Published online: March 31, 2016
MCI circular on research publications: Missing the wood for the trees?
We read with interest the editorial “Regressive trend: MCI’s approach to assessment of medical teachers’ performance” (1). MCI is the holy cow of medical education, and we are yet to see a detailed critique of its various policies. India lags behind in evidence-based health policies as well as those that regulate education (2). It was not surprising to see the regulations on research publication in the context of promotion. It was shocking that the circular has numerous typos, which erode one’s credibility. Historically, typos have resulted in regime changes and company liquidations (3).
The editorial mentions various kinds of research papers that need to be considered and their contribution to dialogue and knowledge creation. At point “b”, the circular says Original Research Articles and Original Research Papers. Does this not show utter confusion and disregard for academia at the highest levels? Systematic reviews involve a lot of diligent work, and are the basis of evidence-based decisions in clinical care, but are not being considered. Yet they are the first articles that we consult when we make evidence based decisions in clinical care. With current norms, Watson and Crick who published a one-page article on the structure of DNA may not be promoted (4). We submitted an original article which was accepted only as a brief report. We agreed because it was the highest impact factor journal in the subject category in India (5). Yet one of the authors in the article faced an issue in promotion as this was not considered as an “original article”.
Point “c” talks about national and international societies. However, it is interesting how we can define some journal as national or international; a few “American” journals were published from Pakistan (6). How does naming a journal in a particular way give it legitimacy? A recently published paper showed how ethics committee members did not have adequate research knowledge, and yet they decide on research proposals (7). It is surprising that in the 21st century, many academicians have to face a situation that was faced by Galileo and Darwin eons ago (8).
The editorial rightly elaborates on the issues of authorship and e-journals. Since authorship guidelines place equal responsibility for the paper on all authors, acknowledging only the first two indicates a regressive step. E-journals have been dismissed summarily. This goes against the stand taken recently by a few universities in the USA where they have actively discouraged publication in for-profit journals run by Elsevier (which runs Scopus), etc (9). The international narrative is in favour of open access publications that are free to download in which the “author pays” model is being favoured (10). However, the problem with the open access model is that anyone with an internet connection and a few thousand rupees to spare can start a journal from his kitchen. The MCI probably is aware of these trends, and is trying to discourage them. But by using terminology such as e-journals, it is throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
We have devised our own publication guidelines for our institution. These are available online and guide us in our interpretation of these rules (11). As with science and education, these policies will evolve and respond to issues over time. We hope the MCI will take note of these, and refine its circular.
Somashekhar Nimbalkar (corresponding author – firstname.lastname@example.org) – Head; Ajay Phatak, (email@example.com), Manager, Central Research Services, Charutar Arogya Mandal, Karamsad, Anand, 388 325, Gujarat, INDIA.
- Bandewar SVS, Pai SA. Regressive trend: MCI’s approach to assessment of medical teachers’ performance. Indian J Med Ethics. 2015;12(4):192-5.
- Bhaumik S. Health and beyond… strategies for a better India: incorporating evidence to strengthen health policy. J Family Med Prim Care. 2014;3(4):313-17.
- Fennell C. The high cost of small mistakes: the most expensive typos of all time [Internet]. Six Degrees | Market Research and Branding Agency, 2015 May 11[cited 2015 Nov 15]. Available from: http://six-degrees.com/the-high-cost-of-small-mistakes-the-most-expensive-typos-of-all-time/
- Watson JD, Crick FH. Molecular structure of nucleic acids. Nature. 1953;171(4356):737-8.
- Sethi, A, Patel D, Nimbalkar A, Phatak A, Nimbalkar S. Comparison of forehead infrared thermometry with axillary digital thermometry in neonates. Indian Pediatrics. 2013; 50(12): 1153-4.
- Plunk V. Who’s afraid of peer review? Science. 2013;342:60-5.
- Tamariz L, Medina H, Taylor J, Carrasquillo O, Kobetz E, Palacio A. Are research ethics committees prepared for community-based participatory research? Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics. 2015;10(5); 488-95. doi: 10.1177/1556264615615008.
- Raty Syka. The scientific revolution: opposition to Galileo and Darwin [Internet]. Western civilization as we know it. 2008 Mar 16 [cited 2015 Nov 15]. Available from: http://chnm.gmu.edu/history/faculty/kelly/blogs/h100sp08/2008/03/16/the-scientific-revolution-opposition-to-galileo-and-darwin/
- Lambert C. The “wild west” of academic publishing: the troubled present and promising future of scholarly communication [Internet] Harvard Magazine. 2015 Feb [cited 2015 Nov 15]. Available from: http://harvardmagazine.com/2015/01/the-wild-west-of-academic-publishing
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology [Internet]. Open access publishing support [cited 2015 Nov 15]. Available form: https://libraries.mit.edu/scholarly/mit-open-access/open-access-at-mit/mit-open-access-policy/open-access-publishing-support/
- Charutar Arogya Mandal [Internet]. Institutional Research Group (Policies) [cited 2015 Nov 15]. Available from: http://charutarhealth.org/institutional-research-group