Evaluation of Biomedical
Higher Education Commission (HEC) invited over two dozen editors of biomedical journals from Rawalpindi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Hyderabad and Karachi to make presentations regarding their journals at a meeting which it had organized at University of Karachi on October 19th 2015. Prof. Anwar Gilani and Dr. Mohammad Rafiq Baloch Director General (QAA) from HEC along with another expert were the members of the evaluation committee who were present. Prof. M. Hafeezullah Vice Chancellor of Khyber Medical University participated in the evaluation process through Video link from Peshawar.
Dr. Jamshed Akhtar made the first presentation on behalf of Journal of College of Physicians & Surgeons Pakistan. He gave details about its history, working, peer review system and the tracking of the manuscripts before they are published. All the manuscripts, he said, are screened for plagiarism by Turnitin before they are published. JCPSP is indexed in Medline and also enjoys an Impact Factor. It has a proper office and dedicated staff.
Dr. Fatema Jawad gave a presentation on Journal of Pakistan Medical Association. She also gave its historical background, details of the peer review, manuscript management system and screening of the manuscripts for plagiarism through Turnitin for which the facility is provided by the HEC. JPMA is also indexed in Medline and also enjoys an Impact Factor.
I myself (Shaukat Ali Jawaid) presented details regarding Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences which became Bi-monthly in January 2013. The information regarding manuscripts received, rejected, published with countrywide details during 2014 were highlighted. Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences attracts manuscripts from over fifty countries and during 2014 its overall acceptance rate was 19.8%. It is available on PubMed through PubMed Central and is also covered by Thompson Reuters ISI Science Citation Index Expanded known for its Impact Factor. He also announced that they do not need any financial assistance from the HEC as they have become self-sufficient. Not only that they have also acquired membership of Cross Ref/Cross Check to acquire DOI (Digital Object Identifier) and iThenticate for screening of manuscripts for plagiarism. The journal has also made arrangements with a service provider in Tehran and now in Singapore to provide XML files for uploading on PubMed Central. The journal spends about five to six thousand US$ annually on these services because it is the requirement of their authors who come from over fifty countries. The journal was also earning precious foreign exchange for the country through publication charges which the authors from overseas pay.
Editors of Annals of Punjab Medical College Faisalabad, Annals of Abbassi Shaheed Hospital, Journal of DUHS, Journal of LUMHS from Hyderabad, Pakistan Journal of Radiology. Journal of Pakistan Orthopedic Association, Journal of Rawalpindi Medical College and few others also made presentations on behalf of their journals. While some of the Editors have just taken over and will need a few years to make any impact of their Journal, the overall presentations from many journals were just pathetic. Questions raised by Prof. Anwar Gilani and Prof. M. Hafeezullah reflected that some of these editors were not fully conversant with the art of scientific publishing and medical journalism. For example Prof. M. Hafeezullah commenting on a number of presentations remarked that those journals were not following the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) Guidelines. The references were not written correctly. Some of these journals have Vice Chancellors, Principals or Deans of their respective institutions as Chief Editor or Editor but it showed that they were just show pieces and they were not aware of what was being published in their journals.
In one instance when Prof. Anwar Gilani asked the Editor of a journal how they have written the world therapeutic in the tile in an animal study, they Editor could not respond. Then she was told that therapeutic is used only in studies which are conducted in patients or human beings and not animals. It was also pointed out by the members of the Evaluation Committee that the format of abstract in some journals were different in various articles published in the same issue. Even if the authors make some mistake, it is the job of the Editor to ensure uniformity and a proper format. Some, of the editors did not know that Tables should have headings on top and illustrations are supposed to have captions underneath. These are some of the basics which are not known to some of those who are acting as the Editors of various journals.
Some of the journals just publish two or three issues in a year who were asked to ensure that they publish at least four issues in a Year to have a quarterly frequency. One of the editors was asked what it means by “Corresponding Editors” to which he said that they do give us some suggestions from time to time. He was told that this is not a recognized term, instead they should call it Members of the Advisory Board. Another editor was asked why they have written A, B, C after the name of the authors instead of 1, 2, 3 to which he said that they copied the pattern followed by one of the American Journals. Some of the editors did not know the difference between indexing and databases. They were told that Medline and Thompson Reuters Science Citation Index Expanded (SCIE) are the only two recognized indexing services while all others including PubMed Central are databases.
Prof. M. Hafeezullah suggested that the Editors of Journal of College of Physicians & Surgeons of Pakistan, JPMA and Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences should help and train editors of other journals to help improve their quality and standard. He also suggested that the Higher EducationCommission should make arrangements for acquiring the software of XML files tagging and provide this facility to the journals which will ensure that maximum number of Pakistani Journals will be able to join PubMed Central thereby making their presence felt on PubMed database. Prof. Anwar Gilani wished that those journals who have already acquired Impact Factor should endeavor to improve their Impact Factor further.
Mr. Shaukat Ali Jawaid pointed out that some of their colleagues were already busy in organizing workshops on Medical Writing, Peer Review and Journal Publishing from the platform of Pakistan Association of Medical Editors (PAME). We have already conducted courses for Medical Editors at Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi-Islamabad and Khyber Medical University at Peshawar. A training manual for Editors has been prepared and it is being constantly updated and revised adding more and more information which becomes available after attending various workshops and conferences of Editors like EMAME, WAME and APAME. Dr. Jamshed Akhtar also suggested that HEC should make arrangements for XML tagging software which was seconded by Mr. Shaukat Ali Jawaid. Dr. Mohammad Rafiq Baloch from HEC promised to look into this aspect. It was also promised that all the HEC recognized biomedical journals will be provided the facility of Turnitin to check plagiarism of the manuscripts before they are published.
While the efforts being made by the Higher Education Commission are commendable, they have also been providing financial grants to journals it has recognized, the overall performance of the journals was disappointing and highly un-satisfactory. Even otherwise, it is not possible to evaluate a journal in fifteen to twenty minutes. HEC needs to improve its evaluation system in consultation with professional medical editors. Instead of providing funding to the journals, it will be much better if it provides the editors training facilities which will go a long way in improving the quality and standard of the Pakistani journals. Pakistan Association of Medical Editors has the expertize available and it can collaborate with the Higher EducationCommission in organizing these training workshops for the editors of biomedical journals all over the country. HEC had also asked the participants to bring with them numerous documents like peer review reports, plagiarism check report of the last two issues. We had published over hundred articles in the last two issues and it took us four days to collect all those documents which included peer review report of each article published, plagiarism check report, Ethics Committee approval and the Letter of Undertaking received from the authors before their manuscripts are accepted for processing but nobody checked these documents. We now intend to send them to the HEC through courier service for their record.