The China bull in the publishing shop

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The China bull in the publishing shop
Benjamin Shaw, Global and China Director, Edanz Group Ltd

Most publishers find it a challenge taking advantage of the many opportunities presented as Asia grows into a scientific powerhouse. The need for new approaches is highlighted by examining the obstacles faced by Chinese authors in achieving publication success. Opportunities abound for establishing a competitive advantage in author outreach and services, and the author community will reward publishers who foster the development of a positive scientific culture. Adopting an author-centric approach is a sustainable long-term strategy, with Chinese authors and with those from other emerging markets.

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  • Good afternoon. The title of my presentation is tongue-in-cheek, though some of you may have occasionally felt trampled when dealing with submissions from Chinese authors.I hope to help you better understand the publication goals of Chinese authors and the challenges they face so that you can adapt in a way that will help you reach your own goals by helping them to reach theirs.
  • But before we move on, since I already picked on authors it’s only fair to have a go at publishers and journals as well. Once again, this cartoon is tongue in cheek, but Chinese authors do often have reason to be frustrated with the process of getting published.
  • Publishers are growing more adept at interacting positively with authors from emerging markets but improvements are still needed. Those who seek to better understand the challenges faced by Chinese authors and what their publication goals are will be rewarded with increased quality of submissions and a more positive relationship with authors.
  • This is where Dr Du Shunda comes in. Dr Du is a surgeon and Associate Professor at one of China’s top hospitals, PUMC, which is affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences. Last year PUMC carried out nearly 30,000 surgical operations and over the past 5 years its staff have published over 6,000 papers.
  • Dr Du in many ways represents the type of author journals receive submissions from. And as his career advances he may be someone journals will want to target to serve as a peer reviewer, or to serve on an editorial board.For now, while he has published several articles in Chinese, he is less experienced in writing English articles for submission to an international standard journal. While he works at a prestigious hospital, his funding resources are good but not great. He is at a stage in his career where he needs to develop a strong publication track record. This makes him highly motivated but unfortunately he, and many Chinese authors, face serious challenges.
  • Whatare the challenges faced by Chinese authors? In March 2010 Edanz carried out a survey on ScienceNet, China’s leading scientific portal. We had 333 responses from authors who had published at least 1 article in an SCI journal.The majority of respondents, like Dr Du, were young or mid-career. In this chart we can see that, also like Dr Du, they had a limited publication track record.These are often well educated and talented doctors and researchers with good levels of funding. But their lack of knowledge of the publication process, as well as the absence of a strong culture surrounding peer review and scientific communication, means that they’re often unfamiliar with what we might consider fundamentals of scientific communication, for example, basic publication ethics, or knowing how to select an appropriate journal.
  • 35% of respondents listed choosing a target journal as the most difficult aspect of preparation. Like many of the challenges authors face, being unable to choose an appropriate journal is partially caused by not reading enough in their field. But with the number of possible options, even well-read and experienced authors can find choosing a journal difficult.
  • The difficulty of selecting a journal becomes apparent when one considers the criteria an author use to make a decision.Like their counterparts around the world, Chinese authors write so that their papers can be read by peers worldwide. This can be seen clearly in that 68% of criteria can be grouped loosely into those aimed at reaching a target audience and gaining recognition.Also like their global counterparts, Chinese doctors and biomedical researchers are busy people. That’s why criteria such as speed to publication, which is part of a category representing convenience, accounted for 20% of primary criteria.Given my experience speaking with authors like Dr Du, who seemed mostly concerned with a journal’s Impact Factor, I was surprised that only 17% of respondents gave a journal’s impact factor as being at the top of their minds. Because of widespread policies requiring publications in journals above a certain impact factor, I suspect these results may understate how much a journal’s impact factor is taken into account.
