The recipe to growing a journal: My experiences as the Associate Editor of the Indian Journal of Ophthalmology : Indian Journal of Ophthalmology

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Guest Editorial

The recipe to growing a journal

My experiences as the Associate Editor of the Indian Journal of Ophthalmology

Sengupta, Sabyasachi

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Indian Journal of Ophthalmology 71(5):p 1669-1670, May 2023. | DOI: 10.4103/IJO.IJO_1079_23
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It has been an incredible experience and an honor for me to serve as the associate editor of the Indian Journal of Ophthalmology (IJO) for the past 6 years. I have seen the working of the journal from very close quarters and have been involved in bringing about structural changes and streamlining processes right from the beginning. I feel very proud indeed, to be able to contribute to the meteoric growth of the journal under the leadership of Dr. Santosh G. Honavar. However, as all good things come to an end, thus has my time with the IJO.

In this editorial, I will try and give an overview of some of the things the IJO editorial board concentrated on, over the past 6 years, with the hope that some of these ideas will be embraced by the incoming editor and his/her team. Also, many aspiring state journals are looking to grow to greater heights in the future and could also benefit from what we did at the IJO.

The initial five of the below-mentioned points were adopted right from the start to improve quality and timeliness, whereas others were adopted to handle the growing load of submissions.

  1. Strengthening the review process
  2. Strengthening the editorial board
  3. Adopting global standards
  4. Changing article submission types
  5. Making IJO the first choice journal for all Indian ophthalmologists
  6. Managing the growing volume of submissions
  7. An eye on the impact factor
  8. COVID-19 and the IJO
  9. Rewarding good work
  10. Setting the stage for the future.

Strengthening the Review Process

The review process is the backbone of any scientific peer-reviewed journal and has two essential components, that is, the reviews should be timely and must be of good quality such that the authors should be able to improve their paper, even if they are faced with rejection. In this regard, the IJO organized two boot camps for reviewers in the first year itself where we highlighted the importance of these aspects to our reviewers. These were well attended and much appreciated by reviewers. We also sent them online resources developed by the Cochrane collaboration with Johns Hopkins that could help them improve their review.[1]

Strengthening the Editorial Board

After peer review, the editorial board has the biggest impact on a journal’s performance. Hence, we sought to expand the editorial board and invited many more people on board, a mixture of youth and experience. Many of them, ex-editors of journals, acted as mentors and gave us extremely valuable inputs from their vast experience of managing global journals in the past. We also set up a hierarchal system of section editors under whom assistant editors worked to expedite the editorial process.

Adopting Global Standards

Right at the outset, the editor Dr. Santosh G Honavar had the vision of making IJO globally competitive in the years to come. Hence, it was imperative for us to adopt globally verified processes into our editorial systems. The most important one was to adopt the equator network guidelines for writing manuscripts.[2] We incorporated these into the “Instructions for Authors” page to encourage their use and found a higher quality of articles being submitted after this.

We also worked as per the guidelines of the Committee of Publication Ethics (COPE) that deal with ethics in research. In fact, one of the earliest editorials of our tenure was on publication ethics, showing a strong desire to maintain high ethical standards.[3] We also looked at guidelines from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) and incorporated sections relevant to us such as conflict of interest reporting and digital copyright transfer forms.

Changing Article Submission Types

The major change from previous IJO article types was the removal of the section called “Brief Reports” because this was a mixed bag of many different article types. We introduced some contemporary sections such as Photo-Essay and Ophthalmic Image, which reduced the author’s efforts, yet yielded high-value publications. The commentary section, written by reviewers who reviewed the paper, was also a major addition and gave a balanced perspective of the original article in question.

Making IJO the First Choice Journal for all Indian Ophthalmologists

All the above points including a fast, fair, and high-quality review process meant that the IJO was perceived as a high-quality journal by the readership. Slowly, but surely, we saw the number of submissions increasing and it nearly doubled from 1,500 to 3,000 in a year. This meant more work for the editorial team, but we were prepared to put in more man-hours. We kept all streams of communication open, and I personally made a point to respond to the author’s queries at the earliest. This increased the confidence in the journal, making IJO the first choice journal for the majority of Indian ophthalmologists to submit their valuable research.

Managing the Growing Volume of Submissions

Within 2 years of taking over, we were receiving about 3,500 manuscripts per year, which translates into almost 10 papers a day. Though the pressure to churn out timely reviews was immense, the editorial board was very determined and put in long hours. The main credit for keeping reviews going was the effort put in by the dedicated team of assistant editors and I would like to take this opportunity to thank every one of them.

