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  Table of Contents     
EDITORIAL
Year : 2016  |  Volume : 62  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-3

Research publications for academic career advancement: An idea whose time has come. But is this the right way?


1 Department of Pediatrics, Topiwala National Medical College and BYL Nair Charitable Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
2 Department of Pediatrics, Seth GS Medical College and King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Date of Web Publication5-Jan-2016

Correspondence Address:
M S Tullu
Department of Pediatrics, Seth GS Medical College and King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0022-3859.173184

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How to cite this article:
Bavdekar S B, Tullu M S. Research publications for academic career advancement: An idea whose time has come. But is this the right way?. J Postgrad Med 2016;62:1-3

How to cite this URL:
Bavdekar S B, Tullu M S. Research publications for academic career advancement: An idea whose time has come. But is this the right way?. J Postgrad Med [serial online] 2016 [cited 2019 Oct 21];62:1-3. Available from: http://www.jpgmonline.com/text.asp?2016/62/1/1/173184


The Medical Council of India (MCI), the statutory body entrusted with the responsibility of establishing and maintaining high standards of medical education, [1] has recently stipulated that medical teachers need to publish at least two research papers, at every step of promotion, to be eligible for the posts of Associate Professor or Professor in medical colleges. [2] The issue has become a matter of great debate amongst medical teachers.

This initiative is aimed at encouraging the junior- and middle-level medical faculty to learn, develop, and use the skills required for conducting clinical research and publishing research findings. Such empowered faculty, it is hoped, would be in a position to train and guide undergraduate and postgraduate students in planning, conducting, and reporting research. The whispers of dissatisfaction primarily point out that teachers perform several duties related to teaching: A medical teacher acts a learning facilitator, mentor, on-the-job role model, teaching role model, lecturer, clinical or practical teacher, resource material creator, study guide producer, course organizer, curriculum planner, curriculum evaluator, and student assessor. [3] In addition, a teacher performs professional work (clinical and laboratory), undertakes research, and executes administrative duties. Critics point out that the MCI seems to be concerned only about the teachers' research output, while neglecting the other aspects of duties that they carry out. It has also been argued that contribution to research is being evaluated only in terms of number of publications, while neglecting other aspects of scholarship such as mentoring students for research, reviewing manuscripts for journals, and working as an editor. However, we think that measuring these aspects would be quite difficult and measuring research output in terms of publication of research articles could be the first step in this regard. Some have argued that most institutions do not have optimum research infrastructure and this may hamper the teacher's ability to carry out and publish meaningful research. But, we think that mandating such requirements would compel college administrators to improve research infrastructure. Such a requirement will in all probability also stimulate research regarding the health issues of the local population. It might improve the quality of dissertations and also increase the current, abysmal dissertation-to-publication conversion ratio. The thought process is also complementary to MCI's Vision 2015, wherein, among others, it expects a medical graduate to be able to develop a research question and be familiar with basic, clinical, and translational research as it applies to the care of the patient. [4] Besides, the requirement of publishing a minimum of two research articles over a minimum period of 4 years (as Assistant Professor or as Associate Professor) cannot be considered to be onerous. However, the other details provided in the MCI Circular [5] are controversial, seem to lack logic, and need to be refined.

The Circular [5] states that only original research articles and original research papers would be considered and only those in which the concerned doctor is either the first or the second author. Since MCI wishes to look at research output, it is understandable that review articles have not been included. Many consider case reports and case series as descriptive studies describing a new finding, association, interaction, or complication. They play an important role in furthering science and their most important contribution in generating new hypotheses and novel ideas is well recognized. [6] They provide important information and data that help formulate detailed studies. The MCI needs to clarify explicitly if it would recognize case reports and case series as original research articles. The other issue is whether the MCI would recognize research study articles that are not published in the journal's "Original Articles" section but are included in the journal's "Letters to Editors", "Research Letters" or "Brief Reports" sections.

