Transitioning the AJRH to the Next Level of Excellence

Joseph A. Balogun

Abstract

I accept with honour and excitement the invitation to join the African Journal of Reproductive Health (AJRH) as Deputy Editor. I congratulate the members of the Editorial Board for their persistent hard work and commitment to excellence. The AJRH now in the 22nd year of publication has come of age based on its global reach1 and burgeoning scientometrics2-5. As I begin to learn more about the journal, there are four fundamental questions that I would like to address in this commentary.

First, what is the cumulative impact and relative ranking of AJRH among similarly situated journals around the world? The critical metrics used by popular journal ranking platforms are H-index, impact factor (IF), CiteScore, SNIP, SJR and RG value. The SCImago platform reported an SJR index of 0.549 and 34 H-index for AJRH during the 2017/2018 year2, 4. On Google Scholar platform4, 5, the H-index for AJRH is 31, and on ResearchGate (RG) platform, AJRH has an RG impact value of 0.914. As of 2017, there were 70 Reproductive Medicine journals in the world, and the Journal of Human Reproductive Updates with SJR index of 5.317 ranked #1 while the AJRH with SJR index of 0.381 ranked #425. The SJR index of 0.381 places the ranking of AJRH at 3,930 out of the 7,435 medical journals published in the world.5 Of all the 57 medical journals published in Africa, AJRH ranked #12 behind the #1 ranked African Journal of Disability with SJR index of 1.463. In all the disciplines, Africa publishes 141 journals, and again the African Journal of Disability ranked #1 while AJRH ranked #232. The ranking of journals is not a perfect process because it does not reflect the citation counts of the individual article, but the citation counts of an average article in the journal. Critics argue that the ranking promotes the reputation of the journal rather than the papers published.

Second, what do these acronyms and informetric terms mean? Let us briefly discuss them carefully as they offer a different emphasis based on the method of calculation or context of use; the journal

metrics cannot be compared across the various platforms3. The H-index is a measure of the broad impact of a scientist or journal overall contributions to knowledge in a particular field6. The IF of a journal indexed by Thomas Reuters measures the frequency with which the average article (not individual papers) published in the journal is cited over a specified period. The higher the IF value, the more respected is the journal. The CiteScore metrics are calculated from Scopus, the world‘s largest peer-reviewed literature of abstract and citation database. CiteScore is the average of the sum of the citations received in a given year to publications reported in the previous three years divided by the total number of publications in the last three years3.

The Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) is a complex journal metrics calculated annually from Scopus data to normalize for differences in citation practices across disciplines. It compares each journal‘s citations per publication with the citation potential of its field. Thus, allowing a direct comparison of journals in different subject disciplines3.

The SCImago Journal Rank (aka SJR indicator) is another numeric measure of the scientific impact of a journal that accounts for the number of citations obtained, and the prestige of the journals from where the citations are derived. The SJR is the mean of the weighted citations for a selected year by the number of articles published by the journal over three years. A higher SJR value reflects greater journal prestige. The SJR index, "average prestige per article," compares the journals average citations per document in two years; abbreviated as "Cites per Doc. (2y)3. The RG value, a term used exclusively by ResearchGate platform, is calculated based on the average citation counts from work published. The Google Scholar platform also provides citation count, H-index, and IF metrics.

Third, now that we have discussed the meaning of the journal metrics, the next relevant question is, what are the future strategic goals and areas of research priorities for the journal? Based on the current

scientometrics,2-5 the Editorial Board and the international patrons and funders1 of AJRH deserve a pat on the back for a job well done. The journal has a strong foundation and is on the right track to the next level of excellence and stardom. The strategic goal for the next decade is to position AJRH firmly in the top 20 of the Reproductive Medicine journals in the world and as one of the top three medical journals in Africa. Through hard work and our collective zeal for excellence, AJRH is well positioned and has the best chance to achieve the goals that we have set.

