By Arshad Yousafzai
Welcome to Ancient Punjab — a research journal of being published by the Department of Archaeology, University of the Punjab. As the “ancient” in the journal’s name suggests, the authors and editors of the journal must be digging the history and archaeology to uncover hidden facts of Punjab, however, interestingly, many papers in the journal have cited papers, articles, and documents, which were produced years after the publication of the those papers.
Interestingly, by this year, the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan has recognised the said journal in its “Y” category despite it having serious ethical flaws. The journal’s editor, however, accepts that he has published the online issues to fulfill requirement of the HEC Journal Recognition System (HJRS) and its revised policy framework being implemented from July 2020.
The journal, as per Ancient Punjab website, intends to provide a “plate form” to the academic research going in the field of archaeology, pre and proto-history of Pakistan, ancient history, among other related fields. It further says: “The research through this journal will be promoted and circulated at National and International Level”.
If the journal was disseminated globally as it is already available online and the international researchers find that some papers published in 2016, 17, and 18 in several issues of the journal had cited articles which appeared in 2019 and 2020, they would surely be perplexed. As it is not possible for authors to publish their papers in 2016, 17, and 18 and cite articles from 2019, 20, and 21.
A paper titled “Gandharan origin of the Amida Buddha image” by Katsumi Tanabe has been published in the Ancient Punjab — Volume 4, 2016-2017. But in this paper, one can find that the author has cited articles published in 2020. There is no disclaimer or note which informs the readers that the article was published in backdate.
Another article titled “How Buddha became Siva’ – a fragmentary bas-relief from mathurā revised” authored by Patrick Flix Kruger has been published in the Ancient Punjab – Volume 6, 2018. However, there is a note in the said paper that reveals: “A revision of this essay was included in the catalogue of the exhibition… which was held in Bochum Museum of Art in 2019”. The question is that how can a paper, which was published in 2018, make a reference of an exhibition that was held in 2019.
The paper “A brief discussion on cultural heritage of the Harappan civilization and its evaluation through anthropological and ethnographical methods” written by Yuzhang Yang, Muhammad Hameed, and Muhammad Azam Sameer has been published in Ancient Punjab – Volume 4, 2016-2017. But this paper has also cited articles from 2018.
Likewise, the articles “Architectural documentation of Gurdawara Singh Sabha Complex, Faisalabad” by Ar Muhammad Abdullah and the paper “Buddhism and Buddhist heritage of Udiyana as narrated by Xuanzang” authored by Ayesha Bibi were published in the Ancient Punjab – Volume 4, 2016-2017. But both of the papers cited references from other articles published in 2019.
It pertinent to mention here these were a few examples and random samples of papers which have been published by the Ancient Punjab in its backdated volumes. But there are too many papers which quoted articles of a future date.
Stance of the editor
However, Dr. Muhammad Hameed, the editor of Ancient Punjab and Chairman Department of Archaeology, University of the Punjab, while responding to the questions said: “The journal [Ancient Punjab] was started in 2010 but it was not recognised by the Higher Education Commission. However, after a few volumes, it became a dead journal and discontinued”.
“Last year, when I became chairman of the department, I vowed to revive the journal. Before applying for recognition, at least we had to publish 4 issues. Therefore, I informed the authors and contributors that their papers will be published in backdates so that we could finish the backlog. And they agreed.”
“It’s not the only journal in which we have published papers in backdates, but many journals follow the same rule. And it was our compulsion to publish backdated [papers] because we wanted to continue the journal”.
He vowed that such errors and mistake will never happen in the future. “We will make sure the journal—Ancient Punjab — makes its place in the list of reputed journals. The papers which have been published in backdates have is no issues such as plagiarism, stolen data, and copyright. If everything is okay, then such problems can be fixed in the future.”
About the unavailable details of editorial board, he said: “We wanted to provide a platform to the researchers. We are still working on the journal’s website to provide emails and contact numbers of editorial board members and their consent letters to HEC and put these details on the website”
On one hand HEC is claiming that it has set up monitoring cells for research journals to uplift quality of research, however, the commission doesn’t follow its own rules. As it claims that HJRS recognises only those journals which were indexed by Scopus and Web of Science — which are international research journal indexing companies.
But HEC has recognised the Ancient Punjab in its “Y category” despite, the said journal not being indexed by these two companies. When this scribe approached the HEC to know their stance, an officer of the HEC’s media department said they will ask the higher authorities to respond to these questions, and after that they will inform about the matter.
However, after the passage of two weeks and repeated reminders, they have failed to respond.
The author is associated with The News and covers education related issues across Pakistan. He tweets @arshadyousafzay and can be reached at email@example.com.