Sunday, April 20, 2014

Editing and publishing of a medical journal -- Success of an unconventional workflow

Saudi Med J 2004; Vol. 25 Supplement 1: S13-S17

Sajjeev X. Antony
Technical Editor, SQU Journal for Scientific Research: Medical Sciences
Ala'Aldin Al-Hussaini
Editor-in-Chief (ibid.)


Regional journals often face constraints that threaten their growth, calling for novel coping strategies. This paper outlines the problems and challenges in editing and publishing the SQU Journal for Scientific Research: Medical Sciences, the only peer-reviewed medical journal in the Sultanate of Oman. These included the absence of secretarial support and the consequent need to reduce paperwork, the fact that most papers required substantial editing even after peer review, and the lack of a single workflow for creating documents for the press and the Internet. These challenges were successfully met by creating an unconventional all-electronic workflow that catered to both the print and the online versions. The paper describes this workflow and offers suggestions for journals wishing to streamline theirs.

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High quality medical journals can be produced by cash strapped editorial offices.

Some 12 years ago while I was working in Sultan Qaboos University, we had a meeting of academic editorial staff from Arab countries. During the question-answer session the followed my presentation, editor of a struggling Iraqi medical journal told me, "We do a lot of research, but we need funds and infrastructure for running a journal. We don't have any." I lifted my presentation laptop and said, "Madam, this is my publishing office." 
       Therefore after a year (in 2003) when WHO EMRO conducted their first ever conference for medical editors of the Eastern Mediterranean region I presented a paper there which attracted many queries during the presentation and by email. I published a paper in January 2004 incorporating replies to these queries (PDF link above). 
      In 2003, my claim that my laptop was my publishing office drew skepticism from the delegates, but nowadays it is an acknowledged fact. Publishing workflows and printing technology have evolved so much that it has become much easier to publish. Time permitting I shall be writing an updated version of the article. 
Importance of typography
Typography of a scientific article in a professional journal such as BMJ, NJEM or Nature may look simple, but a lot of meticulous work would have gone into it. The aim of the professional research journal typographer is not to show off his brilliance but to render the type as invisible as possible, so that the readability is enhanced. Too often typography is ignored by regional scientific journals, which affect their readability -- and ultimately credibility. 

Samples of research papers I edited and designed: