Also available in: Español
Rev Mex Urol. 2017 November;77(6):385-388. DOI: https://doi.org/10.24245/revmexurol.v77i6.1685
José Guzmán Esquivel
Editor de la Revista Mexicana de Urología
In today’s fast-paced world, in which we are always running against the clock, the austerity and calm of observation are left behind.
Medical journals have also experienced constant and accelerated changes, which are demands of the times we live in. Those who cannot adapt and react will lose ground, be left behind, and ultimately be forgotten.
Part of this editorial is based on the 2015 report by the International Association of Scientific, Technical, and Medical Editors (STM), and refers to a wide variety of concepts, analyzing information related to publishing.
Revista Mexicana de Urología
The Revista Mexicana de Urología was first published in 1943. It continued to publish articles year after year, but unable to keep up with the new demands of technology, it found itself on the sidelines. The internet emerged in the 1990s, and during the last two decades of its maturation, growth and acceleration, many journals, including ours, were left behind. Much valuable information produced over the years remains in the hard copies of the journal. The data cannot be measured or put into the platforms of metadata that organize and facilitate the search for all types of information. Nevertheless, the journal continued to exist, accelerating its pace, and striving to reach its goals.
During its first stages, the Revista Mexicana de Urología was incorporated into the database of PubMed. Today, that medical index is an internet search engine that accesses complete texts and abstracts of scientific medical articles. A project developed by the National Center for Biotechnology Information of the U. S. National Library of Medicine, PubMed continues to be one of the main search engines, along with Cochrane, EBSCO, Science Direct, and others coming out of China.
Without a doubt, the authors are the driving force behind the development, growth, and quality of the journal. They are a reflection of the quality of Urology in Mexico, demonstrating their knowledge, their passion for research, and their ability to publish.
There are norms and rules that govern good journal performance and they are currently more strongly communicated and enforced to have better internal and external control of the work that is published.
One of the main goals of the International Association of Scientific, Technical, and Medical Editors is to help editors and authors disseminate the results of their research in the fields of science, technology, and medicine, as well as to assist the national and international organizations whose job is to improve the dissemination, storage, and retrieval of scientific, technical, and medical information.
The number of articles published, as well as the number of journals themselves, has been growing constantly for more than two centuries, between 3 and 3.5% per year, respectively, as a result of the equally persistent growth in the number of researchers, presently between 7 and 9 million. Twenty-three percent of the articles published worldwide come out of the United States, but the important and accelerated growth of published articles from China and Eastern Asia is striking. The United Kingdom follows at 7%, and Germany at 6%.1
More than 28,100 refereed and peer-reviewed English-language journals were registered at the end of 2014, and another 6450 journals in other languages, collectively resulting in more than 2.5 million articles per year. In relation to citations, the United States is at the top of the list, with 36%, and China is in 11th place, with 6%.1
The interest in research and publication ethics continues to be sustained, constant, and supervised. The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) is one of the organizations that addresses the abuses of plagiarism and malpractice. The number of article retractions has increased importantly over the last decade, but it is thought to be the result of greater awareness in most cases, as opposed to an increase in misconduct.
The main functions of the journal are:
a. To register the precedence of the document, the author, and the ownership of the idea.
b. To certify that there is quality control through peer review and to ensure good publication practices by making observations and by rejecting documents that demonstrate a lack of ethics, plagiarism, or content duplication.
c. To disseminate information, communicating the findings to target audiences through the brand identity of the journal.
d. To register the archives to preserve the documents for future reference and citation.
The “impact factor”, so sought-after by editors, is not a journal’s only gauge of quality. The length of time publishing articles, publication continuity, and the publisher are all key elements in making a journal a reliable source of information. Added to those is the prestige of the editor, the editorial board, and the reviewers. In addition, the internationality of the reviewers and the number and type of articles they have published strengthen that reliability. The impact factor is important, but it is not the only thing that matters.