The limitation of giving credit only to the first two authors [5] is highly controversial and seems to be without a precedent. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) does not make such a distinction among the various contributors in the author list. The MCI may have put this limitation to discourage gift publications. However, it might result in other equally undesirable consequences. It is not uncommon for the senior teachers to put their names last in the list of authors, although their contribution is quite significant. They do so to encourage their junior colleagues and students to continue with the research work. The MCI requirements might compel these teachers to ensure that their names are listed ahead of others. It must also be remembered that the number of authors depends upon the complexity of the study and the number of centers involved in carrying out the particular research study. In multicentric studies, many a times the order of authorship is predecided on the basis of the number of participants enrolled at centers (with the investigator enrolling maximum number of participants listed first) or is assigned based on alphabetical order (based on the last name of participating investigators). None of these indicate that the contribution of authors listed later is significantly lower as compared to that of the first two authors!

The circular [4],[5] also states that for the purpose of promotions to a higher post, the MCI will only consider articles published in journals indexed with certain indexing agencies (the list includes search engines and repositories as well) such as Scopus, PubMed, Medline, Embase/Excerpta Medica, Index Medicus, and Index Copernicus. Indexed journals are considered to be quality journals and indexing agencies enroll them on the basis of adherence to certain qualifying criteria such as publishing quality, digitization, indexing in databases, international availability, regularity of publication, frequency of citations, presence of a peer-review process, and quality of journal content and editorial work. [7],[8],[9],[10] The scientific community insists on a peer-review process as the minimum mandatory criterion for the assurance of quality. The MCI has probably decided to raise the bar and consider articles published in "indexed journals" only. It may have felt compelled to do this also because it does not have any independent mechanism to determine if journals are carrying out peer review and if they are of good standing. In such a situation, it may not be wrong for the MCI to depend upon the judgment of indexing agencies for identifying quality journals and quality publications. However, it is not clear why it has selected only six agencies in preference to many other similar organizations such as Bioline, Google Scholar, HINARI, Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), EBSCO Publishing's Electronic Databases, OpenJGate, Science Citation Index Expanded, and Web of Science. It has chosen to ignore even the Indian Medical Journal database (IndMed/MedInd) funded by the Indian Council of Medical Research and other national and regional databases and indexes. It is surprising that DOAJ has been kept out though it has clear qualifying criteria for selecting journals for indexing. [11] It would have been better if the MCI had put up a discussion paper clarifying its thought process behind the whole idea.

While clarifying regarding the national/international journals, the Circular states the following: "Criteria for National/International journal: Published by a National/International - Specialty Journal/Journal of a National/International Society provided it (is) included in one of the indexes mentioned above." It is not clear if the MCI intends to select journals published by professional societies alone; as the word "professional" is missing. Recognizing journals published by professional societies alone will lead to the exclusion of journals such as Lancet. We think that the MCI should not be overly concerned about the ownership of the journal, as long as it follows a peer-review process and has a good standing.

The most controversial condition in the Circular is the one that excludes all e-journals. It is true that there has been an indiscriminate mushrooming of "predatory" online medical open-access journals, some of which are known to guarantee publication of all submitted articles in a short span of time (read "sans peer review" or with just a "cursory review") for a fee. [12],[13],[14] Ironically, it is the governmental and employer pressure on scientists to publish that is, at least partly, responsible for the "growth" of predatory online journals; [12],[15] and publishers and authors from India are significant contributors for this trend. [12] The MCI must have been wary of such predatory or fake e-journals. However, we think that lumping all online journals as "predatory" or "fake" journals seems unfair, to say the least. For example, many prestigious journals such as New Zealand Medical Journal, BMC Pediatrics, International Journal of Infectious Diseases, and PLoS Medicine, indexed by various agencies, are available only in the online format. In fact, many organizations are discontinuing publication of print journals and bringing out only electronic versions. [16] It is believed that in the future, most journals will be available only in the electronic format. In such an era, it is ill-advised to disregard e- journals. There seems to be no harm in considering indexed e-journals of good standing as eligible.

