THE recent action taken by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) regarding medical research journals is beyond comprehension as it is totally devoid of any logic. If anything, the HEC, which should be promoting higher education, is demoralising the local talent by decategorising internationally-indexed journals.

The Journal of Pakistan Medical Association (JPMA) was indexed in 1975 by the Index Medicus, which is the indexing agency of the highest repute globally. It is still indexed in Index Medicus and the PubMed, the most influential search engine of acclaimed medical research databases.

After JPMA, the Abbottabad Medical Journal and later the Journal of CPSP got indexed in PubMed. To date only these three Pakistani medical journals carry these distinctions along with Scopus and the Web of Sciences. The impact factor of the JPMA is 0.642 which is the highest among all the Pakistani PubMed indexed medical journals.

Recently, the HEC introduced a new software, which has put all Pakistani medical journals, including the three indexed medical journals, into what it calls ‘Clay Medallion’ and ‘X’ category i.e. “below standard and unlikely to improve”. On what criteria they have done it is known only to the HEC.

The lowering of the category of these indexed journals by the HEC will not make any difference to these journals as they are not commercial entities. But the HEC action will make a difference to young doctors interested in research and to those seeking professional growth through research-based publications.

We should be proud of the local talent, especially the ones that are accredited by international bodies of repute, and use it as a gold standard to compare the others. But the HEC software is seriously malfunctioning in this regard.

The HEC has been contacted many times at various levels and they all agree that the latest categories have a problem, but they are taking time to revert the decision. This is working against the interest of the local talent and the HEC objective of promoting higher education. We hope that sanity will prevail sooner rather than later.

Dr Fatema Jawad
Journal of Pakistan Medical Association

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2020