Indonesian scientists embrace preprint server

The site’s creators want to open up the country's science to a wider audience.

A preprint server that focuses exclusively on Indonesian research passed a milestone on Friday when the number of papers posted on it reached 1,500. INA-Rxiv is one of the first preprint repositories to specialize in the work of a single country.

"I didn't think it would be this huge in such a short period of time," says hydrogeologist Dasapta Erwin Irawan, one of the people who helped to create INA-Rxiv, which launched in August.

Most preprint servers focus on particular academic disciplines, including the original arXiv, which covers physics and mathematics. The four researchers who developed INA-Rxiv built it to draw attention to Indonesian research, which they felt was going unnoticed by the international science community. “I want people to understand that in Indonesia, we can produce original research and papers just like other countries,” says Irawan, who is based at the Bandung Institute of Technology Indonesia.

The server hosts manuscripts in multiple disciplines — most in the natural sciences, followed by engineering, social and behavioral sciences and arts and humanities; and accepts material written in Bahasa Indonesian and English. It operates in partnership with the Open Science Framework, a service from the non-profit Center for Open Science in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Computer scientist Robbi Rahim at Indonesia’s Medan Institute of Technology has uploaded 26 manuscripts. An article he submitted, about multimedia learning in mathematics and written in Bahasa, has been downloaded 330 times. Rahim says that the preprint server helps his research reach a bigger audience, because he can upload articles in both languages.

Government assessment

Irawan says that some Indonesian scientists seem to be using INA-Rxiv to boost their chances of having their papers included in the government’s new research-evaluation system.

In January 2017, the Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education of the Republic of Indonesia in Jakarta launched the Science and Technology Index (SINTA), which ranks researchers and institutions by various metrics, such as number of peer-reviewed papers and citations in national and international journals indexed by citation databases, including Scopus and Web of Science. It also includes papers indexed by Google Scholar.

The ministry says that SINTA measures researchers’ publication productivity, and will be used to inform future promotions for government-supported scientists and funding decisions.

But Irawan says SINTA does not index many open-access Bahasa-language journals, which disadvantages academics who use them, particularly those researchers who struggle to write English well enough to publish in international titles.

Irawan says some researchers seem to use INA-Rxiv to get around SINTA's limitation. That's because articles on the preprint server are automatically indexed on Google Scholar, which is recognized by SINTA.

Nuning Kurniasih, a researcher in library and information science at Padjadjaran University in Bandung, says INA-Rxiv manuscripts also appear on a researcher's SINTA profile much faster than articles submitted to journals indexed on Scopus and Web of Science.

Sadjuga, the research ministry's director for intellectual-property management in Jakarta, told Nature that he had not heard of INA-Rxiv, but that some Bahasa open-access publications are indexed in SINTA. The ministry is grading hundreds more for possible inclusion in the database, he says.

Research quality

Irawan says there’s some risk that INA-Rxiv could be flooded with low-quality manuscripts by researchers eager to take advantage of the Google Scholar indexing, but there are no plans to screen submissions to regulate quality.

Although scientists have embraced INA-Rxiv, some question whether it will have an impact on the country's research. Psychology researcher Dicky Pelupessy of the University of Indonesia in Depok says that research quality is one of the reasons Indonesian scientists struggle to get their research read and cited internationally. “It will take a lot more than a preprint server to address that,” he says.

The bigger problem is the lack of government support for researchers to improve their research skills, and few services to help scientists to improve their English, he says.

Nature 553, 139 (2018)

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