ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has decided to move court against Higher Education Commission’s (HEC) step to degrade three indexed medical journals.

Last month, the HEC degraded all three indexed medical journals from W category to X category which means currently there is no ‘W’ category journal for Pakistani health professionals to get their research papers published.

The health professionals concerned including PMA have cast doubt on HEC’s software, which downgraded the indexed journals.

However, the HEC is defending its position, saying the step has been taken to bring the research journals on par with the international best standards.

Speaking to Dawn, PMA’s Secretary General S.M. Qaisar Sajjad said that HEC’s act of degrading all three medical journals is a setback for over 600 medical faculty members of the country.

Last month, the commission degraded all three indexed medical journals

“We demanded HEC to revert its decision within 10 days, otherwise we will move court, as degrading indexed journal was a shock for medical faculty members,” he said.

A senior doctor and editor of a research journal Dr Yasin Durrani alleged that HEC had no proper expertise to deal with the medical education. He said instead of HEC, the medical research journals should solely be dealt by medical council, like PMDC or PMC.

The three research journals that saw degradation are Journal of Pakistan Medical Association (JPMA) published by PMA, which was started in 1954 and indexed in 1975, Pakistan Journal of Medical Science and Journal of College of Physicians and Surgeons (JCPSP).

According to PMA all these journals have an impact factor and are indexed with the highest indexing agencies as Scopus, PubMed, Embase, SCIE, Biosis and WOS. They are recognized by WHO and WAME.

“The journal recognition system of the Higher Education Commission, Pakistan, has downgraded all the highest category biomedical journals of the country to the so-called Clay Medallion and Category X,” the PMA said in a statement.

It said that this was done by applying a new journal recognizing system launched by HEC and the results were displayed on the HEC website in January which is available to all viewers around the world.

Speaking to Dawn, Editor-in-Chief Journal of Pakistan Medical Association (JPMA) Dr Fatema Jawad said that getting an article published in medical journal is a prerequisite for medical faculty members to get promotions.

However, she said that downgrading such prestigious journal is highly condemnable.

“We are trying to convince HEC to undo their blunder, otherwise we will challenge the step in courts,” she said and added that all these indexed journals, which now according to HEC are in X category, struggled hard to keep their standards at a universally recognised level.

“All these journals have an impact factor and indexed with the reputed indexing agencies,” she said and added that it is painful that HEC has degraded these journals through software on trial basis and put their results on official website. She said that now Pakistani authors will suffer to get their articles published in international journals for their promotions.

“For getting their article published in international journals now Pakistani authors will have to compete with the authors of developed countries, besides payong at least Rs100,000 to 150,000,” she said.

The Editor JPMA also questioned why no journal was intimated in advance about the downgrading and why the journals were not given the time to fulfill whatever the fresh requirements have been added.

However, HEC while sharing its point of view defended the said decision. The HEC’s media wing through a written reply said that HEC, in its 34th Commission meeting in August 2019, decided to make a major policy shift towards a more transparent, rigorous, and focused system for accreditation, monitoring, capacity building, and funding of research journals.

The HEC said this policy shift was aimed at bringing the research journals on par with the international best standards. “The existing system will remain in place till June 30, 2020, while the new policy will be applicable from July 1, 2020,” the HEC said.

HEC said the recognition of journals, both national and international, had been linked with international scientific impact parameters. All the journals indexed by the Web of Science (including Master Journals List or JCR) or Scopus have been recognised by the system.

The system is neutral with regard to different domains of knowledge, i.e., social sciences, natural sciences, humanities, medical, engineering, etc. The top 30pn journals within each domain will fall within the W category, the next 30pc in X category, and the remaining in Y category.

“HEC will call for applications for recognition of national journals that are currently neither indexed by Web of Science nor by Scopus. After evaluation the journals that meet the criteria for Y category will be recognised in this category,” the HEC stated.

To a question, HEC media wing said stakeholders had been intimated through letters as well as announcements on HEC website well in time. HEC’s statement said: “We have already developed the HEC Journals Recognition System (HJRS) and the notification about that will be issued soon.”

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2020