An Eye on the Impact Factor

As with all journals, the impact factor is one of the most important metrics that indicates the journal’s productivity and influence on the evolution of science. The IJO was no different. We had periodic meetings with our publishers and got insights on how the journal was performing in real time, and what we could do differently to boost the impact. Many suggestions such as minimizing the number of case reports and changing a few types of submissions came up from these brainstorming sessions.

COVID-19 and the IJO

The IJO took the lead to publish many landmark articles when the COVID-19 pandemic was raging, including consensus based guidelines on how to reopen clinics and hospitals safely.[4] This paper has been downloaded more than 25,000 times, and cited 32 times, showing the impact it had during testing times. A lot of papers focusing on subspecialty clinics reopening were also published, thereby giving guidance not only in India but also in large parts of the developing world. The IJO also collaborated with the Oculoplasty Association of India to publish the largest series on mucormycosis (2800+ cases) during the pandemic, which paved the way for effective management protocols.[5] This was also endorsed by the government of India and was recognized as one of the most influential papers by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. All these papers provided leadership to ophthalmologists when most needed and I was happy to play a small part in this.

Rewarding Good Work

Though peer review is the most important part for any journal to succeed, reviewers are often not thanked enough for their tireless inputs. We recognized this right at the beginning and addressed it by rewarding the top 10 reviewers every year with recognition and cash rewards at the annual conference. The top 10 best papers, based on citations and readership numbers, were also recognized and rewarded.

Setting the Stage for the Future

Though our journey ends, it is just the start of the IJO growth story. In this regard, we have revamped the submission website to improve the delivery of reviews, launched the IJO app for easy access for the readership, and created a very dependable editorial board, which will hopefully be beneficial for the following editors. We have also set in motion the processes required for the indexing of the IJO–Case reports, the sister journal of the IJO and this should be achieved in the next 1 year.

These were some of the highlights of our work over the past 6 years, which have seen the IJO emerge as one of the global leaders in the ophthalmology field. Not only has the impact factor grown but the readership has nearly quadrupled bringing us a lot of satisfaction. The incoming editor and his/her team will have their work cut out to maintain the high standards set by the current team; however, this should be seen as an encouragement to take IJO even higher.

On a personal note, I sign off with immense gratitude for having the opportunity to be involved with the IJO over the past 6 years, and also with a lot of satisfaction for having played my role to the best of my abilities. I wish the incoming editor the very best to take the IJO to greater heights.

About the author


Dr. Sabyasachi Sengupta

Dr. Sabyasachi Sengupta is a practicing vitreoretinal surgeon at Future Vision eye care, Mumbai. He is the founder and director of Sengupta’s research academy where he offers courses for training budding researchers on techniques of research methodology. He completed his DNB ophthalmology from Aravind Eye Hospital, Pondicherry and received the Dr G.Venkataswamy gold medal for DNB exam held in December, 2009. He finished his surgical retina training from Sankara Nethralaya and went on to do a post-doc clinical research fellowship at Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins. He has received the MacCartney prize from the Royal college of Ophthalmologists for ranking first globally in the ocular pathology section of the FRCOphth fellowship exam, and has the distinction of being the first ever non-British national to receive this award. He has received more than 15 distinguished awards so far. Dr Sengupta has published 100+ papers in peer reviewed journals and is a regular invited faculty on research methodology both in India and abroad. He was named in the top 2% global researcher’s list for 2021 published by Stanford University.


1. Translating critical appraisal of a manuscript into meaningful peer review Available from: [Last accessed on 2023 Apr 24].
2. Reporting guidelines for main study types Available from: [Last accessed on 2023 Apr 24].
3. Sengupta S, Honavar SG Publication ethics. Indian J Ophthalmol 2017;65:429–32.
4. Sengupta S, Honavar SG, Sachdev MS, Sharma N, Kumar A, Ram J, et al All India Ophthalmological Society –Indian Journal of Ophthalmology consensus statement on preferred practices during the COVID-19 pandemic. Indian J Ophthalmol 2020;68:711–24.
5. Sen M, Honavar SG, Bansal R, Sengupta S, Rao R, Kim U, et al Epidemiology, clinical profile, management, and outcome of COVID-19-associated rhino-orbital-cerebral mucormycosis in 2826 patients in India-Collaborative OPAI-IJO Study on Mucormycosis in COVID-19 (COSMIC), Report 1. Indian J Ophthalmol 2021;69:1670–92.
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