A consensus statement from editors of psychiatry journals published in India : Indian Journal of Psychiatry

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A consensus statement from editors of psychiatry journals published in India

Singh, Omprakash; Ameen, Shahul1; Andrade, Chittaranjan2; Avula, Vijaya Chandra Reddy3; Basu, Debasish4; Bhandari, Samrat Singh5; Bhatia, Manjeet Singh6; Brahma, Arabinda7; Das, Shyamanta8; Deb, Koushik Sinha9; Desousa, Avinash10; Ghosh, Prosenjit11; Goyal, Nishant12; Grover, Sandeep13; Gupta, Nitin14; Harbishettar, Vijay15; Kar, Sujita K16; Kumar, Vinay17; Vijayanthi, Indu Pankajakshan18; Lakdawala, Bhavesh19; Mahapatra, Satyakam20; Mehta, Varun21; Menon, Vikas22; Mishra, K K23; Nebhinani, Naresh24; Praharaj, Samir K25; Prakash, Jyoti26; Puli, Sai Krishna27; Raju, N N28; Rao, T S S29; Rathi, Laxmikanth30; Reddy, Y.C. Janardhan31; Sagar, Rajesh32; Sarkar, Siddharth33; Sarkhel, Sujit34; Siddiqui, M. Aleem35; Singh, Vipul36; Shah, Nilima D37; Singh, Parth38; Durairaj, Srinivasan39; Subramanyam, Alka A.40; Thirthalli, Jagadisha41; Tripathi, Adarsh42; Vaishnav, Mrugesh43; Venkatasubramanian, Ganesan44

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Indian Journal of Psychiatry 65(5):p 493-497, May 2023. | DOI: 10.4103/indianjpsychiatry.indianjpsychiatry_331_23
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The Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS) was founded on January 7, 1947, and the first issue of the Indian Journal of Psychiatry (IJP, earlier known as the Indian Journal of Neurology and Psychiatry) was published in 1949. Over the last seven and half decades, the IPS has expanded significantly, with current membership being close to 9,000. It is now the largest body of psychiatrists in India. The expansion of the IPS has led to the formation of zonal branches (five zones—central, eastern, north, south, and west zones) and various state branches. The expansion has contributed to starting journals in different zones and state branches. Besides the expansion of the IPS, many other mental health associations of psychiatrists have also been formed in India, and they also have started their journals. A recent review suggested that at least 30 psychiatry journals are published in India.[1] In the last few months, a few more journals have been started. However, none is listed in MEDLINE (though articles from three journals are deposited in PubMed); five, in Scopus; and 11, in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).

As per the most recent Clarivate Analytics’ list, the IJP has an impact factor of 2.98 (the only psychiatry journal from India to have it) and is among the top five Indian journals across various specialties. Considering its role in improving the quality of publications and maintaining an ethical standard, the editorial board of the IJP decided to bring all the editors of different psychiatry journals published from India under one roof, discuss the issues they faced, and reach a consensus that can be implemented across journals. In this regard, editors and associate/assistant/deputy editors of 32 psychiatry journals published from India were invited to the first Psychiatry Editor’s Conference in Ahmedabad on April 22, 2023. The office bearers of the IPS and several executive committee members also attended. Based on the discussions, it was decided to come out with a consensus statement that the editors of psychiatry journals can follow to improve the quality of the papers published, enhance transparency, and facilitate the indexing of journals. The meeting was held in a round table discussion format, emphasizing the open, free, and constructive expression of views.

Dr. OP Singh, the Honorary Editor of IJP, informed the group that based on the journal’s performance among the Indian journals, he was invited by the Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to suggest ways to improve the impact factor and attractiveness of Indian journals.

All the participating editors agreed that it was a good idea to come to one platform to collaborate to improve the quality of psychiatry research from India. Some recently published bibliometric studies have shown that researchers from India have contributed to only about 2% of world research output on topics such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and delirium.[2–4] At present, research from India contributes to only a tiny proportion of the world literature, and it was because of poor research capacity in the country.

