If you have a doctorate or teach at a university, you are likely to receive emails from “academic journals” wishing to publish your articles, provided you pay a nominal fee. Most of these journals are printed online and offer a list of top-flight experts and professors who do peer review for you, of course at a higher than “nominal” price. Apparently, many Pakistani university professors have sent their articles to such journals – with or without realizing that they are bogus and lack credibility in international academic circles. Although the Commission on Higher Education claims to have compiled a database of approved journals, many scholars, intentionally or unintentionally, fail to verify journals through the database. After the “publication” of their articles, they claim credit because it helps them to be promoted to a higher rank, even to a higher degree of intellect. It is essentially the responsibility of those who aspire to become researchers to verify whether the journal to which they send their articles is genuine or fake.
There have also been reports of “hijacked” journals, meaning that a publication uses the same name as another established journal to trick readers and researchers. In such a case reported by The News, HEC still maintains that the hijacked newspaper is the same as the genuine newspaper. The higher education sector in the country is already going through a crisis and the government seems less concerned about what is happening to education in the country. In the absence of any foolproof mechanism, it has become easier to obtain a doctorate and even easier to be published in journals with dubious credentials. Due to these fraudulent practices, the academic reputation of Pakistani PhD holders and university professors is at risk.
There is a widespread perception that our academics are looking for shortcuts to scientific glory. Academic and scientific excellence is not a function of half-baked articles and unreliable research. In a way, many of our higher education institutions have wasted a lot of resources in terms of energy, finances and time without producing any worthwhile impact or results. Some international companies that calculate the impact factor of journals have already spotted dozens of pirated journals that entice scholars to submit their articles for publication. Credible journals have a long waiting list for print publications, while fraudulent journals accept and publish online with remarkable speed. The government and HEC must take this issue seriously to save our higher education sector from further deterioration.