In fact, significant publication bias has been attributed to the impact factor and some studies have demonstrated incorrect procedures in its evaluation, falsified data, and inaccurate impact factors.2
The editor of a journal should be an independent and impartial expert, with no conflict of interest regarding the articles received, always conducting him or herself within the realm of ethics and with shared responsibility. The editor is the first person to see an article and judges its relevance. He or she is the first filter, organizing article reception and distributing or sending the articles to the reviewers (peer-review). The editor is responsable for the proper functioning of the journal and intercedes between the journal and the publisher. He or she also oversees the implementation of good practices in the journal. The editor cannot always determine whether the data presented in an article are correct or not, but peer-review improves the quality of most works and is appreciated by the authors. The editor and review board make the final decision to publish an article. There is an increasing number of articles with incorrect data and a lack of methodological vigor that affect their quality and validity. When such documents are identified, they are rejected, but those that slip through the initial filters are usually recognized later and then retracted.
The Royal Spanish Academy defines retraction as “expressly revoking what has been said”. Stated somewhat differently, it is changing one’s mind and rejecting what was said or written. Some articles with incorrect data have had a strong impact, having a damaging effect on the population. In such cases, researchers have lost their professional licenses.
An example is the publication of the article by Andrew Wakefield, stating the association of the triple MMR vaccine with autism. The impact of his article on society lasted more than a decade and strengthened the position of anti-vaccination groups. The Lancet retracted the article and the College of British Physicians took action against the author. Surveillance for finding such articles will now only increase, and more filters are being created to identify incorrect data.
According to the Spanish Language Dictionary, plagiarism is “substantially copying the work of others and passing it off as one’s own” and describes the plagiarizer as “the person who plagiarizes or copies the work of others”.3
The word “plagiarism” comes from Latin and initially referred to the Roman law, Lex Fabia de plagiariis, that punished the kidnappers of children, slaves, and free men.
Plagiarism is not legislated in Mexico. The word “plagiarism” does not exist in the Federal Copyright Law of our country, nor is it classified as a crime.3
Plagiarism is very clearly defined in an article from the School of Medicine of Chile as:
“the conscious act of taking the ideas or texts of others, hiding the original source, with intentional deception.”
Unfortunately, plagiarism is not rare. Because of their access to journal articles, editors and reviewers are usually the first to recognize it, but publishers and some internet sites also have tools for identifying plagiarism.
There is an ever-increasing awareness of the need for higher, or at least more transparent, ethical standards in journal publication to deal with conflicts of interest, ghost-writing, guest authorship, citation rings, peer review rigging, authorship disputes, data falsification and fabrication, scientific fraud, unethical experimentation, and plagiarism. Much of the criticism is directed at issues between biomedical journals and the pharmaceutical industry, but they are by no means limited to that area. Journals can systematically obtain such things as statements on competing interests and ethical consent through online submission systems, and they are often placed next to the published articles.1 COPE was established in 1997 and provides a forum where publishers and editors can talk about integrity issues in relation to journal submissions. The organization has approximately 9000 members and membership aids in ensuring that the journal is guided by good practice standards under a system of professional ethics.
Open Access publishing of journals has enabled the appearance of fraudulent journals. Many indiscriminately promote their easy-to-use platform, sending thousands of emails to the scientific community. Their editors encourage authors by promising a fast review and publication process, and charge a publishing fee. Some of those publishing houses have names that are similar to prestigious publishers, changing only one letter or word to make them look the same. They tend to be dishonest, even stating false impact factors. Authors should be very careful when searching for journals to publish their work and should verify their authenticity.
“Highjacking”, another predatory action that has received less coverage, is the creation of a fraudulent website that imitates a legitimate one to get manuscripts and article publication charges (APCs) (Jalalian & Mahboobi, 2014).1
The path is laid out, the way is in sight, and we must keep going in this direction. The journal has the potential to continue to grow every day.
“There are two ways that plagiarism is not a problem: by not seeing it anywhere and by saying it is everywhere”.
M. Schneider, Voleurs de mots.4
Dr. José Guzmán Esquivel