Table of Contents    
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 12  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-5  

Publication paradigm among academics in dental sciences and pseudo perceptions of journal quality matrix: A re-look into medical council of India, dental council of India, and university grants commission publication guidelines

1 Department of Pedodontics, Navodaya Dental College, Raichur, Karnataka, India
2 Department of Pedodontics, Narsinhbhai Patel Dental College, SPU, Visnagar, Gujrat, India
3 Department of Pedodontics, Modern Dental College and Research Centre, Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India
4 Stemcology, University College, Dublin, Ireland

Date of Submission20-Oct-2020
Date of Decision28-Oct-2020
Date of Acceptance01-Jul-2020
Date of Web Publication27-Jan-2021

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0976-9668.307845

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How to cite this article:
Kumar V, Fernandez S, Sharma D, S. Kumar AH. Publication paradigm among academics in dental sciences and pseudo perceptions of journal quality matrix: A re-look into medical council of India, dental council of India, and university grants commission publication guidelines. J Nat Sc Biol Med 2021;12:1-5

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Kumar V, Fernandez S, Sharma D, S. Kumar AH. Publication paradigm among academics in dental sciences and pseudo perceptions of journal quality matrix: A re-look into medical council of India, dental council of India, and university grants commission publication guidelines. J Nat Sc Biol Med [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Jun 16];12:1-5. Available from:

Research, teaching, and outreach activities are the fundamental pillars of an educational establishment, which contribute to optimal development in any society. These three pillars are tightly interlinked and influence each other. For instance, the quality of teaching improves when an academic staff is involved in research activities, the outputs of which helps to engage in effective outreach activities for a wider benefit to the society. Hence, incentivizing the academics equally based on these three fundamental pillars is essential. Selectively emphasizing on any of the specific pillar may be counterproductive, as observed when research outputs in the form of scholarly publications are outweighed against the other pillars, can lead to academicians exclusively focused on producing too may publications (often with negligible value) at the expense of significantly ignoring their teaching quality. The publication pressure and its impact on teaching and personal life of an academician are well reported in the literature.

Scientific journals provide a platform for academicians and clinicians to communicate their scholarly work with wider scientific and nonscientific community for universal knowledge dissemination. Hence, scholarly communications must be done with highest degree of responsibility by the academicians and clinicians. While this is feasible in an ideal world, however, the reality is far from being ideal. The publication pressure, which is mainly due to extensive incentives linked to the scholarly publications, has led to side-lining of the very purpose of scholarly communications and has instead become more of an index to measure pseudo meritocracy. This direct association of publications with index of meritocracy has led many academicians blindly getting into the publication race without understanding the rationality for scholarly communications. This race is further fueled by national regulatory bodies which rank the quality of scientific journals based on another index of pseudo meritocracy.

In our opinion, the quality of scientific journals should be measured based on the publication standards it maintains and the transparent and unbiased approach it adopts in decision-making process. Besides these, the enrolment of the scientific journal in good indexing services may also be considered, although this is of little relevance in the era of digital revolution making quick and easy access to information. Unfortunately, we currently do not have any consensus or gold standard measure to judge the quality of scientific journals. However, most regulatory bodies use indexing systems and impact factor as a surrogate marker of journal quality. While the criteria for the regulatory bodies to specifically merit some indexing systems over others are ambiguous, this can have significant impact on the quality of the manuscripts submitted to the journal. There are around 10K publishers who collectively publish 34K scientific journals globally. Of these, 73% of publishers and 20% of scientific journals are not-for-profit, which suggests that about 25% of the publishers manage the 80% scientific journals which operate for profits. These for-profit journals provide employment to approximately 110K people and contribute over Euro 12 billion of revenue annually. Hence, it is essential that the regulatory bodies do not publish their guidelines on meriting scientific journals ambiguously as this may significantly impact their business.