We think that the notion of considering research publications as one of the criteria for promotion is desirable. However, it is necessary for the MCI to bring out a position paper describing the rationale behind this move and to explain the technicalities related to authorship criteria, types of eligible publications, and choice of journals and indexing agencies selected. Rather than doing away with case reports altogether, they may be considered eligible but assigned a lower marking. Similarly, research articles published as letters or brief reports may also be considered but given a lower marking or credit. Since, it is not possible for the MCI to check the quality of a plethora of journals, it may select journals registered with agencies with stringent selection criteria, which should be made public. The blanket ban on e journals should be revisited and the MCI should put forth a process that is sound and transparent for implementing what is in essence a good idea.

 
 :: References Top

1.
Medical Council of India. Available from: http://www.mciindia.org/. [Last accessed on 2015 Nov 05].  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Medical Council of India. Minimum Qualifications for Teachers in Medical Institutions Regulations, 1998 (amended up to May 2015). Available from: http://www.mciindia.org/Rules-and-Regulation/TEQ-REGULATIONS-16.05.15.pdf. [Last accessed on 2015 Nov 05].  Back to cited text no. 2
    
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Harden RM, Crosby J. AMEE Guide No 20: The good teacher is more than a Lecturer-the twelve roles of the teacher. Med Teach 2000;22:334-47.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Medical Council of India. Available from: http://www.mciindia.org/tools/announcement/MCI_booklet.pdf. [Last accessed on 2015 Nov 06].  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Medical Council of India. Clarification with Regard to Research Publications in the Matter of Promotion for Teaching Faculty in Medical College/Institutions. Available from: http://www.mciindia.org/circulars/Circular-03.09.2015-TEQ-Promotion-Publication.pdf. [Last accessed on 2015 Nov 12].  Back to cited text no. 5
    
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Bavdekar SB, Save S. Writing case reports: Contributing to practice and research. J Assoc Physicians India 2015;63:44-8.  Back to cited text no. 6
[PUBMED]    
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Index Copernicus International. Available from: http://www.journals.indexcopernicus.com/page.php?page=3. [Last accessed on 2015 Nov 08].  Back to cited text no. 7
    
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National Institute of Health. US Library of Medicine. Factsheet Medline Journal Selection. Available from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/factsheets/jsel.html. [Last accessed on 2015 Nov 08].  Back to cited text no. 8
    
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Scopus. Scopus Journal FAQs: Helping to Improve the Submission and Success Process for Editors and Publishers. Available from: http://www.elsevier.com/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/95118/SC_FAQ-content-selection-process-22092014.pdf. [Last accessed on 2015 Nov 08].  Back to cited text no. 9
    
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Bioline International. Bioline International- Journal Selection and Inclusion Policies. Available from: http://www.bioline.org.br/info?id=bioline&doc=InclusionPolicy. [Last accessed on 2015 Nov 08].  Back to cited text no. 10
    
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DOAJ News Service. News, Updates and Developments from DOAJ. ′Indexed′ in DOAJ versus ′DOAJ seal′. Available from: http://doajournals.wordpress.com/2015/11/03/indexed-in-doaj-versus-the-doaj-seal/. [Last accessed on 2015 Nov 08].  Back to cited text no. 11
    
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Shen C, Björk BC. ′Predatory′ open access: A longitudinal study of article volumes and market characteristics. BMC Med 2015;13:230.  Back to cited text no. 12
    
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Satyanarayana K. Journal publishing: The changing landscape. Indian J Med Res 2013;138:4-7.  Back to cited text no. 13
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Scholarly Open Access. Critical Analysis of Scholarly Open Access Publishing. Beall′s List of Predatory Publishers 2015. Available from: http://scholarlyoa.com/2015/01/02/bealls-list-of-predatory-publishers-2015/. [Last accessed on 2015 Nov 17].  Back to cited text no. 14
    
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Djuric D. Penetrating the omerta of predatory publishing: The Romanian connection. Sci Eng Ethics 2015;21:183-202.  Back to cited text no. 15
    
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Faxon DP. Changes in Medical Publishing. The challenges for an Intervention Journal. Circ Cardiovasc Interv 2013;6:2-4.  Back to cited text no. 16
    




 

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Online since 12th February '04
2004 - Journal of Postgraduate Medicine
Official Publication of the Staff Society of the Seth GS Medical College and KEM Hospital, Mumbai, India
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