|Year : 2019 | Volume
| Issue : 4 | Page : 289-291
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step…Miles to GO!
Department of Community Medicine, Dr. DY Patil Medical College, Hospital and Research Centre, Dr. DY Patil Vidyapeeth, Pune, Maharashtra, India
|Date of Web Publication||8-Jul-2019|
Department of Community Medicine, Dr. DY Patil Medical College, Hospital and Research Centre, Dr. DY Patil Vidyapeeth, Pune, Maharashtra
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Banerjee A. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step…Miles to GO!. Med J DY Patil Vidyapeeth 2019;12:289-91
Thus spoke Lao Tzu the ancient Chinese philosopher. And the Chinese walked the talk. Xuanzang (Hsuan-tsang), the ancient Chinese monk-philosopher, traveled thousands of miles all the way from China to Nalanda, Bihar, in India from 630 to 645 AD, to quench his thirst for Buddhism and philosophy.
Today, scholars do not physically have to travel all the distance to share knowledge. They can communicate or share knowledge in real time from one end of the world to the other using the internet. A scientific journal provides the best platform for state-of-the-art exchange of knowledge globally.
Launching a new journal is a challenge similar to undertaking a journey of a thousand miles…with miles to go before one can sleep, to paraphrase Robert Frost. Moreover, taking the first single step correctly is important. It lays down the future character of the journal – good, bad, or ugly. Predatory journals are giving an ugly twist to open access publishing.
New journals face unique challenges. Even with best practices, new journals have to struggle before they get recognized. Rome was not built in a day. The Lancet, BMJ, and the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), to which, unfairly, newer medical journals are compared, started almost 200 years ago. The Lancet was founded in 1823. The BMJ started in 1840. The NEJM journal launched its first issue on January 1, 1812.
A journal should be judged by its age. One cannot compare a toddler child with a fully grown adult. The journey of the first 1000 days of life right from conception lays the foundation for lifelong health. Similarly, best practices right from conceiving a journal carried forth through its formative years build up the reputation of the journal. What are these best practices?
First, objectivity in publishing articles purely on merit is paramount. Academic cronyism will lay a poor foundation. For this, a new journal has to build up a robust and proper peer review panel. In our hierarchical system where ruffling the feathers of seniors is hazardous for one's academic career, the double-blind peer review system where the authors do not come to know the identities of the reviewers and vice versa is appropriate.
The next challenge is finding competent reviewers; easier said than done. We are in the age of specialization and subspecialization. Again within each specialty and subspecialty, there are different fields of expertise. One method followed by most journals is scanning the references in the manuscript. The authors of recent articles mentioned in the references can be sent an invitation to review the manuscript. For a new journal, engaging reviewers in this manner is not easy. Reviewers, who are actively publishing, besides being busy with their own research, will also be sought out by many journals for review assignments. They may be reluctant to undertake a review assignment for a comparatively unknown journal. However, one should not stop trying. One should use a wide net to fish for reviewers. If the journal sends invitations to ten such reviewers, it is expected that at least two may agree to the assignment even for a new journal.
In this manner, over a period of time, a competent panel of reviewers can be established comprising referees from across the globe.
Another practice followed by most journals is to ask the authors of submitted manuscripts to suggest suitable reviewers. This has some potential for cronyism. The authors may give names of their friends in other institutions who may give a favorable report. The editorial board should judge each case on its merits. If authors are asked to suggest reviewers, the editor should check the bonafides of the reviewer suggested. If well-known and reputed, one can send the article to the referee suggested by the authors. If not so well known, the editor in addition to sending the manuscript to the suggested reviewer should send the same articles to different reviewers not known to the author so as to get a balanced view. Another option is not to send the manuscript to the reviewers of the authors' choice but keep the suggested names on the panel for reviewing manuscripts submitted in the future by other authors.
Besides engaging the reviewers, the success of a new journal depends on being transparent and author friendly. Queries from authors should be answered promptly. Besides, authors should be provided constructive suggestions to improve the manuscript in a polite manner. Some reviewers tend to be hostile and tend to use very discouraging language. This behavior can discourage budding young authors. In such situations, a mature editor can play an important role. The editor can moderate such aggressive remarks and send an “attenuated” version of a toxic input from some inconsiderate reviewer. Attention to such details will help in building up a loyal following of dedicated authors. By word of mouth, such satisfied authors will also suggest the journal to other potential authors.
The use of technology in the journal management system also helps in promoting the journal to a larger target audience. Besides availability of current and older issues, most journals nowadays have an online manuscript submission and review system. This cuts down drastically the time lag in processing manuscripts besides being eco-friendly. This is also the preferred method of most authors and reviewers.
Our journey so far – we have completed 7 years since we got our act together. That places us in primary school. Prior to 2012, ours was an in-house journal. We went online in 2012 with the state-of-the-art manuscript submission and peer review system. Since then, the journal has increasingly gained global visibility. First, we started getting manuscripts from other institutions from all over India. In subsequent years, we started getting manuscripts from all over the globe. As on today, about 15% of our manuscripts are from overseas authors. Similarly, with the online system, we have been able to reach out to peer reviewers globally. Over the years, we have been able to reach out to over 4000 referees from over 90 countries [Figure 1]. Inputs from across the globe enrich the content of the published material by providing different perspectives.
|Figure 1: Med J DY Patil Vidyapeeth has reached out to more than 4000 referees from over 90 countries. Map showing country-wise distribution of the reviewers|
Click here to view
We have had our share of ecstasy and agony. Praise from a reader or a reviewer from our country or from across the globe has inspired us. In equal measure, we have had our critics to whom we are grateful as we have learned much from our lapses. We have resorted to publishing errata to correct minor mistakes and even resorted to drastic measures such as retraction for major breaches of publication ethics.
We crossed an important milestone recently when the University Grants Commission (UGC), the apex body of higher education in India, included Medical Journal of Dr DY Patil Vidyapeeth, in its list of approved journals for granting academic credits.
The challenges ahead are formidable …we have taken the first few steps…but we have miles to go. Nevertheless, with the measures outlined above, together with the cooperation of authors and reviewers, we are sure the journey would be enjoyable and fulfilling.
Col Rajneesh Joshi for help in making the map in [Figure 1].
| References|| |
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Batrip P. Mirror of Medicine: A History of the British Medical Journal. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 1990.
Karayakram RB. Journey of the First 1000 Days. Foundation for a Brighter Future. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Government of India; April, 2018.