Delegates to the Fifth International Conference of Scientific Editors discussed that problem and others at a recent meeting here organized by the International Federation of Scientific Editors' Associations (IFSEA). Participants proposed various ways to encourage efforts by journal editors from Third World nations to increase access to the scientific literature.
"The problem with scientific journals in a developing country is simply that they are not accepted by scientists in that country," said Mohammad Ilyas, a Malaysian delegate. "Authors want to publish their work in internationally recognized journals rather than local ones."
Quite different, but equally difficult, problems can arise when standards are raised and personnel trained accordingly, said Paul Stapleton of the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. Stapleton went to Indonesia in 1983 on behalf of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to run an aid program for the Australian government. Its aim was to promote science publishing, and its most prominent success has been to establish the Indonesian Journal of Crop Science as that country's only independently refereed journal.
"When we first began to publish this to Western standards," Stapleton recalled, "the number of articles submitted fell from 120 one year to only seven the next. Potential authors apparently thought that the journal had become so high-class that their papers simply wouldn't be good enough for us."
At the same time, Stapleton said, "scruffy journals do not impress Western recipients." In the long run, he said, journal editors really have no choice but to raise production, writing and editing standards.
Nimala Amarasuriya, from the National Resources, Energy and Science Authority of Sri Lanka, urged IFSEA to draw up a plan to train editors in all aspects of scientific publishing, with an emphasis on the needs of those in developing countries.
"IFSEA might also organize a training program for the trainers," she suggested. "This should probably be held in a developed country, where participants could learn about the newest publishing techniques. Research on the level of expertise available in developing countries is needed, too."
Several developing nations reported success in co-publication—ventures in which international agencies cooperate with private publishers to translate and publish books and journals. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Manila has pioneered this approach.
"By 1986, at least 91 non-English editions of 23 IRRI books had been co-published in 36 languages," reported IRRI's Tom Hargrove. He said the Institute's best-selling Farmer's Primer on Growing Rice has been published in 36 editions in 30 languages and was plagiarized by former president Ferdinand Marcos and serialized in a local "men's magazine."
Another initiative, described by Miriam Balaban from the Israeli National Council for Research and Development, is the formation with IFSEA's help of the African Association of Science Editors. The association, which has published four issues of its newsletter, met for the first time last year in Botswana and will hold a second conference in Ethiopia in February. A similar association for editors is being formed in Southeast Asia.
Another direct response to the needs of scientific editors for in-formation came from Arly Allen, vice president of Allen Press Inc. oi Lawrence, Kansas. Allen offered to print a journal on scientific editing free of charge for two years if someone could be persuaded to edit it.
In a discussion of new technologies, H. Edward Kennedy of BioSciences Information Service in Philadelphia warned publishers against allowing technology to lead rather than follow. "The right choices can lead to success," he said. "But have primary and secondary publishers properly evaluated the effects of new technology?"
One of those new technologies, CD-ROM (compact disk, read-only memory), did not allow information to be updated, he said. "Among its drawbacks are the expense of master disks and the understandable unwillingness of librarians to invest in a new format until a critical mass of material is available."
Participants also discussed "grey literature," a term that embraces theses, conference proceedings and other documents not issued through conventional commercial channels. These are often difficult to locate, and many journal editors allow them to be cited only in the text rather than in formal references at the foot of journal papers.
In Europe this kind of document is now being registered by the System for Information on Grey Literature. In the United States the National Technical Information Service collects and distributes many forms of grey literature. If these organizations enable accurate tracing of such documents, most Hamburg participants concurred, editors may eventually allow authors to cite them in their reference lists.