Editors highlight issues and challenges faced in publishing a good quality peer reviewed journal

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 PAME Fourth National Conference Proceedings

Editors highlight issues and challenges faced in
publishing a good quality peer reviewed journal

PESHAWAR: Pakistan Association of Medical Editors (PAME) organized its fourth National Conference at Khyber Medical University Peshawar from March 3-4th 2018. The first session was devoted to Starting a New Journal and Maintaining quality of publication. This was moderated by Dr. Jamshed Akhtar Editor of Journal of College of Physicians & Surgeons Pakistan. He also made the first presentation and talked about scope of the journal and need assessment. Many journals, he opined. had inexperienced editorial board and quality of the manuscripts they publish was also questionable. Some journals face paucity of manuscripts. Bypassing the editorial process and draconian rules by the authorities were some of the challenges faced by the medical journals in Pakistan.


Sitting on the dais during the inaugural session of PAME’s Fourth National Conference held at KMU
Peshawar on March 3, 2018 from (L to R) are Prof. Akhtar Sherin, Prof.Arshad Javed VC KMU,
Prof. Nasiruddin Azam
Khan (Chief Guest) Prof. Daud Khan (Guest of Honour),
Prof. Nasir Khokhar and Dr. Irfan.

Higher Education Commission, he said has recognized various journals in different categories which are as under:

W Category-4
X Category-5
Y Category-16
Z Category-11
Derecognized-20


The question arises should we upgrade the existing journals or start a new journal? The criteria used for recognition of journals by the regulatory bodies are also questionable. PM&DC has recognized seventy two journals but what are their criteria is not known. Universities, professional specialty organizations, medical colleges, individual publishers are publishing journals and their aims and objectives are different. Aga Khan University, he said, has not started its own journal. There is a need for renowned medical publishers. The Mission, Goal and objectives of the journal should be clearly defined. Some of the subspecialty journals, he said, were quite successful and have good Impact Factor as well. Name of the journal also matters, he remarked. What a journal does not accept should be clearly stated on the journal website. Before starting a journal, one must get experience as it is not a part time job. Show commitment and dedication. Courses for training of editors are available on WAME website and some other sources as well. PAME has also been considering starting certificate course in medical journalism, some discussions were also held but it could not be materialized so far due to various reasons.


Prof. Arshad Javed alongwith Prof. Daud Khan presenting a Memento to Prof. Nasiruddin Azam Khan
former Principal of Khyber Medical College who was the chief guest at the PAME’s Fourth National
Conference held at KMU Peshawar on April 3, 2018. Also seen in the picture are
Prof. Akhtar Sherin, Prof. Nasir Khokhar and Dr. Irfan.

Dr. Fatema Jawad Chief Editor of JPMA spoke about editorial freedom. She opined that Editor should be ethical and professional; journal must have a transparent policy, have professional relationship and never misuse their position. Editors have to bear accusations, show patience and must be supportive. Editors should have complete independence. Editorial freedom is extremely important. HEC recently de-recognized twenty medical journals and all of them are recognized by the PM&DC. In practical life, it is seen that the Editors of journals published by universities cannot take decisions; they cannot have meetings if the Vice Chancellor is not available. Sociology journals enjoy more freedom. Honesty, she opined, was a protective factor against coercion. Editors must be honest, update their knowledge, should be hardworking and ensure transparency, regular publication and high quality should be evident, she added.


Prof. Saba Sohail also from the JCPSP talked about In-House assessment- a key step in processing the articles. She pointed out that it must be ensured that all the basic requirements are there, all the mandatory documents have been submitted by the authors, and plagiarism check is a must. One must look at the protocol registration, conflict of interest statement. Do not go for short cut. What type of articles and journal policy as regards categorization is also important? Make sure that English language is good, see if the title is appropriate, the study has a message and it is conveyed effectively. Are the number of authors appropriate, manuscripts has all the important components including conclusions and references before it is accepted for further processing.

Organizers of PAME’s Fourth National Conference held at KMU Peshawar honoreds three senior most
Medical Editors in recognition of their services to promote the discipline of Medical Journalism in
Pakistan. Picture taken on the occasion shows from (L to R) Prof. Fatima Jawad Chief Editor JPMA,
Mr. Shaukat Ali Jawaid Chief Editor Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences and Prof. Maj. Gen.M. Aslam
being presented
Mementoes by Prof. Nasiruddin Azam Khan along with
Prod. Daud Khan and Prof.Arshad Javed VC KMU.

