Thursday, July 12, 2007

Establishing an on-line editorial and publishing system: One year experience with Journal of Research in Medical Sciences

*** preliminary notes ***

Presenter: Mahmoud Saghaei - Isfahan University of Medical Sciences
Time: July 12 2007 at 11:00 – 12:00pm
Location: SFU Harbour Centre Earl and Jennie Lohn Floor Policy Room - Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Mahmoud Saghai, professor of Anesthesiology at Isfahan University of Medical Sciences and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences (JRMS) presented at the Public Knowledge Project 2007 journal an overview of publishing practices in Iran as well as JRMS' transition from print to an online system.

Scholarly communication in Iran is rather limited in its readership as it remains mostly within the country. Journal publishing is mostly funded by the government and universities, in which contributions can be taken into consideration for academic promotion. As the government lends a hand in publishing, it has developed councils to regulate the credibility of journals, such as Medical sciences journal commission (MSJC) and Higher education journals commission (HEJC).

The following are some of the criteria set out by these councils:

- Only approved journals are creditable for academic use
- Title must relate to only one subspecialty within the MSJC
- Only one English journal per subspecialty allowed

If the journal does not meet any one of the criteria, then it is not credible, unless indexed (Medline, ISI, CAS, etc…) Also, interesting about journal publishing in Iran is that no journals from any other cities or universities can compete with one another, unless it is recognized internationally.

One reason for the low visibility of Iranian journals is that few of them are online. Those that are available online rely on editorial management software that is locally developed, as international commercial web services are expensive.

Journal of Research in Medical Sciences (JRMS)

Background information

This journal is published bimonthly from Isfahan University of Medical Sciences electronically and traditionally in print, with an international editorial board from all clinical disciplines. Between 1996-2003, it was published in Persian, then English. Another important year is 2005 where they were indexed in CAS, EMBASE and EMRO.

The workflow of this journal
During an editorial meeting, submissions are subjected to an initial evaluation, and possible subsequent early rejection. However, if at least 2 internal and external referees from the editorial meeting nominate the manuscript, it will go through to peer-review which lead to further revisions with the editorial meeting members. Upon acceptance, papers archived until there are enough submissions for an issue. Finally the paper will be published, but without any author proofs.

Every task listed above is conducted in the editorial meeting, as there are no section editors. With this process, it is difficult to track the papers, detect inadvertent articles interference, find missing articles or reviews, restricts reviewing to local resources and also blinds the reviewer as it is limited.

This process has since been revised. Before the discovery of OJS’ existence in late 2005, the journal went through a software trial and error period for about 2 years where local engineers produced software without being familiar with journal system management. In other words, editors also needed to be a programmer in order to understand the technology, which subsequently persisted in traditional practices of printing journals.

However, through the accidental encounter of OJS, the whole workflow changed such that section editors were selected among the editorial members capable of working with the software. This eliminated the process of presenting papers during editorial meetings since they could decide themselves which papers to select. Editorial meetings were now to designed to overlook insufficient reviews after 3 months of accepting manuscripts. This process, with modifications, was practices for 4 months before they decided to go online, noting there was a 2 months period of hybrid system (both print and online was available). To facilitate this transition, editorial members, staff, reviewers and authors could attend workshops, information was also changed to the native language for better comprehension and literature (pamphlets) is locally available in English.

With the advent of the OJS, processing time was decreased. Manuscript submission is now processed online, with 2 editorial staff, one for print and one for the online system. However, the option for print is left up to the author.

In February 2006, the first issue came out with real users being first the section editors then the authors, and subsequently reviewers being granted access to the online system


From JRMS’ experience, migration from print to an online system should be made step by step. The use of a temporary hybrid system should also be considered. Also noting that migration would be difficulty without professional software, which also helps editors become professionals themselves.

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