|Year : 2016 | Volume
| Issue : 1 | Page : 3-5
On starting a new medical journal: Problems, challenges, and remedies
Department of Anaesthesiology, Critical Care and Pain Medicine, AIIMS, New Delhi, India
|Date of Web Publication||17-Jun-2016|
Prof. Anjan Trikha
Department of Anaesthesiology, Critical Care and Pain Medicine, AIIMS, New Delhi
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Trikha A. On starting a new medical journal: Problems, challenges, and remedies. Indian Anaesth Forum 2016;17:3-5
There can be many reasons for creating a new medical journal, however the main thrust for doing so comes from the chief editor's personal zeal, his self-belief of being able to do so, and/or the need of an academic publication of the scientific society/institution the journal is likely to be affiliated to. The latter is very important in India at the present time with many private medical institutions/universities requiring such journals for their recognition and certification.
Other equally important reasons are providing record of new scholarly activities in the field of medicine to fellow scientists, scholarly recognition of the institution/society, personal benefits of the editor and the editorial board such as recognition, addition to curriculum vitae, and ability to oblige authors with helping them in getting their manuscript accepted.
Like any other new venture, starting and publishing a new journal comes with its own unique problems and challenges. Some of these would be common to all countries and some would be unique to the Indian subcontinent.
One of the foremost challenges that the editor faces is the lack of time to fulfill the commitment that is required for publishing a journal. Very frequently journal-related tasks are needed to be carried out along with all the routine work of patient care, teaching, and research. If the journal is affiliated to an institution, it is very essential to ask for some time off to fulfill this commitment. It is unlikely that such time off from routine work would be granted and most of the times, editors are known to be carrying out the “journal work” in their personal time. Therefore, passion and sheer determination are the essential prerequisites for the chief editor and his/her editorial team. It is essential to have secretarial help that may be part-time initially with an official address.
Another challenge that the editor faces is of getting articles, especially for a new journal that is yet to be indexed with different agencies. It is very rare that indexing can be achieved or “is promised” prior to bringing out issues, thus getting articles with good scientific data for the first few years is very difficult. Initially, personal contacts are required to get the articles for publication in a new journal but authors are hesitant to submit their manuscripts to new/unheard of journals that are not indexed. There have been institutions in India that have initiated their own single multispecialty journal and expect their faculty members to publish in them. An advantage of this is that articles from all fields can be accepted which avoids the draught of articles in the initial formative years. I suggest that a new journal should not be started unless the editorial team has a ready scientific content of at least two issues (for a 6 monthly frequency) or three issues (for a quarterly frequency) with them. Another issue regarding the manuscripts that are submitted is the substandard English expression. This is more obvious for articles coming from countries where English is not the basic language for teaching. Most common geographical areas from where such articles are submitted are the Indian subcontinent, Middle East, and east European countries.
At times, both reviewers and the editorial staff have to correct the grammar and the English expression which is very time-consuming and often articles tend to be rejected in the initial evaluation itself; however, due to this, a new journal cannot afford to do so. The way out is to take the help of professional editing services, advice authors to improve English after an initial screening, and have dedicated staff for English editing after a paper has been accepted.
The third challenge is regarding peer reviewers and the editorial board. Getting the manuscripts peer reviewed by experts is essential for maintaining standards of the academic content and to improve the credibility of the journal. Getting peer reviewers for a new journal is a very tough task and most of the times, especially during the initial years, the peer reviewers have to be individually requested to do the needful; the one who agree is usually a close acquaintance. In addition, the reviewers get no recognition, academic acknowledgment, or any financial reimbursements for a task which if done correctly is very time-consuming. There have been different ways in which the editors have tried to reward the reviewers by publishing their names in an annual issue of the journal, limited free access to certain academic/journal sites that charge money, or by awarding certificates of appreciation. However, in spite of these, it continues to be tough to get the submitted articles peer reviewed and in my opinion, financial payments are the only option for the new journals in this regard. The editorial board should be constituted of willing persons who would be able to deliver, have some status in their fields, and can promote the journal per se. This as such is a challenging task as most of the known personalities in the subject are usually onboard of various journals and are unlikely to agree due to lack of time. One needs to avoid individuals who volunteer to be members primarily for enhancing their personal curriculum vitae or who are likely to publish their own manuscripts in the journal. The latter can be prevented by making certain rules regarding this for all the members of the board at the outset.
An equally important challenge is the cost factor. The cost involved in bringing out a hard copy of the journal and the money required on postage tend to be a headache for the chief editor. The online issues are cheaper, but certain medical councils do not accept publications in net-based journals as criteria for academic achievements for getting jobs and promotions thereafter. Concerns have been raised against these guidelines, and remedial measures have been suggested, but till date nothing has been done about it.
Most of the journals are now published as electronic online issues which are available free of cost after a certain time gap as free access for all. Many journals have both hard and soft copies of all issues and the latter are available on payment. It is important to remember that institutional subscriptions are more expensive than individual ones which often prevent libraries to prescribe to new journals. Industry support in financial matters is not easy to obtain for newer journals. It is easier for journals with institutional support to arm twist industry for advertisements that could contribute toward the journals cost. However, these companies are likely to ensure that their own interests are taken care off in the journals funded by them. Usually, they would not welcome any adverse comments about their products and can insist the editor to publish research that has been sponsored by them which may not merit the publication after peer review., There are many instances when journals have suffered because of this reason.
I would suggest that funding for at least 5–6 issues (either electronic or otherwise) should be available or assured before the journal is started.
Furthermore, it is not easy to find audience/readers for a new journal. It is worthwhile that the first few issues of printed journals can be provided to libraries of medical institutions at a free of cost. Similarly, such issues could be distributed as part of conference kits for bringing about awareness regarding the journal.
Once a couple of issues of the journal have been brought out, the challenges which are faced are regarding duplicate submission, duplicate publication, and plagiarism.
Finally, it is to be realized that adopting management and editorial skills is not easy for doctors who tend to start journals and play a multipurpose role in its publication as a chief editor. There should be work plans, date deadlines, accountability, and scheduled meetings of the board to overcome the problems that would invariably occur. There are a few fellowships during which training in medical editing can be undertaken and are specially meant for persons with a medical degree. Some of these fellowships are sponsored by the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, and Annals of Emergency Medicine. There are a few more of such fellowships that can be very useful for the future medical editors.,
Although there are many problems and challenges associated with starting a new journal, being an editor myself I can guarantee that once the project has been nurtured like a new born baby, and after the first few issues are published on time, the sense of fulfillment and satisfaction which one gets is comparable to the one that a mountaineer gets on reaching the summit of a mountain.
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