Interview with Rogerio Meneghini


Photo: Eduardo Cesar – FAPESP

It has been some 15 years since the biochemist Rogério Meneghini and Abel Packer set up SciELO – The Scientific Electronic Library Online. Rogério Meneghini is a now retired professor formerly at the University of São Paulo Institute of Chemistry and a member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences. As scientific coordinator for SciELO, his main objective is to further the efforts currently being made by SciELO not only in the area of indexing, particularly with regard to the evaluation of the scientific journals in the SciELO Brazil collection, but also to give more impetus to the debate that is currently taking place that aims to see how the quality of these publications is affected when they are subjected to new evaluation methods. Above all, he is interested in the changes taking place in the field of scientific publishing and is focussing particularly on open access and the issues raised in making research work carried out within a particular country, in both print and electronic form, more visible to an international audience.

1. Do you think that the SciELO objective of increasing the international impact of Brazilian journals is not incompatible with the principle that requires that the results of leading edge research should appear in high impact journals? What would make a scientist like you publish your work in a national journal?

I agree that the objective of increasing the international impact of Brazilian journals is not incompatible with the requirement that the results of top quality research should be published in high impact journals. Virtually all my articles in the fields of biochemistry and molecular biology were published in international journals. In many areas, the results of my work are of global interest. Nevertheless, in the field of information science, 9 of my articles have appeared in international journals and 13 in national journals. As far as the 13 articles published in national Brazilian journals are concerned, I decided to publish them in those journals because I felt they were of more interest to Brazilian researchers than to those working in other countries.

2. You make frequent reference in your presentations to Brazilian scientists who have a good understanding of the research cycle but little appreciation of the editing of high impact journals. What is missing, in your opinion, so that Brazilian research may be capable of publishing journals of international standing? What can SciELO do in this regard?

I think what needs to happen is for the SciELO journals to acquire an international standard. That is to say, professional editors with an international viewpoint and reviewers who adhere to international standards. Although our reviewers are good researchers, they underestimate the value of review when they are dealing with national journals.

3. Publishing in Portuguese is a barrier when it comes to communicating the results of Brazilian research to an international audience. Given that this is the case, when should people publish in Portuguese?

There is no doubt at all that publishing in Portuguese is a barrier. There may be situations when publishing in Portuguese can be considered an advantage, but it is not always easy to decide when to do this. In the field of natural sciences, it is clear that valuable research is of interest internationally, and as a consequence it tends to appear in English. In the humanities, certain subjects may only be of local interest, so it will be quite in order for them to be published in Portuguese, but it is very difficult to provide a definitive answer to this question.

4. Open access to scientific journals has been a fundamental part of the SciELO program since its inception, and in the current climate open access model is establishing itself not only in Brazil but also internationally. Can you make some comment on the pioneering role SciELO is playing with regards to open access and on the benefits such access can bring in the future o scientific journals?

I don’t know if it was considered pioneering in the context of what is understood today as open access. SciELO embraced the idea of open access at the time when the debate about whether there should be open access or not was not yet on the international agenda. I understand that some journals were hesitant to participate in SciELO in its early days, but this was not due to the question of open access. Rather, they felt that they were editors of national journals which they published themselves, and they were afraid that if they joined SciELO they would lose the prestige that they held, which was obviously not the case. The debate is on – going as far as the benefits of open access are concerned. As I see it, the core problem is that the publishers of international journals have been clearly shown to be making excessive profits. In my view, governments, which are after all the principal funding agency for scientific research, should be able to mediate directly with these publishers so that the best deals can be concluded. In this way, authors will be simply acting as intermediaries and receiving government funding which is paid to the publishers who will in turn make their work available via open access. Of course, the greatest beneficiaries of this change will not be the researchers, but society as a whole. This will be because the results of scientific research will be of increasing interest to everyone, not just to scientists.

5. There is great demand for the indexing of periodicals in the Humanities, which is only partially addressed by SciELO. What can be done in your view to address this issue?

This is a difficult question to answer. The fields of Humanities and Social Sciences are currently undergoing changes on an international level as far as communication is concerned. The case of the physicist Alan Sokal is well known. In 1996 he submitted a hoax article to a prestigious journal in the field of social sciences which accepted it for publication. Brazil is still at the tail end of this change at the same time as scientists in this field are under pressure to acquire the habit of publishing articles. This pressure is being brought to bear principally by CAPES (Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel). I think that SciELO should adopt a firm position as far as the evaluation of journals is concerned. There are Brazilian researchers who are internationally recognized in this field and whose research is published worldwide. It would be a good thing if SciELO could tap into their expertise when evaluating these journals. Yielding to pressure to be part of the SciELO database is bad not only for SciELO itself but also for those working in the Humanities field.

6. Bearing in mind that SciELO has been in existence for 15 years, what challenges must it face over the next few years?

I think that I have already answered this when I responded to question 2. But in order for SciELO journals to meet international standards ( professional editors with an international viewpoint and reviewers who adhere to international standards) SciELO will have to become a publisher itself. It is only then that it would be able to have a strong influence on the structuring of the editorial processes for journals.

Translator’s note: CAPES Program

The CAPES Foundation is a public foundation established in 1951 within the Ministry of Higher Education, as a Brazilian government agency awarding scholarship grants to graduate students at universities and research centers in Brazil and abroad.


Translated from the original in Portuguese by Nicholas Cop Consulting.
[Reviewed – 12 August 2013]


Como citar este post [ISO 690/2010]:

SCIENTIFIC ELECTRONIC LIBRARY ONLINE. Interview with Rogerio Meneghini [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2013 [viewed ]. Available from:


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