  • Unsurprisingly, 24% of respondents said that communicating their thoughts clearly in English is the primary challenge. Another 22% said that the primary difficulty is understanding the journal’s guide for authors. However, when looking at the long and complicated instructions for authors of some journals, I suggest that this might be to do as much with how the guidelines are written as with language barriers for Chinese authors.
  • Now that we’ve looked at the challenges, the good news is that there are several positive adaptations that you can make. The first is to figure out how you can be on the ground. In China, ‘brand’ often equates to trust, and establishing trust is a human endeavor that is helped immensely by having people who are accessible to Chinese doctors and researchers.
  • Having an “on-the-ground”presence doesn't have to be literal. Reaching out to Chinese scientists online, and in their own language, can also be a good approach. The most popular platform for Chinese scientists is ScienceNet, sponsored by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. ScienceNet has over one million registered users and receives 150,000 visitors per day. Springer, Elsevier and Wiley already have a ScienceNet presence and I encourage others to consider this as well as the prices are reasonable.
  • Chinese scientists are eager to learn how to better communicate their research and to engage with the global research community. Helping to develop a strong scientific culture in China and to connect local scientists to their peers globally is an aspect where publishers and journals have much of value to offer.Keep in mind that learning is a two-way street, and that the wider community should also seek to learn from what is happening in China. Chinese authors will resent being talked down to by those who have not taken the time to understand them.
  • Part of developing a positive culture in China will be educating authors to look beyond the impact factor, and to consider other indications of a journal’s reputation in their field. Building awareness of open access as a way to reach a wider global audience is one promising way to do this. From speaking with Dr Du, I found that he was vaguely aware of Open Access but that he had several misconceptions. For example, he wasn’t sure of the rationale for charging a fee, and he had the mistaken impression that no Open Access journals have yet received an impact factor.
  • Many feel publishing is being disrupted by trends such as open access. Peer review is often cited as the fall-back position for demonstrating the value that publishers provide. Publishers therefore need to ensure that peer review is professional, polite, and helpful in improving the quality of papers. Every time. Without fail.
  • The area where I personally feel not enough is being done is in making it easier for a busy doctor or researcher to author a paper. From my perspective as someone whose client’s are authors, it seems that many in medical publishing often feel it is simply up to authors to overcome hurdles on their own. Considering the increasing proportion of authorship from emerging markets a paradigm shift is needed. Publishers who are able to make a shift to author-centric thinking will gain a competitive advantage, and at the same time mitigate internal difficulties caused by the increasing submissions from non-traditional markets.Not all of these ideas will be feasible for everyone, but when you start thinking about being author-centric as an innovation, then you start to see just how many opportunities there are for improving the authorship experience.
  • Many of you are already doing positive things, such as holding author training workshops and putting educational content online. These are just a few examples.
  • Edanz has been on the ground in China for six years and in that time we’ve listened carefully to authors about the challenges they face. At the end of April we’ll be launching the Journal Advisor, which we hope will help authors overcome the barriers to getting published.The main feature of the Journal Advisor is the Journal Selector, which uses semantic technology to match an author’s paper to a suitable journal. Authors simply enter in a sample text to see suitable matches based on topic. They can then filter their results by Impact Factor, publication frequency, and also if a journal has Open Access options.After they’ve narrowed their options to a short list they can link from the Journal Selector directly to journal websites to make a final decision.
  • The journal advisor website hasn’t been launched yet, but those of you who would like to be updated when it does launch can follow us on Twitter.Thank you so much for your time today, and I wish you all success in continuing to develop a positive relationship with Chinese authors.Please get in touch if you have any questions.
  • The China bull in the publishing shop

