IndiaRxiv, the preprint repository for Indian Research – A conversation with Sridhar Gutam

Published by Access 2 Perspectives on

Sridhar Gutam podcast cover image

Sridhar Gutam is a Senior Plant Physiologist at ICAR, the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, and also the Convenor at Open Access India. His main areas of interest are Plant Physiology, Plant Phenology and Plant Phenotyping as well as Open Access, Open Data, Free and Open Source Software.

Photo: Sridhar Gutam

ORCID iD:  0000-0001-5376-1565

Personal Website:

Twitter: @SridharGutam

Linkedin: /in/sridhargutam/

Professional Websites:, and the preprint repository: 

What topics, in particular, would you like to address to our audience? IndiaRxiv (India Archive) – Preprints Repository for India

Which researcher – dead or alive – do you find inspiring? – Albert Einstein

What is your favorite animal and why? – Tiger. I love that animal.

Name your (current) favorite song and interpret/group. – We shall overcome

What is your favorite dish/meal? – Biryani

Please share anything else affiliated that will help prepare for our meeting. – I am  with Open Access of India, a community of the practice.


Jo: Welcome to Access to Perspective Conversations. We’re talking today with Sridhar Gutam. He’s the director of India Archive, the preprint repository for India. Welcome, Sridhar.

Sridhar: Thank you, Jo. Thank you very much for inviting me for this podcast. 

Jo: It’s a great pleasure to have you. So starting with the first question, basically maybe tell us about your research area, why you became interested in Open Science and Open Access, and what eventually led you to start a repository like Indian archive in the first place. 

Sridhar: I basically trained as a plant physiologist. I’m into agriculture research. I joined the Agriculture Research Service in India way back in 2004. So during that period, immediately after one year, I was attending one conference in Hyderabad, which is on free software. So there I learned about the Open Journal systems. Then I was thinking, what is this open Journal system? Open access? I was not aware when I went and learned what exactly it is. Then I found that, oh, wow. It is better. We will be doing it if we embrace this and then put all our research into Open Access online using this software. So I learned about this Journal system and how to install it. We started one Journal and it took some time. Maybe you can say it is like 2006. It started like a Journal. And we were the first to launch the Open Access Journal in our agricultural system.

We want to make it as an example in our system that you can start your journals online with free software. So I was learning those and doing the advocacy, connecting with people, seeing what is happening around the world, how this movement is going on. Then we thought of having one community to be built in India that talks and then learns and shares about Open Access. So we founded Open Access India. And then it’s going on and this scholarly ecosystem is changing and Preprints have come into discussions. People are discussing this. And then the center for Open Science has come up with launching the Cobranded Preprint repositories. So then we had a talk with them and we got one repository established for agricultural Sciences because that was not there. And we wanted to see how the agriculture community responds to this initiative taken up by Open Access India. So we started the Agri archive and then slowly we also went to this India archive. Now we have the India Archive is relaunched again and the agriculture repository, which is Agri archive, is now with the Cabbie International. So we have handed it over to them to manage and then take care of it because we were not able to manage the repositories because of many reasons. One of these is the lack of funds.

Jo: Yeah. So as many of our listeners might know, Preprint publishing of research manuscripts is free of charge for the authors. But of course, there’s also management and work involved in the handling and the processing of the publishing. For one is the moderation process, but also the technology, then the length technology, which is why there are costs that are being incurred. And the center for Open Science started with the budgets ahead and eventually had to transfer the cost to the communities for whatever reasons, which then also left us. Also with Africarchive we were also struggling and finding a workaround which eventually led us to diversify our portfolio of repositories. And now you are using the same system, OJS, but it is specialized by the PKP, the public knowledge project specialized for preprints only. So now using OPS, right, the open preprint system. 

