THE NEW LEAM VIEWPOINT
Even though Mr. Javedkar orders ‘clean-up’, there is no escape from the corrupt academic culture unless we question the fetish of ‘academic publications’ and bring the spirit of authentic quest in education.
We are aware of an exhaustive report The Indian Express published on predatory journals – the notorious phenomenon called “pay and publish”. While Union HRD Minister Mr. Prakash Javedkar has asked the Vice-Chancellors to “weed out all predatory journals”, the irony is that even some Vice-Chancellors – including the much talked about JNU VC, as the investigation indicates, have published their papers in these journals. Yes, the Minister has done his official duty – dull and routinized.
However,hardly do we see a rigorous and honest discussion on the roots of the crisis–this pathology , this reckless urge to publish at any cost. Unless we alter our academic culture, no meaningful solution is likely to emerge.
To begin with, let us ask a simple question:
Why should a professor write and publish? You have an idea; you have thought about it, developed it; and you feel that it should be shared with the academic fraternity. This should be the approach in a sane environment. However, this honesty or genuine search is discouraged by the academic industry.
In the age of measurement, your value depends on the statistics that counts your papers and publications. Attend a seminar. And you need not be surprised if you find ‘professors with two hundred papers’ speaking absolute trash. You would notice the organizer of the seminar reading a lengthy bio-data of the speaker indicating the list of papers, books, edited volumes and of course foreign trips. And when that professor opens his mouth, you are disappointed. It is sad that our academic life is filled with this rot. It spreads because publication has lost its meaning; it is just a manufactured product, yet another addition to one’s bio-data.
No wonder, journals have to be invented; like our engineering/MBA colleges, every corner of the city, every department, every ‘research forum’ has to publish journals (don’t bother about quality), and in this rat race there are teachers, researchers, professors and even Vice-Chancellors (Why not? Most of them are political appointees and terribly bad teachers) willing to pay, publish and project themselves as ‘scholars’.
Publication, we must say, should not be seen as the only mode of doing academics. Contemplative thinking, engaged teaching and sincerity to the vocation: why do we undermine these qualities, and reduce publication into some sort of fetish? This invites dishonesty. And this dishonesty has many colours. Well, predatory journals have been exposed. But what about many ‘prestigious’ publication houses?
You are a professor of a leading university. With your social networking you arrange the funds, organize an ‘international’ seminar, edit the papers (taken largely from your closed circuit), negotiate with a ‘brand’ publisher, release the book at India International Centre, offer free drink, and assure that the book is reviewed immediately. Corruption enters everywhere. Even ‘prestigious’ publications are not free from the ugly academic practice of networking. Be honest to accept it.
Ask a question. How many of these papers do you really love to read? The papers written as a matter of compulsion, the papers which are just dull, routinized and predictable, or even the papers written in a mystified/jargonized language, and the papers continually produced in science labs–do these publications bring a break through, make you think and wonder, inspire you?
We have to ask simple and non-pretentious questions. Neither Mr. Javedkar nor the academic bureaucrats have the wisdom to go deeper, and come forward with the idea of a truly life-affirming/ethically and intellectually vibrant academic culture.
Meanwhile, be prepared for yet another scandal!