Usefulness of this week long training course and suggestions for its improvement

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Maqbool Jafary Memorial Training Course for Junior Editors
Usefulness of this week long training
course and suggestions  for its improvement
Memuna Syed Bukhari
Assistant Editor
Pakistan Journal of Medicine and Dentistry (PJMD)
Ziauddin University, Clifton Campus, Karachi – Pakistan

Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences has stated a weeklong training course for Junior Editors in memory of their late Founder Chief Editor Dr. Maqbool H. Jafary who also served as President of Eastern Mediterranean Association of Medical Editors (EMAME) in 2015. Dr. Maqbool H. Jafary passed away during March 2014. I was lucky to be selected for this course for the Year 2019 and it proved to be a great learning experience. Mr. Shaukat Ali Jawaid Chief Editor of Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences and Secretary of EMAME was the facilitator during the course apart from input and facilitation extended by other members of their editorial and production team.

Late Dr. Maqbool H. Jafary

The role of editors in the peer-reviewed medical journal is highly important. Therefore, the understanding of this role and its associated responsibilities not only increase the productivity of the editors but also improves the quality of the manuscripts published and the standard of the journal. The training sessions were very well designed and developed keeping in view the need and requirements of the junior editors. The contents covered during the course included:

  1. Manuscript submission system
  2. Use of Open Journal System (OJS)
  3. Peer review system and development of reviewers database
  4. Screening for plagiarism and interpretation of similarity score index
  5. Publication ethics
  6. Generation of PDF and page make up
  7. Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
  8. Copy editing
  9. Printing procedures and related technology

The success of any journal is the mirror image of its competitive editorial team. Therefore, editors should improve the quality of research publication in their journals. This can be possible sensibly when editors think about possibilities and potential. As, we all know the importance of planning has its impact on growth of any business. Similarly, editors should plan for the future of the journal and how can they achieve this target. The strategy for running a successful journal is linked with its sustainability, which is the long-term process. Hence, editors have to decide the realistic goals, which motivate them to bring success in their journals by indexation in various databases, achievement of Impact Factor (IF) and increase the visibility.

Being an editor, one must have the skill and competency to guide authors for improvement. This can be achieved by giving significant training session to the newly appointed editors from their seniors. Because, a good editor has a knowledge level to assess the quality of manuscript submitted by the authors. Further, if editors are aware of their role and responsibilities, they can evaluate the manuscripts as per the journal criteria. As, each journal is different from another journal consequently, the editors need to know how they meet the standard publication process.

Upholding Professional Ethics

An important step that should be taken by the editors is to educate authors and provide them assistance following an author friendly policy. They must be aware of the fact that their action should bring quality and improvement in the research field. This will be the ultimate way so that, they can justify their role and contribution. However, nothing is easy as editors have to justify their opinions, decisions and actions. Editors of every journal must maintain the integrity and quality of the research publication. Hence, they should try not to compromise on ethical aspects and professionalism. This attribute helps them in acquiring good knowledge in order to take smart decisions. Based on this logic editors cannot please everyone instead, they should remain calm, uphold professional ethics to the best of their ability.

Successful running of a good journal is a team work. As a part of PJMD, my capabilities of being an Assistant Editor are mutually supporting by the journal editors. Since, it is teamwork and we cannot ignore the importance of competent workforce and available finances. In PJMS, I was introduced to the various team members of Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences, who have clearly laid down job descriptions. I learnt about their initial screening, different types of peer review, their advantages and disadvantages (PJMS practices Open Peer Review System) and further processing of manuscripts up to page make up, generation of PDF files which are in ahead of print form which is then sent to the authors for proof reading before they are finalized for publication. This initial screening (editors triage) is important and vary from one journal to another based on the standards and policies. Such standards should be well documented on the website so, that these can be referred to and practiced. The core competencies of assistant editors/editors can be improved through education and skillful training sessions. These will further enable them to manage the journal with integrity and communicate effectively with all the stakeholders like authors, reviewers, team members, readers, indexing databases and communities.