Sridhar: Yes. We were waiting for this kind of initiative to be happening and we are lucky enough to get the same software which is almost similar to the OJS workflow and installation also took much less time. And I have a friend Mr. Swami who could install it in 1 hour on the web server where we were hosting the OJS software for another Journal system. So the software is now free and the Society for Promotion of AutoCulture is kind enough to host these preprints in their web server. So now the cost has been minimized. The only cost which we’ll be incurring is when we go for a device and the versions increase. Like if version two, three, four for one record goes and there will be multiple devices. So there is the cost we have to bear. We are looking for the donors or the community itself to support to pay for that charge. Otherwise, I don’t think we’ll be having much cost to be involved in this. And we have the volunteers who can moderate and then we have an advisory committee which advises on how to go about and we’ll be shortly meeting to discuss on these modalities how we can get these funds for the device.

Jo: So the institution that hosts OPS and whether in the archive is also based in India, right?

Sridhar: Yes. 

Jo: And that’s also what we’re aiming for with Africarchive, just that we are not as far as you are with having a partner institution who’s actually willing and partnering with us for the hosting. I don’t know if it would be easy on a country level, but for us it’s on a continental level. And that might seem like an Overload and management responsibilities to some institutions, but we are all for that reason partners and we have two candidates. But this is also super important to us, but also for you to be able to say that the research is being stored. Yes. In a cloud, so it’s accessible online, but the physical storage is in our country, right. It’s like local storage. So it’s also a level of data sovereignty, data ownership of the research data. Is that important to the community or you as a manager? Is it part of the equation?

Sridhar: Yeah. Some expressed something like that. This is our data. This is our information. How can I trust where my data goes? They were skeptical, but we assured them that this is the physical server which we have here and everything is taken care of and there will not be any problem. But I still believe that even if it is a physical server or a cloud server, it should not be any issue because now it’s a global world and you have physical server maintenance will be a tedious one and cloud security servers can make you and when you are making it open, so you want it open. So let’s be in many copies and people copy many of your works and then make it available. Only thing is, they should not plagiarize. So when your work has lots of copies available, it is easy for others to catch all of it. So your work will be more visible when you have more copies. So let’s open and let it be replicated. Your work be replicated and reach the need or the targets to whom you have made the research work. And you made that scholarly article to be read by people. So let it be open and preprint repositories are the first repositories where you should deposit and then make it available for others to comment on it. The more comments, more reviews, it gets more like surprising work. So that can be a more authenticated work, refined work. 

Jo: Yeah, I agree.

Sridhar: That’s the aim.

Jo: Say it again…

Sridhar: That’s the aim. Like we want it authenticated, refined or stamped quality. All these things you can add. 

Jo: Yeah, exactly. And where researchers have a fear of being scooped for their ideas, usually in preprint repositories, there’s an open license applied so that authorship is always with the original author, and then also DOI, which guarantees the long term storage, also online. So most of the fears and the reluctances and researchers sharing their manuscripts before they share with the Journal or publisher are actually redundant because it’s already been taken care of, it cannot be scooped. It’s rather that they keep the Copyright or they keep the ownership of the text. If it’s deposited in an open repository like India archive, then I can still submit the same article through Journal. Is it the same? I think. As a matter of fact, when you look at services like Sharper Romeo, which is, I think, managed by Cambridge University, I’m not sure. Please excuse me. 

Sridhar: Yes, Adina UK, Cambridge only, I guess.

Jo: Yeah, so the Sharper Romeo service allows us to check for the open access policies of journals of particular journals where researchers want to publish in and then most. I think it’s now about 90% of the journals on this planet, really, that are digitally indexed in the Romeo database. They are positive for preprint sharing, green open access. So there’s no contradiction in having your manuscript shared on a preprint repository and then having to fear that the Journal wouldn’t accept it, it’s rather the opposite, because then the Journal can also be sure that they get a high quality version of a manuscript submitted to, and they can still add value in terms of the formatting, the editorial processes, the peer review on the publisher side. So there’s also a meaningful value add on the Journal side. So this is just to say, because our experiences at Africarchive are similar to yours that many researchers fear that the Journal would reject it because the work is already shared openly. So why would the Journal be keen to still accept it? Is that something that you have conversations about? 