During the discussion, it was highlighted that psychiatry journals have been “established” at different levels. The issues faced by younger, low-volume journals differ from those of the ones that have already established themselves. The former need help with generating finances, entering a negotiation with publishers, getting submissions, getting articles reviewed in a time-bound manner, and getting Scopus-indexed. The more entrenched journals have the issues of attracting submissions of better manuscripts, reducing concurrent submissions, generating competent and constructive peer reviews, strict adherence to timelines, improving the quality of published manuscripts, getting indexed in MEDLINE, and achieving higher impact factors. Specific issues were discussed thoroughly, and a consensus was reached on important issues [Table 1].

Table 1:
Problems identified and the consensus reached

One of the cross-cutting issues was cost considerations and dependence on publishers. A consortium of psychiatry journals with a publisher might help all the journals reduce the cost of publication and improve collaboration among different journals. This could also facilitate the transfer of manuscripts across journals, enhancing the submission to low-volume journals. One view was that journals could use open-source platforms (such as Open Journal Systems) or journal systems developed in-house. However, it was suggested to continue using the services of publishers, given their competence, continuity, streamlined workflow, and experience/expertise with indexing systems. It was also suggested that the psychiatry journal consortium under the leadership of IJP should write to the ICMR to develop a manuscript submission platform that can be provided to all the journals published from India, free of cost.

An important consideration was ethics in publishing. It was suggested that all journal research submissions should be with ethics committee approval, and the ethics statement on the title page should mention the ethics committee approval number and the approval date during the initial submission, which can be later added to the main manuscript once the manuscript is accepted for publication. The requirement of uploading of ethics committee approval letter may be considered. There may be some gray areas where it is debatable whether ethics approval is mandatory or not, specifically related to case reports and case series, and the policy could vary across journals. It was also decided to publish a separate article on this topic in IJP, to increase awareness of Indian psychiatrists about the same. The trial registry number should also be mentioned if applicable. This may affect blinding during peer review but would allow the reviewers to identify protocol deviations (e.g., check the aims and outcomes mentioned in the protocol), which will hold authors more accountable. A prospective registration in a trial registry should be obligatory for all intervention trials (with some leeway in the date of obligatory implementation, to avoid penalizing everyone). It was also agreed that some material could be published in IJP describing the steps involved in registering studies in Clinical Trials Registry-India (CTRI) or other similar registries, such as the International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) developed by the World Health Organization. The policy regarding trial registration should be clearly mentioned on the journal website. It was also discussed and agreed that since ICMR now mandates that the thesis candidates be the first authors for all thesis-related publications, this should be clearly stated in the instructions to the authors of all the journals and followed diligently.

Plagiarism checks should be conducted on all the manuscripts. Concurrent submissions to two or more journals should be viewed seriously as it wastes resources and the reviewer’s time. One could ask the publishers to use technological means to automatically detect similar titles already submitted for review/published elsewhere. Strictures/blacklisting across journals may be considered for situations where such instances are encountered.

A perennial problem highlighted was the need for excellent and timely reviews. Reviewing is voluntary work, and getting a time-bound, constructive, and thorough review is a challenge across journals. This can be addressed by having thematic workshops during conferences for younger professionals who are potential reviewers. During the annual conference, a full-day workshop on research, which may have peer review as a component, should be conducted in a designated hall. We could develop or arrange, and host online, material for self-directed learning of the reviewing process. Reviewer certificates could be one of the incentives for the portfolio of young academicians. However, it might not serve as an incentive after a few such reviewer certificates, and it may not be a reflection of the quality of the review conducted. Book purchase coupons have been used as an incentive, but only some takers are there for such coupons. A WhatsApp group of editors can be considered for connecting with peer reviewers and sharing resources related to peer reviewing, as has been recommended earlier.[5] A shared pool of reviewers can be constructed and continually updated. Reviewers for niche fields such as qualitative studies and genetics are required. Other incentives may also be considered for timely and consistently good reviewers, including a position in the editorial team. The authors should mandatorily submit a list of three to five potential reviewers. This is the practice that most journals employ. The authors are often in the best position to advise who can review their work in an unbiased manner. It is of course not binding on the editors to choose the recommended reviewers.

