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[BEIJING] The Chinese government has launched a campaign to encourage Chinese researchers to publish their results in domestic — rather than international — journals, and to place their results in free archives.

"We will gradually encuorage scientists publish research that is funded by the government agencies in leading domestic journals," said Wu Bo'er, director of the Department of Facilities and Financial Support of the Ministry of Science and Technology, at a meeting this week (5 December).

At the heart of the campaign is a new fund that will provide financial support to between 300 and 500 of the country's 5,000 scientific journals.

The money, whose total amount has yet to be announced, is intended to help the journals improve their editorial and print quality. Some journals will be encouraged to publish in English.

Wu told SciDev.Net that, at least initially, scientists would not be required to publish their work domestically.

"But we plan to stipulate that papers published in the leading domestic journals should result in the same rewards as those published in leading internationally journals," Wu said.

At present, papers published by Chinese researchers in journals quoted in the Science Citation Index can bring substantial rewards, such as professorships, research grants and even housing. This has encouraged Chinese scientists to publish their results in foreign journals.

To reverse the trend, Wu told SciDev.Net that Chinese scientists may eventually be required to publish their work domestically first.

This will happen when the main public research funding agencies — such as the ministries of health, information technologies, and education, the National Natural Science Foundation, and the National Development and Reform Commission — are better coordinated. Wu did not say when this was likely to happen.

Yu Zailin of Peking University disagrees with the proposed policy to discourage publishing in international journals, saying it would impede academic progress. He suggests that instead, Chinese scientists could be asked to write a Chinese paper to be published simultaneously or shortly after their foreign publication.

"This way, we can harmonise international academic exchange and domestic academic progress," he says.

Wang Li, chief editor of Changchun-based Journal of Jilin University, raises another concern. While she accepts that the government's campaign may help to strengthen the country's leading journals, she warns that it could have a less beneficial impact on other scientific publications.

"If all Chinese researchers are encouraged to submit their papers to the leading journals, the middle and small-level domestic ones could suffer," says Wang.

The government will also fund an online database of the full text of all papers published in journals selected to receive financial support. Both researchers and the public will have access to the database.

"At present, when the results of government-funded research is published in foreign journals, Chinese researchers often have to pay reviewing fees for their papers to be published in these journals," says Wu.

"After that, China's institutes and other researchers have to spend more than 100 million yuan (US$12.4 million) each year to buy these foreign journals," she says.

Wu confidently predicts that domestic publication will not reduce the international reputations of Chinese scientists, "as our journals will become more and more internationally famous".