   Indexing System, Omissions of Important Indexes, and Misnomers by Regulating Bodies Top

The well-known indexing systems are listed in [Table 1]. A journal index is a database which stores the manuscripts of journal (either abstracts or full article). These indexes act like libraries for the manuscripts, making them available for the readers globally. The indexes are developed and maintained by commercial companies, government, medical libraries, or publishers. Reputed indexes specify outline strict criteria for the journal to qualify or admit into those indexes. The journals are admitted if it meets the criteria set, once enlisted then the journal has to maintain standards in publication guidelines, which are periodically reviewed by the indexing bodies. Failure to meet the standards in publication can led to delisting of the journals from that indexing site. Despite this enormous decision-making power with the indexing bodies, to the best of our knowledge, currently there are not any regulatory bodies to scrutinize their activities. As many scientific journals have alleged biasness from these indexing bodies in their decision-making process. Furthermore, the pseudo perception of indexed journal being of better quality over the nonindexed journals lacks scientific rationale. Hence, measuring the quality of a journal exclusively based on its admission to well-known indexing sites lacks merit.
Table 1: Brief details of the well-known indexes (databases)

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At present, science citation index expanded (SCIE), emerging sources citation index (ESCI), Medline, PubMed Central (PMC), Scopus, and Embase are the leading quality indexing bodies globally, and any journal having indexed or joined to these indexes is termed as a quality journal. Many regulatory bodies in India, such as University Grants Commission of India (UGC), Medical Council of India (MCI), National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS), and Dental Council of India (DCI) have included indexing as the criteria to categorize or rank journals. MCI recognized indexes are Medline, PMC, Scopus, Embase, Science citation index, Director of open access journal, and IndMed. UGC has accepted Scopus and Web of science indexing journals but the journal enlisted in other indexes has to obtain its approval through the procedure set by UGC. NAAS has devised its own journal ranking system based on multiple criteria, including impact factor and indexing in PubMed. While DCI has accepted PubMed indexed journals in 2017 publication guidelines as category 1 and in a good move the 2020 DCI guidelines accepted Scopus, and Web of science indexed journals in category 1 journal list. However, UGC and DCI have excluded important indexes in its publication guidelines. MCI in 2015 guidelines had omitted many important indexes but later included those indexes in 2020 guidelines. The purpose of scholarly publication as highlighted above is to provide validated scientific knowledge for wider utility. The validation of scientific knowledge is done by rigorous scholarly research which is further scrutinized by unbiased peer-review exercise. Hence, the role of indexing bodies should be to provide easy access to this validated scientific knowledge. As the indexing bodies only provide access to the validated scientific knowledge, the lack of consensus between the major regulatory bodies in India to equally recognize the merit of well-known indexing bodies globally is disappointing and is unnecessarily impacting the operation of many scientific journals published locally for global audience.

UGC guidelines have omitted PMC and Medline indexes which are well-known indexes for journal in biomedical sciences. These two indexes are produced by the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM) which is the world's largest biomedical library. DCI has ignored the IndMED and MedIND two databases produced by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). IndMED and MedIND have been produced by ICMR under project “National data bases of Indian Medical Journals.” One more omission of DCI is Indian citation index developed by knowledge foundation society in support of Diva enterprises Pvt Ltd., India. Less than 1 percent of the biomedical journals published from India are indexed in Medline; hence, Indian citation index was instituted to index all major Indian medical journals. It is disappointing to see DCI ignoring the local indexing bodies and not supporting the recently launched make in India initiative. Instead of including Health University journals, DCI might have substituted it with IndMED index, MedIND, and Indian citation index. Another important omission of DCI is Embase index, which is a leading international multipurpose database since 1947 produced by reputed publisher Elsevier, Netherlands. Embase monitors the quality of journal regularly on a monthly basis. In addition to the subjects covered by Medline, Embase also includes relevant information and systemic reviews on pharmaceuticals, clinical medicine, and medical devices. Embase is one of the well-known index accepted worldwide. The exclusion of Embase in DCI guidelines in our opinion is irrational.

DCI guidelines also have some factual errors. For instance, DCI has mentioned some of search engines and platforms as indexes, which has caused inconvenience and confusions among academicians in selecting the journal for publication. PubMed is mistaken as an index by many academicians and regulating bodies. PubMed is not an index it's a search engine which searches two data bases, i.e., PMC and Medline. The NLM maintains the two databases (PMC and Medline indexes). Publishers/editors submit journals to National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) portal of NLM which reviews and recommends journals for Medline and PMC indexing depending on the criteria it meets for these two indexes. In Medline, only abstract of article is available when searched with medical subject headings, whereas PMC retrieves the full text of article. Some journals will be indexed only in PMC or Medline or both. PubMed is only a search engine that is developed and maintained by the NCBI. DCI in its guidelines [Table 2] has mentioned PubMed-Medline as index, which is a joint word causing again confusion. Similarly, Web of science is not an index, it is a core collection group (platform) of Clarivate, which houses four indexes i.e., SCIE, Social sciences citation index (SCI), arts and humanities index, and ESCI. Recently, SCI has been merged with SCIE due to their similarities in assessing the journals for indexing and SCI has become a subset of SCIE. However, the storage format used by SCI and SCIE has differences, while both are available online (Web format), SCI is additionally available on compact disc digital versatile disc format.
Table 2: Dental Council of India revised guidelines 2020 with mistakenly (mis-nomenclature) mentioned indexes

