Identify talent, expertise within your own countries besides collaborating with experts from the region to promote research culture

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 To promote Medical Research and Medical Writing in Middle East

Identify talent, expertise within your own
countries besides collaborating with experts
from the region to promote research culture

First International Conference on Medical Writing in
Dubai attracts over 175 participants from many
countries from Middle East

Contributions of AAEM in EMRO Region to
train researchers and promote the art of
scientific publishing also highlighted

From Shaukat Ali Jawaid

 

DUBAI: An interactive panel discussion on Barriers and solutions to Medical Research and Medical Writing in the Middle East was one of the salient feature of First International Conference on Medical Writing organized by Center for Diabetes Education from USA in collaboration with World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) and Eastern Mediterranean Association of Medical Editors (EMAME) held here from February19-21st 2013. In was an initiative by Dr. Mohammad Ibrahim, MD Director EDC, and Center for Diabetes Education USA who is also the Regional Editor of American Diabetes Association for Middle East and North Africa. Dr. Mahmood Ibrahim is an Egyptian Endocrinologist currently settled in USA who had earlier organized a meeting on Medical Writing in Egypt some years ago and is keen to help the research scientists in this region and hopes to organize such academic activities on regular basis.

The panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Farrokh Habibzadeh President of WAME and Prof. Farhad Handjani President-elect of EMAME. Members of the panel included Karan Shashok from AuthorAid in the Eastern Mediterranean (AAEM) who hails from Spain, Shaukat Ali Jawaid Managing Editor of Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences who is also Secretary General of EMAME and Dr. Gamela Nasr Prof. of Cardiology and Angiology from Egypt.
In his introductory remarks Dr. Farrokh Habibzadeh said that in the past Middle East was known as cradle for science and light in the world but now it’s famous for geopolitical turmoil and its contributions to medical literature were very negligible. He then showed some slides depicting the research contributions from various countries in Middle East based on the different databases like Web of Sciences by Thompson Reuter and Scoups etc., which showed that Iran had the maximum contributions to medical literature from the region followed by Turkey and Cyprus. Over the past few years Iran, he further stated has achieved 11% more growth as compared to mean growth of various countries. When there is increase in science and scientific work, it leads to increased publications and addition to medical literature.
Talking about this phenomenal growth of science and medical literature from Iran, Prof. Farhad Handjani said that now there are forty five medical schools and medical universities in Iran. All the medical institutions have as a policy accepted to give credit for promotion to published work. The faculty members are required to publish in ISI or Medline covered medical journals for further grades and promotion. It is also mandatory for PhD students to publish at least one or two papers from their research work before appearing in the examination. Then the universities also give bonus to those researchers to who publish more papers. Special centers have been established by various universities to help the writers in scientific analysis of their data; they are also helped in medical writing. Not only that the number of biomedical journals published from Iran has also increased manifold which is now over four hundred and about twenty five of them are covered by ISI and about ten in Medline. All these factors have contributed to this commendable growth but while we have made tremendous progress in quantity, we have to do a lot to improve the quality of research. I personally feel that we do not need to have too many journals, instead we can have a few good quality journals and to overcome some problems we can have more than one Editor looking after different sections and regions, Prof. Farhad Handjani remarked.
Mr. Shaukat Ali Jawaid Secretary General of EMAME participating in the discussion said that he had been visiting Islamic Republic of Iran quite frequently for the last five six years. I have been to various medical universities in Iran and it is gratifying to note the tremendous progress which Iran has made in the field of medical research and medical writing. Islamic Republic of Iran ever since the Islamic Revolution, decided to give importance to research with the result that they now have forty five medical universities in the country. They spend over 7% of their GDP on Health which means that they provide lot of funding to the medical universities. Then these universities have provided lot of facilities to their staff. They have Vice Chancellors especially for Research and they have made arrangements for holding regular workshops on Research Methodology and Medical Writing for their faculty members and postgraduates. These medical universities compete with each other to achieve better ranking in the country based on their research output and publications. Researchers and Faculty is honoured, awarded and offered incentives who publish good quality papers at the Annual Research Day and all these factors have gone a long way in promoting research culture in Iran. Other countries including those in the Middle East need to impress upon their governments to allocate more funding and provide facilities. Expecting the research scientists to do research and produce medical literature without providing them funding and facilities was not going to help, he remarked.
