Medical Journalism has emerged as an important discipline in its own right

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 Medical Journalism has emerged as an
important discipline in its own right

Regulatory bodies and HCPs in Pakistan have not yet
realized its importance with the result that we are
almost fifty years behind than the developed word

KARACHI: Medical Journalism, a combination of Science and Art has emerged as an important discipline in its own right with numerous sub-specialties but the regularity bodies as well as healthcare professionals in Pakistan have not yet realized its importance. The result is that we are almost fifty years behind in this field as compared to the developed world. This is also one of the important reasons for lack of research culture and Pakistan’s poor contribution to the world medical literature.

Pakistan has so far only three biomedical journals which have been recognized and indexed by Clarivate which is known for Impact Factor. These include Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences, Journal of Pakistan Medical Association and Journal of College of Physicians & Surgeons Pakistan. Many other journals published by medical colleges, universities which have been included in Scopus and other important databases are striving hard to get intentional recognition but since they are edited most often by part time faculty, they cannot do justice as it is almost a full time job. Most of these journals have no proper offices and other infrastructure which are extremely important as those who own these publications do not seem to be interested to make some investment which it requires.

Regulatory bodies are not fully aware and conversant with the problems and difficulties faced by biomedical journals. Most of them suffer from financial and human resource constraints. Finding good quality reviewers is an uphill task while editing and managing to publish a good standard journal is extremely stressful and at times frustrating experience. Poor quality of research and submissions which they receive for publication is yet another important reason for their poor quality. Research culture is not encouraged in Pakistan, junior faculty as well as young researchers do not have enough exposure and training in the field of scientific writing and research methodology.

Pakistan Association of Medical Editors (PAME) since its establishment in 2010 has been trying to organize seminars, hands on workshops on scientific writing, peer review, publication ethics besides training courses for editors. Many authors even find it difficult to make submissions on the journal website through Open Journal System (OJS), do not know how to make corrections in the pdf file. Acquiring, training and retaining support staff is yet another serious problem the journals are facing. The government of Pakistan and regulatory bodies can do a lot provided they realize its importance and start taking interest, have discussions with the editors of biomedical journals and try to help, encourage and support their efforts. Realizing the importance of medical journalism and the art of scientific writing and publishing, PAME is collaborating with University of Health Sciences Lahore where a six months Certificate Course in Medial Editing (CME) and another Certificate Course in Medical Journalism for Editors (CMJE) have been started. So far three batches have qualified earning Certificate in Medical Editing. Total participated trained so far are ninety four while the fourth batch is now under training. Some of those who were enrolled in the earlier batches and are affiliated with various journals have done a commendable job improving the quality and standard of their journals to a great extent. Hopefully some more journals will get Impact Factor in the days to come.

Prof. Javed Akram VC UHS, Prof. Major Gen. Muhammad Aslam former VC UHS, Prof. Nadia Naseem Focal Person of CME at UHS and her team along with PAME Executive, senior editors from Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia who are acting as Mentors of the enrolled candidates have made significant contribution in this regard.

While the world is moving towards digitalization, regulatory bodies in Pakistan still insist on print version of the journal along with the online edition. The three Impact Factor Journals have a long waiting list and authors, young researchers have to wait for too long to get their research published while publication overseas in IF journals is very expensive which many of them cannot afford. If those medical journals who are being regularly published for the last fifteen to twenty years, have been included in Medline, PubMed, or indexed by Clarivate and have earned an Impact Factor are allowed to concentrate on just Online publication doing away with the print version, they will be able to accommodate more manuscripts, reduce the waiting period for the authors. Not only that, Pakistan will also earn more foreign exchange by publishing more papers. In view of the current inflation and devaluation of the Pakistani currency against US dollar, the price of printing paper has increased by 60%. Similarly other printing material including plates, ink which are all imported have also increased the cost of production tremendously with the result that the journals will be forced to increase the processing and publication charges. By deciding to go for online only journals, it will also reduce our import bill of paper and other items and save our foreign exchange. We desperately need such initiatives to help strengthen our economy but do the regulatory authorities know all this, is a question mark.