The move is designed to encourage research and help boost institutions’ rankings. But some researchers say it will reward those already established in their careers.
Tanzania’s government has offered scientists 50 million Tanzanian shillings (roughly US$22,000) if they can publish their research in a well-known journal. Researchers had until the end of last month to apply for the scheme.
We have written a bit recently about the deleterious and counterproductive consequences of offering large cash incentives/rewards for being published by a top journal. This can be especially true for poorer countries or where the salary of the average academic is modest. So, it won’t be a surprise for our regular readers to hear that our reaction to this story was, “What could possibly go wrong with this initiative?” Some countries, such as China, have banned the offering of such incentives/rewards. We believe it is rarely a good idea to offer such large payments based upon the publication of outputs. Fundamentally, this reflects a poor understanding of research behaviour.
Researchers could apply for one of the awards for publications in the natural sciences, mathematics or medicine in the financial year 2022–23. Kipanyula told Nature that Tanzania is following South Africa, Ireland, Australia and Pakistan in offering cash for publications. Three years ago, China ended the practice after many decades of paying researchers for publishing in well-known journals.
Paula Stephan, an economist at Georgia State University in Atlanta who studies how monetary incentives affect publishing, says “it does not come as a surprise to see that Tanzania has joined the list of countries offering such incentives to faculty”.
To be eligible, researchers will have had to publish papers in the highest 10% of journals, as measured by impact factor in selected disciplines. Papers could be original research; secondary data analyses or systematic reviews; or meta-analyses. “This will improve global rankings of Tanzanian scientists and higher-learning institutions,” Kipanyula adds.
More than 80% of Tanzania’s research publications are the result of international collaborations, according to a 2019 report commissioned by the UK government. The award guidelines state that, in such cases, only one eligible author will be allowed to submit an application. If there is more than one Tanzanian author, they will be encouraged to share the prize.