little has changed,
except that tremendous growth and
specialization of knowledge make for-
eign journals ever more attractive. Ben-
’tez admits that even the doctors on the
editorial board of Archives send about
70 percent of their reports to SCI-listed
journals in the U.S. or Europe.
National science councils in Brazil
and Mexico are trying to break the cycle
by ranking their journals and throwing
all their support behind those at the top.
In Brazil the initial evaluation deemed
83 percent of domestic titles to be irrel-
evant. Some Þelds fared worse than oth-
ers: less than 7 percent of the existing
ÒThe 2 percent participation in
international scientiÞc discourse
allowed by Western indexing
services is simply too little to
account for the scientiÞc output
of 80 percent of the world.Ó
since 1981. A number of
the top journals from
less developed nations
have seen their impact
factor, a measure of how
often their articles are
cited in other journals,
decline sharply over the
past decade.
CITATION INDEX
Christopher T. Zielinski,
World Health Organization
SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN August 1995 95
TOM HARTWELL
SABA
1988 1990 1992
agricultural journals made the cut. Mex-
ico, in a similar exercise, last year iden-
tiÞed 20 ÒMexican Journals of Excel-
lence.Ó The SCI covers two of them.
When many of the best and the
brightest journals in developing coun-
tries are excluded, Òthe 2 percent par-
ticipation in international scientiÞc dis-
course allowed by Western indexing ser-
vices is simply too little to account for
the scientiÞc output of 80 percent of
the world,Ó editorialized Zielinski this
past June in the British Medical Journal.
ÒThis is particularly true in Þelds such
as medicine, where diseases are no re-
specters of frontiers, especially with in-
creased air travel and the resurgence of
communicable diseases such as mea-
sles and tuberculosis. These diseases,
as well as unique information on such
topics as AIDS, tropical biodiversity and
traditional medicine, are particularly
well covered in the local journals.Ó
Under ZielinskiÕs leadership, WHO
has formed a consortium of publishers
of 223 medical journals, nearly all of
them from less developed countries.
With the British Þrm Informania, last
July the consortium began producing a
monthly CD-ROM index called Extra-
MED that contains more than 8,000 im-
ages of full pages scanned from the
most recent issues of the journals. At a
price of $750 for Third World subscrib-
ers (twice that in richer countries), the
database is substantially more aÝord-
able than the SCI, which at $10,990 is
beyond the reach of nearly all libraries
in underdeveloped areas. (ISI does
sometimes oÝer discounts to custom-
ers in poor nations.)
Because proÞts will be split among
the participating journals and research-
ers need not pay royalty fees to print
copies of articles from the disks, Òthis
is likely to provide much needed stim-
ulusÑand fundsÑto enhance the qual-
ity of the journals,Ó Zielinski says. ÒWe
hope to bring developing country health
journals into the mainstream of re-
search literature.Ó And not just health
journals: Informania has secured agree-
ments with the U.N.Õs Food and Agri-
culture Organization to produce a simi-
lar CD-ROM of 500 agricultural journals
and with UNESCO to produce ExtraSCI,
containing 500 periodicals from all
Þelds of science and technology.
Zielinski concedes that the Third
World market may be limited for some
time, because fewer than one library in
10 has a computer, let alone a CD-ROM
player. But the index may help bring sci-
ence from the developing world to the
attention of researchers in the U.S. and
Europe. And the diskÕs search engine is
designed to monitor which articles are
read and to report these statistics back
96 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN August 1995
Scientists often rely on the process of elimination when forming theories. No sur-
prise, then, that journals select articles the same way. But in their zeal to filter bad
research from the scientific mainstream, editors and reviewers seem to catch a dispro-
portionate number of papers from researchers in underdeveloped countries in their nets.
The journal Science, for example, has seen the trickle of submissions from authors
in a dozen of the most scientifically prolific developing nations nearly double since
1991. But last year the journal accepted
just 1.4 percent of such papers—the same
as in 1991. It published about 21 percent
of submissions from the U.S., in contrast.
