We didn’t know we needed it. But now we can’t do without it.
Every Monday morning, I spend 1-2 hours browsing new research postings delivered to my inbox from MalariaWorld. Often, I read titles and abstracts trying to find what might me interesting for my own use and may download what these to my personal PDF library. When the article is not Open Access, I may go through HINARI or my University Library Portal to get these downloads or I could Google the author and email him/her to request a reprint. As a malaria researcher, the info from MalariaWorld is already filtered to a large extent meaning, I do not have to scheme through large chunks of journal/web pages to get what I need. This way, a normally disorganised individual like myself, can minimise what would otherwise be a massive information overload. It’s amazing how far this has come since it was started as a simple email list just a few years ago.
For me and many other malaria researchers around the world, MalariaWorld has become the lead provider of filtered, specialised, timely and relevant research news. Through MalariaWorld, we get to know, at least in brief nearly everything that happens in malaria research. It nearly doesn’t matter anymore where I am since I read posting sometime on my phone when doing field work in rural villages in Tanzania. So this is important obviously, but it is not the only good thing that MalariaWorld does. Silently, MalariaWorld provides a very different, and perhaps a more important service for the development of Scientific Research. It creates a need, gets people to demand that need, and then exploits that need to increase the impact of people’s research. In the old way of judging science, we can say therefore that MalariaWorld increases impact factors of journals, notably the small old journals and new open access journals.
Traditionally, if you worked on a life changing idea and you wanted it to be known by as many scientists as possible, publishing in Science or Nature was the best way to go. These journals enjoyed extensive reader-subscription bases running into hundreds of thousands of people each week. Naturally, there journals became the most respected and acted as the yardsticks upon which the value of any other journal was judged. On the other hand, if you published in say Journal of Medical Entomology, or in American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, or in Trends in Parasitology, your article would most likely have been read by only the few experts who subscribed to these journals. The possibility that your work would be utilised by other researchers outside your own cycles was much less, and even so the possibility that this would be referenced by other researchers in their next publications. For malaria researchers, what MalariaWorld has done is to put relevance above this subscriber-associated impact factors, and then indirectly use this approach to actually improve the impact factors of small old journals and new journals. This might sound vague, but this is exactly it. MalariaWorld brings to our desktops at leased summaries of articles from an array of journals, regardless of where it is published, and regardless of whether we subscribe to the source journals. When we click onto these and figure out that the works might be interesting, we then follow it up and get to know more. More malaria scientists now read about particular research topics on the MalariaWorld platform, than they do by directly opening websites of the source journals. What happens therefore is that in the end, MalariaWorld helps raise the readership for these journals and thereafter, the likelihood that the works published in those journals will be utilised, or referred to by other researchers.
It may not be easy yet to quantify the extent to which MalariaWorld has contributed to the recent surge in Impact Factors of new generation open access journals such as Malaria Journal (IF now at 3.00), Parasites and Vectors (IF now at 2.05), International Journal of Health Geographics (IF now 2.45) and several Biomed central journals that regularly publish malaria related articles. However, it is highly likely that the portal has been the major cause of the surge. It is likely that the Ifs of traditional small old medical journals such as J Med Entomol, Met vet Entomol, etc will rise as well as long as MalariaWorld continues to bring summaries to our desktops.