|Year : 2013 | Volume
| Issue : 3 | Page : 135-136
Nuances of starting a new medical journal
Barun Kumar Nayak
P.D. Hinduja National Hospital, Veer Savarkar Marg, Mumbai - 400 016, Maharashtra, India
|Date of Submission||18-Jul-2013|
|Date of Acceptance||18-Jul-2013|
|Date of Web Publication||23-Aug-2013|
Barun Kumar Nayak
P.D. Hinduja National Hospital, Veer Savarkar Marg, Mumbai - 400 016, Maharashtra
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Nayak BK. Nuances of starting a new medical journal. J Clin Ophthalmol Res 2013;1:135-6
Most established medical societies want to increase their value by initiating a scientific journal. Very seldom do they realize the efforts and intricacies that are involved in the process. The editorship is usually given to someone who has experience in publishing or research. The editor is then left at sea with the entire responsibility of starting and running the journal.
Having served, as editor of the Indian Journal of Ophthalmology (IJO) for a period of 6 years (2005-11), I often receive inquiries from some associations or would-be editors for guidance. The purpose of this editorial is to provide some useful information regarding the initiation of a new medical journal. My tenure of editorship in the IJO and the present position as founder editor of Journal of Clinical Ophthalmology and Research (JCOR) has helped me learn the nuances of staring a new medical journal.
First of all, one has to understand the differences in being an editor of an Indian journal as opposed to being editor of a foreign country journal (nonIndian). Most of the editors of Indian journals are honorary and are given the responsibility without much experience in the field. These editors do not have the luxury of a full-fledged office specifically geared to tackle the publication process. It is usually up to the existing office of the editors with their available staff to take up this responsibility without any formal training. The physical location of the editorial office and therefore staff, keep changing as the editors change from time to time, very often affecting the quality and essence of the journal. In the beginning, the editors may have to get themselves involved in all aspects of the journal, which includes editorial work, generating finances, publishing, printing, and even posting the journal. In contrast, their foreign counterparts are appointed by selection and are paid for the job. They have to concentrate only on the editorial process and the scientific content. All other aspects of publication get looked after by different departments, which are equipped with job-specific staff. They do not have to get involved in the financial aspect of the publication process.
Some vital decisions have to be taken at the beginning itself. These range from whether the journal should be peer-reviewed or nonpeer-reviewed, whether there should be a print as well as online version or only an online version, what should be the frequency of the journal, whether or not it should be an "open-access" journal, what should be the scope of the journal and which type of articles should the journal give preference to. These decisions are important and should be taken with a realistic approach.
Generation of funds is vital for survival of the journal. Advertisements are the main source of revenue, which are very difficult to get in the beginning as there is nothing to display to the advertisers, except the reputation of the editor. Later on if the journal proves to be of a good quality, the advertisers get easily convinced. Subscription of the journal contributes a very small amount to its revenue, as doctors in India usually do not subscribe to journals. They prefer to get it free of charge. Since the journal has restricted resources the "association/society" should be made to support the journal financially for the first 5 years at least. Usually it has been seen that if managed well, most of the journals become financially self sufficient within 5-10 years of inception.
The next important aspect to be looked at is the procurement of articles. The value of a journal is dependent on the quality of research published. Most authors prefer to submit their manuscript to an already established journal and not to a budding journal. Peer-reviewed journals with fast processing of the articles can be attractive to many authors. Online submission facility also attracts researchers to submit their research to that journal as the process becomes smooth. Announcement of the launch of the journal should reach all the doctors with repeated reminders about the existence of a new journal. This helps in registering the journal in their minds. Sending complimentary copies to potential authors should also be considered provided the funds permit it. The cover page as well as the overall appearance has to be designed well, as these provide the first impression to the readers and authors to get attracted towards the journal.
Other issues include frequency of journal and type of version, whether print or online or both. The frequency should be low at 3-4 months to begin with due to paucity of submissions and financial constraints. As the journal gets popular and gets recognition, it can attract more submissions, making it convenient to increase the frequency. The print version is preferred in this country but it costs money. Online journal is relatively cheaper to run but it does not produce much impact.
The scope of journals needs to be deliberated well. It has been noticed that although the quality of original articles determine the standard of a journal, but it is also a fact that these articles are read by only a few. Commissioned articles by experts on popular topics are liked by the postgraduate students, as well as general ophthalmologists. Addition of interesting and intriguing cases, photo essay or postgraduate section can make a journal very popular. Whatever strategy one chooses in the beginning, based on the resources and expertise available, should be sustainable for a long run. Even some of the potential future editors should be indentified and groomed for the post.
Indexing of the journal is again important and considered as a measure of quality. This perception is true with indexing in PubMed but the process is time consuming. PubMed observes the regularity of publication, quality of articles published, the editorial board members standing in the field before indexing. Quality of published articles can be judged only after a good number of original articles (25-30) have been published. Hence, there is a time gap between the start of journal and indexing with PubMed, which can be up to 2 years. There are many other indexing agencies that easily include journals in their database. This increases the visibility of articles and is quite beneficial for the authors. Registrar of newspaper of India (RNI) registration as well as obtaining ISSN number should be done from the first issue itself. If the journal becomes monthly in future, concession is given in the postage charges if it is registered with RNI. It is important to realize that RNL registration can be done only at the time of inception and not afterwards.
Getting associated with a publisher definitely helps to a large extent. However, editors should be cautious while entering into the agreement with the publisher. It usually is the editor's first experience, but a regular affair for the publisher. Hence, editors should read every line of the agreement before signing them. Publishers often promise more than they can deliver, just to get the editor sign on the dotted line. The editor is often made to believe that the generation of funds will be done by the publisher and in turn demand a major part of the earnings of the journal. The editors should be aware of this and sign the agreement accordingly.
I hope this editorial will be of help to anyone who wishes to start a new medical journal within India. However, a deep involvement by the editor and a long-term vision is mandatory for this purpose. I am always available for any further guidance if required.