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?Debemos los investigadores tropicales entrar al racista "Club de los Millonarios"?

Letters from your editor

Should tropical researchers enter the racist "Millionaire's Club"?

Uno de mis profesores de entomologia, autoridad mundialmente reconocida, me conto hace unos anos que tan pronto se graduo de una Universidad de los Estados Unidos y su direccion institucional paso a ser "Universidad de Costa Rica", las puertas de algunas revistas del primer mundo se le cerraron, no porque los revisores hallaran algun problema grave con sus manuscritos, sino porque los editores los rechazaban ad portas si venian de America Latina.

Por mi parte, siempre me habia sentido bien tratado por los editores de revistas europeas y estadounidenses, pero no hace mucho vivi en carne propia ese prejuicio en una de las revistas mas prestigiosas del mundo. Los tres revisores fueron muy favorables al manuscrito, pero sorprendentemente el editor me envio una respuesta hostil. Mi impresion es que no queria publicar el trabajo, solo que no le quedo alternativa dadas las evaluaciones de los arbitros; y sospecho que la razon de esa hostilidad fue que los autores eramos mayoritariamente latinoamericanos.

Existe, entre algunos cientificos y editores de paises con gran produccion de revistas, la impresion de que la ciencia proveniente de regiones tropicales debe verse con desconfianza. Dele un vistazo a la seccion de noticias cientificas de grandes medios y quedara con la impresion de que la ciencia importante solo se hace en EEUU y Europa Occidental, y ademas que la hacen fundamentalmente hombres blancos (esto lleva decadas sin cambiar, ver: Monge-Najera, 2002). El prejuicio puede ser aun mas firme y claro, en palabras de un editor de la renombrada New England Journal of Medicine, "en el Tercer Mundo no existe la ciencia" (Gibbs, 1995).

Varias colegas malacologas me comentaban que tras intentar en una importante revista inglesa, se habian sentido doblemente discriminadas, por ser "tercermundistas" y por ser mujeres. Enviar manuscritos alli es, en su experiencia, una perdida de tiempo y un golpe para la autoconfianza de quienes creen que el contenido de los articulos es lo unico que pesara en la decision editorial.

Tiempo despues converse con el presidente de una de las Royal Societies, quien tenia la misma mala impresion de la ciencia latinoamericana. Le comente que en el tropico en general -y en America Latina en particular- tenemos algunos de los mejores cientificos del mundo, y que es injusto que nos juzguen a todos como si fueramos un grupo homogeneo, a lo cual acabo dandome la razon pero insistiendo en que aqui se produce mucho trabajo de baja calidad, a lo cual yo tambien debi darle la razon.

El mismo fenomeno de prejuicio existio con la ciencia australiana, siempre considerada inferior a la britanica (Newland, 1991), aunque hoy dia es respetada; con el tiempo ocurrira lo mismo con los paises de Asia, Africa y America Latina, pero mientras llega ese dia, los cientificos tropicales tenemos dos opciones basicas. Una es intentar entrar "al club de los millonarios", como lo llamo hace muchos anos una caricatura de New Scientist; pero les advierto que en muchas de esas revistas existe un desinteres justificado y natural en los temas tropicales, tan ajenos a Londres, Washington o Berlin. La otra opcion es apoyar el desarrollo de revistas propias y de buena calidad en los paises tropicales, opcion que tiene ventajas eticas y practicas. Eticas por ayudar a la conservacion de la espectacular biodiversidad tropical y al bienestar de los pueblos que viven en medio de ella. Y practicas porque entre nosotros mismos hallaremos a los lectores mas interesados en estos temas. Actualmente se esta dando una mejora acelerada en la cantidad y calidad de la ciencia local de los tropicos (e.g. Monge-Najera y Ho, 2017a, 2017b).

En este sentido debemos reconocer y valorar los aportes de organizaciones como SCIELO, REDALYC y Latindex para elevar el nivel de todas las revistas de la region. Es fundamental que nuestras revistas funcionen con los mas altos estandares, no solo en el contenido de los articulos, sino en el procesamiento de los manuscritos y la atencion a los autores y lectores.

Tal vez el racismo cientifico tarde mucho en desaparecer, pero pronto no importara que las revistas europeas y estadounidenses nos discriminen, en el futuro nuestras revistas seran tan prestigiosas como las de ellos, y nuestra ciencia sea tan independiente y buena como la mejor del mundo. Ya estamos circulando por el sendero que lleva a esa meta, y aunque nosotros no llegaremos, lo haran nuestros alumnos, o los alumnos de nuestros alumnos. Es, unicamente, cuestion de tiempo.

Agradezco a Jose Vargas Z. y Francisco Hernandez Ch. sus sugerencias para mejorar esta carta.

REFERENCIAS

Gibbs, W. W. (1995). Lost science in the tropics. American Scientist (August), 76-83.

Monge-Najera, J. (2002). How to be a tropical scientist. Revista de Biologia Tropical, 50(3-4), xix-xxiii.

Monge-Najera, J., & Ho, Y. S. (2017a). Bibliometrics of Nicaraguan publications in the Science Citation Index Expanded. Revista de Biologia Tropical, 65(2), 643-655.

