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EDITORIAL
Year : 2014  |  Volume : 46  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 239-240
 

The publication puzzle


Department of Pharmacology, GCS Medical College, Opp. DRM Office, Naroda Road, Ahmedabad - 380 025, Gujarat, India

Date of Web Publication9-May-2014

Correspondence Address:
R K Dikshit
Department of Pharmacology, GCS Medical College, Opp. DRM Office, Naroda Road, Ahmedabad - 380 025, Gujarat
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0253-7613.132147

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How to cite this article:
Dikshit R K. The publication puzzle. Indian J Pharmacol 2014;46:239-40

How to cite this URL:
Dikshit R K. The publication puzzle. Indian J Pharmacol [serial online] 2014 [cited 2020 Nov 26];46:239-40. Available from: https://www.ijp-online.com/text.asp?2014/46/3/239/132147


It is important to do research and to publish it. In addition to teaching (training) and service, research is also an integral function of an academic discipline. It is said that those doing research are better teachers. At the same time, it is also emphasized that the research done just for the sake of research is meaningless and a waste of resources. All sciences are meant to improve the lot of mankind. A research, therefore, should help improve our understanding and eventually lead to the betterment of human life. To achieve this, it is important that the research results are put on record so that in future they are available for reference to others (fellow scientists, policy planners, managers, administrators etc.). This is only possible if our work is published by an easily accessible, widely circulated and freely retrievable source (read journal). Traditionally, publications have also been used as a measure of the scholastic worth of an academician (may be since a quantification can be easily done for this parameter!). In fact, "publish or perish" has been a popular saying in the West for a long time which signifies the importance of getting published! In India also the situation has been more or less the same. Sometime ago, the national regulatory body for medical education, Medical Council of India (MCI), has made a certain number of publications desirable for appointment on various teaching posts in Medical Colleges and subsequent promotions thereafter. This has significantly intensified the urgency to publish particularly among the junior and the middle level teaching cadres, although if it really fulfils the goal of MCI to promote research (and its publication) will be evident only in future.

Until sometime ago, very few options were available for the medical research in India to get published. While the national (Indian) journals were few in number, it was difficult to publish in international (foreign) press due to a limited space there and at times because of the unacceptable quality of work. The situation has changed a lot during last decade. The number of international journals has greatly increased. However, a seemingly much bigger surge has taken place in the quantity of national or Indian journals. Many of these national journals are open access (contents freely available on web) online journals and some of them also have a print version. Published at varying frequency, some of them are official organs of the recognized professional bodies, while others are published by institutions or individuals. Many of them publish papers free of cost but a good number of them appear to be running (solely!) for commercial reasons. In any case, this has vastly improved the chances of publication and that too within a short time (speed is another requirement these days!). In as far as this is concerned, it is a welcome change. However, this also raises several concerns. The "mushrooming" of journals seems to be running parallel to the "mushrooming" of professional institutions (medical, dental and pharmacy) in the country. One also feels amazed about the availability of material as well as the intellectual capacity in such a large amount. It has rather become a commonplace to start a journal and become its Chief Editor! On the basis of personal experience, however, I know how difficult it can be to manage the finances of such a venture (particularly if a print edition is also to be brought out). The editorial function is also an equally daunting task. A scientific journal is required to have a vision and to pursue it vigorously. Precisely, this is what has to be done by its editorial board. It is well known that an effective peer review of the submitted material is a must as otherwise a "scientific pollution" becomes imminent. Unfortunately, it is becoming an increasingly difficult task to find the ideal reviewers that an editor dreams day in and day out. Who knows the days of paid reviewers are not far. It may be argued that a lot of (editorial) assistance is provided by the commercial publishing houses. Usually this assistance is for "stylistic" or operational aspects only and the intellectual nature of the contents continues to be the responsibility of the editors. Also, the editors have to confront the publication misconduct (read plagiarism) on a continuous basis. All sorts of methods are employed and the available electronic support appears to be inadequate. One can only hope that the new journals are able to confront all these odds and they will be able to survive and sustain for a long time.

There are two more aspects of the business of scientific publication that need to be discussed here, namely "indexing" and the "impact factor." When a journal becomes a part of the retrievable database (for the sake of wide dissemination), it is known as "indexed." Several such (commercial) databases (indexing agencies) are available and they are increasing in number day by day. The journals feel a special pride in announcing that they are indexed by one or more of such agencies. "PubMed" (a service of the National Library of Medicine, USA) is supposed to be the gold standard in this regard. I am unaware of any existing system of accreditation (or grading) of the indexing agencies. It appears that apart from PubMed it should not be difficult to get indexed in one or more of these databases. The "impact factor" of a journal basically denotes the extent of the citation of its contents. However, this has been a controversial measure and journals/authors have been accused in the past of adopting unfair means to inflate their impact (e.g. "you quote mine, I will quote yours"). Clearly, this is one area where one should tread cautiously.

Against this backdrop, what the recruiters, regulators or employers should actually do? It is essential for us, the scientific community, to provide them the solutions. The MCI regulation on the desirability of publications (2 to 5) seems to be realistic. Additional publications may be rewarded further by individual recruiters (preferably with a ceiling, e.g. "best 5 or 10 papers"). In fact, the annual increments may also be linked to a feasible number of publications (e.g. at least one publication in 2 years). As stated above, the "impact factor" should not be considered but a certain scheme may be followed to reward the articles published in "indexed" journals as described in [Table 1].
Table 1: Distribution of marks as per the type of journal

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Sometime, "Letter to Editor" and "Case Reports" are excluded from reward/marking. There are journals which publish small piece of original research as "Letter to Editor" (also called as "Research Letters"). Similarly, "Case Reports" too enhance our understanding and there is no reason as to why should these should be excluded. Such papers should receive at least half the marks in comparison to full length original research articles, short or brief communications and reviews. However, editorials, book reviews, personal views, commentaries, conference reports and correspondence (letters) criticizing or commenting a previously published papers may be excluded from marking. This is just an indicative scheme and it may be modified as per local needs and systems.

The final message is loud and clear, we need to bring in a good deal of objectivity and reasonableness to this subject!



 
 
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