A journal is as good as the community of individuals it represents. Journal of Pakistan Medical Association (JPMA), being a sole representative periodical of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) is no exception. However, there is a silent third part to this bargain — the editorial staff. In the context of Pakistan, when journals recognized by Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) makes no exhaustive list, the ethical responsibility of the editorial staff is momentous. One could literarily lose sleep in struggling to develop systems which address the needs of the journal, fairness of review process and dissemination of scientific information. It equates to walking on a tight rope. The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) provides a forum for editors of peer-reviewed journals to discuss issues related to integrity of the scientific record, providing them with support and encouragement in reporting and cataloguing investigations in to the ethical problems in the publication process, which could be accessed for detailed discourse.1
It is a constant struggle to keep a balance between the authors and the reviewers. Though authors are responsible for the authenticity of the published data, process of peer-review is not without perils. Reviewers are also not infallible entities. This leaves the editorial staff negotiating between the two. At times, this can be very ugly - a grim reminder of academic reality - publish or perish forever. This dilemma is not particular to JPMA. It has prompted many editors to pick up their pen. In an editorial, Miranda Robertson, Editor Bio Med Central, Journal of Biology quoted some concerned scientists: Comments like "reviewers have got completely out of hand in last five years...(Philippa Marrack, University of Colorado, USA)\' to "..something surely needs to done about the review nightmare that so many people face (Robert Horvitz, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA)"depicts the prevailing paradox in the United States of America. Brigitta Stockinger, National Institute of Medical Research, United Kingdom also writes "I find it mind boggling what trivia the other reviewers keep throwing up which have little to do with the basic message of the paper but delay manuscripts for months on end."2,3
Given this scenario it was not surprising that JPMA is also beleaguered with similar issues. As the member editorial board, I embarked on streamlining the role and responsibilities of the individuals at the start of my association with the journal. The idea was to develop a guideline against which one could access his/her tenure with the journal. The Editor-in-Chief was more than supportive in developing such a guideline in order to improve the system and the process. We came up with the following list of expectations:
As the member editorial board, each individual will be responsible to contribute to the scientific rigor of the Journal of Pakistan medical Association (JPMA). In this role, they will be expected to:
1. Provide support to the Editor-in-Chief in her principle role.
2. Attend regular meetings with the individuals concerned with the JPMA.
3. Contribute written material (images), in timely manner.
4. Work with the Editor-in-Chief in planning and publishing special issues related to your discipline
5. Streamline and build the pool of expert reviewers in concerned disciplines.
6. Facilitate and identify the experts for the peer-review of studies which lie at the interface of various specialties.
7. Provide technical support to the JPMA, Editorial Office.
8. Advocate for the dissemination of the scientific contents and merit of the Journal.
These guidelines are only tentative. They need extensive deliberation within and outside the organization — Pakistan Medical Association — in order to serve the cause of medical community in a better way. Guidelines are only relevant when they are living documents, accepted in letter and spirit by a group of individuals. Through a process of debate and discussions they need to be adopted by all concerned individuals. How successful I have been in \'my experience with the JPMA\' will ultimately be determined by the quality of the periodical.
1. The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). Elsevier homepage [on line] 2010 [cited March 1, 2010]. Available from URL: http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/editorshome.editors/PERK_COPE.
2. Robertson M. What Journals are for? Journal of Biology 2009; 8: 1.
3. Raff M, Johnson A, Walter P. Painful Publishing. Science 2008; 321: 36.
This journal is a member of and subscribes to the principles of the Committee on Publication Ethics.