The year 2012 was certainly a landmark year for the Journal of Bronchology and Interventional Pulmonology (JOBIP), most notably for the recent announcement that it has been granted inclusion in MEDLINE by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), which means several important things. First, and most fundamentally, articles published in the Journal will now be indexed and searchable in the NLM databases, including PubMed. This will make the scholarship reported in the Journal much more accessible to the world of practicing clinicians and scientists, and of course elevates the stature of the Journal and the American Association of Bronchology and Interventional Pulmonology to greater prominence as a recognized source of evidence and reference material related to bronchology. Second, and perhaps of even greater importance, this decision marks a coming of age for the specialty of bronchology, adding legitimacy to the vision of those who foresaw its evolution from a small procedural facet of larger more established specialties to a respected field of its own, with dedicated specialists performing procedures requiring both knowledge and skill possessed by no other group, complete with its own graduate training programs, international meetings, published body of literature, and now its own dedicated and indexed scientific journal.
The significance of this decision by the NLM is easy to appreciate, but it bears acknowledgment that the path to this important status has not been short, nor has it been easy, for those who have worked to keep the Journal coming on time and delivering the quality of science its readers have come to expect. As we have gratefully acknowledged these many efforts, and celebrate with the Journal’s leadership the success of their labors, we believe that relatively few may recognize what is required to achieve indexing by the NLM, and that a review of the process, together with the perspective of lessons learned from our own experience, would be a useful addition to the medical literature.
The body authorized to include publications in MEDLINE is the Literature Selection Technical Review Committee (LSTRC) of the NLM. Any editor or publisher who wishes to have their publication considered for indexing must submit an application for consideration of indexing to the LSTRC. A fact sheet outlining the criteria used in selecting journals for indexing can be found at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/factsheets/jsel.html. In these guidelines, the NLM makes clear the standards any publication must meet to be considered for indexing in MEDLINE, including transparent policies for dealing with conflicts of interest, human and animal research subjects’ rights, and informed consent in research trials. The actual application for indexing can be found at http://wwwcf.nlm.nih.gov/lstrc/lstrcform/med/index.html.
These resources have been available throughout the 19 years it has taken for the Journal to achieve indexed status. As the editors and editorial board have worked to meet the requirements for indexing, the question arises: why has it taken 19 years? Here we offer some discussion and perspective as to why the process has taken so long, in hopes that our readers will appreciate the significance of the journey and that others seeking the same status for their publication may benefit from our experience.
One struggle faced by the Journal of Bronchology and Interventional Pulmonology stems from the fact that the specialty of bronchology is a relative newcomer in the world of clinical medicine and has suffered through an identity crisis, especially among those outside the specialty. Realizing this, in 2009 the editors added the appellation, “interventional pulmonology,” to the Journal’s title, in hopes that this would clarify to those less familiar with the field what the journal and the specialty it represents are about. To illustrate the importance of this identity issue, the Journal of Thoracic Oncology was indexed in MEDLINE in its first year of publication. There are certainly many reasons for this, and our purpose is not to begrudge those who publish JTO their success. We simply point out that one factor contributing to that success must have been widespread recognition of their subject, a luxury that bronchology and interventional pulmonology have had to struggle much more to achieve.
Related to the name recognition issue, but distinct from it, is the question of perception of need for the Journal and its reported science. Once a sufficient number of people recognized the field of bronchology, the next hurdle was to convince them that there is a need to report scientific investigations, reviews, and editorials in the field. In the case of any procedural specialty, outside perception may be colored by the false assumption that very little meaningful science is being conducted. Overcoming this perception requires a significant track record of published research, demonstrating the quality of scholarship within the field. The Journal is a quarterly publication, and in the minds of some this reinforces the notion that the amount of publishable science in bronchology is limited. With this skepticism in mind, it has been very important to demonstrate consistently that the Journal reports a robust amount of original research, not only reviews and commentary of results published elsewhere.
We have learned the importance of having name recognition associated with the editor-in-chief, as well as diversity of specialties represented on the editorial board of the Journal. Other factors that have contributed to the ultimate decision to include the Journal in MEDLINE are the consistency and quality of formatting, the timeliness of the quarterly publications, and the supporting letters of well-known and respected figures of both pulmonology and other specialties.
All in all, it has required 6 applications before the Journal was finally indexed in MEDLINE. Each application for indexing is answered with a score card from the LSTRC, outlining the strengths and weaknesses of the candidate publication and indicating the decision of the committee. At the end of each score card, a candidate journal is given an overall rating reflecting its indexing priority. The cutoff to be granted indexing in MEDLINE is a priority score of 3.5 on a 5-point scale. As we look back at the string of score cards returned by the LSTRC with each successive application for indexing, we see consistent progress in terms of the quality and importance scores awarded to the Journal by the committee. On the penultimate score card from 2009, the overall rating given to the Journal was 3.3. Although this was not enough to merit indexing at the time, it reinforced the resolve and optimism of our leadership to continue the work, both of improving the Journal and of promoting the specialty of bronchology and interventional pulmonology. In 2012, our score had improved and the Journal was finally included in MEDLINE!
The final point that must be made is that this work of improvement and promotion is not yet finished, nor will it ever be. The achievement of indexed status in MEDLINE is a major milestone in the odyssey of the Journal and the specialty of bronchology, and now that we are indexed our acceptance and visibility should continue to grow at an even faster rate. Now, more than ever, we must continue to produce top-level scholarship and publish it to the world with an ever increasing level of rigor, consistency, and style. Thus, we will not only continue to reinforce the legitimacy of our field but ultimately take our proper place among the venerable academic and clinical specialties of medicine.