Editors without training is just like Flight without wings


 Editors without training is just like
 Flight without wings 

Prof. Saira Afzal FCPS, PhD
Editor, Annals of King Edward Medical University,
Lahore - Pakistan.

Dr. Maqbool H Jafary training scholarship is a great initiative especially in a developing country where opportunities and resources are limited. Journalology and medical journalism has been recognized as disciplines in the technologically advanced countries where education and training courses has already been designed and implemented to produce excellent human resource in these fields. A person may be a good physician or a great surgeon but not necessarily a good researcher or editor. This is the main idea that is working behind the conception and design of training courses for the editors.

Late Dr. Maqbool H. Jafary
Founder Chief Editor
Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences

I was lucky to be selected for this week-long training course started by Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences in memory of its founder Chief Editor Dr. Maqbool H.Jafary FRCP, a physician with special interest in cardiovascular diseases. He was a graduate of King Edward Medical College, Lahore of 1963.  Despite the fact that he was working for a pharmaceutical company Novartis as its Director of Medical Centre for South East Asia based in Karachi, he was keenly interested in research and academics which is evident from the fact that he served as President of Pakistan Society of Physicians and Vice President, Asia-Pacific Society of Cardiology. He was also founder member of National Bioethical Committee formed by the Government of Pakistan, founder President of Pakistan Association of Pharmaceutical Physicians (PAPP).  In recognition of his services to promote the art of medical writing and science of scientific publishing, he was elected as President of Eastern Mediterranean Association of Medical Editors (EMAME) which also honoured him with a Life Time Achievement Award at 6th EMAME Conference held at Shiraz, Iran during February 2015- He was a keen researcher and prolific writer who published more than 50 articles in peer reviewed medical journals. He was co-author of many books. He was also honored by Pakistan Hypertension League with “Life time achievement Award”.

The course was facilitated by Mr.Shaukat Ali Jawaid Chief Editor of Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences and his support staff at the journal. The course was based on interactive discussions, case scenarios, and hands on training besides provision of reading material. Some of the topics which were discussed and covered in detail included the following:

  1. Scope and contents of the journal.
  2. Editor’s Triage. Introduction to E Journal System,
  3. Initial screening and internal review.
  4. Plagiarism Check using iThenticate software,
  5. Impact Factor, its relevance and importance.
  6. Interpretation of similarity index score.
  7. DOI Generation.
  8. Copy Editing of the manuscripts.
  9. Page make-up, and work up on Photo Shop for pictures, illustrations.
  10. Generation of PDF files.
  11. Corrections, publication ahead of print.
  12. Setting up Peer Review system and maintaining Reviewers Data Base.
  13. How to retain good reviewers
  14. Funding Sources to ensure financial sustainability of the Journal.
  15. Publication process, coordination with other team members.

It was fascinating to observe communication with authors and reviewers, quick and timely response through emails and phone calls and most important pivotal role of coordination, leadership and team work. This is impossible without the commitment, dedication, devotion and professionalism in the editor and very experienced editorial team who are working full time for Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences.

Prof. Ambreen Usmani Member Editorial Board of Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences presenting
the Dr. Maqbool H. Jafary Training Course Scholarship to Prof. Saira Afzal Editor of Annals of King
Edward Medical University after the completion of the training course. On extreme right is
Mr. Shaukat
Ali Jawaid Chief Editor of Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences.

During these discussions, short term and long term plans to improve the journal,  finding a solution to the problems faced by the editors and expectation of authors, reviewers and various stakeholders were also given due  emphasis. The highlights of these discussions included, the editorial team in every medical journal should be dedicated and atleast a few persons must be working full time committed to medical journalism as it requires lot of hard work and time. It couldn’t be performed as part time task or a hobby. It was further emphasized that it is necessary that all problems during editorial reviews and publication process should be dealt with editorial freedom, honesty and professionalism.

The initial review and scrutiny of every submission to the journal was a time consuming and laborious task. There were more than hundred submissions in a week time at the website of Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences and each submission was subjected to initial review and scrutiny by the chief  editor himself. Most of the manuscripts were rejected on the ground that “instructions to authors” were not followed. The number of authors, individual  contributions by the each listed author, letter of undertaking signed by all the listed authors, approval of the study protocol by the Ethical Committee/Institutional Review Board, format of the manuscript, total  word count and all the supporting documents were checked in the initial review. Immediate and timely response was given to the authors. The manuscripts which were not accepted for further processing, the decision was conveyed to the authors within a week or ten days and the reasons were also communicated to the authors with a polite reply. If there were certain deficiencies in the manuscripts accepted for further processing, they were asked to make up those deficiencies, provide the missing documents and information like addition of Digital Object Identifier (DOI) with references, or contributions of individual authors etc., the corresponding author was informed to respond immediately so that the manuscript can be processed further. The process of further processing was put on hold till required information was received. English grammar, spellings and language mistakes were the most common errors in submitted manuscript. The English language and writing skills can be improved utilizing information and facilities available on different websites. I was also told about the “Grammerly.com” which is quite economical and one has to subscribe this.

Peer Review System

In Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences (PJMS) open peer review system is in place and being practiced for the last many years satisfactorily.  At this point in time, we cannot implement it in our journal. We use the double blind peer review system in our journal. A recent editorial on the merits and demerits of both systems has been published in our journal. Pak J Med Sci has an advantage of having a large number of reviewers from overseas in its Reviewers Database who are actively contributing in the journal. At Annals of King Edward Medical University the Alumni are serving as reviewers as well as contributing as foreign authors. Reminders have to be sent to them for timely completion of the task and all this increases the waiting time for authors and editorial team. Moreover, majority of the senior faculty members are not comfortable to get their submissions reviewed, most often do not appreciate the reviewers comments and are reluctant to revise the manuscript.