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Majority of the dental and medical journals are considered as science journals and hence indexed in SCIE and ESCI. For clarity on which of the four indexes should be included under web of science, DCI should specify SCIE and ESCI in the guidelines, the other two indexes belongs to social sciences, arts, and humanity subjects.

   Impact Factor Top

While journal indexing is considered a surrogate marker of quality; many consider impact factor as the objective measure of publication quality. Further journal is considered as superior based on its impact factor assessed by journal citation reports of Clarivate. The impact factor is measured based on the averaged last 2 years citations of articles in a journal, which although an objective measure has several fallacies, some of which being, averaged citation does not reflect merit of individual manuscript, does not consider citation biasness/citations in nonindexed journals, and lack of transparency in the collation of citation data. Despite these valid limitations, this matrix of journal quality is widely adopted and incentivized. Impact factor is determined by Clarivate analytics division of Clarivate.

   Professional Society Journals Top

The details of journals published by professional societies in the area of dentistry from India are listed in [Table 3]. The nine professional journals do not have science citation index which is one of the well-known index to measure impact factor. The lack of impact factor paraphs indicates that articles published in these specialty journals are not well cited. More recently, many research articles published by these national dental professional societies have mere primary data. DCI's guidelines to include professional society journals as category 1, although appreciable do not seem to be based on merit and is very ambiguous. The professional society journal do not charge processing or publication fee to the authors, as these journals are subsidized by the generous funding from the society, which leads to influential members of the society interfering with manuscript acceptance process. DCI should reconsider meriting the journals based on objective measures, which in long run would drive improvement in the journals of the professional societies. When an index is criteria for quality then it should not matter whether the journal is run by professional society or Government Health University, mere inclusion of journal because its run by someone influential is counterproductive for quality.
Table 3: Professional national dental society journals indexing and impact factor

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   Government Health University Journals Top

Inclusion of health university journals by DCI is again debatable, as the MCI has not included health university journal in its publication guidelines while DCI has included health university journals may be to support government journal to promote and publish scientific work of academicians in public institutes. Analyzing the five biggest Indian states Government health University journals, it was observed that the WBUHS journal-West Bengal, MUHS journal-Maharashtra, RGUHS journal-Karnataka are nonindexed journals. NTRUHS Journal-Andhra Pradesh, RUHS journal-Rajasthan are not indexed in PMC, Scopus, Medline and Science citation index. Many government health university journals published data due to this nonindexing are not available for academicians worldwide. In our opinion work published by the public bodies, the research content should have communication reach across the world. We also observed that few health university journals are not publishing regularly. Besides these limitations, publication of articles in government journals can be influenced by peoples near the corridors of power, which again leads to compromise in the scientific quality. Again, in our opinion, inclusion of government health university or government university journal in DCI guidelines does not concur with the journals merit and hence should be reconsidered. If the indexing quality criteria are set then automatically these journals will be motivated to comply with best practicing guidelines and also publish regularly and their published work will be acknowledged worldwide.

There is regular discomfort among several clinicians and academicians about what they observe as a slow but inexorable decline in the quality of research work published in journals. Increasingly, new medical research is brought to public platform through the journals on the basis of so-called “surrogate endpoint” data. Application of scientific knowledge to human progress has assumed least importance due to priorities given to all nonscientific measures of merit, which if not timely addressed can weaken the fundamental pillars of an educational establishment. All the regulatory bodies should consider the issues highlighted in this editorial in drafting their publication guidelines. Specifically, the DCI should relook at their guidelines which will help to promote meritocracy, some of the suggestions are detailed in [Table 4].
Table 4: Proposed publication guidelines for dental faculty (based on wider academic consultations)

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  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4]


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