Thoughts for an Ending – Part 1

Jose Ma. C. Avila, MD

This is the last editorial I am to write for the Acta Medica Philippina. I have written about fifty of them. Most of them dealt with publication and editorial issues in our country, and the difficulties that one has to deal with in trying to come up with a journal of international caliber and good enough to be at par with the rest of them. Medical journal publication in a third world country like the Philippines, particularly in a university and government setting is full of challenges. These challenges need not even be there, if only the needs and requirements, and importance of such an endeavor are clearly understood. And these are the things that an editor must deal with, in addition to the grind of administering research articles that must be evaluated on his or her desk on a daily basis.

The lack of a culture of publication is an important issue in this country which has to be faced and dealt with. Researchers and thesis writers are everywhere, which is actually a good thing. The problem is converting these voluminous tomes into actual research articles that is in publishable form. This is where many authors balk at the prospect of converting their thick manuscripts into concise to the point articles. But these are the forms that are widely distributed and read. And this is what our researchers and writers must learn to do. Perhaps we should hire professionals who are good at doing this and convert all these theses into more manageable pieces of information and abstracts. Perhaps we should require these researchers to prepare two types of written reports: a thesis-type and a journal-type ready to publish form. Perhaps we should also teach them how to follow “instructions to authors” while we’re at it.

The Acta receives dozens of articles per month, more than at any time in its more than 75 years of existence. We have always reiterated that one of the most important requirements is that the instructions to authors that we have must be followed strictly. Actually, this is the first thing that an author must pay attention to everytime he wants to publish an article in a particular journal. Unfortunately, despite our pleadings and reminders, this is hardly ever followed in the Acta, which causes considerable delays (the articles are returned and authors are asked to comply!). In other big-time journals, failure to follow is tantamount to immediate rejection. But we still don’t have that luxury in the Acta and we patiently remind our valuable contributors that we have standards that need to be followed since we are already indexed internationally, and that basic minimal publication requirements must be met!

The troublesome areas are the bibliographic entries and the ethical clearances required for the articles that are submitted. There are just too many errors and omissions in the bibliographic entries that appear to have been done so hurriedly; page entries are missing, volumes are wrong, and website citations are not up to date. The ethics requirements is another problem; actually, many articles that involve human subjects have not been cleared by an ethics committee! One wonders if this is again, an offshoot of the absence of a publication culture in our midst. (second part of this article to follow in the last quarter issue).


Jose Ma. C. Avila, MD