Science is hardly unusual; leading jour-
nals in most fields publish far fewer than
the 5.3 percent of articles expected as the
fruit of that fraction of the world’s research
investment spent in less developed coun-
tries [see table below, right ].
Many editors believe the low representa-
tion accurately reflects the poor quality of
science in poor nations. “Environmental sci-
ence in developing countries is indeed lag-
ging behind the rest of the world, just as
you would expect,” says William H. Glaze,
the editor of Environmental Science and
Technology. “Not only is it old-fashioned,
but sometimes it’s just not very well done.
The documentation is poor, and the exper-
imentation doesn’t meet our standards.”
Many Third World authors, editors note, are tripped up by language. “If you see peo-
ple making multiple mistakes in spelling, syntax and semantics,” says Floyd E. Bloom,
the editor of Science, “you have to wonder whether when they did their science they
weren’t also making similar errors of inattention.” It is interesting, however, that ac-
ceptance rates for papers from India, where English is widely spoken, still tend to fall
far below those for French and German articles.
There are some editors who believe the world would be richer if Third World science
were given more attention. A few are trying to boost such re-
search in their journals without lowering their standards. “We are
very interested in serving environmental scientists all over the
world, and it’s clear we’re not,” Glaze admits. So he is recruiting re-
tired scientists as mentors to help non-English speakers prepare
their manuscripts for publication.
Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, has a similar idea. As chair
of the World Association of Medical Editors, Horton is assembling
a global network of researchers who will assist editors of Third
World medical journals in establishing peer-review processes. He
hopes the network will also sensitize the editors of international
Editing Science
MATHEMATICS
ENGINEERING
FORESTRY
AGRICULTURE
PHYSICS
OCEANOGRAPHY
ZOOLOGY
BOTANY
CHEMISTRY
BIOLOGY
GENERAL SCIENCE
MEDICINE
GENERAL SCIENCE
BIOCHEMISTRY
ECOLOGY
FIELD
ENVIRONMENTAL
SCIENCE
Richard Horton,
Lancet
ARTICLES BY THIR
150
100
50
0
1990
ACCEPTED
SUBMITTED
ARTICLES ACCEPTED BY
SCIENCE
1991 1992 1993 1994
30
25
20
15
10
5
0
U.S.
U.K.
FRANCE
GERMANY
CANADA
JAPAN
12 THIRD
WORLD
NATIONS
PERCENT OF SUBMISSIONS ACCEPTED, 1994
NUMBER OF ARTICLES SUBMITTED
FROM 12 DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
SOURCE:
Science.
JESSICA BOYATT
Copyright 1995 Scientific American, Inc.
SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN August 1995 97
to the consortium. ÒWith this,Ó Zielinski
wrote, Òperhaps some of the inequities
of indexing and citation analysis can
begin to be redressed.Ó
The Matthew EÝect
Such optimism may be premature.
Many Third World researchersÑ
about half those interviewed for this
article who were willing to comment on
the subjectÑare convinced that the re-
viewers and editors of mainstream sci-
entiÞc journals are more likely to reject
a paper from an institution in an un-
derdeveloped country than an article
of equivalent quality from an industrial
nation. More important, they say, even
when their articles are published in
prestigious journals, their Northern col-
leagues tend to ignore their work or to
cite later papers by American or Euro-
pean scientists who have followed in
their footsteps.
ÒMost people in Africa and Asia will
say there is a tremendous bias against
them, while most Americans and Euro-
peans will say it is not true,Ó observes
Subbiah Arunachalam, who studies the
publishing success of scientists in In-
dia at the Central Electrochemical Re-
search Institute. ÒI have heard the alle-
gation myself, and I have no real sym-
pathy for it,Ó counters Floyd E. Bloom,
editor of Science. ÒIn high-quality jour-
nals where I have been an editor or re-
viewer, we lean over backwards to help
science being presented from develop-
ing countries whenever it is possible.Ó
Statistical evidence of reviewer bias
is skimpy, because collecting it would
require tracking all articles rejected by
one journal to see how many are then
accepted by another of equal caliber. ÒIt
is like knowing your wife is being un-
faithful but having no means of prov-
ing it,Ó quips one South American re-
searcher. Nevertheless, some highly re-
spected scientists assert that bias exists.