Sridhar: Yes. When it comes to India, we have international publishers. Okay. But in India, there are many other scholarly societies which are publishing journals, and they are not aware of these kinds of policies. I see very few of the journals from India are indexed. Those policies are indexed in the Sharper Romeo. Not many have contributed their corporate policies to that. Sometime back, we thought of having one campaign to get all those publishers to register their corporate policies, but we didn’t take it off. I think we should do that again. And when people are…

 I have not gone to the publisher’s website to submit an article recently, but I feel that there should be, I guess, that once you submit an article, there should be an option to put it into a preprint repository. But before that, the Journal itself should come with a policy initially in the checklist itself that you can submit to the repository, or we have a policy that we will not see it as a pre-published kind of thing. Some should be there in the checklist, then only these authors will know the journals are having a policy towards open access that should be explicitly mentioned. What I want to say in a summary is that journal preprints should be there. Like when you open a website for a submission of your article, this Journal website should explicitly say that we welcome preprints, so that will help build a trust among the researchers, that all the journals accept preprints, but not many are aware of it. 

Jo: Yeah. And I believe also that having a connection with a preprint repository, especially an independent one like yours on the national level, would make the work for the journal and the publisher much easier, because then they already have the trust level and the trust buying of the research community to the preprint, they get high quality research output, which has been reviewed by hundreds and thousands of researchers, possibly has already done its rounds of investigation and proofreading. And then, as I personally see it, the role of a Journal would then be to curate the content meaningfully and embedded in a series of publications that they have under their name. And that’s what I think. I don’t think any of us are trying to get rid of journals altogether. They are an important part of the publishing ecosystem. And now with preprints which in some disciplines have also been around for many decades, like at least for the physics and mathematics and archived the doc. It’s just another level to speed up conversation now also with our urgent and pressing topics. I think the topics like the global topics like climate change or war and

conflict studies and what else, migration. These have always been of urgent interest to many societies or societies around the world. And I personally believe that research has a duty and also the ability to allow us as a global society to learn from past mistakes, to do better, to run analysis like future analysis, to be able to weigh options against each other. And it’s only possible if we open up our conversations through open access and open publishing and Journals can play an important role in curating the content to make it comprehensible and comparable. Because what preprints do is just to, well, not just but it’s also an important step in the game. It’s to make it discoverable in the first place, and then the journals can curate the content into a meaningful series of publications. So I think we can all work together and everybody wins on the exercise.

Sridhar: What you said is that we are not going to get rid of journals and publishing houses. That emphasis we are making on the curation is more important. And this part with the preprints part is another one wherein that will help people to come out more like meaningful conversation should be happening with the advent of new technologies in the web. So the communication tools we have earlier the communication was very like you had to write a mail or surface normal poster to the mail. It has come, but now it is real time conversations happening and the two like at any corner of the world you can connect and then comment on it. So that is the beauty part of this public peer review or the open peer review kind of thing happening. And that too for the benefit of the article itself, the benefit of the research work you have done. So that will help us. If somebody comments on my work for the improvement I should always welcome it and I should be able to answer those questions raised by it. So that will help me in progressing in a more proper way. And that part like the general publication is and other part which is taking care. So this area needs to be nourished. And then the research assessment agencies or the managers or the University officials, the institutional selves which are working on the research assessment should take care of this part. And the authors also need to be sensitized. Sharing is more caring and this kind of approach will help. They’re only more helpful than harm. 

Jo: I totally agree with that. And I think we’re also looking towards a bright future once we align the workflows and embed independent preprint dissemination into all kinds of publisher and Journal based workflows. How do you see open access or the scholarly ecosystem? You mentioned a research association in India. So is there a level of conversation and in terms of interoperability, where really collaboration on institutional levels that you see happening, where there’s increasing conversations also around open access and novel publishing pathways, is there?

