Higher Education Commission should start publishing some journals to learn the problems faced in Scientific Publishing

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Higher Education Commission should start 
publishing some journals to learn the 
problems faced in Scientific Publishing
Instead of promoting foreign publishers, it should help
and facilitate national health science journals to
improve their standards

ISLAMABAD: Higher Education Commission of Pakistan which perhaps does not have many people with medical background is neither fully aware of the problems faced in scientific publishing nor those at the helm of affairs are interested to learn. Hence, it will be much better if HEC starts publishing some journals, in health sciences, it can at least start a medical journal and a journal of allied health sciences, get an Impact Factor and thus help the Pakistani researchers to publish their research work in standard medical journals. This perhaps is the only practical way for HEC officials to know the reality.

At present there are only three medical journals in Pakistan which enjoy Impact Factor and they are under tremendous pressure from the authors who have to wait for too long to get their manuscripts processed and published. Hence if the HEC which has enough funding, starts publishing journals, it will come as a great help for the Pakistani researchers. Let those healthcare professionals who are advising them, help them to publish and edit these journals. The present policies being pursued by the HEC are likely to promote the foreign publishers with very little help and assistance, encouragement to national health science journals to improve their standard and quality.

The first and foremost important is to build the professional capacity of the editors of Pakistani journals as well as their support staff by organizing regular training courses, hands on training so that they know how to make use of Open Journal System and other software’s. Many authors even do not know how to make a submission on the journal websites which are using Open Journal System, how to make corrections in pdf files, how to send manuscripts for review using OJS. Ensuring that OJS remains functional all the time is yet another uphill task as at times, trouble shooting by people experts in Information Technology or good programmers are needed. The other major problem faced by the editors, publishers of national health science as well as journals in other field is the non-availability of facilities to generate XML files for submission to PubMed Central which can improve their visibility as once a journal is covered in PubMed Central, its contents are also immediately available on PubMed or Medline as well. Pakistan Association of Medical Editors (PAME) has tried to impress upon HEC many times to try to find out the problems faced by the Editors because unless they are aware of the problems, they cannot think of any solutions but so far there has been no progress. Few months ago PAME sent a communication to the Chairman HEC drawing his attention to these problems and also suggested that we can have a detailed meeting with the HEC officials in this regard but after an initial acknowledgment, again no progress could be made.

In the meantime PAME with its limited resources has started a six month Certificate Course for Editors of Health Science Journals at University of Health Sciences Lahore. First batch of twenty three editors has qualified and the second batch was inducted on October 7th 2020. It is also planned to have an Advance Certificate Course in Medical Editing which will again be of six months duration and eventually if all goes well, it is planned to start Masters Course in Medical Journalism for which steps are being taken to establish a Dept. of Medical Journalism at UHS Lahore. HEC is content with giving some Grants to the journals which it has recognized and more recently it has also started a series of Webinars for training of editors. Unfortunately many of these webinars are marketing strategies by foreign publishers.

It may be mentioned here that a large number of Universities in Europe and other developed world have cancelled the subscriptions of journals published by these leading publishers as they wish to promote the concept of Open Access Publishing. It is important for every country to be self-sufficient and for that it has to develop its own infrastructure so that they are not at the mercy of any foreign institution for all times to come. It is a bit difficult journey but in the long run it can pay rich dividends.

Islamic Republic of Iran was much behind us few years ago but then they realized and separated medical education and health from HEC, put it under the Ministry of Health where it was headed by renowned medical educationists. Within few years it made a big difference. The Medical Journals Evaluation Commission in Iran in Federal Health Ministry consists of renowned medical editors. Iran does not provide any financial grant to the journals just like HEC does in Pakistan but provide the training facilities to the Editors, support staff and the publishers helping the journals get indexed in international databases. Since most of the health science journals in Iran are published by the medical universities, they have been provided software by the Government and they are capable of preparing the XML files locally with the result that now over forty journals from Iran are covered by PubMed Central of which more than a dozen are medical journals. Let our health planners learn from the success stories of other countries in the region if they themselves lack any vision and foresight to plan properly. Either we need to have a special section purely dedicated to Medical headed by medical educationists in the HEC or take higher medical education out of HEC and put it under the control of Federal Health Ministry where it should again be looked after by some renowned medical educationists. When orthopedic surgeons start performing brain surgery, the results are not difficult to imagine.

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