Prof. Akhtar Sherin Editor of Khyber Medial University Journal talked about Peer Review: Issues and Challenges for a new Journal. Peer review, he said, assures validity, quality. Most of the articles should be peer reviewed and at least one of the reviewers should be external. He also talked about collaborative peer review, third party review before submission by authors to the journal. He also discussed post publication review and who can be a reviewer and how to identify the reviewers. Authors can also suggest reviewers but the Editorial team has to check their credentials. Poor Review is something which one must avoid if one has to maintain quality. Some reviewers do electronic review with track changes. The peer review policy adopted by the Journal must be mentioned on the journal website, he added.


Prof. Maj.Gen. Muhammad Aslam Pro VC National University of Medical Sciences and former President of PAME in his presentation highlighted how to maintain quality of the manuscripts. What is given to you, one must read it, correct it. Endurance is needed to maintain quality of manuscripts for a long time. He made it clear that publishing a good quality peer reviewed journal is not a one man job. It is a team work. It requires active contributions by the Editor, Authors, Reviewers, Librarians, Readers, Funding agencies, community and the professional specialty organizations, Accreditation bodies, research organizations, educational institutions. In short it requires multipronged responsibilities, he added.


Mr. Shaukat Ali Jawaid Chief Editor Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences and Secretary of Eastern Mediterranean Association of Medical Editors (EMAME) discussed issues encountered from acceptance to publication. He referred to the pressure from authors to get acceptance letter without realizing that it can only be issued once the peer review and all other formalities have been completed. These manuscripts also need post acceptance editing, and then there is delay in arranging publication charges by the authors, sale and purchase of authorship and gift authorship issues also needs to be tackled effectively. When PDF file is sent for proof reading, some authors do not know how to make corrections, at times the message is not clear and they have to be reminded again and again. Instead of making corrections some authors indulge in rewriting extensively which creates lot of problems requiring reformatting of the manuscript. After corrections the manuscript is published ahead of print on the journal website and it provides yet another opportunity to the authors to see if all the corrections they had marked have been carried out and if not, they can point it out and get it corrected.

Then DOI is generated and as per new rules one can only do that once the manuscript has been published on the journal website as it requires its link. Then comes the page numbering once the whole issue contents have been finalized. For technical reasons, all the forms have to be equally divided by eight the number of pages on one plate for printing and if this number is not appropriate, one has to either add or delete an article. Sometimes authors ask for withholding publication without realizing that all the publication schedule and page numbers have been finalized. After page numbering, the PDF are generated again and then published on the journal website. This is followed by computerized page make up, preparing the output for platemaking and then printing, binding. Correspondence author is sent one print copy and if the authors need additional copies, they have to order and pay for it at the time of paying publication charges. Sometimes the authors complain after couple of years or six to eight months that they did not get a printed copy though it was sent but they did not save it. If additional copies are not available they are provided signed and stamped pdf of their manuscript for submission to the PM&DC or other institutions which need it when deciding their cases of promotion.

Second Session

This session was moderated by Dr. Irfan. Prof. M. Alamgir Editor of Pakistan Armed Forces Medical Journal talked about peer review, its importance and challenges. Peer review, he pointed out, was the biggest hurdle in publication and at times a nightmare for the editors. PM&DC as well as HEC focus on peer review. He also talked about the trust of the readers, peer review benefits the Editor, authors, reviewers, science and society at large as it improves the quality of the manuscripts before they are published. He referred to the paucity of qualified reviewers, training of reviewers which are a time consuming process. Every journal must have its own Reviewers database, arrange for training of reviewers. Quality of the reviews was also important. He suggested that PAME must organize workshops for training of reviewers and training courses for Reviewers, Editors. He also talked about offering incentives to the reviewers, recognition of reviewers, deadlines for review, developing a system, reviewers hunting, and accountability of reviewers.


Prof. M.Ayub Editor of Azad Kashmir Medical Journal highlighted the Peer Review implications in Online Journal System. Peer review, he said, was a critical review by an expert in that particular field. It helps improve quality and standard of articles before publication. New OJS, he said, has the option of peer review as well. Options are available for single, double blind and open peer review. The system sends automatic reminders after the due date but the problem is that some of our authors as well reviewers are not computer literate. Some faculty members are also not computer literate. He suggested promoting internet use culture among the reviewers, training opportunities for reviewers, training of reviewers to use Open Journal System. He further suggested that some honorarium should be paid to the reviewers. HEC can help finding qualified reviewers. We all need to update our knowledge. Regulatory bodies like HEC and PM&DC should encourage the editors rather than creating problems for them. He also suggested that PAME can start its own accreditation system for the medical journals which should be based on transparent criteria.