Sridhar: If I talk about the Indian situation, the open access means more article processing charges. So when they equate that to see, whenever we say open access, they say APCs and we cannot afford to pay huge APCs. The moment is like getting diluted because of the high processing charges being levied by the Journals for it to open. I see that many people are going towards it by paying huge APCs, but only because the prestige is attached to that, the impact factor or to say that my paper is in this Journal for the assessment or the promotions. So if that is the criteria that you should publish in those high impact factor Journals and when the researcher wants to be publishing in a very short time. So the only way is, open access may be paying the heavy APCs. So not all are going to get the chance. So whoever gets the chance to pay for getting a fund for that. So they’re well off. Others are still waiting for the traditional publication to happen, waiting for six months to a year for it to come and show light. The one problem which we are facing is that open access is being equated to high APCs. 

Jo: Yeah. It’s also what I hear, like in Europe, and when I give courses in Germany or in other European countries, when I mention open access, people either say, oh, that’s too expensive for us, or they say, yeah, the library covers that. So of course I publish open access as if it’s only about the money. And then I usually introduce them to the DORA directory of open access journals and point out how many explicitly non predatory journals there are in a certain niche of research, like in a certain discipline. So I let them search for journals in their scope of expertise if they work on climate change, and then what particular aspect of climate change? And there are usually at least ten, usually 20 or 30 or 50 journals they can choose from, and only one or two of them have high MPCs. Usually the MPCs are zero or just a couple of hundred euros or dollars. And that’s when I see, oh, I didn’t know this. And that’s so unfortunate. Like anywhere in the world, that open access is now a synonym to expensive publishing. And that’s really not what it should be or what it is actually just a matter of raising awareness. And that’s also where I see my role as a consultant and trainer for open science or science communication generally to point out the alternatives and the options that each of us has and making an informed decision where to publish. And then the other thing that I usually point out is DORA. As of DORA, the Declaration on Research Assessment; Is that also a problem in India that your career depends on where you publish instead of what you publish? Because it’s unfortunate as you know, it’s like the biggest misconception in academia these days or misconception misbehavior really, like It’s more important that you publish in a prestigious Journal rather than making sure that your research is being accessible. But like you said in the beginning of our conversation, like you said, the research that we share and disseminate should be accessible by the people we want to reach with our information. 

Sridhar: Yes, that’s true. In India there is a scorecard system. If you publish in these journals you’ll get some marks. They will not look at your work. They will not read your paper just because you’re publishing in a Journal. That Journal will be given one ranking number. That ranking number will be multiplied with some formula and that will give you weightage to your paper. So just merely publishing in a Journal, having a supposed rating of six means it is having a 0.001 impact factor. So they will add six to that. So 6.001. So when you publish into that Journal your article gets some marks based on some formula. So I wonder why this has to be like this. The research assessment agencies should ask you to submit some papers of your choice and then they should go through it instead of subjective. So they don’t want to go and be subject to things. They want to be very objective. If you publish in this Journal you’ll get these marks because to screen large people very swiftly they are opting this way. So some are okay with this, some are against, some have no opinion. But if you ask me, at least for the papers, research work should not bear this kind of a mark. It should be more subjective. So the committee should look at your paper and then give promotion marks for that, not just publishing in a Journal. And this is still when this DORA Declaration is also there. Not many of the people have signed to that as agencies individually, everybody wants. You can see so many Indians have signed to that. But the organizations which are funding or which are into the assessment, they have not taken any initiative to look at those things. Still the reforms and research assessment has to be like we have to change a lot into that. Still only their web of science and scopus only rules. Okay, they are the largest databases. But you should not say that just publishing in those indexed journals only has prestige so that tag should not be attached to that. The author is free to publish anywhere as per his choice. But you are making them to publish only in this Journal. I’ll give one example. Starting, I said when I joined, we started one Journal. That Journal was the first in the medicinal plants. That is the first open access Journal and it is indexed by scopus. But research is happening on medicinal plants. But no author is submitting to that Journal. Why? Because it is rated very low. Reasons?

As for their criteria, it is a low rating. So even after reviewing, those authors are retracting, taking the article back and publishing another place. In 2019, no issue has come up and scopus is asking us when the new issue will come because authors are not submitting. So no issues are coming. Authors want to publish, but they have to look for a place which will help them in promotions. So the mere work is now only for the promotions, not for the research communications. I feel this. Maybe I should correct myself in the future when I see people are saying no, my research is not for promotion, my research is for public good. 

