To the Editor: In an era where publications in science citation index (SCI) journals speak louder to employers and the government than patients’ gratitude, “How's your paper doing” has become the new “Hello” amongst young Chinese doctors. Although the pressure to publish means that doctors remain abreast of medical advances and also stimulates critical thinking, this is a means, not an end. I’ve noticed the extents that colleagues are prepared to go to have their articles published, including conducting meaningless experiments, analyzing irrelevant data, and writing redundant reviews. This is especially evident amongst medical graduate students in China who are expected to complete their studies with at least one publication; however, because they have only just begun their clinical work, they actually have little insight into their eventual specialty. The significance of publishing something outweighs the content.
Scientific publications serve as a means of communication within the community as well as a means by which rigor is upheld. This means that “one should speak only when there is something to be said,” rather than “merely for the rewards of being heard.” I believe the concept of “indication” should be applied in publications. This concept, commonly used in medicine, refers to a valid reason to use a certain test, medication, procedure, or surgery. As surgeons, one big part of our job is to evaluate our patients’ cases, and only when the respective indications are met and no contraindications are in place do we order tests, prescribe medicine, and perform surgical treatments. The same should be applied for publications. Indications such as “this article will advance medical science or practice,” and “this article educates the readers of this journal” will give young doctors a clear sense of direction when designing research or composing articles. Journals establish their own sets of indications based on preference of publication. As with indications for surgical treatments, indications should be evaluated prior publication. “Indications for Publications” should be checked off in the submissions to consolidate the reason in which the author wishes to publish, and if the article does not meet any indications, the article should not proceed in the submission. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that authors do not waste their time and energy preparing for and submitting articles that serve inadequate purpose (that do not meet the indications) for publication.
Conflicts of interest
1. Yuan HF, Xu WD, Hu HY. Young Chinese doctors and the pressure of publication. Lancet
2013; 381:e4doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(13)60174-9.
2. Yu NZ, Hassan KZ, Long X, Wang XJ. Young doctors and the pressure of publication. Lancet
2013; 381:e10doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(13)60932-0.