Memuna Syed Bukhari Assistant Editor Pakistan Journal of Medicine and Dentistry (PJMD)
Published by Ziauddin University was the recipient of Dr. Maqbool H. Jafary Training
Scholarship for Junior Editors for the Year 2019. Picture shows Dr. Musarrat Riaz Member
of Editorial Board of Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences presenting her the certificate
after her successful completion of the course. Mr.Shaukat Ali Jawaid Chief Editor PJMS
who facilitates this course is also seen on extreme left. 

 Rights and Responsibilities

We cannot deny the fact that editors are eventually responsible for their journals. How they can bring improvement and enhance the quality of these scientific publications is very important. The provision of facilities like properly equipped offices, education, training and use of potential financial sources can offer solution to some of the problems faced by the Journals. The quest for quality and improvement is a continuous process and editors have the responsibility to keep themselves surrounded with intelligent, smart and skilled team members. Members of the editorial team have to be conscious and play their role effectively. The team members execute their strategies and try to manage the conflicts to achieve the desired objective of improving the standard of the journal. Controversies and conflicts never yield anything positive, thus every effort should be made to minimize the chances of any conflict. In-competent editorial staff and insufficient funds can be a serious problem discouraging any improvement strategy. Institutions and organizations which own the journals must consider these important aspects and plan accordingly. Similarly, it is essential to keep pace with the rapid developments taking place in production as well as the journal management systems.

Training and Refresher Courses

On the job trainings, workshops, certification courses and self-learning can take care of the need of professional capacity building of the editorial staff enhancing their competency. They can develop learning though the Internet by analyzing the publication and journal management processes of national and intentional journals. The critical analysis will enable the editors to identify their shortcomings and develop strategies to solve them. This will further give them an idea about the improvements that the journal needs. During this course I also realized that the editors should be smart enough to identify and utilize their potential and avail the available opportunities. Being an Assistant Editor for PJMD the journal published by Ziauddin University, I sincerely feel that this was a good opportunity for me to develop and polish my skills. My selection from among the six candidates who applied for this Training Course-cum-Scholarship has enhanced my confidence encouraged me to perform my duties upholding professional ethics. On a wider canvas, universities/institutions and publishing houses should promote extensive training of their editorial staff so that they can understand their ethical responsibilities, acquire proficiencies and develop competencies for performing core editorial tasks.

Sustainability Factors

Yet another important point is the financial sustainability of the journal. I was introduced to different businesses models which can be adopted by the journals keeping in view their human and financial resources and policy. One can opt for Author Pay policy, look for grants, generate revenue through advertising, planning special thematic issues besides applying for donations and grants from various national and international sources which could be either in the shape of financial assistance or provision of training opportunities for the journal staff. Some of the important steps which I feel, we can take in our journal (PJMD) include the following:

  1. Attracting manuscript submission from all over the country and overseas
  2. Improvement and expansion of Reviewers Database inviting reviewers from Pakistan and even our own alumni settled overseas and working at various medical institutions. Keep in pace with the current practices
  3. Aim for indexation in PubMed and PubMed Central
  4. Aim for selection of good quality manuscripts and original research which has greater chances of further citation
  5. Aim for coverage of Clarivate Analytic from USA to earn Impact Factor

In addition, for running a successful medical journal, the importance of promotional strategies cannot be over emphasized. The role of social media and online marketing for manuscript submission has its own significance. Similarly, advertising on the journal website can bring much needed revenue that can be used. PJMS website is a good example for advertising of pharmaceuticals which is an important source of revenue. Funds can also be generated through registration fee for various workshops which are organized by the universities. In short an effective marketing strategy can help increase submission, readership and also generate revenue. As such editors of the journal need to develop a plan that must fit within their present requirements. Like any other business, journal editors should plan smartly to fulfill their short-term and long-term goals.

