- Letter to the Editor
- Open Access
Health research publications of Bangladesh—an appeal for policy reform and long-term investment
The Egyptian Journal of Internal Medicine volume 35, Article number: 6 (2023)
Bangladesh has made huge strides in economic growth and healthcare delivery since its independence 50 years ago, although significant lags exist in all domains of health. One of the key domains of a vibrant health policy is health research. Health research in Bangladesh is getting growing attention among the stakeholders; however, in the case of one of the key indicators—Bangladesh-origin scientific journal—the achievement is quite frustrating, where the presence of internationally indexed journals is next to zero. The Journal of Statistical Research, commenced in 1970, published by the then University of Dacca, is the first contemporary Bangladesh-origin journal . Immediately after independence, in 1972, Bangladesh Medical Journal—the first medical journal of the country—commenced publication which is continued to date . As of 2022, the Bangladesh Medical and Dental Council (BM&DC) recognizes 156 journals published by different medical colleges, universities, and professional societies of Bangladesh ; 145 of them are listed on Bangladesh Journals Online (BanglaJOL), a virtual platform that maintains online publication of Bangladeshi journals, which has archived 22,509 articles since 2007 . However, there is a decline in the number of new journals listed in databases, with an additional decline in the overall listing rate as well (Fig. 1). Currently, 21 Bangladeshi medical journals are indexed in the Web of Science , 15 in the Scopus database , and only one in MEDLINE . Twenty-six Bangladesh-origin journals had initially been listed in PubMed/MEDLINE; however, only Mymensingh Medical Journal has retained its indexed status (Fig. 1) . Furthermore, there are no Q1/Q2 journals according to the Scopus journal ranking (SJR) .
No Bangladeshi journal uses a contemporary online-based submission platform, with submissions mainly received via emails. There are systematic delays in the regular update of journal websites; most journals have no retrievable individualized web links to the specific article. As such, articles may not show on regular searches, leading to few or no citations. Thus, very few local journals have achieved an impact factor greater than 1 [4, 5]. In fact, the only MEDLINE-indexed Bangladeshi medical journal has no impact factor to date.
A vicious cycle of events contributes to this low performance of medical publishing. There is little incentive for conducting research in the medical community. At the policy level, there is a near total blindness to publication as evidenced by the promotion rules of the government of Bangladesh for health cadres, which gave very insignificant weightage to publication . On the other hand, professionals who conduct research refrain from submitting even locally pertinent research to local journals as they are not indexed, opting for international journals instead. Local journals are hence left with no option but to publish poor-quality articles, which impede the journal’s progress.
Bangladesh still has a long way to go in terms of achieving excellence in research, as evidenced by the strikingly few research institutions dedicated to scientific research, a scarcity of research funds, and an insufficient number of good-quality journals and publications. The lack of skilled and motivated manpower to run an efficient editorial process is a major challenge. Journal activities are often undertaken entirely by only a few members of the editorial board, the majority of whom provide a voluntary service, with no protected research time, leading to an inability to commit the time and effort necessary to produce high-impact deliverables. Absent recognition on reviewer-crediting systems such as Publons results in a limited number of qualified reviewers. No formal training exists to train young researchers and clinicians to acquaint themselves with the editorial process and equip themselves with the skills necessary to take up positions in the future. The hardship of scientific publication is further amplified by the lack of attention to the problem by the government and relevant academic institutions and scientific societies. Lack of funding remains an impediment to the standardization and development progress of journals. Financial investments are necessary to improve scientific publication processes, such as the adoption of modern submission portals, technical support for updating websites, and protected time for editorial board members. Additionally, the measurement of social media metrics or altmetrics should be instituted. Strategic steps to motivate and train young scientists, to produce high-quality research, are therefore currently warranted.
A collaborative effort by academic physicians, the government, and relevant local stakeholders, with the help of the international community, is therefore crucial to achieve sustainable development of scientific publications in Bangladesh.
Availability of data and materials
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Hasan, M.J., Khondoker, M.F.U., Rahman, M. et al. Health research publications of Bangladesh—an appeal for policy reform and long-term investment. Egypt J Intern Med 35, 6 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1186/s43162-023-00190-8
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