Monday, 16 June 2008

Simple rules for pacific science

PLOS Computational Biology has been publishing a number of papers in its "Ten Simple Rules" series. They've published well-written, practical advice on (among others) reviewing papers, getting published, and graduate research positions. One of their latest "Ten Simple Rules for Aspiring Scientists in a Low-Income Country" is particularly pertinent for scientists originating (or hoping to work) in the Pacific Islands. There's a bunch of good advice in it and it is well worth a read. Two important points stood out for me in particular.

Rule 1: Understand Your Country - "...researchers have to enjoy the idiosyncrasies of their country, and cultivate the desire to contribute to the scientific development of their homeland and to the well-being of its people."

This applies not only to those researchers who are originally from the Pacific, but also those of us from elsewhere who hope to work there extensively in the future.

The second point I thought particularly relevant:
Rule 7: Write Research Grants and Publish in International Journals

From my limited contact with scientists in Pacific Island nations, I feel that a lack of research funds, and a low publication rate double-team on them to prevent them being as effective as they can be. Rightly or wrongly, publication rates build reputations and create further opportunities for more funding. More importantly though, is that it is the key way scientific knowledge is disseminated, and the valuable research that those researchers in the Pacific are doing needs to be put out there.

I think that it is a shame that most papers of relevance to the South Pacific have foreign researchers as the lead authors, and resident scientists being one of many names following. Even worse is when none of the authors are from the country in question. It is excellent that collaboarations are being made, and research is being done. I think it would be even better if more Pacific Island scientists started publishing their own research.

The reasons why papers aren't published will be legion, and these factors should be discovered and mitigated. A few suggestions are offering statistical help, providing editorial services, or by being inspired by email mailing lists or discussion groups.

All in all, I found these "10 simple rules" to be on the mark and feel that it is required reading for researchers who live and/or work in the Pacific and other developing nations.