A Good Editor should have a passion towards the Editorship craft, knowledge about manipulation of data, Ghost authorship and publication ethics

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Interview Dr. Farrokh Habibzadeh Former President WAME

A Good Editor should have a passion towards the
Editorship craft, knowledge about manipulation
of data, Ghost authorship and publication ethics

We were able to establish WAME’s own website
during my President-ship which is now functional

Training programme for Editors being finalized in collaboration with ICMJE,
Equator and COPE will be available online free to WAME members

By Shaukat Ali Jawaid

SHIRAZ (IRAN): Dr. Farrokh Habibzadeh Founder Editor of The International Journal of Environmental   and Occupational Medicine (IJOEM), Director, Medical Education and Research Center at National Iranian Oil Company Medical Health and Cure Organization, Shiraz Iran who is also former President of World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) is a multifaceted personality. This gentleman with an infectious smile is a well known personality among the medical editors and it must be a matter of pride for Iran that one of its national rose to the position of President of WAME. He is one of the over half a dozen friends medical editors I have in Islamic Republic of Iran.  I first met him at the conference of medical journal editors in Cairo in 2003 where the foundation of Eastern Mediterranean Association of Medial Editors was laid and we became friends instantly. Since then, my visit to Shiraz is never complete without meeting him.   During my recent visit to Shiraz to attend the ISC conference and the Congress on Publication Ethics organized by Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, I took out some time to visit him in IJOEM office along with my colleague Dr. Fatema Jawad Chief Editor of JAMA and we discussed matters of mutual interest. Given below are the excerpts from the conversation:


Dr. Farrokh Habibzadeh

When and how did your professional love affair started with medical journalism?

I was a medical student in early 1990s and it was in those days that I went to the office of Iranian Journal of Medical Sciences. Prof. Karim Vessal was the Editor. I call him the father of modern medical journalism in Iran. I was immensely impressed with his enthusiasm and how he used to work and help the authors to improve the quality of their manuscripts. He encouraged me to take up the post of editorial assistant of the journal.  Working there, I greatly improved my editorial skills and was then offered the post of Deputy Editor in 2002.

While working as Deputy Editor of Iranian Journal of Medical Sciences, I was asked to organize a Lancet workshop on science writing along with two other editors from Lancet i.e. David Sharp and Stuart Spencer. After this successful collaboration, they invited me to join the editorial board of Lancet as a consultant. Later on I was appointed as Hony. Editor of the Lancet Middle East Edition. I also served Iranian Journal of Achieves of Medicine with Prof. Karim Vessal and helped to establish that journal. Their first few issues were published from Shiraz before it was shifted to Tehran. However, one of the turning points in my editing career was my participation in the international congress on Peer Review in Spain, Barcelona in 2001. Till then the only source of information for me about medical journalism was my mentor Dr. Karim Vessal. I was also fortunate to get a scholarship to attend  pre –congress short course for editors run by Tim Albert and Harvey Marcovitch the two eminent personalities in the field of medical journalism. It was after attending this workshop that I realized I was totally ignorant about modern medical journalism. While I was asking about how to get a journal indexed, they were talking about quality and rightly emphasized that indexing comes after quality. This meeting was very fruitful and I learnt a lot, made many friends, learnt about World Association of Medical Editors (WAME), European Association of Science Editors (EASE). I realized that the problems faced by editors in developing countries are quite different from those faced by the editors in the developed world. I tried to improve Iranian Journal of Medical Sciences through whatever I had learnt there, conducted numerous workshops. Two years later I was elected as one of the Directors of WAME, became its Vice President and in 2012 was elected as President of WAME.

What did you accomplish as President of WAME?

The most important thing which I could accomplish as President WAME was to have our own functional website of WAME. Previously it was being hosted by JAMA and BMJ and we had no control and we had no power to change it, make any changes on the website. Now WAME website is fully functional which we have developed with our own resources and we have the power to make any changes that we wish to make. Yet my achievement was helping the Indonesian Editors in Jakarta to establish the   “InAMED” the Indonesian Association of Medical Editors in 2012.

The problem with WAME is that we all work honorary and on voluntary basis.  Nobody is full time paid staff which is a problem. We have to wait sometime for someone to complete an assignment. We plan to hire atleast one fall time paid staff member   chairman of Educational Committee. We wish to have the training programme for Editors ready which will be freely available online to WAME members in the next few months. At present we are working in collaboration with Equator, ICMJE and COPE and wish to have a joint programme.