ÒThere is no question in my mind that
there is some inherent prejudice in the
minds of some referees in the West
about authors from Third World coun-
tries,Ó says C.N.R. Rao, president of the
Jawaharlal Nehru Center for Advanced
ScientiÞc Research in Bangalore. ÒRef-
erees tend to feel that good work could
not have been done in a developing
country. I have published in major jour-
nals of the world for the past 40 years,
but even now I face some prejudice
from referees. This is not infrequent.Ó
Some scientists who have moved
from industrial to less developed coun-
tries have found that the address change
makes a diÝerence to reviewers. ÒWhen
I was a resident in Boston, I was able to
publish papers in the American Jour-
journals to cultural differences that he believes are often misinterpreted as bad science.
Not everyone likes this idea. Jerome P. Kassirer, editor in chief of the New England
Journal of Medicine, has refused to join the association, asserting that the group is tak-
ing the wrong approach. Kassirer suggests that developing countries should receive
guidance on nutrition and immunizations before getting advice on medical editing.
“Very poor countries have much more to worry about than doing high-quality research,”
he says. “There is no science there.”
Yet an editorial in Kassirer’s own journal this past May praised a study by doctors at
the Kenya Medical Research Institute that
arrived at a simpler and more accurate way
to diagnose malaria, which still kills more
than 3,000 people daily. The advance will
help save malaria patients, 90 percent of
them African children. “It makes me very
sad to hear someone in a position of [Kas-
sirer’s] authority make that kind of com-
ment,” Horton responds. The underrecog-
nition of developing science, he says, rep-
resents “ethnocentrism at its worst.”
Acceptance rates at the Lancet and the
New England Journal of Medicine seem to
reflect the difference in their editors’ views.
The Lancet accepted about 8 percent of
the submissions it received from develop-
ing countries last year, whereas the New
England Journal accepted only 2 percent.
Editorial philosophy may also explain
why more than 20 percent of all the articles
Forest Science published last year came
from underdeveloped countries. Bill Hyde, the journal’s former editor, worked in poor
nations. “I learned to treat scientists in developing countries as I would treat my next-
door neighbor,” he says. “My neighbor is a horticulturist, not an economist. If I treat him
like he’s stupid because he doesn’t know what I know, I don’t gain all of his insights, and
anything I do about the economics of apple trees is likely to be totally incorrect. But if
I recognize that he has good insights that are just different from mine, then the two of
us can supplement each other. Then you can go someplace.” Brenda DeKoker
SOURCE: 1994 Science Citation Index;
S
CIENTIFIC
A
MERICAN
research.