Jo: Yeah, unfortunately that’s what I hear when I ask and also give courses on scientific writing. When I ask the PhD students, especially the second and third year, why we talk about, why we write articles, why do we communicate in a PDF kind of manner? Why do we write research articles? They literally often tell me, I need this to graduate. I have to publish articles to graduate. In their mind, it’s not at a certain stage, they lose the idea. Of course we want to communicate what we found in our research. They only see I have to do this, otherwise I won’t get my title seriously. And that’s when I go like, okay, now can you try again? Because the first try wasn’t really good and it’s unfortunate to see that already. I’m at this early career stage that the only reason to write an article is first of all, I have to do this. I’m being told to do this, but they don’t see the value of sharing their work. Maybe they also feel insecure about it. They don’t feel it’s good enough to share at this stage, but they have to grade them. So I can see that there’s all kinds of components that come into this notion. But I wish for a world where PhD students or any research of any career stage feels happy and motivated to share their results, especially also their negative results or unexpected results. But people have become so shy or reluctant and they have to strive for prestigious journals in order to be able to pursue their careers. It’s really sad. Sometimes it feels as if research has lost its flavor or the beauty that it normally has. I think when we started, I’ve also met and I know a couple of researchers who have this passion for the research topic they’re studying and they don’t bother so much about the publishing aspects. They’re also happy to share, but they don’t bother so much. I think at some stage once you achieve a certain rank, then you don’t have to bother so much anymore. But the prestige part of where you publish and that’s when you can then sit back and enjoy your research again. Question is, when will this be in your career and can we not do both? Not the prestige part, but can we not be happy as researchers and happily share what we find because everybody wins in sharing? Sharing is caring, but also sharing is also receiving because that opens the opportunity for collaboration. There are many examples through open access where researchers gain better results because some other researchers added a data set to the study and they had a better result as a consequence by combining their findings. So when did we lose track of these opportunities that the research exercise provides? I don’t know if we really lost it, but I like to remind people that there’s also that aspect of science. 

Sridhar: Now, one journal was there. Now it is no more on site. It still exists, but it’s no more on site. It was published very quickly. You submit today in two to three days. It is online and the researcher is in a hurry to submit his thesis and they are looking for a place where to publish because they require two papers to be published before submission. So they were going after those so called predatory journals or questionable journals that can be avoided if you institutionalize these preprint repositories like submission to the preprint that will help. If they take out this one rule that you should publish before submission, then we can see a good number of publications happening because they are not in a hurry. They will do that by writing an article, it takes a lot of time. So you should not be in a hurry to write. I’ve seen some submissions to a Journal, which I also look after as a manager of this open access software and all these things. So some people do what they do for this PSD, they just copy the materials and methods and all these things and make it some kind of review. And I see different formats. The texts are also different because they were in a hurry to submit. So maybe they require more training or more institutionalization of how to write papers in a more meaningful way. So that capacity building needs to be inculcated. So our University grant Commission, UGC, has made it mandatory to have some courses on science communication. Still, this part is lacking in many of the universities where they don’t follow this UGC pattern. So that capacity building needs to be done. 

