off record
Shaukat Ali Jawaid

“Acceptance Letter”

Authors are considered the most dangerous pressure group which the editors of biomedical journals have to face. Under pressure to publish their research work early to meet some academic requirements, most authors are keen to get their manuscripts published soon after submission which is not possible at the standard good quality peer reviewed biomedical journals.

One of the most often request made by the authors is to issue them an acceptance letter while the paper can be published later when it is possible. They make such requests because they are not aware of the whole publication process. Most often it has been observed that those in hurry never bother to carefully read and follow the instructions for authors on the journal website to which they wish to submit their manuscript. This increase the chances of trauma to these manuscripts. Since many of these authors have not attended any workshop on Medical Writing, are not conversant with the manuscript processing system, it makes the matters worse. Many a times these manuscripts are rejected or asked to revise and resubmit after initial internal review and screening. Despite the fact that it is made clear that incomplete submissions will not be entertained, some authors do not bother to submit/upload Ethics Committee/IRB approval, others do not care for the ICMJE authorship criteria which most of the reputed journals follow or fail to arrange processing fee.

The authors must understand that publication strategy should be a part of the research project and they must also identify the journal to which they wish to submit their manuscript for publication before they start writing so that they can follow their instructions. Secondly they must understand that once the manuscripts are uploaded, they have to be formatted, go through initial internal review, plagiarism check and then if accepted for further processing, will be sent for external review and all this takes couple of months. Hence they should not expect a decision to accept the paper within days. Even if the papers are accepted for fast track processing, the facility which is available in a few selected cases, even then it takes two to three months. An acceptance letter is issued only once almost 95% of the whole process including internal, external peer review and plagiarism check has been completed. At times the authors are asked to revise the manuscript in the light of reviewer’s comments and suggestions and how much time they take to revise it will also determine the processing time. In any case we in Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences request our authors to plan for at least six to eight months from the date of submission. They are also asked to first enquire if they need urgent processing and whether we can accept their requests otherwise they are advised to submit their manuscripts to other journals where they think they can get it processed early. Any attempt to influence the review process or pressurize the Editor by sending emails and phone calls has a negative effect.

All good quality standard peer reviewed biomedical journals are working under lot of pressure. In view of the too many submissions which they attract, it is not possible for them to entertain all the authors as they have their own limitations of finance as well as human resource. It is unfortunate that at present we have just three biomedical journals with Impact Factor which is one of the important criteria for judging the standard and quality of a journal and which is given too much importance by the Higher Education Commission, Government of Pakistan as well as by regulatory bodies in other countries. The solution lies in having more and more good quality peer reviewed biomedical journals published from Pakistan, earning of Impact Factor by the journals already being published by medical colleges and universities. Editors of some of these journals are trying their best but getting an Impact Factor has also become much more difficult and complicated for the last few years. Training workshops for the authors in the art of medical writing for the postgraduates, young faculty members and researchers which is already being done by some of the members of Pakistan Association of Medical Editors (PAME) can be further intensified and accelerated which will go a long way in improving the situation. Above all it is the careful attitude of the authors themselves and the quality of their manuscripts which will determine the time taken for publication. Careless attitude which is often witnessed on the part of authors only makes the matters worse for them. Hence it is better to work with a plan starting from the selection of the topic for research, conduction of research, preparing the manuscript and submitting it for publication.

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