off record
Shaukat Ali Jawaid

Beware authors,
Don’t get trapped

Last month a faculty member from Peshawar, KPK rang up and said he wanted to talk to the Editor about an important issue regarding publication of papers in Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences. On getting permission, he stated that:

“He wanted to get two papers published in your journal but since the journal is not accepting new submissions these days, he contacted a doctor in Lahore who promised that he will get the papers published within three months. I asked him how it is possible to which he said that he had a friend a senior consultant in one of the leading private university hospitals in Karachi and he will use his contacts for this. After some discussions, he demanded one lac ten thousand rupees per manuscript with a promise of publication within three months. Since I urgently needed some published papers, I paid him two lacs twenty thousand rupees for two papers but now he says, I have to wait since the Journal is having some issues with the regulatory bodies, hence it will take some time. I just wanted to confirm the actual situation, he asked”.

He was politely told that Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences has a very transparent policy. There are detailed comprehensive instructions giving all the details regarding processing and publication of manuscripts. It has also been made clear that fast track processing facility is not available these days as we are trying to first clear the backlog as we have too many papers pending and under process. It has also been made clear that that while the processing fee is non-refundable but the authors are advised that in case of any doubt whether their manuscript can be processed further or not, they can share the structured abstract of their paper with complete details regarding authors and their affiliations besides their individual contributions by e mail. Once they get a positive response, they can go ahead and make the submission on journal website. It will save the authors from lot of inconvenience and also save the processing fee. Our publication charges as mentioned on our website are Rs. Twenty-five thousand for a four-page manuscript and Rs. Four thousand extra per page is charged in case of any additional pages though we do not encourage lengthy manuscripts since there is lot of pressure on limited space available at present we are accepting only a very few selected high quality research which does add some new information to the medical literature and have an increased chances of citations. Many prospective authors are utilizing this facility. He was further advised that he should have carefully read the instructions for authors. We have earlier received similar complaints from authors from King Edward Medical University, Fatima Jinnah Medical University Lahore besides some authors from Sialkot, Gujranwala, Sargodha and few other cities in Punjab. We had taken note and published announcements, shared this information on various WhatsApp Groups. These unscrupulous people are also reported to have issued factious acceptance letters on plain paper. The fact is that we do not process any paper which is not first submitted on our Journal website, we use Open Journal System and no paper is processed without the OJS Reference Number. Most often acceptance e mails are sent to the authors once their paper is accepted after peer review and post acceptance editing. Acceptance letter if asked for by authors, is also issued on the Journal letterhead with signature of the Chief Editor. It is your mistake and you will suffer. At this, he said, he knows how to get his money back but enquired if there was any chance of an early publication? He was told that there is no “Short Cut” processing and peer review takes time and we ask authors to plan for at least for six to eight months.

Earlier we had brought this malpractice to the notice of Chairman of Higher Education Commission and other concerned officials in HEC as well. The prospective authors, researchers are once again informed to beware and don’t get trapped. While on one hand this incident highlights the unethical practices indulged in by some undesirable elements which urgently needs to be checked but it also throws light on the eagerness of authors who are in a hurry to get their manuscripts published to meet some deadlines. The situation can be improved if we have more good quality peer reviewed biomedical journals so that the authors do not have to wait for too long as publication overseas in standard medical journals is also very expensive and many Pakistani authors cannot afford it. It is the duty of editors, regulatory bodies as well as heads of the medical colleges, universities to contribute their share in improving the current situation.

It was in this context that Pakistan Association of Medical Editors(PAME) had collaborated with University of Health Sciences (UHS) Lahore in training the editors and other editorial team members of journals to build their professional capacity by starting Certificate Courses in Medical Editing (CME) and Certificate Course in Medical Journalism for Editors (CMJE). Ninety-four senior faculty members have so far completed these courses and it is already paying rich dividends. We hope the situation will improve further in the coming years.

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