The Editors pledged in 2017 to maintain the journal’s multidisciplinary focus and enlivened studies that investigate the socioeconomic and cultural factors that place Africa women and young girls at risk of social instability1. Notably, studies that address how to promote gender equality and equity in all areas of planning, and the nexus between social development of women and the promotion of reproductive health outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed, the focus of the articles published in the journal has been in these areas of research priorities. A cursory scan of the past editions of AJRH revealed that the majority of the research published was observational, correlational, qualitative, pre-experimental (one-shot case study design, one-group pretest-posttest design, and static-group comparison), and quasi-experimental (non-randomized or no intervention) designs. Although these research designs are relevant methods of scientific inquiry, they do not adequately control for extraneous factors such as history, repeated testing, maturation, selection bias, experimental mortality, instrumentation, and statistical regression. As such, a cause and effect conclusion cannot be inferred from the findings.

Moving forward, AJRH strongly encourages meta-analysis, systematic review, randomized controlled intervention trial, and mixed (quantitative and qualitative) research designs. Outcomes from the evidence-based research approaches will be more impactful and meaningful in improving the quality of life of African women and girls. Furthermore, findings from evidence-based research studies will be more readily available to frontline clinicians and policymakers.

Fourth, what are the immediate and long-term reforms needed to make AJRH a preeminent publication? It is best to answer this question by considering the global developments in journal publication. All over the world, cases of unethical misconduct such as coercive citation by reviewers, data fabrication and falsification and plagiarism are on the rise7,8. For example, a recent study published in 2018 revealed that piracy is prevalent in biomedical research articles published in African journals. Only 26% of the 100 online journals published in Africa in 2016 had a plagiarism policy, and only 16% of them use plagiarism

software to screen manuscripts submitted. Of the  495 articles reviewed in the study, 313 (63%; 95% CI 58 to 68) showed evidence of plagiarism, ranging from one to greater than six copied sentences.8 This despicable and dishonouring practice underscores the need for reforms and vigilance by African journal editors and book publishers. Consistent with best practice, increasing numbers of journals all over the world now employ text-matching software to screen manuscripts submitted. Unfortunately, the cost for the software license is prohibitive, which many publishers in developing countries cannot afford8.

The immediate improvements by AJRH are the development of a plagiarism policy and the implementation of the best practice guidelines on the Code of Conduct for Journal Editors recommended by the Committee on Publication Ethics9. The AJRH is committed to honesty, promptness, dependability, fairness, accountability, integrity, excellence and efficiency in our publication process7. Both the plagiarism and code of publishing conduct policies are now posted on the AJRH website and also included in the "Author Guidelines" document. The AJRH editors are clear-eyed and will promptly investigate any unethical misconduct detected during the review process. In the coming year, AJRH will expand and strengthen its global audience. Similarly, the Editors will recruit specialty expert reviewers and biostatisticians internationally to improve the journal’s overall standard, including the methodological and statistical rigour of the articles published.

Our Editors will continue to work assiduously to prevent unnecessary delay in the review and publication operations. We will also consistently require all authors to clearly state their funding source and declare any conflict of interest. For the future, AJRH will purchase a text-matching software to screen all papers submitted before they are sent out for peer review. The AJRH will continue to strive for excellence and perfection. Although perfection is not attainable, if we all strive for perfection, there is an excellent chance to achieve excellence.

I want to conclude this commentary by quoting a statement credited to Rick Pitino, an American basketball coach at the University of Louisville: “Excellence is the unlimited ability to improve the quality of what you have to offer." I encourage all of us to take to heart and fully embrace these powerful aspirational words of wisdom. I look forward to working with all the stakeholders to take the AJRH to the next level of excellence. Let's go to work!



scientometrics,2-5 the Editorial Board and the international patrons and funders1 of AJRH deserve a pat on the back for a job well done. The journal has a strong foundation and is on the right track to the next level of excellence and stardom. The strategic goal for the next decade is to position AJRH firmly in the top 20 of the Reproductive Medicine journals in the world and as one of the top three medical journals in Africa. Through hard work and our collective zeal for excellence, AJRH is well positioned and has the best chance to achieve the goals that we have set.