Scope of Technology

Editors must understand the impact of technologies on scientific publishing. The most effective step that an editor must consider is the preparation and visibility of the journal website. A journal website is the mirror image of its workflow. The website should be user friendly and designed in such a way that it connects the authors with the editors. Website should display the aims and scope, editorial policies, instruction to authors, ethical aspects, plagiarism policy, current and archrival issues with proper address. The current website of our journal (PJMD) is fulfilling the established criteria but continuous improvement is an ongoing process. PJMD has extensively expanded its editorial board with respect to subject diversification and ratio of national to international members. Journal management is a channelized process, which creates a workflow for editors, authors and reviewers. Hence, Open Journal Systems (OJS), which is essential for every journal and provides an idea of flow of information from the editorial management system needs to be made fully functional. PJMD has activated its OJS link and site can be easily access for submission. However, for the time being complete automation is not possible due to various reasons, hence we need to continue using other sources as well like email as a supplement to OJS to perform various activities. Editors can also play a vital role by educating the authors, reviewers and their staff to keep them abreast with the latest developments including advances in technology related to scientific publishing.

Spreading Goodwill

Goodwill and positive feedback determine the complete picture of journal workflow. This does not happen overnight but requires years of struggle to earn Impact Factor and inclusion in important international databases. The most important initiative that editors can take is the timely communication with authors, reviewers and their staff.

Short-term and Long-term Goals

Goals give direction to motivation and it is important to have simple and realistic goals. Goals act like a map so that one can decide where to start, give passion and energy to work. Likewise, editors must set short-terms and long-term goals that keep them motivated, helping them to focus knowledge-driven processes and utilize their resources to make most of their job. Extensive knowledge of goals setting enables the editors to acquire necessary skills and abilities so, that they can meet international standards required for scientific publication. When editors follow the guidelines and policy framework defined by the system, they are successfully moving towards compliance. Therefore, goals do wonders if executed efficiently. This training session helped me to identify goals for PJMD since both short and long-term goals can influence on the journal progress. Working as a team we the editorial staff of our journal (PJMD) will endeavour to achieve the desired identified goals in our publication. I was also provided lot of useful reading material including some published papers related to important aspects of medical journal publishing which I believe will help a lot in future as well.

Successful implementation of short as well as long-term goals will ultimately improve the ranking of PJMD in HEC category, journal visibility and inclusion in international databases thereby helping us to aim and qualify for Impact Factor which is one of the most important criteria to judge the quality and standard of a biomedical journal these days. This can be possible with assistance from the university management, IT and marketing departments which can all facilitate the overall process which is to our mutual benefits. Similarly, editors and board members can promote the journal at national and international conferences, training workshops and spread its goodwill among their colleagues. Their efforts as PJMD Editors can do wonders enhancing the manuscript submissions. As a result of this training, I intend to:
a. Engage students, trainees and their mentors
b. Bring out their focus to conduct intervention research
c. Enhance the quality of content with regard to methodologies and statistics
d. Provide practical guidance on medical research writing and reviewer ship
e. Enhance the reach of PJMD
f. Use targeted invitations for international manuscript submissions and reviewer ship
g. Ensure that our Website is user friendly and OJS is made fully functional.
h. Plan and Publish Special Thematic issues on subjects which are important for our readers.

Suggestions: This training course can be further improved by asking the candidates to submit the manuscripts through the OJS system on Journal Websites. The candidates can also be given an assignment to copy edit a manuscript. And finally they should be taught how to effectively use social media for the promotion of their journals. All this will go a long way in improving their confidence.

Acknowledgment: I am extremely grateful to the management of Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences, their Chief Editor Mr. Shaukat Ali Jawaid and particularly Prof. Ejaz Ahmad Vohra Chief Editor of Pakistan Journal of Medicine and Dentistry published by Ziauddin University for recommending me for this course.

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