August 2001 Bulletin

Editors plan joint action on common issues

Journal chiefs examine electronic publishing, database to avoid duplicative publishing

James D. Heckman, MD, editor of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, American, left, and Alan M. Levine, MD, editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, discuss journal publishing issues and solutions to common problems.

By Mark W. Wieting

Opening a joint meeting of editors and staff of 13 orthopaedic journals, Alan M. Levine, MD, editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (JAAOS), asked a key question: "How can we make it easy for orthopaedic surgeons and others to get the information they need?"

The Academy convened the editors meeting June 15 to address common concerns and to begin working together to solve common problems. These included electronic publishing issues, copyright protection, "duplicative publishing" where substantially the same article appears in two different journals, use by the journals of each other’s illustrations and streamlining production processes.

Although electronic publishing issues dominated the discussion, there was consensus that printed publications are still the journal standard. Often subscribers to journals have Internet access to the electronic versions and are accessing them in increasing numbers. James D. Heckman, MD, editor of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery-A reported that in some instances tables or charts referred to in the print journal are found only on the JBJS web site.

The editors discussed computer tagging of illustrations and tables with a system called digital object identifier (DOI) numbers, a kind of permanent "birthmark," in order to facilitate tracking its use in other journals. Such a scheme can help manage the various versions of the same article, in print, on CD-ROM and on the web. They also discussed software for tracking manuscripts from the time they are received to the time they appear in print, and agreed to share future experiences with several kinds of software programs to manage this cumbersome yet necessary task.

The problem of duplicative publishing stirred emotions and even recollections of lawsuits, and the group agreed to work together to create a plan to guard against this problem. Multiple submissions of the same or substantially similar articles to several journals is a fact of medical publishing, despite authors signing statements that their article has not been submitted elsewhere.

The group decided that a central database or website containing information on all articles submitted to the various journals, probably hosted on the Academy’s computer, would serve all of the journals well. Searches by author, topics or keywords could uncover where the same or substantially the same article has been submitted to more than one journal. Dr. Levine agreed to explore this issue with a few members of the group and the Academy’s computer staff.

It was agreed that such a plan would be used as an educational activity, especially at first, so that authors could be contacted, advised about the situation and offered the opportunity to withdraw articles if necessary.

Medical publishing often contains illustrations such as original drawings, intra-operative photographs, and photos of X-rays and of patients with their presenting condition. Subsequent use of an illustration appearing in a publication requires editors to seek permission from the original publisher. Although such permission is routinely granted—as long as proper credit is given the original work—the permissions process is cumbersome, time-consuming and therefore expensive.

Occasionally it is faulty as well, and several editors noted that they had given or received permission to use an illustration that they or the grantor of the permission did not actually own.

The editors and staff agreed to work on a system that would simplify and improve the permissions process. They also discussed standardizing "Instructions to Authors" and "style sheet" issues such as expected revisions to the "Vancouver Con- vention" of style that will be discussed later in the year in Barcelona, Spain.

"Although the various journals are in some sense in competition with each other for the attention of their reader base, these leaders were acting out of genuine concern for how best to serve the orthopaedic surgery community," said Judy McKay, managing edior of JAAOS. "I have not heard of another such cooperative effort in medical publishing and think it speaks very well for our leadership."

The group decided to have periodic meetings to work on the tasks and issues they had identified. "The important thing," said Dr. Levine, "is that we’re talking with each other. There are important issues that we can address together."

Attending the meeting were editors and representatives of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (JAAOS); Journal of Orthopaedic Research; Orthopaedics and Orthopaedics Today; Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, American; Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics; Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, British; American Journal of Sports Medicine; and Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research.

Also, Foot and Ankle; Journal of Hand Surgery; Journal of Arthroscopy; and Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma. AAOS staff included Marilyn Fox, PhD, director of publications and McKay.

Mark W. Wieting is AAOS vice president, education programs

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