Dr. Gamela Nasr form Egypt remarked that we must maintain quality and provide facilities to the faculty to conduct research and publish. She commended the efforts made by Dr. Mahmoud Ibrahim who had organized similar activity in Egypt as well some years ago. We need to have such conferences more frequently which provides an excellent opportunity to learn and share our knowledge and experience with other colleagues.
Dr. Amjad from Bahrain pointed out that in reality the things are quite different. We see many Professors coming from Egypt and accepting posts of Assistant or Associate Professor in Middle East and then they go back after some years and rejoin their institution. He asked about the criteria for promotion of Professor in Egypt. Dr. Gamela responded by saying that the criteria for promotion for professor was the same i.e. the number of publication and research output. Situation may be a bit different in different institutions.
Prof. Farhad Handjani remarked that we have to concentrate on quality and ensure judicious use of resources. We have to concentrate on infectious diseases and other diseases which are prevalent in our own countries and in the region. Researchers in the West won’t be interested in research in these diseases or accepting publication as they have preference for research and publications on non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus and Cancer.
Dr. Abdullah Srour Alhoudi from University of Dammam, Saudi Arabia opined that the data presented by Dr. Farrokh Habibzadeh showing Iran as the leader in research and medical publications in the region might have missed some of the contributions and literature coming from some other countries including Saudi Arabia. At this it was pointed out that these figures and data have not been compiled by Iranians but by international data bases and if one looks at those websites, the similar findings will emerge. Dr. Abdullah then remarked that many a times the research work produced by Saudis and other Muslim researchers working at various institutions in the developed world particularly Europe and North America is credited to those institutions and countries rather than the country of origin of these research scientists. He also referred to the Editorial in New Eng J of Medicine some years ago wherein it was stated that the developing Third World countries and Middle East should concentrate on vaccination of their population rather than indulging in the luxury of research. He said this also shows the biased attitude of the West. He further stated that we must publish in prestigious medical journals to get promotions. He was also critical of the companies writing papers for authors on payment which he felt was not only unethical but will not help the authors to learn how to conduct research and write manuscripts. Some of the participants suggested that we must work our own priorities and have rules and regulations for promotion based on publications in our own good quality peer reviewed journals. Dr. Tahra Al Mahoud from Al-Ain Hospital UAE remarked that in our countries more emphasis and funding is providing for research in basic sciences but very little funding for clinical research which needs to be looked into. Another participant remarked that we must work for our own country and our own people and try to find a solution to our problems. We must change our attitude and focus on our own resources and collaborate between our countries.
Dr. Amjad from Bahrain asked when the faculty members in Iran are too busy in research, and private practice, does it not undermine teaching and training which is unfair for the medical students. At this Prof. Farhad Handjani said that some of the universities have full time Research Professors who are just involved in research, then some have a policy of hiring faculty full time which is not allowed private practice for few years till they become associate professors. Hence there are different categories of faculty and they have different terms and conditions for service. At present the faculty is judged and evaluated based on their performance in research, education and administration before they are promoted as Professors. Some of the universities have established special research centers. For example there are forty five research centers affiliated with Shiraz University of Medical