Earlier this year, SAGE launched a new open access journal designed to promote health issues of children that are common to all regions of the world, Global Pediatric Health (GPH). Ahead of Open Access Week, we had a quick chat with the journal’s Editor, Dr. Russell W. Steele of the Ochsner Children’s Health Center in New Orleans, LA. He let us in on how the journal is progressing, why it is important that it is an OA publication, and how OA can help progress research for pressing medical issues.
Open access has led to some big changes for academics and publishers alike. In your opinion, why is it an important development in the scholarly world?
Number one, we are in a computer age and researchers are accessing information over their laptops, cell phones, or whatever electronic devices they have. It is very unusual now for physicians to try to access medicine in textbooks because they are outdated by the time they come out. Even traditional journal articles can be about four to six months behind. With online, open access journals, we can keep information up to date when new things happen. For example, with the Ebola virus, physicians need current information to learn if and how we are developing vaccines, or if there is new treatment, etc. They certainly can’t rely alone on past journals nor on their textbooks. And there are new things coming along all of the time. Another example would be the current treatment for Hepatitis C, which is evolving rapidly. We need to keep up with it to get the information out there. Open access journals are the easiest way to do that.
Can you tell us a little about the launch of the OA journal, Global Pediatric Health?
There are a few things that led to us developing this journal. The first is that we understand that people in developing countries around the world can’t always afford access to traditional journals. An open access journal gives them the information at no cost and without delay, so the greatest advantage is to researchers in developing countries.This was also our motivation for developing the textbook eMedicine. We wanted people around the world to have access to a current textbook at no cost.
The second thing is that the journal I was already working with, Clinical Pediatrics, was designed really for practicing physicians in the United States to discuss outpatient issues. Our readers would not turn to the journal to find out how researchers from other countries were practicing; however, we were receiving a lot of quality manuscripts from researchers in other countries that talked about, for example, their experience with typhoid fever in parts of Africa or in India. And while that was not of explicit interest to the readers of Clinical Pediatrics, it was obviously very important information for those in other parts of the world. We thought this outside research should be shared because a lot of the principles in management of diseases that we don’t see much of in the United States are applicable to physicians in other parts of the world. Making this new OA journal global allows physicians from certain countries to share their experiences in other countries. It also expanded the scope of the journal from just common outpatient issues to more serious issues, some specialty issues, etc. So, the focus of the journal is much different than Clinical Pediatrics. GPH is also a step up from the textbook eMedicine, which is only updated with new information twice a year.
GPH continuously publishes new information, getting new research published in a matter of just weeks. The articles go through a robust review and editing process, and then they are put online. They don’t wait for print issues to get out there, so the entire process is very rapid. We can publish information that is brand new on issues like Hepatitis C, Ebola, etc.
Since you mention the online textbook eMedicine, for our readers who may not be familiar with the publication, can you tell us a little bit about it and how it is unique?
eMedicine was first developed with an NIH grant with the goal of getting a current, frequently updated textbook available to all physicians throughout the world online. Experts were gathered and I was asked to write the Pediatric infectious disease portion, but there are experts who write about other areas such as cardiology and other specialties. Together we put together this free textbook, which is especially helpful for individuals who haven’t had access to similar textbooks in the past. The publication was taken over by Medscape, which now continues the effort of updating the textbook on a regular basis to make sure that the information is current.
The publication is formatted in textbook style, covering topics from the natural history of disease all the way to current treatment and prevention, with updated references. There are writers and editors who will review current literature published in journals and send recently published articles to the authors of each chapter to ask if it should be added to the text. So it is constantly updated that way. It’s easily searchable by topic, and again, there is no charge to access this resource (there are other similar continuously updated services, but most charge a fee to access their research). Medical students, interns, and residents throughout the world can use the textbook to get updated information for study and for practice. Printed medical textbooks have limitations that we don’t have here. I happen to still possess a pediatric textbook that is 20 years old and outdated, but this one will always publish new information so that researchers are not behind the times.
What would you say are the challenges/opportunities of OA publishing?
For the journal, one of the challenges is that authors have to pay to be published. We don’t publish advertisements to pay for the journal, so grants or authors pay to publish. But there exist institutions that help provide funds for publication in OA journals. Other than that, challenges for GPH are the same as they would be with any other journal e.g. getting reviewers that are willing to donate time to review submitted articles and make decisions about acceptance or rejection. Over time, editors develop relationships with scholars who can serve as reviewers; you need a few hundred of those, but in the end, it gets done.
As far as opportunities are concerned, for GPH, we are trying to create a balance around the world. We have experts on our editorial board from six continents (I couldn’t find any physicians from Antarctica to be editors) and we touch basis with global institutions to encourage participation and the sharing of information between all six continents.
What advice would you give to researchers looking to publish OA?
I would give the same advice to someone publishing in any journal – submit research that presents solid data, solid science, and solid ideas, and make sure that those who are not native English speakers have someone edit for language. Also, when selecting a research outlet, make sure to research the focus of the journal first. Some specialty journals (e.g. cardiology journals) have an obvious focus, but for general medical journals such as Clinical Pediatrics and GPH, look carefully at the focus of the journal. You may have an excellent study for publication, but it might not fit the scope of the journal. For Clinical Pediatrics, which focuses in particular on outpatient Pediatric issues, we would get excellent submissions but with the wrong focus.
Can you tell us a little about the future of GPH, and what readers can expect as the journal develops?
We can expect articles from all over the world. A lot of them will be progressing public health issues for children and preventive interventions. GPH will also share information from specialties about some of the things that are being done in some countries differently than other countries. So we are focusing on differences as we accept manuscripts. What do you have to offer in the management of your patients, for example, with severe diarrhea, that may be different from what other countries are doing? If your patients have unique types of illnesses that aren’t seen as frequently in other countries, for example, Hepatitis B in Asia, we would certainly like to help share best practices globally.
Is there anything else you would like to share about the journal?
The only other thing I would note is that there is a perception that some open access journals will publish anything that comes in. I would like to emphasize that GPH is going to have just as rigorous of a review process as quality subscription-based U.S. medical journals. We will accomplish this by having reviewers who will critically look at all submitted papers. The quality of this OA journal will be just as high, and it will be just as hard to get published in the journal.
Dr. Steele graduated from TulaneMedicalSchool, completed his internship at WalterReedHospital, residency at TriplerHospital in Hawaii, and fellowship in infectious diseases and immunology at GeorgetownMedicalSchool. He graduated from medical school with honors and was elected to AOA. To date he has published 8 books, 388 journal articles, 27 book chapters, and is chief editor of 3 journals: “Clinical Pediatrics,” “Infections in Medicine,” and “Pediatric Infections Forum.”
Teaching awards include: Arkansas-Pediatric Teacher of the Year 1979 and 1980; Golden Apple Awards 1980,4,5,6,7,8 and 9; and Most Honored Faculty 1984-90; LSU – Dr. Richard Fowler Teaching Award 1991-2; Aesculapian Society Honored Faculty 1996,7,9; and (first annual) Clinical Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence 1998. He was Visiting Professor of the Royal Society of Medicine 1993, received the Spirit of Love Award from the Ronald McDonald House Charities – 2001, the Ely Canon Distinguished Professor at Harvard Medical School 2003, and received the AAP Military Section Teaching Award (Dr. James Bass) in 2006. He was on the Committee On Infectious Diseases (Red Book) 1989-97.