Monge-Najera, J., & Ho, Y. S. (2017b). Honduras publications in the Science Citation Index Expanded: institutions, fields and authors. Revista de Biologia Tropical, 65(2), 657-668.

Newland, E. D. (1991). George Bennett and Sir Richard Owen: A case study of the colonization of early Australian science (pp.55-74). In R.W. Home & S. G. Kohlstedt (Eds.), International science and national scientific identity. Dordrecht, Holanda: Kluwer Academic.

Julian Monge-Najera

Director

Revista de Biologia Tropical / International Journal of Tropical Biology and Conservation University of Costa Rica, 2060 San Jose, Costa Rica, julian.monge@ucr.ac.cr

One of my entomology professors, a world-renowned authority, told me a few years ago that as soon as he graduated from a University in the United States and his institutional address became "University of Costa Rica", some leading journals closed the doors for him, not because the reviewers found any problems with his manuscripts, but because the editors rejected them ad portas if they came from Latin America.

In my personal experience, I felt well treated by the editors of European and American journals until a couple years ago, when I experienced the prejudice of what some consider the most prestigious scientific journal. The three reviewers were very favorable to the manuscript, but the editor sent me a hostile response; I felt he published it because he had no alternative in view of the referees' evaluations, and I suspect that the reason for his hostility was that most co-authors were from Latin American.

Some scientists and editors from powerful countries believe that science from tropical regions must be viewed with distrust. Take a look at the science news section of major media and you will get the impression that important science is only made in the US and Western Europe, and also that it is mainly made by white men (this has not changed for decades, see: Monge- Najera, 2002). The prejudice can be absolute: in the words of an editor of the renowned New England Journal of Medicine, "in the Third World there is no science" (Gibbs, 1995).

A couple colleagues recently told me that, after trying in an important British malacological journal, they felt doubly discriminated, for being "third-world authors" and for being women. Their impression was that submitting there was a waste of time and a blow to the self-confidence of those who believe that article quality is the only thing that will affect an editorial decision.

The president of one of the Royal Societies shared the same bad impression of Latin American science. I told him that the tropics in general, and Latin America in particular, has some of the best scientists in the world, and that it is unfair when we are all judged as a homogeneous group. He agreed but insisted that much low quality work is produced in the tropics (and on that I had to agree with him).

The same prejudice affected Australian science, long considered inferior to British science, but over time it achieved international recognition, a phenomenon that has been studied in detail by Newland (1991). The same will happen with countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, but until then, tropical scientists have two basic options. One is trying to become members of "the Millionaire's Club" (a concept I remember from a cartoon in an old New Scientist); but my warning to them is this: in many of these journals there is a justified and natural disinterest in tropical subjects, so foreign to London, Washington or Berlin.

The other option is to support the development of good quality journals in tropical countries, an option that has ethical and practical advantages. On the one hand, ethical, because you will be supporting conservation of the spectacular tropical biodiversity and the welfare of the people who live among it. On the other hand, practical advantages, because it is among ourselves that we will find the most interested readers. Furthermore, there is an accelerated improvement in the quantity and quality of local science in the tropics (e.g. Monge-Najera and Ho, 2017a, 2017b).

We must recognize and value the efforts of organizations such as SCIELO, REDALYC and Latindex, which are helping raise the quality of many journals in the region. It is essential that our journals keep the highest standards, not only in the content of the articles themselves, but also in manuscript processing and service to authors and readers.

Maybe scientific racism will take a long time to disappear, but soon it will not matter if the great European and American journals discriminate against tropical authors: the day will come when our journals will be as prestigious as theirs, and our science will be as independent and good as the best in the world. We are already travelling along that path, and although we will not arrive, our students, or their students, certainly will: it is only a matter of time.

I thank Jose Vargas Z. and Francisco Hernandez Ch. for their suggestions to improve this letter.

REFERENCES

Gibbs, W. W. (1995). Lost science in the tropics. American Scientist (August), 76-83.

Monge-Najera, J. (2002). How to be a tropical scientist. Revista de Biologia Tropical, 50(3-4), xix-xxiii.

Monge-Najera, J., & Ho, Y. S. (2017a). Bibliometrics of Nicaraguan publications in the Science Citation Index Expanded. Revista de Biologia Tropical, 65(2), 643-655.

Monge-Najera, J., & Ho, Y. S. (2017b). Honduras publications in the Science Citation Index Expanded: institutions, fields and authors. Revista de Biologia Tropical, 65(2), 657-668.

Newland, E. D. (1991). George Bennett and Sir Richard Owen: A case study of the colonization of early Australian science (pp.55-74). In R.W. Home & S. G. Kohlstedt (Eds.), International science and national scientific identity. Dordrecht, Holanda: Kluwer Academic.

Julian Monge-Najera

Director

Revista de Biologia Tropical / International Journal of Tropical Biology and Conservation University of Costa Rica, 2060 San Jose, Costa Rica, julian.monge@ucr.ac.cr
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Title Annotation:Cartas de su editor
Author:Monge-Najera, Julian
Publication:Revista de Biologia Tropical
Date:Jun 1, 2018
Words:1881
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