Lack of funding, not enough publications and poor Research output is not country specific but a regional problem-Dr. Zaid Memish


 Master Class on Scientific Writing, Publishing at Global Health Exhibition

Lack of funding, not enough publications and
poor Research output is not country specific
but a regional problem-Dr. Zaid Memish

Many countries in the region can contribute much
more to Research & Development funds than
what they are doing at present

EMAME is striving to promote research culture,
art of scientific writing and publishing in the
EMRO region- Shaukat Ali Jawaid

From our correspondent

RIYADH (SAUDI ARABIA): Lack of funding for research, not enough contributions to the medical literature because of poor research output is not country specific but a regional problem. Many countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region can afford to allocate much more financial resources for Research & Development than what they are doing at present. This was stated by Dr. Zaid Memish, an eminent research scientist, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Epidemiology and Global Health, Professor at College of Medicine, Al-Faisal University, Riyadh Saudi Arabia. He was making a presentation on “Choosing a Title, Writing an abstract and Introduction” at the Master Class on Scientific Writing and Publishing organized by Eastern Mediterranean Association of Medical Editors (EMAME) at the Global Health Exhibition and Congress held here from September 10-12th 2018. The meeting which was one of the numerous workshops which was part of the congress attracted over one hundred participants who took keen interest in the deliberations.

Mr. Shaukat Ali Jawaid Secretary EMAME presenting his latest book on
Scientific Writing to Dr. Zaid Memish, an eminent research scientist from
Saudi Arabia during Master Class on Scientific Writing & Publishing organized
by EMAME at Riyadh on September 10th. Also seen in the picture are
Prof. Abdelazeem Eldawlatly and Prof. Sultan Ayub Meo

the other facilitators at the workshop.

Dr. Zaid Memish was one of the facilitators at the workshop. Other speakers included Mr. Shaukat Ali Jawaid Chief Editor Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences who is also Secretary of EMAME, Prof. Sultan Ayub Meo Associate Editor BMC Medical Education, Professor of Clinical Physiology and Medical Education at College of Medicine King Saud University, Saudi Arabia and Dr. Abdelazeem Eldawlatly Editor-in-Chief, Saudi Journal of Anesthesia and Professor of Anesthesia, College of Medicine at King Saud University, Riyadh Saudi Arabia.

Continuing Dr. Zaid Memish gave details of funding for Research and Development by the countries in the MENA Region. Speaking about the Title of a manuscript he pointed out that if a paper is read by one person, the title is read by over five hundred readers, hence it is extremely important to choose the title of a scientific paper carefully to make the editor to have a positive decision to read the article and have a positive decision. The title, he further stated, should be attractive, nice to get full review. Short and concise title will be on the Google and it will appear more frequently on search engines. Short title also ensures more citations. Make sure to have appropriate Key Words. Title should be informative, short and concise. If possible it should give details of research design like multicenter study which will be preferred. Short title which describes results will get more citations while titles with question marks won’t interest the Editors, he remarked.

Continuing Dr. Zaid Memish said that a title with a hyphen or colon will also attract less citations. He advised the authors to finalize the title after completing the manuscript because they might like to change the title. It is important that one uses declarative titles instead of neutral title. Choosing the right title is extremely important as poor title will result in poor quality of manuscript, he remarked. His other advice to the authors was to make sure that they cover a broad area in title rather than confining it to a particular place, city or institution. Do not use words which confuse the editor.

Speaking about how to write structured abstract Dr. Zaid Memish pointed out that the objective is to highlight key points from major sections of the article i.e. background, objective, methods, results besides conclusions. Smart scientists, he opined, will challenge findings, guidelines and always ask for scientific evidence. Do not take everything said by the speakers on its face value. Always challenge the facts put forward by the scientists and researchers. Introduction should be brief. It should identify the gaps in knowledge, how you are going to fill up those gaps. It is better to start with a background information, identify what the previous research has shown and what it has not shown, and be specific in your objective. Introduction should start with a much wider background and then close in at the end where the objective of the study should be restated. Introduction should contain about 10-15% of the total length of the manuscript. Conclusions should contain the take home message. He urged the research scientists to publish their research work in local good quality peer reviewed journals which will go a long way in improving their quality and standard and it will also improve their citations and Impact Factor. As an editor if I am convinced that the manuscript contains quite useful information but at the same time it suffers from plagiarism, I request the authors to rewrite, improve their manuscript avoiding plagiarism and refrain from cut and paste, he concluded.

Earlier in his introductory remarks Mr. Shaukat Ali Jawaid Secretary EMAME gave background of the formation of EMAME in 2003 at WHO EMRO which he said was since then striving for promoting the research culture, art of medical writing and scientific publishing in the region. We had our second conference sponsored by Saudi Medical Journal at Riyadh in 2004 while third meeting was hosted by Iran at Shiraz, fourth was hosted by Bahrain while Pakistan hosted the Fifth EMAME Conference at College of Physicians & Surgeons Pakistan campus in Karachi from December 2-5th in 2010. The sixth meeting was again hosted by Iran at Shiraz in 2015. We are organizing workshops on medical writing, peer review, courses on medical journal publishing in different countries in the region. We recently had a three day workshop on Scientific Writing and Publishing at Dubai from June 22-24th 2018 in collaboration with Dubai Health Authority which was attended by sixty nine participants from the Gulf countries. The present meeting was also a part of EMAME’s activities for which Dr. Ahmed Mandil Coordinator, Research Development and Innovations at WHO EMRO had taken the initiative and done a lot of work but unfortunately he could not come and we all miss him. He would have contributed a great deal to the scientific deliberations. As a policy EMAME always identifies and tries to recognize the local talent that is why three of the facilitators for the current workshop are from Saudi Arabia. We are extremely grateful to all of them for participating in the meeting and their valuable contributions.

