Thursday, 24 August 2017

Reality Bites

Although this incident dates back to 2009, it always haunts me. It was the time when I was preparing myself to apply for a prestigious scholarship at Monash University, Australia to continue my PhD which I started in 2008. Along with academic excellence, the publication of two articles in renowned scholarly journals was a prerequisite to get that scholarship. Since I had a good academic track record and two articles of mine were published in the NELTA Journal, the only scholarly journal available in Nepal at that time to publish the articles related to English teaching/learning, I was confident about getting the scholarship.
My dream was shattered when the scholarship committee refused to consider the NELTA Journal as a “scholarly journal” according to the criteria the university had set. Although my faculty (Faculty of Education) tried hard to negotiate with the committee to make the committee members understand the value of the NELTA Journal among Nepali English teachers, the answer was a big “NO” to give the scholarship on the basis of the articles published in the journal. At that time I was very sad and furious. I could not do anything except for turning to other ways to find other scholarships.
I only realised the flaws of the NELTA Journal when I came into contact with the international journals in relation to publication of my articles later. As I said earlier, my bitter NELTA Journal experience is more than half a dozen years old. I hope the journal has improved up to the international level by now. If it has, I heartily congratulate.
The most important thing a scholarly journal must have is some common criteria for an article to be published, such as, word-count, contribution the article makes in the related field, research-based, literature review, language use, referencing style and so on.
Secondly, the article in question must be peer-reviewed. Basically in peer review, the journal appoints two independent reviewers who review the article following the given criteria. To make their reviews unbiased the writer’s name is withdrawn from the article. There are many chances that the article can be rejected after going through the review process. In other situations, it is almost impossible for any article submitted to get accepted without being revised addressing the reviewers’ comments. A second, third or even fourth rewriting is needed to eventually be accepted and published.
In a nutshell, to get published in a scholarly journal is an extensive process, which may take a couple of years (particularly for novice authors) from the first submission to publication. With these experiences when I go back to my NELTA Journal articles I feel embarrassed. Let’s forget about peer-review. Those articles could be much better if I was given some sort of guidelines to follow. Then perhaps there would have been a possibility of me receiving the targeted scholarship. All I want is for the contributors to the NELTA Journal to not have to face the same predicament that I once had to. If the Journal claims it is a “renowned and scholarly” it must be regarded as such around the globe.
(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, August 4, 2017 

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