International publication standards

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Publication standards differ for international academics from country to country. This article will explore some of the trends to observe and the differences to be aware of. This is general advice based upon my experience of lecturing in the Sultanate of Oman, China, Thailand and the UK.  Some advice will also be given about how to identify, approach and publish in quality international journals.                                            

At the recruitment stage

Would you ever accept a job without reading the job requirements? Even if you are not actively publishing, you should do some research regarding your potential employer’s research output. Scan research funding awarded per school or department. Look at what talent is being brought in and what experience and funding they are bringing with them. For example, when I was working in China, visiting and permanent Nobel Prize winning professors from the fields of international finance and biochemistry were a strong indication of research direction. I observed the university’s sponsors to get an indication of research direction and to stay current in my own work. See what matters to the institution research-wise and decide whether or not you should draft some further research plans or tie up loose ends of previous research before you apply.

Emphasis placed on publication

Working abroad provides the opportunity to bypass the requirements of the Research Excellence Framework (REF). Firstly, dependent upon the teaching requirements of your post, some institutions may have no requirement of research. Secondly, dependent upon the funding and relative wealth of the institution and often, whether or not it is private or public, your requirement to publish may vary. Another consideration is whether being hired as a lecturer or teacher is viewed in the purist and functional sense. This is often the case when hired to teach in a learning unit separate from the traditional schools or faculties within a university. Personally, I would recommend publishing in any case where there is funding to allow you to be the person with the ball in your research field(s), so to speak.

Ranking

Higher Education is organised around hierarchies de facto. Research output and academic ranking in foreign countries is also arranged hierarchically. There are regional provisions for this in MENA and ASEAN areas, but when it comes to specific requirements of individual staff members, one should look to regulations from the Ministry of Higher Education or research committees in private institutions.  Seldom are the exact details written in your contract. Sometimes these provisions change in response to budgeting or the direction of sustainable development in said country. Research and academic ranking are inseparable in countries where a kind of US professorial ranking system is being implemented.

In some countries, a set of teaching and research evaluation criteria is issued for the staff member to meet and they are obliged to obtain a higher rank within the first few years of employment. This is no mean feat for a new scholar and, in order to meet the publishing output, I have observed quite a few research syndicates being established. These groups organise themselves around paid subscriptions, seek national HE partners and give annual research output in the format of journals or conferences. As per the ranking of journals unique to your discipline, you may have to justify the worth of what you have already published and steer your future work in the direction of what is accredited nationally.  In my experience though there is flexibility in this area and international journal rankings have been widely accepted in Oman, Thailand and China.

International journals

Publishing in international journals will require broadening what you already know and often a completely new subject matter. Identifying international journal articles can be quite confounding when there is the pressure to publish and a lack of regional awareness. The first port of call would be to check the journal listing for your field in international research directories such as SCOPUS (www.scopus.com) or to find reliable open access journals such as DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals, www.doaj.org).

In terms of getting published, some discernment should be practiced before conducting any new research. Scan local and regional directories to understand what is current and topical. It will not be easy to transfer what you have already prepared previously into a regional journal. Another discovery could supplant the original findings. Attending regional conferences will give a good indication as per the advancements in your field and proceedings could follow suit.

Lastly, a small word of warning based on some of my own publishing faux pas in the UK and while overseas. Avoid journals that ask for exorbitant publication fees with quick turnaround and no editorial feedback. Avoid allowing others to add your name to research you haven’t been party to (unless you want to) or to omitting your name from research you have been heavily involved in. Lastly, winning research funding in a foreign country may be conditional upon you accepting being the secondary author by dint of being a foreign guest. Always always read the fine print with discernment and a future of successful, diverse, international research output is more likely to be before you.

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