Reviewers suggested by the authors

It is a fact that intellectual contribution, excellent advice or exceptional comments can be forwarded by any researcher or reviewer. The database consisting of good reviewers who are well informed about the latest advancements in the field is the real support and back bone of any good quality journal. The challenge is not only finding knowledgeable and proficient reviewers but also retaining them. They greatly help to improve the quality of the submitted manuscripts. The editor and his team at Pak J Med Sci are vigilantly finding, assessing the quality of reviews and then add them in “Reviewers database”. Some of the reviewers were the well published and cited authors in the specialty and discipline; some were recommended by the authors and researchers and later on searched by the editorial team to confirm their credentials before adding them to database and sending them manuscripts for review.  In the beginning there expertise is used on trial basis and if their performance is found satisfactory, they are added in the Reviewers Database. The next step was to retain the reviewers once added in database and very thoughtful decisions were made in that direction.

Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences hosted a reception at lunch for Prof. Saira Afzal after the conclusion of the weeklong training course. Photograph taken on this occasion shows from
(L to R)  Prof. Ambreen Usmani, Dr. Naureen Liaquat, Prof. Naila Hadi, Prof. Saira Afzal,
Prof. Nasim Karim, Dr. Rehana Rehman and Dr. Musarrat Riaz

Some of these decisions are worth mentioning here. Try to avoid over burdening the good reviewers, giving them due respect, recognize their services,  continuous medical education (CME) credits, presenting them appreciation certificates for review, post review letter of thanks, sending them good books and gifts, reading material,  processing and publication on fast track of their submissions, concessions in publication charges, publishing their names in the journal at the end of very year and publicly acknowledging their services and contributions, including good reviewers in the editorial board of the journal, regular meetings and involving them in decision making. Social interactions, introduction to other colleagues in get together, and formal ceremonies to give them honor, appreciation and respect can definitely help in retaining good reviewers for the journal.  Moreover, training workshops, interactive sessions, and hand on activities for authors and reviewers can help and play a vital role in improving the quality of the journal and making a team of loyal, authors and reviewers. These thoughtful and kind actions are more important than any other financial incentive. It is generally believed and many studies have shown that “Best Reviewers are young, under forty years of age, trained in epidemiology and statistics, are affiliated with academic institutions.” (Rennie, 1999).

Practical demonstration of page make-up

The practical training and demonstration on “page Make up on InDesign Software” and visit to printing press where the process of printing was explained in detail were some other interesting parts of this training. The hallmark of this training was the “publication audit and internal review” which is a routine annual exercise done by Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences. The whole record for internal and external audit was available in the publication office and properly maintained in both soft and hard copy. It is readily available for any audit and can be provided on request. This shows the transparency of the system and confidence of all stake holders. The publication audit report is also published annually in the journal. The complete volume of the journal is also prepared in the form of Annual Binder and its copies are provided to a selected few medical institutions, medical libraries.

Education and Training

The PJMS is also making a valuable contribution in education and training of researchers and scientists both inside and outside the country. The Chief Editor and their other team members regularly conduct workshops on Medical Writing for authors, Peer Review for faculty members and training courses for the Editors of the journals. Chief Editor of Pak J Med Sci is founder member of Eastern Mediterranean Association of Medical Editors (EMAME) and currently holds the office of Secretary, the post to which he was elected for the second time at the last EMAME Conference held at Shiraz, Iran in 2015. He has conducted workshops and training courses in many countries in the region. This has helped the professional capacity building of the authors, reviewers and editors thereby promoting the aims and objectives of EMAME as well as Pakistan Association of Medical Editors (PAME). To quote late Maj.Gen. Mohsin Pal former Director General of Health of Paksitan, “Knowledge flows to those who are capable of receiving it, respecting it, protecting it, preserving it and promoting it.”

Yet another important feature of this training scholarship that is worth mentioning in this report is about the mentor mentee relationship that grew over the years. It has now become an inspirational phenomenon. The training was brilliantly designed and conducted and an impressive concluding ceremony was organized to offer tribute to the “Multifaceted personality of Late Dr Maqbool H. Jafary” in whose memory this training course has been instituted.  This interactive session on lunch was attended by a selected Peer Reviewers  and Members of the Editorial Board of Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences which provided an excellent opportunity to interact with them, learn from each other and share knowledge and experience with the distinguished researchers and reviewers. Those who were present on this occasion included Prof. Naila Hadi from Ziauddin Medical University, Prof.Nasim Karim and Prof.Ambreen Usmani from Bahria University Medical College, Dr. Rehana Rehman from Aga Khan University, Dr. Musarrat Riaz from Baqai Medical University, Dr.Naureen Liaquat from Altmash Institute of Dentistry besides Mr.Shaukat Ali Jawaid Chief Editor and Mr. Mubarak Ali Production Editor of Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences. Prof.Ambreen Usmani and Dr. Musarrat Riaz are also members of the Editorial Board of Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences.

Dr. Maqbool H Jafary training scholarship was indeed a life time experience and a very memorable event. God Almighty has gifted the Chief Editor of PJMS and his hard working editorial team with many qualities like professionalism, dedication and passion. The success story of PJMS which at present enjoys the highest Impact Factor among the Pakistani medical journals is a beacon of guiding light for others and offers hope to the next generation of researchers who are searching a mentor and role model.

In short editing a good quality peer reviewed biomedical journal in a developing countries with constraints of financial and human resources is a great challenge, at times highly frustrating and stressful job.  To quote Dr. Hugh Clegg “A Medical Editor has to be the keeper of the conscience of a profession and if he/she tries to live upto these ideals, they will always be getting into trouble”. Another distinguished Editor from UK had once written that “Medical Editors are loved by their spouses, parents and children and nobody else” which conveys a lot.

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