Sciences. Some of the faculty members spend 80% of their time in research and remaining 20% on education. On paper it may beideal but at times it is too much for the faculty and to meet the requirements, they are very much exhausted. We have asked the university authorities to have a look at these issues so that the faculty members are not over burdened. Another participant from Pakistan from AKU opined that it is the human resource department which makes the policy for acquiring and promotion of staff in different categories which may vary from institution to institution. Dr. Gamela remarked that we need to educate the researchers and thus need more workshops on conducting research and medical writing in the Middle East. Dr. Tahra Al Mahmoud opined that Middle East should have more quality journals and it will also reduce the problem of plagiarism.
Prof. Farhad Handjani stated that we should reduce the number of journals, go for improvement of their quality and help each other but above all, we need to change our attitude, he remarked.
Mr. Shaukat Ali Jawaid said that one of the objectives of EMAME was to promote the art of medical writing, medical editing and scientific publishing. EMAME represents the countries in the WHO EMRO Region. The Asia Pacific Association of Medical Journal Editors (APAME) which represents countries like China, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Cambodia, Philippines, Taiwan, Magnolia etc., came into being much later but they have done much better than EMAME. They hold their meeting annually and have contributed a lot to promote the art of medical writing in their region. They have also come up with their own databases which cover all the biomedical journals published in the APAME member countries. I have attended their two meetings one in Seoul South Korea and then in Kaula Lumpur in Malaysia and tried to find out why they have done better than EMAME. It revealed that the rich and more resourceful courtiers in APAME like Japan, Korea and Japan were helping not only financially but also providing expertise to promote research and medical writing in other countries in their region that are not so well developed. On the contrary in our region though we have some very rich and affluent countries but they have not come forward the way they should have. Some countries in the EMRO Region have got resources while others have lot of human resource and if we combine both and help each other we can accomplish a lot. However, unfortunately there is lot of political instability and turmoil in most of the Muslim countries in theregion, even getting Visa and traveling to these countries is not easy. All this hinders our growth and development. We need to overcome these problems. He further suggested that each country in the region in general and Middle East in particular must look for and identify talent available within their own country. They should be encouraged, honoured and provided appropriate opportunities to help promote research culture and scientific publishing. Then they can look for regional cooperation. There is no dearth of talent in the region. What we lack was collaboration and cooperation and the will to work for a change. He also referred to professional jealousy among the healthcare professionals and opined that we must respect the talent irrespective of the fact whether they are affiliated with medical institutions, universities in public or private sector or are working in private sector and were not affiliated to any teaching institution.
College of Physicians and Surgeons in Pakistan has produced almost over 85-90% of specialists in Pakistan for the last twenty five to thirty years and all the postgraduates were required to write a dissertation before appearing in FCPS Part-II examination. They all wrote dissertations but since there was no requirement to publish papers, lot of this useful research work was wasted as very few thought of publishing their work in medical journals. Had it been a policy and mandatory requirement to publish at least one or two papers before appearing in examination, it would have resulted in lot of publications. It is recently that we have prevailed upon the CPSP authorities who are now much more receptive that they have allowed publication of two papers in some of the recognized medical journals or write dissertation to be eligible for FCPS Part-II examination. As such the policy of countries and institutions, he stated, also has got a lot to do with the production of literature from these countries.
Continuing Mr. Shaukat Ali Jawaid said that EMAME has been urging the member countries to form Association of Medical Editors in their respective countries who can then take up these academic activities but we have had very little success. On the other hand, APAME countries like Korea, Japan, China, Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, and Malaysia have all formed Association of Medical Editors which were doing a commendable job and in coming years, many other countries in APAME are going to have Associations of Medial Editors, he added.

