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ASEAN Citation Index (ACI) is a central regional database which was designed and set up to index all the bibliographic records and the citations of all quality ASEAN research outputs appeared in the ASEAN scholarly journals. The member countries of the ACI are Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Phillippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The ACI has the ACI Steering Board, which comprises 2 representatives nominated by the Ministry of Education from each member country, to set up policy and monitor the ACI performance and development. The Board will meet twice a year in each member country to share experiences, monitor the performance, and discuss further development of the ACI.

The Thai's Office of the Higher Education Commission (OHEC) has provided initial financial supported for the development and implementation of the ACI database system in 2 phases since 2011. The first phase (2011-2013) ended in 2013 and the second phase will cover 2014-2016.

Why ACI?

There has been evident to support that research publications from ASEAN HEIs in internationally circulated journals have increased more than threefold from slightly over 6000 publications in 1996 to over 28 000 in 2008. However, there is only one university from ASEAN ranked among the top 200 universities in the ARWU 2010 rankings, and only five made it into the top 300 in the QS WUR 2010 rankings (Sombatsompop et al, 2011). We believe that the major reason for this unfortunate situation is because not many ASEAN scholarly journals are indexed in international citation databases, such as the Thomson's Reuter's SCI and the Scopus where the rankers used the information for the ranking. The main obstacle for the inclusion in the international databases is the English language dominance of the journals. In many ASEAN countries, with the exception of Singapore, the Philippines and arguably Malaysia, English is used by only the elite few. This disadvantage is best illustrated by the significance of research done in local languages published in local journals. While such research is meant to solve local issues, and serve the needs of local communities, nevertheless, the findings and solutions offered by such research are worthy of wider recognition. Unfortunately, due to the language barrier, they are not accessible to global researchers.

At the same time, the lesson learned from the most successful Thai-Journal Citation Index (TCI) Centre in Thailand has also inspired the ASEAN community. TCI has received financial supported from The Thailand Research Fund (TRF) and the King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT) in jointly supported the establishment of the Thai-Journal Citation Index (TCI) Centre since July 1st, 2004. The objectives of the TCI has been to set up the national citation database which store bibliographic information of national journal publications and their citations for easy access and retrieve both the general bibliographic records, their citations, and also their journal impact journals. The existence of the TCI has significantly impacted the Thai's academic arena in many ways, such as the assessment of the national research productivity, the allocation of funding by using journal quality criteria, the graduation of graduate students, and the national policies related to the journal quality and the academic publishing. Thus, the Thai Commission for Higher Education (CHE) and the ASEAN University Network have jointly agreed that it was time for ASEAN to have their own regiaonal database like TCI but expand its coverage to journals in ASEAN. This is to be in lie with the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).

In this regard, Thai CHE has provided financial support to TCI to take action in the developing the ACI database and also supporting the establishment of the National Citation Index (NCI) in each ASEAN member country. The NCIs would be one mechanism in improving the ASEAN local journals up to international standards. Once the NCIs exist and mature enough, the NCIs would be linked to the ACI which act as the regional citation database where all publications of ASEAN were housed and indexed. ACI would be the central regional database which indexed all bibliographic information and the citations of all research papers appeared in ASEAN academic journals. In addition, having ACI as the central database would stimulate and encourage the knowledge sharing on how to improve the journal quality within ASEAN region. Furthermore, once the ACI is grown, in terms of its content, stability, and usage, it can be easily linked to the international database, such as Scopus, and Thomson Reuter. The conceptual framework for developing NCIs, ACI, and the linkage to international databases is shown below.

The existence of the ACI will not only increase the visibility of our ASEAN research productivity, but also improve the university ranking for the ASEAN universities. Furthermore, the number of publications, the citations, the H-index and other bibliometric indexes of ASEAN research output generated by the ACI will play a major role in integrating of ASEAN research performance evaluation in the national, regional, and international levels. Most importantly, the ACI will also benefit lecturers, researchers, and students in both ASEAN and non-ASEAN to have better and reliable information source to select universities for their further collaborative research projects, academic collaboration and studies particularly in the post graduate level.

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