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Misrepresenting of Developing Nations in Pharmacology
by admin on: June 1st, 2011

When scientists publish their research in prominent scientific journals, their work receives greater visibility and the impact of their work is greater. As expected, publishing in prestigious journals positively correlates with academic ???awards??? and/or increased likelihood for promotion. However, a recent survey of scientists that conduct research in countries described as being less-developed (based on income) voiced a concern: it is difficult to publish data in prestigious journals.

Survey Basics

This survey included approximately 131 scientific journals that were retrieved from the online search engine PubMed, which is a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, a branch of the National Institutes of Health. The fields of science covered in the survey included pharmacology, as well as cardiology, epidemiology and psychiatry. Corresponding authors from each of the 131 titles were identified and invited to take an online survey.

Survey Results

The results from this survey indicated that about 30 percent of the published articles came from less developed countries. The response rate (survey) of authors from less developed countries was about 64 percent. The impact factor of the journals where articles were published demonstrated a weak negative correlation such that half of the papers originating from less developed countries were published in journals that had an impact factor rating that was less than a 2 (low impact). Of note, approximately 7 percent of articles from less developed countries were published in a journal with a higher impact factor (impact factor of 4).

Impact Factor

???Impact factor??? is a tool with which one could assess the quality of the journal based on the quality of articles that it published. Today, impact factor is monitored periodically but a group currently known as Thomson Scientific (of note, this group was formally known as International Scientific Institute-ISI). Granted, there are a number of criticisms that argue it is not an accurate measure of the quality of a publication, but as with many tests, it is a quick, simple and convenient indicator that one can use to get a ???ball park??? idea of the quality of a manuscript before reading it.

Editorial Bias

Taken together, the results from the scientists polled indicate that there is a perception that the reviewers of their manuscripts fall victim to an editorial bias that is based on the geographical location. As noted in the date from this survey, 47.9 percent of the publications from authors from less developed countries indicated that their manuscripts were previously rejected by more ???prestigious??? journals prior to being accepted by a journal with a lower impact factor. As noted above, a weak negative correlation was found such that as the impact factor of a journal rose, the likelihood of rejection for a manuscript that originated from a group from a less developed country increased.

Other Factors Leading to Article Rejection and Potential Remedies

Following accusations of editorial bias, the most frequently cited reason for rejection from prestigious journals was poor writing skills. Interestingly, the most highly cited factor for improving acceptance was improving the writing quality. Following writing quality, the other factors for increasing likelihood of acceptance were improving the quality of research and then including multidisciplinary research.

Summary

While certainly manuscripts from less developed countries appear to be underrepresented in prestigious journals, this survey documents the perceptions of authors as well as potential remedies for acceptance. Interestingly, though editorial bias ranks high as a reason for rejection, the quality of writing was what ranked highest in terms of improving chances for publication. Perhaps, both factors go hand in hand.

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