 

Contributions of AAEM in EMRO Region

 

Ms. Karan Shashok from Spain also opined that countries in the Middle East must look for talent and expertise available within their own countries. Many a times they are working quietly. Their services should be utilized besides looking for cooperation from experts from the region. Editors are too busy and they do not have the resources and staff to spend time on copy editing, improvement of English and Grammar. All this has to be done by the authors themselves. Journals are interested in good quality manuscripts. She then highlightedthe contribution of AAEM in helping the authors and research scientists in the region. She thanked Shiraz University of Medical Sciences as well as Prof. Farhad Handjani for supporting the AAEM project. It was due to their patronage, help and assistance that I spent six months during the Year 2000 and again nine months during 2010-2011 in Shiraz. It was not just to improve English and Grammar but I worked in the office of various medical journals and provided hands on training to the researchers how to write their manuscript. To date nearly 300 manuscripts have been edited by Karen or another volunteer AAEM editor, and about 180 of these manuscripts have been published in various medical, nursing, public health or psychology journals while the others are undergoing peer review or revision. She urged the participants to have a look at the AAEM website (www.authoraidem.org) which has lot of useful material and resources for the researchers and those interested in medical writing. These resources are available and she would be too glad to help the prospective authors.

 

Professional Medical Writers

 

Mr. Shaukat Ali Jawaid pointed out that medical journalism has now developed as a specialty. We are living in an era of professionalism. Professional medical writers are an entity which is very well recognized and they are helping the researchers to publish their work guiding them on how to prepare the manuscripts. The final version of the manuscript prepared is sent to the authors who approve it before it is submitted for publication. Medical Writers Associations have their own code of ethics and to ensure transparency, their contribution in preparation of manuscripts is always acknowledged. As such there was nothing wrong in acquiring the services of professional medical writers which was practiced in many countries all over the world.
Prof. Farhad Handjani also referred to the Masters Course in Medical Journalism started by Shiraz University of Medical Sciences. At present it is in Persian and we are training people in medical journalism who can later work in medical journals as well as in medical institutions and media. There are plans to have this course in English in Keish province so that people from Middle East and Asia can also benefit from this training programe.
Dr. Mahmoud Ibrahim thanked the moderatos and panelists for their excellent presentations and hoped that this academic activity will be quite helpful to promote research culture and medical writing in Middle East. We hope to continue such activities in future as well, he remarked.

 

Workshop on Medical Writing

 

Dubai, it may be mentioned here has been venue of many international medical conferences in various disciplines but this was for the first time that an international conference on medical writing was organized in Dubai. It attracted over one hundred seventy participants from various countries in the region besides Japan, India, Pakistan and Australia. The pre-conference workshop on Medical Writing was conducted by Karan Shashok a well known and experienced medical writer from Spain who is also running the AAEM project in the region. Mr. Shaukat Ali Jawaid, Prof. Farhad Handjani and Dr. Farrokh Habibzadeh acted as the moderators. Karan Shashok in her presentations introduced the participants to strategies and skills for research, manuscript writing and publication which can improve the chances of favorable review by peer reviewers. She also discussed in detail the publication strategy in a competitive global environment, how to write title, structured abstract, besides pointing out what information needs to be included in Introduction, Methodology, Results and Discussion. How to cite references was also discussed in detail. After lunch the participants were asked to do some exercises, write down the titles of some of the abstracts which were provided to them in the handouts. They were also asked to highlighted deficiencies if any in these abstracts which were taken from manuscripts which had already been published invarious journals. This session witnessed lot of interactive discussion as well and the participants pointed out numerous mistakes, deficiencies which showed their interest.
Scientific programme of the conference was spread over three sessions on Day Two. The topics which were discussed by various speakers included ABC of statistics by Gamela Nasr from Egypt, Plagiarism in medical publications by Prof. Paolo Pozzilli from Italy, the prestigious indexing systems by Dr. Farrokh Habibzadeh from Iran, Grant Writing, lessons from the Finish Prevention Programme by Jaakko Tuomilehto from Finland, Scientometrics: Journal Impact Factor, H-index and others indexes, by Farrokh Habibzadeh from Iran, Different types of medical articles published in medical journals by Prof. Farhad Handjani from Iran, Burn Out Syndrome among Medical Journal Editors by Mr. Shaukat Ali Jawaid from Pakistan, Case study- The Steno Study on Diabetes by Peter Gaede from Denmark, Quality control of regulatory documentation in an outsourced model of document delivery by Ms. Dejani Ghosh Dasguptan from India, Study design and statistical methods used in articles published in Journal of Family and Community Medicine by Abdullah Alhoudi from Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Pros and Cons of Peer Review of manuscripts submitted to medical journals by Mohammad Abdel Fattah Youssef from Egypt, The do’s and don’ts of clinicians writing for publications by Dr. Abbas Saleh Al Mutair from Saudi Arabia and Female Editorial Board members in Japanese Medical Societies and female authorship in the official journal of the Japanese Association of Thoracic Surgery by Ms. Yasuki Tomizawa from Japan. Third day of the conference was devoted to panel discussion.
On the whole it was an extremely useful academic activity and excellent arrangements had been made for the meeting for which credit goes to Dr. Mahmoud Ibrahim whose efforts were commended by all the speakers as well as participants. Certificates of participation were also presented to the participants. Dr. Abdullah Sroud Aljudi from Saudi Arabia suggested that an evaluation form should have been provided to the participants which can help improve the organization in future. Detailed report about the conference covering presentations by various speakers in different sessions in detail will be published in one of the forthcoming issues of Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences. (www.pjms.com.pk)

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