Prof. Sultan Ayub Meo was the next speaker who talked about Medical Search Engines and choosing the right journal. The important Web Medical Search Engines which he mentioned included Thomson Reuters which has now been renamed as Clarivate Analytics, ISI Web of Knowledge, PubMed by National Library of Medicine USA and PubMed Central. Other search engines include Science Direct, Google scholar, Cochrane Library, Scopus besides Springer Nature. Scopus covers different sources which includes journals, conferences and books.

The journals can be classified into two groups i.e. ISI indexed and non-indexed. Prefer to publish your research work in Impact Factor Journals. Choosing the right journal is the art of science with which most of the new authors are not familiar, he added.

For the authors choosing the right journal was important to have relevant readership. Look at the readership, prestige, ranking of the journal and its novelty. Look at the journal websites, read the instructions for authors carefully, look at the aims and scope of the journal, subject category of the journal and what kind of papers the editor of that particular journal is looking for? Find out where the Journal is indexed, who reads the journal, how prestigious the journal is, how long it takes to process and publish the papers, its peer review system and also see if there are some costs involved i.e. processing fee and publication charges. Submitting a manuscript to an inappropriate journal is a common mistake made by the authors and most often the editors reject such manuscripts without sending it for external review. Choose the journal which matches your study which will increase its chances of acceptance. It is quite difficult to get a manuscript accepted in good quality high Impact Factor Journals.

While every author, Prof. Sultan Meo opined wishes to get his research published in best possible high IF journals but be realistic, do not aim too high and do not aim too low as well. Remember higher is the Impact Factor, higher is the rejection rate. Try to have a balance between worth of your research work and Impact Factor of the journal. Always look at the aims and scope of the journal before submitting your manuscript. He then referred to the publication cost, indexing of the journals, and search for suitable ISI indexed journal. Researchers, Prof. Sultan Meo opined must understand the quality and novelty of their work, know the specific targeted readers, take into account prestige of the journal, publication cost. Choosing the appropriate journal will increase the chances of acceptance of the manuscript, he added.

Mr. Shaukat Ali Jawaid highlighted the ICMJE authorship criteria which was revised about two years ago and it now has four criteria’s. Only those who have made significant intellectual contributions to the study in its different stages i.e. conception, design, planning, data collection, interpretation and writing of the manuscript are eligible for authorship. The fourth criteria added recently also makes it mandatory that all the listed authors or any one of them must be accountable for the integrity of the research and its findings. Though there is no limit on the number of authors but only those should be listed and allowed who are eligible for authorship. More recently the journals have also started asking for individual contributor ship of all the listed authors. He also referred to Ghost authors and Gift authorship which he opined was intellectual corruption which the editors should not promote.

Mr. Shaukat Ali Jawaid in his next presentation stated that there is a specific format for an original article. It consists of different sections summarized in IMRAD which stands for Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion. One must know what information has to be included in which section. Most often the articles get rejected simply because the authors have failed to include relevant information in a related section and fail to convey the message. He discussed in detail as to what information must be included in the Methods and Results sections. Be specific as no vague statements are permitted. Moreover, every statement must be properly referenced. Ethics Committee approval and guidance from statistician should be sought before starting the study.

Prof. Sultan Ayub Meo in his next presentation highlighted how to start writing discussion which is the most important part of any manuscript. Start with important findings of your study and then compare your results with local, national, and international studies. Similarities as well as non-similarities are both important. In the latter case try to find out the reasons why your findings are different. Most of the references will come in this section. The concluding paragraph should have a take home message and do not forget to mention limitations of the study.

Mr. Shaukat Ali Jawaid discussed how to cite references. He advised the authors to restrict to latest, relevant references mostly from the last five years and be mindful of the length of manuscript as most journals have fixed word limits for different categories of manuscripts due to pressure on limited space available. References from peer reviewed journals are always preferred followed by references from books. Be careful while citing references from websites though websites of important institutions which enjoy credibility contain lot of useful information which can be helpful and cited. However, do not forget to mention the date on which those websites were accessed.

Prof. Abdelazeem Eldawlatly made a presentation on Research and Publication Ethics. He pointed out that most of the retractions these days were coming from Science journals. The number of articles being retraced by various journals is increasing every year which reflects the wide spread prevalence of menace of scientific misconduct including plagiarism, falsification, fabrication of data. Some authors are retraced much more. One of the study showed the prevalence of retraction in UK 13%, India 56% and Arizona up to 89%. He then described the various types of scientific misconduct. His presentation was supplemented with examples of plagiarism, falsification and fabrication of data, copy and paste which is quite common by the novice authors. He also highlighted the menace of fake peer review practiced by some authors when they are asked by the editors to suggest potential reviewers for their studies. The editors have to be very careful in such cases, he remarked.

During the discussion some of the participants complained that editors sit on the submitted manuscripts for months without any communication and feed back to the authors. Responding to this it was pointed out that it is no less than a crime. The editors are supposed to keep the authors informed about the developments and processing of their manuscripts. Ideally the authors should get initial feedback within two to three weeks or earlier if their manuscript was being processed further and in case it is not, they should be informed so that authors can submit it to some other journal. Authorship problems also figures during the discussion and some seniors, it was alleged, try to get their names included as authors despite the fact that they have not contributed much which is a situation faced in many countries. Hence, one has to carefully negotiate in such situations, avoid to annoy the seniors, heads of the department or institutions. Some participants felt that they find it difficult to start doing research though they are very keen but lack guidance. It was emphasized that the faculty members in various institutions and administration must provide facilities, guidance for research, medical writing and scientific publishing by organizing such academic activities on regular basis. There is no dearth of talent and expertize in the region, we just need to identify, recognize and respect them.