The way ahead for innovating and renewing the management of the SciELO journals

By Abel Packer

As we reach the end of yet another year of operation, the SciELO Program team is pleased to wish all the readers of the SciELO in Perspectives blog Seasons Greetings, and hopes that 2014 will be full of success for you all. 2013 was a defining year in the history of SciELO and of its partnership with the institutions and scholarly societies which publish quality journals. The celebration of 15 years of the on-going operation of the SciELO program and network was enriched by the wide-ranging and in – depth analysis and discussion concerning SciELO’s successes and the advances made, the lessons learned, and the problems which still persist as well as the challenges and future perspectives which present themselves.

The SciELO Network Meeting and the SciELO 15 Years Conference, which took place from 22 – 25 October 2013, acted as a public forum to enable the analysis and discussion concerning the SciELO Program to converge with discussions taking place internationally on the current conditions, forces and major issues which are furthering the redevelopment of scholarly communication based on the inherent characteristics of the journals produced by the developing and emerging countries. An evaluation of the conference proposal and results carried out by about 30% of the participants was very positive: 86% had their expectations fulfilled and 89% considered the conferences as very good (37.5%) or excellent (53.5%) and aligned with the current state of the scholarly communication.

Over the last few years and more particularly in 2013, there has been a demonstrable increase in the questioning of the ways in which research is communicated. This has come about as a consequence of the innovations, restructurings and solutions that are currently underway which are pointing to Open Access, the continuous publication of articles instead of journal issues, the use of social network tools for the management and dissemination of information, new metrics for measuring attention, use and impact of articles, and so on. It is certain that these innovations, restructurings and new solutions are having an effect on deep-seated economic and influential interest groups as well as resistance to change per se.

The questioning, which is having the greatest impact on the academic community and on society itself, arose from reports which appeared in Nature, Science and The Economist and from the repercussions that these had on academic blogs and also on the journals themselves. This questioning highlights the threats to the traditional performance of the functions which are critical for research and scholarly communication such as the reproducibility of experiments, the serious and transparent peer – group evaluation of submissions and the real impact and influence generated by research, in addition to the metrics that often show an addiction to citation – based bibliometric indicators. Much of this questioning and repercussions are justified by the increase in the retraction of articles because of different types of fraud and behavior which have been condemned by the code of ethics in scholarly communication, the misuse of bibliometric indicators such as the Impact Factor to assess the quality of research, and by the proliferation of so – called predatory journals which exploit the Article Processing Charge mechanism to collect money and publish articles which are not submitted to any quality criteria. In Brazil, the growing criticism of so-called academic productivity should be added to the questions that have been listed earlier.

Given these conditions, the analysis and discussion relating to the SciELO Program have reaffirmed and improved the priority action lines which have been guiding the program’s development over the last few years, that is to say, the professionalization, internationalization and sustainability of the management and operation of the journals, by taking into consideration and maintaining the focus on the individual characteristics of the different subject areas. Amongst the anticipated and / or desired expectations relative to the fine tuning of the SciELO journals, we can highlight the following :

  • A growing appreciation of nationally published journals as essential components of the national research and scholarly communication infrastructure which ensures the coverage of research issues and priorities, and of more appropriate means of communicating its results, including multilingualism.
  • Development of the SciELO platform of common editing, publishing, indexing and interoperability services as the means of professionalization and internationalization of the journals, highlighting their editorial independence, characteristics, editorial policies and research priorities. The development and operation of the common platform of services aims to provide the journals with the capability of managing submissions, revision, formatting, and publication and dissemination, equal to those of journals of international standing. A radical reduction in submission processing times is one of the main expected results. At the same time, the development of the platform aims to minimize the fixed operating costs through economies of scale presented by the use of these quality services, thereby contributing to the strengthening of the financial sustainability of the journals.
  • The SciELO platform of common services also facilitates the adoption of major innovations that been consolidating internationally, such as continuous publication of articles without issues, more efficient and transparent ways of reviewing submissions, intensive use of social media, etc.
  • Strengthening the traditional functions and objectives of the SciELO Program in contributing to improving and strengthening the visibility, availability, use, impact and credibility of the quality journals which it indexes. In this sense, the program has been expanding alliances and international partnerships in indexing and interoperability, such as in the operation of the SciELO Citation Index in Thomson-Reuters’ Web of Science platform beginning in 2014, the improved interoperability with Google Scholar, CROSSREF, ORCID, and information management and information exchange platforms such as Mendeley, and social networking tools such as the blog SciELO in Perspective which is a publication tool for contents from different subject areas which began with the experience gained from journals in the Humanities.
  • Strengthening of the Open Access model of publication based on the principle that scholarly knowledge is a public good, particularly when it is financed with public funds, and which should be made openly available as a way of broadening its use and impact. SciELO was the pioneer in the adoption of Open Access and brought an outstanding contribution to the dissemination of research in the countries in which it operates. In fact, Latin America is the region of the world whose quality journals are published primarily in Open Access. However, there is always the concern about the setbacks which occurred in recent years with the scholarly societies and research institutes  which abandoned the publication of their journals in Open Access in favor of publication under the aegis of commercial publishers. The expectation is that in the future these societies and institutions will align themselves with the international Open Access movement.

Related developments also require advances, innovations and renewal in the national policies of evaluating and funding journals. Many of these policies are based on solutions formulated many years ago and which have become obsolete compared to contemporary methods of editing, publication and interoperability of scholarly information. The proposal of the SciELO platform of common services, based on per article costs and on the use of state-of-the-art services, will help funding agencies reorient their support and funding policies in scholarly communication.


Translated from the original in Portuguese by Nicholas Cop Consulting.


Como citar este post [ISO 690/2010]:

PACKER, A. The way ahead for innovating and renewing the management of the SciELO journals [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2013 [viewed ]. Available from:


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