Dr. Shahbaz Ali Khan discussed authorship issues. Since the number of authors has increased, now many journals also require details of individual author’s contribution. Addition or deletion of authors is finally decided by the Editor.

Prof. Khalid Mahmood Editor of JPMI spoke about plagiarism and highlighted the importance of ethics in medical writing. He also referred to academic dishonesty, pressure to publish, different types of plagiarism. Source of funding and conflict of interest must be disclosed by the authors, he added.

Dr. Mian Saad Ahmad gave an overview of indexation of Pakistani medical journals. Most of the journals being published from Pakistan, he said, were quarterly. Only three journals have got Impact Factor. Twenty eight journals have functional websites on the net, thirty nine journals have given their peer review policy, two journals practice open peer review system. Six journals have female Chief Editors, a total of 5,524 articles were published in all the journals during 2017 and almost 80% of the manuscripts published were original articles.

Dr. Mohammad Irfan in his brief presentation stated that model of peer review was a key element. He also talked about different peer review systems.


Participants to the PAME’s Fourth National Conference held at Khyber Medical University Peshawar
on March 3, 2018 photographed alongwith Prof. Nasiruddin Azam Khan (Chief Guest)
Prof. Daud Khan (Guest of Honour), Prof. Arshad Javed VC KMU and executive of PAME.

Prof. Z. A. Bhutta a noted Pediatrician and researcher in his presentation talked about Pakistan’s low contribution to the world medical literature. The only incentive for research in Pakistan seems to be for promotion. We give too much importance to quantity rather than paying attention to quality of research. Every institutions is now publishing a journal but it is the culture of quality which matters. He also talked about the process of Evaluation and said that overseas while taking decisions for promotion and selection, the candidates are asked to submit their best five papers which are then evaluated. We must give importance to quality. Only a few scientists have made tremendous contribution to science which has pushed our numbers tremendously as most of the well cited Publications are from those three scientists. We need to change the system of evaluation of science and scientists and promote quality research culture. HEC, PM&DC, Pakistan Science Foundation should all give importance to quality. He also referred to the international criteria of Evaluation of scientists like h Index and i10Index etc. Prof. Bhutta suggested that the editors of medical journals must raise the bar of quality of articles being accepted for publication. Unfortunately, we have a false sense of achievements in Pakistan. Research takes time and teaching and training in research methodology should start at the undergraduate level. Supervisors, Heads of the Departments should not abuse their position. It is the institutions who should decide as to who will be the first author. Students and postgraduates need to be protected by the institutions, Prof. Bhutta remarked.

Afternoon Session

Prof. Saeed Baig was the first speaker in the afternoon session who discussed the pros and cons of medical writing. Authors, she stated, look for short cut and fast publication. They lack writing skills, have no proper training in medical writing. Authors also find browsing lethargic; they have no patience and have fear of writing. All this then leads to Gift authorship and ghost submissions to many journals. Institutions, she felt, should take the responsibility of providing the faculty members facilities and training opportunities.

Prof. Nazeer Khan Editor of JSMUJ talked about citation indexes. Junior and new researchers will have low h Index. Self-citation also increases h Index, he added. Dr. Zafar Ali discussed violation of publication ethics and mentioned about plagiarism, dual publication, and duplicate submissions. The solution lies in taking action against all those who indulge in scientific misconduct, he remarked.

Challenges for Pakistani Journals

Prof. Saira Afzal Editor of Annals of King Edward Medical University moderated this Open House session wherein different issues and challenges faced were discussed and possible solutions highlighted by the participants. She highlighted the importance of having proper SOPs; all review process should be documented. It was also stated that medical institutions need to have a statistician on their staff, challenges faced with Open Journal System and other manuscript management systems were also discussed. Other issues which came under discussion included citation analysis, types of articles, role of HEC and PM&DC. It was agreed that qualitative research should be preferred. Dr. Usman Mehboob a medical educationist remarked that research should be fit for the purpose of specific study. Design of the study also matters. Our researchers do not cover social issues, he remarked.

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