The ecosystem of scientific publications and its impact on the production of science in Latin America

By : Carlo V Caballero Uribe MD
Editor en Jefe Global Rheumatology by PANLAR

20 September, 2022


"We are celebrating two years of officially launching Global Rheumatology, the new scientific journal for PANLAR. During this time, the emerging publication has consolidated its editorial policy with differential characteristics that meet the needs of promotion and communication of knowledge of the rheumatology community worldwide, especially in Latin America."

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E- ISSN: 2709-5533
Vol 3 / Ene - Jun [2022]


The ecosystem of scientific publications and its impact on the production of science in Latin America

Autor: Carlo V Caballero Uribe MD. Editor in Chief Global Rheumatology by PANLAR, carvica@gmail.com

DOI: https://doi.org/10.46856/grp.11.et141

Cite: Caballero Uribe CV. The ecosystem of scientific publications and its impact on the production of science in Latin America [Internet]. Global Rheumatology. Pan American League of Associations of Rheumatology (PANLAR); 2022.. Available from: https://doi.org/10.46856/grp.11.et141

Received date: June 18th / 2022
Accepted date: July 16th / 2022
Published Date: September 20th / 2022

Scientific journals have been migrating in their business model from subscription-based payment to open access for the publication of papers through an Article Processing Charge (APC) (1). The main beneficiaries of this migration have been the publishers that issue most of the world's scientific journals. A recent study (2) shows that of 505,903 Open Access (OA) articles analyzed, 60.9% were published in Gold Access (Gold OA) journals, where authors pay for article processing; only 8.6% in Diamond Access (they do not pay for APC), and 30.5% in hybrid journals (they must also pay for publication if they want to be published in OA). Revenues to publishers from Gold OA amounted to $612.5 million, while $448.3 million was earned from publishing OA in hybrid journals, for which publishers already charge subscription fees.

Among the five publishers, Springer-Nature had the highest OA revenues (USD $589.7 million), followed by Elsevier (USD $221.4 million), Wiley (USD $114.3 million), Taylor & Francis (USD $76.8 million) and Sage (USD $31.6 million).

In this context, choosing to produce and distribute an independent diamond open access journal, which entails not charging APC authors and readers for reading the content, is not a minor decision due to the high cost of maintaining a scientific publication (1, 2).

APCs constitute a very important barrier to the visibility of science that is produced globally, and that in principle benefits commercial interests more than scientific interests or the distribution of science (2).

This contrasts sharply with a reality that is often underestimated and shows the potential of Latin America, as it differs from what happens in the ecosystem of scientific publications at the global level. We have a solid tradition in the region, strongly rooted in the fact that most publications belong to universities and societies rather than to for-profit publishers, since they are oriented towards promoting science and giving visibility to scientific production over and above purely commercial interests (3).

Currently, the infrastructure built in Latin America by systems such as Redalyc (Red de Revistas Científicas de América Latina y el Caribe, España y Portugal) or SciELO (Scientific Electronic Library Online) puts the Latin American region at the global forefront in non-commercial or diamond open access, as the practice is being called.

Detailed analysis of scientific publications in Latin America and the Caribbean, based on the consolidation of the records of the journal databases indexed in SciELO and Redalyc for the 1909-2019 period, reveals that there are 1720 scientific journals in the region, a collection that constitutes almost 800,000 articles and more than 2,500,000 authors for free consultation. The work highlights the predominance of universities and public institutions in this regional publication circuit and details the journals that operate with the APC model in the region, which confirms that they correspond to a much lower number than in other continents, with Brazil being the country with the greatest weight in this practice (3).

On the flip side, this choice is often not represented or perceived as increased visibility of scientific research. However, figures indicate that, among the different developing regions, research is growing and becoming more visible.

Latin America (in the period 2000-2010) has had a growth of more than 9% per year in its scientific production, which has translated into an increase of almost 70% in its share of world manuscripts. This corresponds to a little less than 4.4% of the world's annual production of academic articles. Citation impact for Latin America has improved by 1.6% per year, but remains below the world average (4).

Clarivate, owners of Thomson Reuters, the company publishing the well-known rankings that measure the impact factor, highlights in its global report (5) that the number of academic research and papers (articles and reviews) from the region indexed in Web of Science (WoS) has grown faster than for most of the rest of the world. From 2016 to 2020, five countries in the region (Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia and Chile) published more than 25,000 articles registered in Web of Science (WoS), the largest database of articles worldwide. Another 12 published between 1,000 and 10,000 articles, and the other 17 countries in the region published less than 200 articles per year on average. Brazil is by far the largest research producer and 10 of the 34 countries, including Cuba and Mexico, account for more than three quarters of the regional output.

These data challenge "invisible continent" concept, as one of low visibility in science, in continuous struggle to obtain "global" citations. Often this production, which is verifiable, is underestimated by both, as many publications are found precisely in journals that belong to a strong regional ecosystem but are not indexed in the leading commercial databases, such as WoS or Scopus (6). The contribution of Latin America to the arsenal of world science is increasing and is more or less at the middle of the international scale in terms of production and visibility.

Rheumatology does not escape these trends (7), and there is a marked predominance of publications in this specialty in the northern hemisphere, with less representation from the southern hemisphere, perhaps with the possible exception of Brazil and India.

In addition to the lack of international collaboration among the countries of the region and the low visibility due to the effects of language and place of publication (4), the main limitations identified were the scarce funding for research and publication, better mentoring programs for young researchers with more time dedicated to research, as well as support to improve the editing of documents, among other factors (8,9).

These findings highlight the need to continue investigating the patterns of scientific communication in this region in order to arrive at more specific recommendations that may be useful for formulating research and publication policies in Latin America (10,11).

PANLAR has been consolidating study groups in various rheumatic diseases for several years; some of them have been successful in showing our differences and the need to strengthen our own research (12). It is expected that with the new Research Unit and the preliminary launching of different clinical practice guidelines, the organization (13) will enter a new stage where it will be very important to recognize strengths in multinational collaborative work, in the communication of science with the international quality standards required by the scientific community as well as with the awareness of contributing scientifically to the continent, to its patients and to its own organizations, which is the only action that guarantees future growth. 

The scientific community, in turn, must evaluate these data to generate a common strategy to advance in the desired visibility and consolidate an ecosystem of science production and publications that is appropriate and better valued for our region.

From Global Rheumatology we are making every effort to guarantee an important space in the ecosystem of scientific publications in Latin America and the world with quality papers, as accredited by international evaluations to join indexes such as DOAJ (14) or Latindex.

Currently, authors, reviewers and readers can navigate in a solid editorial platform built on Drupal, a multipurpose, modular, free content management system with a wide capacity for customization that allows the integration of author identifiers such as ORCID, article identifiers such as the use of DOIs provided by Cross Ref. and all the technical elements for the optimization of metadata that properly visualize all research published in the Journal, appropriately accredit these works and make their scientific production visible.

We are aware that after two years of intense work, great challenges remain in the process of consolidating Global Rheumatology, a scientific journal that has achieved outstanding accomplishments in such a short time. We are sure that with the defined vision and the guidance and growing collaboration of the entire Pan-American rheumatology community and the support of the world community interested in having appropriate and valid information on rheumatic diseases in all regions of the world, but especially in Latin America, PANLARs scientific journal will continue to grow and increase its impact as an increasingly important vehicle of communication in the context of global rheumatology.



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