    1. 1. The China Bull in the Publishing Shop Benjamin Shaw, Global & China Director Based on: Shaw, B, The China bull in the publishing shop, Serials, 2011, 24(3), 238-244; doi: 10.1629/24238
    2. 2. The Publisher Bull in the China Shop Benjamin Shaw, Global & China Director Based on: Shaw, B, The China bull in the publishing shop, Serials, 2011, 24(3), 238-244; doi: 10.1629/24238
    3. 3. PublisherChallenges  Understanding local conditions  Building a network  Establishing a footprint in the market  Poor language quality  Increased volume for production  Insufficient number of peer reviewers  Author services & help desk  Publication ethics
    4. 4. A typicalChinese Author Meet Dr. Du ShundaTitle: Associate ProfessorInstitution: Liver Surgery Department,Peking Union Medical College HospitalPublication track record: More than 10 articles in Chinese Only one article in English as the first author, and two as co-author Four English articles currently under peer review
    5. 5. A typicalChinese Author Meet Dr. Du ShundaLanguage barriersGrants and incentives?Why publish? twowrite my manuscript in Chinese “I“Iusually grants, one is from the hospital for 50,000 have then getother is from theinto English. However, CNY; the it translated National Natural Science “If I want to be promoted from an associate Fund for 200,000 CNY. My colleagues in our hospital the translation often can not perfectly deliver have grants with amounts ranging from just 10,000 - the same meanings in Chinese.I must publish professor to a professor, then 20,000 CNY to tens of millions of yuan. sufficient articles and obtain grants. Getting If published not be supported byvisibility in my I write in will also give me a grant.”“If I write a case report, it will English myself then because of my field.” limited knowledge and skills in English writing,“Our hospital does currently have a policy rewarding articles publishedin SCI journals. However, I satisfactorily express the key last; I cannot am not sure how long this policy willmaybe it will bemessages and uniqueness of my article.” canceled next year.”
    6. 6. AuthorChallenges Culture / Experience
    7. 7. AuthorChallenges Journal Selection
    8. 8. AuthorChallenges Journal SelectionHow do you choose a journal? Publication goals “I will list all the professional journals on hepatology firstly, article I hope to submit to “When I write an ranking them from top to bottomjournal with an IF ofreject or 1.0, not an SCI by IF. If all of them at least are which suitableuseful for me.” I will seek a more will be for my article, comprehensive journal that is still related with hepatology.”
    9. 9. AuthorChallenges Language Language barriers
    10. 10. PublisherAdaptations Be on the ground Be aware of how your brand is perceived Meet people face-to-face Make use of journal editors as goodwill ambassadors Team up with a Chinese partner journal or society
    11. 11. Publisher Adaptations Reach out Communicate in Chinese Make use of online platforms such as ScienceNet and DXY Use Chinese social media channels such as Weibo Monitor your online reputation (with assistance from Google Translate)
    12. 12. PublisherAdaptations Promote a positive cultureDouble-edged sword of the pressure to publish “The pressure to publish unavoidably leads to improper ethics. But on the other hand, the pressure is also what is encouraging Chinese authors to publish in the first place.” Promote a positive culture  Educate authors about why they should publish  Training and educational materials are greatly appreciated  Connect Chinese authors to their peers globally  Educate authors to look beyond the Impact Factor  Learning is a two-way street - don’t forget to listen
    13. 13. PublisherAdaptations How does Open Access fit in?  Chinese authors are aware of OA but publishers have a long way to go in educating them  Price sensitivity might be a barrier APCs Misconceptions Perceived advantages “I think 1,000 - 10,000 CNY is acceptable; but if the publication fee“OA journals have no we willMaybe they willreachsome exceeds 20,000 CNY SCI OA turn to other journals. If there is “Articles published in IF. journals may have a wider years later, but not now. However, since they have no SCI IF, another SCI journal that asks for less or even no publication fee, I audience.” may turn tobasically useless for us.” they are that journal because 20,000 yuan is roughly equal to 2 - 3 months of my salary, which is really too expensive for me.”
    14. 14. PublisherAdaptations Focus on the value of peer review Quality and consistency Speed review comments may vary among journals. For “The criteria of example, I submitted an articlebe faster. For example, one of my “I wish peer review could to [a famous US medical journal], and one month later they gave me a for 4 months, which was articles underwent peer review reply stating that my article was not fit too the journal. The editor did not provide any helpful really for long.” comments, they just said it was "unfit”.  Must consistently be professional, polite and helpful  Educate authors about the value of peer review  Encourage more authors to participate as reviewers
    15. 15. Publisher Make the process easierAdaptations for authors Clearly and realistically advise Clearly explain how submissions Consider authorspeer review Use language screening but Re-invent how rate yousite Have translating journals, your Better differentiate re-submit Encourage pre-submission ifMakewill be should & scope the author evaluated, Automate formatting a video aims beware of Chinese to decision commentsits timelines and limitations e.g., by e.g., supportingare structured speedenquiries required, onclearly stating convenience into evidence or find a different journal how novelty is determined
    16. 16. What publishers are already doing
    17. 17. What Edanz is doing2.4. VisitandEnglish sample text3. Filter journal websites Narrow options 1. Insert refine toauthor’s abstract, short description, key phrases, make final decisionmatchabstract from similar paper or analysis Journal basic journalRevise sample text information Advisorto refine resultsImpact Factor similar previouspublication frequency publicationsOA options
    18. 18. www.edanzediting.com/STM-China Download and further reading @JournalAdvisor Follow us on Twitterbshaw@edanzgroup.com Contact me

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