Dr. Fatema Jawad Chief Editor JPMA and Mr.Shaukat Ali Jawaid Chief Editor
Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences during their recent visit to Shiraz Iran also
visited the offices of International Journal of Occupational and Environmental
Medicine. Group photograph taken on this occasion shows from (L to R)
Ms. Ashraf Simi, the Executive Editor, Dr. Mahboobeh Yadollahie, the Deputy
Editor and Dr. Farrokh Habibzadeh the Chief Editor of The IJOEM,
Mr. Shaukat Ali Jawaid and Dr. Fatema Jawad.

WAME will have its next meeting in New Delhi India from October 2-4th 2015. All the founder members and past presidents of WAME will be there. Conference website will be ready in the next few weeks and it will have all details regarding submission of abstracts and registration etc.

I was founder member of Eastern Mediterranean Association of Medical Editors (EMAME) and also served as Vice President EMAME from November 2008 to November 2010 besides being Chairman of the Editorship Committee of EMAME since 2005. I have one hundred fifteen scientific papers published in national and international peer reviewed journals besides having authored a book “Patho physiological basis of Acid-Base Disorders” published in 2006 besides having contributed chapters in three books all published in Persian.

When did you establish the International Journal of Environment and Occupation Medicine (IJEOM)?

First issue of this journal was published in January 2010. It was due to dedicated efforts and enthusiasm of staff, editorial board members, reviewers and authors that we have been able to make good progress since then. As regional consultant I help to establish new journals besides improving the quality of the journals already being published. I try to bridge the North-South knowledge gap and keep the regional editors informed of international standards of a quality journal.

What are the pre-requisites to have good quality standard biomedical journals?

In order to have a good quality medical journal, an editor has to learn and adhere to a set of rules. Throughout my professional career as an Editor, I have learnt that a good editor is not the one who has an ambition to be an Editor but one should have a passion towards the editorship craft. It has its own rules, tips as well as tricks. An editor is supposed to be fully conversant with data manipulation by the pharmaceutical companies who are known to be favoring their products. An editor should also be aware of the Ghost authors who publish manuscripts under the name of eminent scholars, academicians supporting the pharmaceutical companies and their products. Poor knowledge and skills of the Editor can result in irreversible damage to public and healthcare. Editors should try to achieve excellence through research and adopting evidence based journalism following publication ethics. The editors should also be competent and skilled enough to help improve poor quality manuscripts, communicate with other editor colleagues, authors, reviewers. They must also ensure that they do not betray the trust of reads and publish correct information.

During the last couple of years, there have been tremendous developments in the field of scientific publishing. One can work; edit a journal sitting anywhere in the world having access to internet. Developments in digital technologies have helped to publish a good quality journal without much difficulty. Editorship is not an easy task; in fact it was one of the most complicated, stressful jobs.

How the younger generation of physicians in Iran is different from the older one?

The young physicians in Iran are  much better informed,  have better knowledge of computer usage, information technology and  they are also good in English language as compared to the older generation of physicians and surgeons. Still English language is a problem with authors from Iran but here too the younger generation is much better. At the scientific workshops we talk about the structure of the article but at the English workshops we tell the participants how an idea is translated and then how to write.  Most of the manuscripts that we see from young faculty members has no problem with English language. We have centers in all the medical universities where the staff help the faculty, postgraduates in writing scientific research proposals, how to find the sample size, how to write report, interpreted the data and how to improve the English language as well. Younger generation of physicians in Iran can also speak English much better. Medical students have their own journals and there are more than half a dozen journals edited by medical students. They accept and publish manuscripts from medical students. They run and manage these journals themselves.

What are your other responsibilities in the National Iranian Oil Company?

I am Director of Medial Education and Research Center. Recently I have also been assigned the responsibilities of coordinator of Research at national level by the NIOC. We have twenty centers all over the country while some of these centers also have affiliated sub-centers. Most of these centers are in South of Iran where oil is and it provides an excellent platform for multicenter studies.  We have resource of industrial medicine and record of the last three generations. Hence, we have a good platform to conduct cohort multicenter studies in occupational medicine, industrial medicine and environmental medicine.

National Iranian Oil Company has its headquarters in Tehran and I am the research coordinator for the whole country. At Shiraz we have a day clinic with thirty beds. At other big centers like Ahvaz, we have big hospitals with all the requisite staff. Workers of NIOC and their family members can use these facilities. Their medical treatment is free and even if they need treatment abroad, not only the patient but their accompanying person is also fully supported. Healthcare is absolutely free for them. At Shiraz center we have about one hundred physicians but at Ahvaz we have over four hundred doctors including general practitioners and specialists besides consultants in sub-specialties. First cochlear transplant was done here and later this programme was continued at Shiraz University of Medical Sciences.  Shiraz University has a well established liver transplant programme. Kidney transplants are now a routine, hence we do not mention about that. In Shiraz university and its affiliated facilities we also have pancreatic, lungs and to some extent heart transplant programme. However, heart transplant programme is better at Tehran.

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