International publication is considered the most common way of measuring knowledge and evaluating research capacity of scientific communities. The international publication gives the opportunity to scientists to become members of the international scientific community, which means their research is internationally recognized.

While the international publication has become a daily routine in many developed countries, it is still very rare in Vietnam and mainly occurs in major research institutes under the Vietnam Institute of Science and Technology, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh National University. During his training workshop on “Knowledge and skills in writing scientific papers for international journals”, Hanoi National University had an interview with Professor Joseph Hobbs, University of Missouri, about this issue.

Could you please tell me why Vietnamese scientists should publish their scientific papers in international journals?

Prof. Hobbs: Vietnam has great knowledge but the world still does not know much about it. That’s why sharing knowledge with the international community is very important. In addition, the publication of scientific papers in ISI international journals is a very common method to evaluate academic research capacity.

Moreover, in order to increase Vietnam’s position in the international scientific community, it is essential for Vietnamese scientists to publish scientific papers in reputable international journals. For example, the Vietnam National Foundation for Science &Technology Development requires any grant applicant to have at least one article published in an ISI international journal over a period of five years. This requirement increases the value and the importance of the candidates.

But Vietnamese scientists are still not expert in international publication, in your opinion what are the weaknesses of Vietnamese scientists?

Prof. Hobbs: For international publication, English writing is the greatest challenge among Vietnamese scientists. In addition they have very limited access to resources. However during the training workshop at Hanoi National University as well as my discussion with the Vietnam National Foundation for Science &Technology Development and other members of scientific communities in Vietnam, I understand that the access to electronic resources has rapidly increased. The complaint about lack of reference materials is no longer so true as nowadays more resources can be accessed from a personal laptop computer. It means that Vietnamese scientists can have access to the international scientific community without conventional library infrastructures.

So what is the most needed by Vietnamese scientists?

Prof. Hobbs: What they need are modern labs, equipments and other infrastructure to support their basic research.

What should Vietnamese scientists do to increase the possibility of acceptance by international journals?

Prof. Hobbs: During the workshop in Hanoi on “Writing for publication” I advised Vietnamese scientists that they need to be decisive and feel confident about themselves when submitting their papers for review in international journals. I believe if they do so, they will increase their chance significantly. Another way for Vietnamese scientists to have their papers published in international journals is to work with a foreign scientist. In case they don’t have foreign colleagues, they can send a letter to invite other scientists to participate in their research (and of course if the Vietnamese scientists take the lead in the work they deserve to be the first authors). Working with a native English-speaking scientist can be a great help for Vietnamese scientists.

So should Vietnamese scientist ask foreign scientists to edit English while they do the research?

Prof. Hobbs: Yes, I think many Vietnamese scientists will be surprised if they know that many international colleagues are willing to help them. It only takes several hours for a native English speaker to edit a draft that will be 80-95% along the path of manuscript preparation. I learned this from helping Vietnamese students applying to universities in the US. I only need to turn on the track changes of a word document, and without significantly altering the original document, I can make the application letter smoother and thus increase the chance of success for the Vietnamese students. I used to do the same with manuscript drafts of an English language Chinese journal, but then I have so many problems because too many articles came to me for editing! Some people can work for several hours and are happy to be acknowledged as helping the author, but do not need to be added themselves as authors.

Is there an efficient way to help authors draft their manuscripts for submission?

Prof. Hobbs: Recently, the University of Missouri’s Provost (Chief Academic Officer), Dr. Brian Foster, gave me a very interesting recommendation. He asked me how long it takes to edit a Vietnamese scientist’s manuscript. I said eight hours. He proposed that doctoral students and other qualified writers at MU could work at a fair wage of $20/hour to do such editing. He also made this offer: the University of Missouri would pay half of the cost if another counterpart would pay half of the cost for the professional editing. It means that with $160, a Vietnamese scientist can have their article edited and put in an appropriate format for review. This is a great investment. For now it is an offer. Dr. Forster and I think that we should do this project if the international scientific community accepts it and if it brings good results for Vietnam.

This is obvious for natural science, but what about social studies which focus on specific matters in Vietnam; can such research be published in international journals?

Prof. Hobbs: I think that if these are high quality research articles, they can be published in international journals. However, they still need help with English. When I attended a workshop on Education in Vietnam in December last year, I saw much high quality research presented by Vietnamese scientists. There is no problem to publish these works in international journals.

The publication in international journals depends on the research topic, and most scientists know which journals are most suitable to send their papers. In addition, there are many journals for basic research.

Thank you Professor!

(Interviewed by Duc Phuong)

(Source: Hanoi National University Bulletin, Vol 217. 2009)

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