METM14 presentation

Training programs in improving confidence and motivation at Hormozgan Medical Journal: searching for a solution after disappointing results

Shahram Zare, Fatemeh Nikoosefat Jahromi and Azin Zare, Bandar Abbas, Iran

Scholars’ ability to communicate and share their findings impacts research and development in all societies. Weaknesses in effective verbal and written communication are a major barrier faced by researchers from a non-English-speaking background, among them Iranian scholars. Language professionals, be they editors, translators or teachers of English for research publication purposes, play a major role in helping scholars overcome this barrier.

We at Hormozgan University of Medical Sciences believed that producing a journal (Hormozgan Medical Journal, hence HMJ) would provide a vehicle for research communication produced locally but directed to an international audience. Our ultimate aim was to change the language of publication of the journal from Farsi to English and to thus satisfy the criteria of the Institute of Scientific Information (ISI) for inclusion of the journal in their database, so that the journal would gain an impact factor.

We found that we received few suitable manuscripts in English, and we hypothesized that many faculty members had had no appropriate training in research writing and therefore lacked confidence in their ability to produce research articles in English.  We therefore came to see that the mission of regional journals such as HMJ goes beyond the publication of articles. Local journals should also accept a role in increasing researchers’ confidence and ability to produce research articles for international publication in English. This paper describes the way in which the HMJ editorial board embraced this role and our evaluation of the outcome.

The HMJ editorial board arranged short-term preliminary and advanced research article writing courses in English for 160 academic staff members and postgraduate students, with the full support of the university authorities. Each course lasted 24 hours and each participant was free to participate in as many courses as he or she chose. The program ran for more than two and a half years, during which time we offered more than 30 different courses.

Evaluation by means of participants’ feedback and quantification of research activity before and after the implementation of the program revealed some pleasing results. There was a dramatic increase in confidence and motivation for the majority of the researchers with regard to writing manuscripts in English for submission to national and international journals. More than 55% of the researchers said that they tried to write their manuscripts in English. While only 25 papers in English were published in 2010, during 2013 the researchers submitted 79 papers in English to national and international journals, and our rejection rate for papers in English was less than 32%. Nevertheless, in terms of improving basic English language writing, the program was not completely effective for all participants. Although 76% considered that the program had had a positive effect on their basic English language writing and 59% expressed willingness to take part in further training courses, almost a quarter of the participants remained uncertain.

Despite these shortcomings, we continue to believe that programs of this kind provide an effective stimulus and encourage researchers to share their scientific findings with others. In our paper we will provide an account of why the results were in some sense disappointing and discuss the changes we would make in the light of the feedback received.

Shahram Zare has been the chief editor of Hormozgan Medical Journal (affiliated with the Hormozgan University of Medical Sciences) since 2006. He has also acted as a statistical consultant for the journal. Dr Zare, a member of the Iranian Society of Medical Journal Editors (ISMJE), is also a member of EMAME and has participated in two previous MET meetings in Madrid and Croatia, presenting posters at both meetings. Dr Zare is a faculty member of Hormozgan University of Medical Sciences and holds a PhD in biostatistics. He teaches biostatistics and research methodology courses to medical and paramedical students and also runs research methodology and statistical analysis workshops for academic staff and PhD students. Dr Zare has published more than 60 papers in Farsi and more than 20 papers in English.