Jo: Yeah, I think all around the world there’s a need for that. If we just briefly talk about predatory journals, because this term I try and avoid the term as much as I can because I feel it’s being heavily misused, because journalists that are being labeled as predatory, are often highly dedicated, editorial teams who are heavily underfunded and they don’t have the capacity for what some prestigious libraries might consider Journal editorial teams might consider as good publishing practice, but it’s still decent, like in many cases where they just don’t comply with certain policies of providing peer review. Of course, there’s also like we’ve seen this Journal who are on the market just for the money. Then I’m just putting this out there without mentioning a name. Like what’s meant when we talk about predatory journals is that there is a claim for an exorbitant fee for very little or no services that the journalist is expected to conduct. So why is it now possible for certain journals who are very much prestigious and have crazy APC’s article processing charges? And then I don’t want to put a number to this, but they’re rather frequently found to not do a proper peer review or not even do it themselves, but coordinate peer review properly. And why are those not then labeled also as predatory? I’m just putting this out here. Whereas smaller teams and when running a Journal in a heavily underfunded research Institute often means that you have one maximum two people in the editorial process who do the best they can in providing a platform for research dissemination, as we just discussed, like people do research, it needs to get out to the world. I mean, why else would the taxpayers spend their money on some people being researchers and doing the work and then they’re being called predatory just because they only provide or can organize one of two peer reviews or none, but still the work would be valid research and rigorous anyway. So what I’m saying is I feel the term predatory Journal publishing is often used without really looking behind the curtains at what we are calling out. So therefore, yes, of course, we need quality standards also on the publishing process on a service level. And yet again, also here, can we ask for the purpose? Why are we doing this? And do we really need a certain level of, I don’t know, bureaucracy where the work is done with less investments and less human resource, as in personal. And still there is good quality as a result in research output. And the purpose is to disseminate the research in the first place and then the assessment can be done at the tutorial level. Yes. And if we follow the preprint approach also by the broader research community, and then it’s post submission moderation or post submission assessment, and that can also be a model to pursue as long as the research gets out to the public or to other stakeholders. That’s just my view. 

Sridhar: Yeah, correct. What you said is correct. There is like the yardstick which they look at and then label it as a predatory, or we call it as questionable publishers. So it is different. What you said is correct. And many of those good journals are also labeled as predatory. This cost cutting things can be done through the software but people have to read. Some are sitting nights together rewriting the submissions because they don’t want to lose the work because not all are good communicators. So when they write a paper, maybe it is giving something other meaning. So they will try to write a free entry and then talk to the author and know what they meant and then they do. So some journals are doing that and it is taking a long time to get those articles published and then because it is taking time and some say it takes too long to publish so we have to go together. That’s why this preprint is an important thing where you can date stamp it, get a priority of your work and then you wait for the publication to happen. And as you said the DOAJ not many refers to that. Somebody sent me a message. Can you suggest a good Journal? I just referred to the DOAJ. But in India also we have the University Grants Commission that has put up a curated list. They only talk about the web of science and scopus. They left DOAJ. There are two lists. One list is being curated by the UGC appointed designated center and another list is directly taken from the web of science and scopus. So we were asking them, the DOAJ should also be included because not all journals are indexed altogether in all these three. Some are only indexed in divergence, some are in the web of science only. Some are in scopus. At times there are some journals which are in all these places. But a Journal which is not there in the web of science and scopus should not be left out because DOAJ does this curation of bringing quality into that and showing to the world that these are authority to listed journals and dynamic. Again, some get into that, some will be coached to change their policies or work as per transparency and guideline ethics. And it’s like some societies which are not having any experience on running a Journal need to be given support to publish and  how to get into the publications process. So that also needs to be like every actor needs to be given an importance and then needs to be given capacity building chances. I wish that journals looking to excel should look up these kinds of things.

Jo: I think so. That reminds me of COPE, the Committee on Publication Ethics which I think postulated policies and standards for good scientific publishing. And I wanted to ask, in Africa we have African journals online as a database of the African owned journals. I just found, which seems to be a corporate platform. But are there other databases where Indian researchers can find Indian journals? 

Sridhar: What happened is when this open access moment or the online journals were coming up, came forward to say we would like to give a platform for the society journals, which I said in India there are many societies which run journals. So because they are only print only, they said we will give a platform online and your journals get visible. So many people have embraced that platform and many out there and the contract is being renewed by various journals who don’t have a management because I said some of the journals don’t have a dedicated staff. The people who are working have to take some time for this Journal. So they are relying on them and the manuscript submission and then all other editorial processes, type setting and getting devices and all those things. Asian journals, there were earlier Nepal journals, African journals, but Indian journals as such there are no but I will say from agriculture, our Council, ICR has put up a one platform using OJS and on that around 100 journals are hosted on that. So that is for agriculture only, for agriculture published by the societies and the universities. It is on OJS. But not all are on the open access journals and not many are indexed in DYJ. So we are now working with them to do the process of submission to the DYJ and getting devices and how they can archive their metadata in the cross reference and then how they can change the policies from closed access to open access. So what licensing they should be adopting. So that we are thinking and probably in a couple of months we’ll be having one workshop on that for those journals which are hosted by ICR platform. 