The Editors pledged in 2017 to maintain the journal’s multidisciplinary focus and enlivened studies that investigate the socioeconomic and cultural factors that place Africa women and young girls at risk of social instability1. Notably, studies that address how to promote gender equality and equity in all areas of planning, and the nexus between social development of women and the promotion of reproductive health outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed, the focus of the articles published in the journal has been in these areas of research priorities. A cursory scan of the past editions of AJRH revealed that the majority of the research published was observational, correlational, qualitative, pre-experimental (one-shot case study design, one-group pretest-posttest design, and static-group comparison), and quasi-experimental (non-randomized or no intervention) designs. Although these research designs are relevant methods of scientific inquiry, they do not adequately control for extraneous factors such as history, repeated testing, maturation, selection bias, experimental mortality, instrumentation, and statistical regression. As such, a cause and effect conclusion cannot be inferred from the findings.

Moving forward, AJRH strongly encourages meta-analysis, systematic review, randomized controlled intervention trial, and mixed (quantitative and qualitative) research designs. Outcomes from the evidence-based research approaches will be more impactful and meaningful in improving the quality of life of African women and girls. Furthermore, findings from evidence-based research studies will be more readily available to frontline clinicians and policymakers.

Fourth, what are the immediate and long-term reforms needed to make AJRH a preeminent publication? It is best to answer this question by considering the global developments in journal publication. All over the world, cases of unethical misconduct such as coercive citation by reviewers, data fabrication and falsification and plagiarism are on the rise7,8. For example, a recent study published in 2018 revealed that piracy is prevalent in biomedical research articles published in African journals. Only 26% of the 100 online journals published in Africa in 2016 had a plagiarism policy, and only 16% of them use plagiarism

software to screen manuscripts submitted. Of the  495 articles reviewed in the study, 313 (63%; 95% CI 58 to 68) showed evidence of plagiarism, ranging from one to greater than six copied sentences.8 This despicable and dishonouring practice underscores the need for reforms and vigilance by African journal editors and book publishers. Consistent with best practice, increasing numbers of journals all over the world now employ text-matching software to screen manuscripts submitted. Unfortunately, the cost for the software license is prohibitive, which many publishers in developing countries cannot afford8.

The immediate improvements by AJRH are the development of a plagiarism policy and the implementation of the best practice guidelines on the Code of Conduct for Journal Editors recommended by the Committee on Publication Ethics9. The AJRH is committed to honesty, promptness, dependability, fairness, accountability, integrity, excellence and efficiency in our publication process7. Both the plagiarism and code of publishing conduct policies are now posted on the AJRH website and also included in the "Author Guidelines" document. The AJRH editors are clear-eyed and will promptly investigate any unethical misconduct detected during the review process. In the coming year, AJRH will expand and strengthen its global audience. Similarly, the Editors will recruit specialty expert reviewers and biostatisticians internationally to improve the journal’s overall standard, including the methodological and statistical rigour of the articles published.

Our Editors will continue to work assiduously to prevent unnecessary delay in the review and publication operations. We will also consistently require all authors to clearly state their funding source and declare any conflict of interest. For the future, AJRH will purchase a text-matching software to screen all papers submitted before they are sent out for peer review. The AJRH will continue to strive for excellence and perfection. Although perfection is not attainable, if we all strive for perfection, there is an excellent chance to achieve excellence.

I want to conclude this commentary by quoting a statement credited to Rick Pitino, an American basketball coach at the University of Louisville: “Excellence is the unlimited ability to improve the quality of what you have to offer." I encourage all of us to take to heart and fully embrace these powerful aspirational words of wisdom. I look forward to working with all the stakeholders to

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References

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