PERCENT OF ARTICLES BY AUTHORS
IN ANY OF 100 DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
0 142 4 6 8 10 12
JOURNAL OF MATHEMATICAL ANALYSIS AND APPLICATIONS
AGRICULTURE AND FOREST METEOROLOGY
JOURNAL OF AGRICULTURAL AND FOOD CHEMISTRY
PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS
JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH: OCEANS
ANIMAL BEHAVIOUR
PLANT CELL
JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY
PLANT JOURNAL
ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
NATURE
NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE
SCIENCE
CELL
TRENDS IN ECOLOGY & EVOLUTION
JOURNAL TITLE
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL FOR NUMERICAL
METHODS IN ENGINEERING
Jerome P. Kassirer,
New England Journal of Medicine
LAURIE GRACE
RD WORLD AUTHORS IN VARIOUS TOP JOURNALS, 1994
JESSICA BOYATT
nal of Pathology with a couple of well-
known American pathologists,Ó Ben’tez
says. ÒThey ßew through to publication
with no problem. After that, I went to
the University of Bonn in Germany and
published two papers in Nature. Then I
came back to Mexico with more experi-
ence and maturity. But now when I
have sent papers to the same journals,
they have been rejected immediately.Ó
ÒThe quality of the peer review we
receive in core life science journals is
appalling,Ó comments Wieland Gevers,
a biochemist at the University of Cape
Town in South Africa. ÒIt smacks of
First Worldism. They seem to expect
even more from us than from Ameri-
can or European researchers.Ó
In some cases, this delays the publi-
cation of important results, Gevers as-
serts, pointing to Òthree breakthroughs
that werenÕt taken seriously when we
presented them to core journals.Ó The
Þrst found that the anticancer drug 5-
azacytidine can direct certain embryon-
ic cells to become either muscle or fat,
depending on conditions; the other two
concerned the metabolism of low-den-
sity lipoprotein particles within the
body. ÒThese papers were sent from pil-
lar to post for many months before they
were Þnally accepted, even though edi-
tors described the work as well execut-
ed,Ó Gevers says.
Many other articles, especially those
in the applied Þelds to which develop-
ing countries devote most of their sci-
ence funding, can Þnd no audience at
all among mainstream re-
searchers. ÒI see a long-term,
dangerous problem in the
bias of a lot of the academ-
ic world against applied re-
search,Ó says George F. R.
Ellis, a leading cosmologist
at the University of Cape
Town. ÒThere is a kind of
pecking order that places
theoretical physics at the
top and applied Þelds at
the bottom. But it is right
and Þtting for scientists in
Third World countries to be
doing more applied re-
search,Ó Ellis argues. ÒThe
onus is on the international
scientiÞc community to rec-
ognize the results that are
of high quality.Ó
Recognition includes cita-
tions by those who build on
oneÕs work. But after study-
ing the publications of 207
scientists working in Asia,
Latin America and Africa,
Jacques Gaillard of OR-
STOM, the French interna-
tional aid agency, conclud-
ed that scientists in developing coun-
tries Òare caught in an especially vicious
circle, because even when their Þnd-
ings are published in highly inßuential,
prestigious scientiÞc journals, they are,
all told, far less often cited than writ-
ings by their colleagues from [industri-
al nations].Ó
Meneghini has found that Brazilian
papers, for example, are cited about 60
percent less than American papers in
the same journal. Studies of citation
rates for other developing countries
show similar patterns. ÒMore than prej-
udice, this is a sort of sociological phe-
nomenon,Ó he asserts.
Indeed, back in 1968 Robert K. Mer-
ton of Columbia University noticed that
in science, credit for a discovery tends
to go to the most famous researcher as-
sociated with it rather than to the most
deserving one. In a classic paper in Sci-
ence, Merton dubbed the phenomenon
Òthe Matthew eÝect,Ó after a verse from
the biblical book of Matthew: ÒUnto ev-
ery one that hath shall be given... but
from him that hath not shall be taken
away even that which he hath.Ó
Rao notes that the Matthew eÝect Òis
not uncommon even for work done in
advanced countries but hurts a person
in a developing country much more be-
cause he does research with great diffi-
culty. Sometimes it takes many years to
complete the work. To then get no cred-
it is very disappointing and frustrating.Ó
Some Third World scientists perceive
motives that derive more from malice
than Matthew. Pushpa Mittra Bhargava
recalls a paper he published not long
ago in the Indian Journal of Biochem-
istry and Biophysics. ÒOne Þne day I got
a reprint from a European author. [His
article described] my work with just a
diÝerent microbeÑand no citation of
my publication. There was a note at-
tached to the reprint that said, ÔEnjoyed
reading your paper.Õ That was too much
for me,Ó says Bhargava, founder and di-
rector of the Center for Cellular and
Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, India.