Jo: Yeah, sounds good. 

Sridhar: And I would like to add that AmeliCA has come up with a non commercial publishing software where XML is being used to tag the word documents and make other format HTML, PDF or XML itself or other epubs. So that also if we integrate the societies takes that onto their board and gets trained on that. So the type setting and all these things will be made easy. And some of the universities have made a Latek software for thesis formatting. So if they also come up with a late format for the journals, also if they are publishing those if they publish. But if they do it. So all this can be automated and only the editorial team can for concentrate on the content rather than the type set or layout. 

Jo: Yeah, exactly. I also personally just learned about this last year, to be honest, that for some reason I haven’t asked myself but very much knowing that the PDF format is not necessarily machine readable or it’s actually not accessible for machine reading and it’s not applicable for machine reading. So I wasn’t aware of the XML format and it’s so easy to add. So this is also something that we want to embed in our workflow with Africarchive to either ask the authors to submit the manuscripts and data sets in XML additionally to the PDF format or we convert it for them or both, I mean, whichever is easiest and quickest. It’s an extra step, but it improves research integrity on so many levels. I agree. Thanks for pointing this out and thanks AmeliCA our friends in Latin America for pushing the narrative and the urgency on this. 

Sridhar: Yes

Jo: Great. One last question I wanted to ask you. Obviously English is like the former colonial language in India, but you have many languages Besides English that people and also researchers speak. So does India archive having much language  or work in languages other than English or also more generally in the Indian scholarly ecosystem? Is non English publishing a thing like is it common to publish? 

Sridhar: Yes, we intend to be multilingual and like all languages, anyone who writes any article in any language will be accepted and we are recruiting those volunteers or the staging committee is from different language backgrounds so they can read what the article is written in which language. And I’ll say that in DOAJ, I did check it, but one Hindi Journal is also indexed in DOAJ. And I’m seeing there are a couple of journals. Not a couple, a good number of journals are in Hindi language as well. So apart from English only, Hindi, not other languages come up because the audience, if it will be limited when these authors are writing for the other people to read, maybe for the citation or for any other purpose. So they would like to write in English only, but being a non native English Speaker. So we have a problem in writing in good English, so that needs to be sent to a copy editing before it is finally published. So some journals do that one. Maybe also they incur for that it’s copying. Also, it takes a lot of money for that. 

Jo: Yeah, I bet. And also I just want to highlight also on this opportunity to share in this episode that in my experience and also probably also aware that much research is very much cultural contextualized. And then you use certain words and phrases in your own language, in the cultural settings language which can often not be translated to English. And I think the same is also true for the many Englishs that are spoken around the world, namely Australian, British, Scottish, Canadian, South African, you name it. There are many variants of English. And what I heard also from native English speakers in my scientific writing course is that the technical English that is becoming mainstream nowadays, especially in the life Sciences publishing has nothing to do with the spoken English or the narrative English that you would read in prose and novels. So it’s basically stripped off its cultural context, which in some disciplines I would think is a danger to science communication because many scientific topics are very much culturally contextualized. Okay. It’s a big train of thought, but maybe for another episode.

Sridhar:  Here I would like to mention that recently there were some prizes given to PhD researchers. The government of India has asked the researchers to write a story out of your research work. It’s a big huge prize money, one lakh rupees kind of thing like that. So many entries were there and few were given the highest prices and they were written in another language. Also the technical article thesis language or the Journal language has been changed to Hindi or the norm, soft spoken or understandable English in a story wise narratives have been changed. So that is a new thing and maybe all will be following it. See, technical one thing, not many will be understanding it and you will get more people who like to translate your work into the stories. But as the author, as a researcher, you should be able to do better. So you should also look at the audience which are not technical as fellow researchers, but other general public who are looking forward to consuming the information which is available. Because now everybody has digital gadgets in their hands and some on the other hand will be searching, browsing. If your research is being read, written in a good, meaningful or understandable sense, normal English or the language of your mother tongue or a popular language of your region that will help the people to know what kind of research is happening and they would like to know. Myths can be taken away. More signs can be built when you communicate properly to the people. 

