• By: Dr. Imtiaz Ahmad

Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission (HEC), established in 2002, has been struggling to maintain higher education standards in the country.

The HEC’s promotion and tenure criteria for faculty includes publishing in international journals, which was intended to promote quality research that meets global standards. However, this has led to neglect of local research journals and a lack of support for them, hindering the development of a research culture within Pakistan. Additionally, the HEC’s focus on international publications has also caused a brain drain. The impact of these issues on the economy is significant, and there is a need to address these challenges and move towards a more balanced approach that supports both international and local research.
To overcome these challenges, it is imperative that the HEC takes decisive action to promote local research journals and provide the necessary support for their development. A possible solution could be to encourage the faculty of each university to launch their own journal and to publish in these journals. These journals should be nationally ranked based on their quality, and over time, they could sustain the country’s economy and finance the education system while promoting research for industries in Pakistan like, what is done in other countries.
Moreover, the HEC needs to revise its promotion criteria to strike a balance between international and national publications, with greater weightage given to national publications. By taking such steps, HEC can support a beneficial research culture within Pakistan and improve the overall education sector. Although it may take a decade or more, but will ultimately strengthen Pakistan’s research and help to achieve global standards.
It is worth noting that publishing in international journals is indeed a financial burden for researchers. As a modern trend, almost all international journals require authors to pay publication fees depending on the journal’s prestige and impact factor. This can lead to a significant loss of resources and funding for the country’s economy. However, publishing in international journals also has its benefits, such as reaching a global audience, but such publications should only be allowed with international funding.
According to a report by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) Pakistani authors in recent years. In 2019, Pakistani researchers published over 20,000 research papers in international journals. However, the HEC’s latest data reveals that only 16,137 research papers were published in international journals through the NRPU projects in 2020 only. (Source: http://nsp.hec.gov.pk/nrpu_reports/2019_20_NRPU_Completed_Projects.pdf)
Regarding the impact factor of advanced countries, it is not accurate to say that it is solely due to Pakistani researchers. However, Pakistani researchers do contribute to the overall body of knowledge in their respective fields, the same impact can be claimed while publishing at national level and widely available for citation to rest of the world.
Overall, there needs to be a wise balance between publishing in international journals and promoting local research journals. HEC should take concrete steps to support both avenues of research and provide the necessary resources for their development, which can contribute to the overall development of the country.

Based on the information available in the Web of Science database, only the top 5 paid journals (out of thousands) in terms of the number of publications by Pakistani authors in the last 5 years (2017-2022) with the data of paynig publication fee are listed here:

JournalNo. of PapersApproximate Cost per PublicationTotal Cost RangeCost Range in Millions (PKR)
PLOS One6,409$1,695 – $2,495$10,858,695 – $15,984,955Rs. 1,846.54 – Rs. 2,717.13
Scientific Reports3,389$1,780$6,039,220Rs. 1,026.65
Journal of Cleaner Production1,648$2,500 – $3,000$4,120,000 – $4,944,000Rs. 700.40 – Rs. 838.08
Sustainability1,431$1,500$2,146,500Rs. 365.15
Applied Sciences1,327$1,800 – $2,000$2,387,600 – $2,654,000Rs. 405.33 – Rs. 450.58
Total  $24,451,015 – $29,802,675Rs. 4,169.07 – Rs. 5,653.32
Based on the exchange rate of 1 USD = 170 PKR.

Now, an average person can also comprehend how we are being wisely utilized for the benefit of others, while we claim to serve our country and conduct research to strengthen our economy. I hope that the HEC being, a highly esteemed organization will reevaluate its strategy of wasting public money on international paid journals and shall focus on promoting national journals, starting by tomorrow. This would prevent the waste of resources for both the employees and the impoverished nation. The HEC must also think about how to facilitate its teachers while granting them the service structure as per the HEC ordinance and other government departments and stop torturing them.

  • The writer is a PhD from the University of Essex, UK, and working as an Associate Professor of Mathematics at the University of Malakand.

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