To reduce the Matthew eÝect, some
journals have begun removing the
names and aÛliations of authors from
papers before sending them
to reviewers, a process
known as blind reviewing.
Gevers believes that Òblind
reviewing would level the
playing Þeld enormously. It
would remedy many of the
problems in the system.Ó
Although several controlled
studies have shown that
blind reviewing can slightly
improve the quality of a
journalÕs papers, so far none
has examined the eÝect on
submissions from less de-
veloped countries.
Simply inviting more sci-
entists from undeveloped
regions to act as reviewers
might help as well, Arun-
achalam suggests. But the
slow mail systems and un-
reliable fax lines that still
plague much of the devel-
oping world complicate that
solution. ÒOne of our con-
cerns is how quickly we
could get papers to them
and how quickly they would
be able to respond,Ó says
98 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN August 1995
ÒThere is no question
in my mind that there
is some inherent
prejudice in the minds
of some referees in the
West about authors
from Third World
countries.Ó
C.N.R. Rao,
Jawaharlal Nehru Center for
Advanced Scientific Research
KEITH DANNEMILLER
SABA
RETURN ADDRESS can make a diÝerence, says Luis Ben’tez-
Bribiesca. Top journals accept his papers less frequently since
he moved from Europe to Mexico.
Copyright 1995 Scientific American, Inc.
Bloom of Science, which has no review-
ing editors outside of the U.S., Europe
and Japan.
Barbed Wires
The movement of mainstream scien-
tiÞc publishing onto the Internet
promises to free some Third World re-
searchers from their isolation. ÒWith
delayed or nonexistent circulation of
scientiÞc journals [in developing coun-
tries], electronic communication can be
a vital link in maintaining contact with
peers, exchanging data sets and access-
ing the services of remote computers,Ó
observes Michael Jensen of the Interna-
tional Telecommunication Union.
A blue-ribbon panel of 13 experts
commissioned by UNESCO Director-
General Federico Mayor concurred. In a
report issued last summer, it suggest-
ed that UNESCO ensure that scientists
in all countries can get full Internet ac-
cess at the lowest possible ratesÑif nec-
essary, by selling such services itself.
The panel also urged UNESCO to encour-
age Òa rapid global shift to electronic
publication of scientiÞc research.Ó
But some worry that UNESCO is not
up to the Þrst challenge and is not need-
ed for the second. Pushed by market
forces and pulled by the ability to share
data and simulations that are too large
or too dynamic to Þt on a page, scien-
tiÞc communication is already moving
at blazing speed onto the Internet [see
ÒThe Speed of Write,Ó by Gary Stix; SCI-
ENTIFIC AMERICAN, December 1994].
UNESCO, meanwhile, has not yet se-
cured basic journals and databases for
many Third World research libraries.
Connecting individual researchers to the
Internet may be far beyond its meansÑ
and, some fear, beyond the means of
national governments as well, especially
in Africa and the poorest parts of Asia.
In these regions, telephone lines are
too rare, unreliable and expensive to
support the high-speed communication
demanded by Internet applications. The
entire continent of Africa, Jensen notes,
contains fewer telephones than does
Manhattan. African customers who sign
up for service today are put on a wait-
ing list 3.6 million people deep; in sub-
Saharan regions the wait is currently
about nine years.
Resources so scarce command high
prices. A 1993 survey of Þve African
countries from diÝerent regions found
that the average price of an outgoing
international call was $5 a minuteÑin
some areas, faxes cost $30 a page. The
average salary for a university lecturer,
in comparison, is about $100 a month.
So although about half the African na-
tions can oÝer a daily E-mail service to
at least some researchers, leased lines
for Internet accessÑwhich can support
only minimal data rates and cost up to
$65,000 a yearÑare uncommon and
likely to remain that way for some time.
