A graduate's perspective on medical student journalsA Abu-Zaid
College of Medicine, Alfaisal University, Riyadh - 11533, Saudi Arabia
Keywords: Publication, medical student journals, research
Medical student journals (MSJs) refer to a cluster of entirely student-led periodicals that publish student-authored articles. Their primary aim is to foster scientific research publishing among medical students. They provide a fitting platform for medical students to disseminate their scholarly research work.
Peer review is the practice of appraising manuscripts for quality, legitimacy, and ingenuity. Furthermore, it is the most fundamental vehicle to authenticate and uphold the veracity of the disseminated science. To that end, the peer review process is always rigorous by the professional journals. Conversely, the “less”-professional MSJs characteristically employ a student-friendly and feeble peer review process, which is largely associated with poor quality of published articles.
Recently, Al-Busaidi and Alamri adequately scrutinized the peer review practices and policies employed by various English-language peer-reviewed MSJs (n = 23). The authors concluded that the peer review process was not largely transparent. I second the authors' conclusion.
Herein, as a graduate medical student, I call on peer medical students to make an informed decision in refraining from submitting their research work to MSJs for four primary reasons.
First, to date according to Al-Busaidi and Alamri, the peer review process of MSJs are largely poor and opaque, and this may result in an unfavorable aftermath of disseminating bad and low-quality research. Thus, medical students should not contribute their research, borne out of hard work, to low-quality MSJs.
Second, only one MSJ (that is, the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine) is indexed in MEDLINE®—the most trustworthy bibliographic database compiled by the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM). MEDLINE®-indexed journals denote earning a badge of legitimacy in scientific publishing after a thorough examination of predefined critical elements, some of which are the “quality of content” and “quality of editorial work.” Thus, medical students should strive to publish in professional MEDLINE®-indexed journals which carry higher added value, credit recognition, and scientific reputation than the non-MEDLINE®-indexed MSJs.
Third, none of the MSJs have an official journal impact factor (IF) reported by the Journal Citation Reports® (JCR). Although controversial, the journal IF remains one of the most common and valuable journal-level metrics to evaluate the “reputation” and “ranking” of journals. Student-authored publications in professional MEDLINE®-indexed journals (with or without journal IF) are always encouraged, and yet possible even from third-world medical schools.,
Fourth, one of the central goals of conducting research is to disseminate knowledge, preferably through publication in journals, or presentation in scientific meetings. Unfortunately, the scholarly scientific community is unlikely to be interested in spending time reading research articles published in the “far less professional” journals—the MSJs. Thus, publishing in MSJs is associated with far less visibility and exposure  and student-authors should wisely avoid this publishing pathway.
While all “professional” journals welcome research contributions from all authors including students and junior scholars, a genuine question arises: why do students decide to publish their research work in MSJs rather than in the “professional” journals? One plausible reason is the challenge put forth by the meticulous scrutiny and critical appraisal (peer review) in professional peer-reviewed journals. However, as opposed to fearing the comments of reviewers in such high caliber entities, medical students should adopt the demeanor of eminent scholars and develop persistence, confidence, and patience to achieve the highest possible goals in any scholarly driven activity.
Many professional and reputed journals, e.g., Journal of Postgraduate Medicine, encourage research submissions from undergraduate students and junior doctors. Moreover, Journal of Postgraduate Medicine has introduced years ago a “student-friendly contribution corner” to specifically solicit research submissions from young student scholars  and these submissions undergo the mandatory rigorous peer review.
Medical schools, through curricular and extracurricular schemes, play primary instrumental roles in educating students about the discipline of scientific publishing. The central bodies of Undergraduate Research Committees in medical schools should provide counseling to students to publish only in professional MEDLINE®-indexed journals. Furthermore, they should also highlight the academic perils of publishing in dubious journals. Senior medical students and research mentors should offer helping hands in recommending a handful list of suitable journals for the student-authored research work.
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.