Medical journals have undergone a number of changes over the years. In the recent past, the pace of these changes has accelerated. The internet has revolutionized most aspects of biomedical communication, including biomedical journals.
Most medical journals have an established website, and have web presence. A journal website is a one-stop shop for information about the journal. The subject area of the journal, information on the editorial board, instructions for authors and contact details are all available on the journal site. Many big publishing houses like Springer (www.springer.com), Taylor and Francis(www.tandf.co.uk/journals), and Elsevier (www.elsevier.com) maintain their own group websites, which contain links to the various journals published by the house. One can search for journals by name or by subject category. Many sites allow browsing of journal lists alphabetically.
Manuscript Submission Process
The manuscript submission process is another area, which has been revolutionized by the web. Most journals are going in for an online manuscript submission and management system. The two most commonly used ones are ScholarOne (www.scholarone.com) and Editorial Manager (www.editorialmanager.com). These are multistep submission systems. One can register with the site and can choose a user name and password. You can be logged in using your username and password, and can submit your manuscript. The system builds a PDF of the manuscript for your approval, and once you approve the PDF, it is sent to the editorial office. The reviewer can log in, access the manuscript, download it, and post his/her comments. A few of the many journals using this system are the BioMedCentral family (www.biomedcentral.com), the Public Library of Science journals (www.plos.org), Singapore Medical Journal (www.sma.org.sg/smj), Medical Education (www.mededuc.com), and Academic medicine (www.academicmedicine.org).
Certain journals like Medical Education Online (www.med-ed-online.org), and Rural and Remote Health (www.rrh.org.au) have developed their own system, where you fill in a short online form, attach your manuscript, and send it to the editorial office. You can, of course, send the manuscript as an e-mail attachment, in case the journal does not have an online system. The online system requires a reasonably fast internet connection.
Open Access Initiative
The Budapest open access initiative (http://www.soros.org/openaccess/read.shtml) was the fist major step towards open access publishing. In many open access journals, the authors retain the copyright to their work, and give a license to the journal to publish their manuscript. Many of these follow the Creative Commons Attribution license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/), where the reader is free to share and remix the work, provided the work is attributed to the original author/s. Open access journals like PLoS (www.plos.org) and BioMedCentral (www.biomedcentral.com) charge publication fees of around US $1300. The journals however, routinely offer waivers to authors from poor developing countries according to the World Bank classification.
Open Peer Review
In 1996, the Journal of Interactive Media in Education launched open peer review. Reviewers' names are made public, and they are therefore accountable for their review, but they also have their contribution acknowledged. Authors have the right of reply, and other researchers have the chance to comment prior to publication. The reviewer knows the author’s details, while the author knows the name and affiliations of the reviewer. In 1999, the British Medical Journal moved to an open peer review system, revealing the reviewer’s identities to the authors, and in 2000, the medical journals in the open access group, published by BioMed Central, started using open peer review. As with the BMJ, the reviewer’s names are included on the peer review reports. In ad