It was also pointed out that though the majority of the clinical care in India is provided by the private sector, due to the lack of an ethics committee in most of the centers, they face hurdles in publishing their data. It was agreed that data emerging from the private sector could help organize the services and improve patient-related outcomes. A suggestion came about increasing the participation of private practitioners in research, who caters to a larger pool of cases. It was highlighted that, for their research, they could take approval from the ethics committee of a nearby medical college or independent ethics committees. It was suggested that they could collaborate more closely with academic centers. The IPS Ethics Committee, when registered under ICMR, could subsequently provide ethics oversight more easily. A repository or registry of cases (significantly less frequently encountered cases) can also be developed under the aegis of IPS. However, issues of contribution, ownership, and access to such registries and the authorship of ensuing publications need to be sorted out. Developing such a repository would require some dedicated financing, time, and effort.

An issue that received attention was the need for more material available primarily for low-volume and non-indexed journals. Apart from the transfer of rejected articles, the low-volume journals could consider merger or consolidation. This may increase the number of articles they receive and, in the long term, would also increase the chances of indexing. However, no consensus on the same could be reached. Developing guidance/guidelines for newer journals was suggested to help them with editorial issues.

To ensure timely publication, all editors should follow timeliness in desk rejection (within two weeks) and first decision (generally within three months). The pooling of resources among editors for plagiarism detection and language editing may also be considered. Handholding researchers during the submission process was another suggestion. The availability of paid language-editing services should be considered, and ICMR can be approached to make these services available to researchers. Systemic processing issues of assigning handling editors should be looked into, and automatically rescinding unaccepted reviewer invitations after two weeks of nonresponse should be considered. Initial editorial screening of articles should examine how they add to the field or contribute to the literature on the topic.

Certain suggestions were also made to improve the stature of IJP. It was suggested that infographics or graphical abstracts might be encouraged with the submissions to enable wider publicity and dissemination of the material. There can be dedicated sections such as those for policy, program and law, medical education, research and biostatistics, qualitative research, lived experiences, and clinical dilemmas. Provision should be there for publishing online-only supplementary material, as is there with many other reputed journals. What the journal wants and what is a novelty in the eyes of the journal should be laid down through an editorial, ideally whenever there is an editorial transition.

Another identified issue included inadequate citation of Indian literature in many of the submitted and published manuscripts. It was agreed upon that relevant Indian literature should be given due importance in manuscripts. The authors should be encouraged to discuss in the “Introduction” section the currently available Indian literature and how their study bridges the knowledge gaps.

Articles on scale development and validation, when appropriate, should find space in journals. Such articles will likely attract more citations whenever the authors use these rating scales for their research. Eventually, it may help bolster the impact factor. It was also discussed that with time, various journals might consider an open (non-blinded) peer review system.

By the end of the conference, all the participating editors agreed to collaborate in the future and implement the consensus recommendation. It was also aired that such conferences for the editors should be held regularly to improve the editorial capacity in the country, which would improve the quality of published research from India.

In the end, all the participants thanked the editor of IJP and all the office bearers for the historic initiative!


1. Praharaj SK, Ameen S, Menon V. Quality of psychiatry journals published from India: Insights for readers, researchers, and publishers. Indian J Psychiatry 2022;64:606-10
2. Grover S, Gupta BM, Dhawan SM. Schizophrenia research in India: A scientometric assessment of India's publications during 1990-2019. Asian J Psychiatr 2021;56:102521 doi:10.1016/j.ajp.2020.102521
3. Grover S, Gupta BM, Dhawan SM. Research on bipolar disorder from India: A bibliometric analysis of papers published during 2000-19. Asian J Psychiatr 2021;55:102532 doi:10.1016/j.ajp.2020.102532
4. Grover S, Gupta BM. A scientometric study of publications on delirium from 2001 to 2020. Asian J Psychiatr 2021;66:102889 doi:10.1016/j.ajp.2021.102889
5. Menon V. Beyond research reporting guidelines: How can the quality of published research be enhanced?. Indian J Psychol Med 2019;41:303-5
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