Jo: Yeah, I think that’s also an unfortunate development that especially in the life Sciences that some researchers think scientific writing is only good if it’s very technical and doesn’t use much scientific style or writing style. I think the opposite of this. The case which is also being shared by other scientific writing trainers. I’m not alone with this perception that scientific writing has a purpose in itself in making research results. Sharing research results with other people. Yes, other researchers primarily, but not only researchers who are not in the same laboratory with you will appreciate us in using rich language, be it English, German, Hindi or whichever language, but to make it comprehensible and to embed it also on the culture that language transmits so that we can understand what the research is actually about. And I love that. The fact that in India you also have an incentive for researchers to make their work understood by scientists. And with Africarchive we are working with an organization called Masakana and another one called Linksys, a science communication organization in South Africa and then a company that specializes in translation from English to many traditional African languages. And there we thought we would translate research articles one on one from one language, from English to a traditional African language. Turns out that’s not possible because the terms are so specific. So we did what you just said. The price call for submissions also suggested that we have science communicators to translate the research into lay summary or next standard lay summary to contextualize it and to make it comprehensible. And then we translate that into the African language. And that’s much easier and also more useful in the first time. So that’s a fun experience. And maybe this is something also. This is basically also what preprint repositories can serve and foster towards multilingualism and research, especially anywhere in the world, really, but especially in countries and regions where there are so many languages spoken. Because again, what’s the purpose of research and research communication if only a small number of individuals can actually understand and read the outcome? Or on a more positive end, everybody wins if we make our work accessible not only through Open Access, but also through translations.

Sridhar: Yes. And there should be a license for the translation in the sense that the translator need not to always approach you. So under Open Access, it’s already been granted for any translation. So that will take care of it. 

Jo: Yeah. So that’s important to have CC by only and not any other CC by something license or some people apply CC By Nd, not derivatives, which would exclude translations. So then we cannot without asking for translation of your work. But you see, buy only would be perfect for that. And that was commonly applied to Open Access publishing.

Sridhar: Yeah. India Archive doesn’t go for the CC buy. It is with the non commercial share alike to start with this. Probably we can move to CC buy, but initially when Agric Archive was started, we went with the CC by itself. That was the default. And now just to bring more people on board. So they may think that my work is being commercially used by others. So there are some questions raised by others, like why does somebody mean money with my research if I license on the CC by, somebody is getting monetization of my work. So that is happening. So I don’t want to go. So to have those people also be on board. So we have gone for this non commercial and share alike. But we all know that that is not the Open. The Open is only on the top. That is CC by. 

Jo: Yeah. But sharelike, is also problematic for translations. Or maybe it’s not, unless sharelike only refers to the license. Right. But noncommercial means especially for translations, because then you actually need translators who are already underpaid professionals and then they cannot make money with the translational work they do on a manuscript.

So the ecosystem keeps evolving. We’re making progress with Open Access and Open Science more generally. I would like to and also to give you again the opportunity to share any final remarks. And you are most welcome to come again. And maybe, I don’t know, in a couple of weeks or months. We have another topic to discuss here. So thank you so much for joining me. Today and anything else you want to have mentioned before we end.

Sridhar: I only want the listeners or those  attending who will be getting the opportunity to hear this conversation to think more on how to open the access. There are ways and means for your promotions. You can publish it anywhere because you are the best judge of where to publish but think how it can be made open so that only more good will happen to you, not any harm. So the researchers should be like they themselves make aware how good it will be if it is open. And then I wish that the India Archive will be populated more with multi language articles and that will be the one stop portal of the Indian research which we aim for to make it developed to the world and the young researchers will embrace this platform and submit their articles to this. So this is what I just wanted to say.

Jo: Thank you so much and speak to you soon again. 

Sridhar: Yes. Thank you very much. Bye.

References (related research articles)