ÒThe huge danger is that the Internet
might create a global impoverished
class that doesnÕt have access to infor-
mation systems,Ó warns Martin Hall, an
archaeologist at the University of Cape
Town who often collaborates with re-
searchers in other parts of Africa. ÒIn
Þve years we will be dealing with most-
ly paperless journals. Right now many
African researchers depend on charity
for their printed journals; paperless
journals will be completely denied to
these scientists. Africa has been impov-
erished of academic leadership in many
areas, and that will probably be exacer-
bated by this growing information gap.Ó
Unless it is breached. Three compa-
niesÑAT&T Submarine Systems, Alcatel
and FLAGÑhave separately proposed
encircling Africa with an undersea Þ-
ber-optic cable that would connect every
coastal country to the Internet. It is not
yet clear when, or whether, there will
be enough demand to cover the $2- to
$6-billion cost. But if the ring is built, it
may reinvigorate a continent of scien-
tists who, says Amy A. Gimbel, director
of the Sub-Saharan Africa Program at
the American Association for the Ad-
vancement of Science, Òare very bat-
tered and demoralized right now.Ó
Providing the ability to reach out to
scientists in the richer countries as well
as in other regions that share their pri-
orities, to present their discoveries, par-
ticipate in dialogues and collaborate in
experiments, this is one circle that would
be decidedly virtuous.
SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN August 1995 99
SOURCE: Internet Society;
1994 CIA World Fact Book; S
CIENTIFIC
A
MERICAN
research.
10,000,000
1,000,000
100,000
10,000
1,000
100
10
0
E-MAIL ONLY
NO INTERNET
ACCESS
INTERNET HOST
COMPUTERS
PER 100 MILLION
POPULATION
GLOBAL INTERNET is transforming scientific communication.
But the network has been slow to penetrate the Third World, leaving many researchers in poor nations isolated from in-
formal contact with colleagues in more industrial regions.
LAURIE GRACE
... While all components we studied are under the authors' control to varying degrees, we emphasize that researchers may have greater control over post-acceptance actions that target article visibility. We focused our analysis on providing quantitative insight on active strategies that researchers can use to increase early citations and thus the influence of their work; however, we acknowledge the importance of certain biases (e.g., race and gender; Gibbs 1995, Lortie et al. 2007, Beaudry and Larivière 2016, Bendels et al. 2018 and their influence on citation rates. ...
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A major barrier to advancing ornithology is the systemic exclusion of professionals from the Global South. A recent special dossier, Advances in Neotropical Ornithology, and a shortfalls analysis therein, unintentionally followed a long-standing pattern of highlighting individuals, knowledge, and views from the Global North, while largely omitting the perspectives of people based within the Neotropics. Here, we review problems with assessing the state of Neotropical ornithology through a northern lens, including discovery narratives, incomplete (and biased) understanding of history and advances, and the promotion of agendas that, while currently popular in the north, may not fit the needs and realities of Neotropical research. We argue that future advances in Neotropical ornithology will critically depend on identifying and addressing the systemic barriers that hold back ornithologists who live and work in the Neotropics: unreliable and limited funding, exclusion from international research leadership, restricted dissemination of knowledge (e.g., through language hegemony and citation bias), and logistical barriers. Moving forward, we must examine and acknowledge the colonial roots of our discipline, and explicitly promote anticolonial research, training, and conservation agendas. We invite our colleagues within and beyond the Neotropics to join us in creating a new model of governance that establishes research priorities with vigorous partici-pation of ornithologists and other stakeholders within the Neotropical region. To include a diversity of perspectives, we must systemically address discrimination and bias rooted in the socioeconomic class system, anti-Blackness, anti-Brownness, anti-Indigeneity, misogyny, homophobia, tokenism, and ableism. Instead of seeking individual excellence and rewarding top-down leadership, institutions in the North and South can promote collective leadership. Authentic collaborations should value the perspectives of those directly involved and affected by policies. In adopting these approaches, we, ornithologists, will join a community of researchers across academia building new paradigms that can reconcile our relationships and transform science.
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