|Year : 2022 | Volume
| Issue : 1 | Page : 102-104
Book review: How to practice academic medicine and publish from developing countries?
Sunilkumar K Pandya
Department of Neurosurgery, Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
|Date of Submission||21-Mar-2022|
|Date of Acceptance||22-Mar-2022|
|Date of Web Publication||28-Apr-2022|
Dr. Sunilkumar K Pandya
Flat 11, 5th floor, Shanti Kuteer, 215 Marine Drive, Mumbai - 400 020, Maharashtra
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Pandya SK. Book review: How to practice academic medicine and publish from developing countries?. J Med Evid 2022;3:102-4
Book Name : How to practice academic medicine and publish from developing countries?
Authors : Nundy Samiran, Kakar Atul, Bhutta Zulfikar A
Publisher : Singapore: Springer
Number of Pages : 465
Year of Publication : 2022
ISBN : 978-981-16-5247-9
Volume : 1
Nundy Samiran, Kakar Atul, Bhutta Zulfikar A: How to practice academic medicine and publish from developing countries? Singapore: Springer. 2022
In his preface, Dr. Richard Smith, editor of the BMJ from 1979 to 2004, not only outlines the questions answered in the book under review but also gives you his opinion on it in his last three sentences. These, in turn, can be summarised in one word: Recommended.
If this be adequate for you to rush to download this open access book, read no further.
Those with a need to satisfy their own critical selves about the need to face yet another book should read on.
As the title suggests, Drs. Nundy, Kakar and Bhutta aim at meeting the needs of physicians in academia in developing countries. The dictionary tells us that such countries house populations that have poor per capita income, education, life expectancy and standards of living than populations in countries ranking high in human development. India remains a developing country.
Dr. Samiran Nundy needs no introduction to readers of this journal. Many will gain inspiration from the fact that he has written or edited 37 books and published 236 research articles.
Dr. Atul Kakar is a senior physician at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi, specialising in rheumatology and the disease caused by the human immunodeficiency virus. His recent publications also include his experiences with patients suffering from coronavirus disease.
Dr. Zulfiqar A. Bhutta (note the last alphabet) is the founding Director of the Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health and the Institute for Global Health and Development at Aga Khan University across its campuses in Pakistan, East Africa and the U. K. He also works in and teaches at the Hospital for Sick Children, Canada and is adjunct Professor at Johns Hopkins University, George Washington University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Dr. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet paid him this tribute: 'Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta is one of the outstanding child health researchers of his generation'.
Should you need more details on them, see pages xxxvii-xxxviii in the book.
We are not told the precise contribution of each of these gentlemen to the 48 chapters that make up the volume but are informed that they were joined by 'a large team who not only contributed some of the individual chapters but helped' in many other ways. Eleven members of this team are listed on page ix. For those of us used to precise attribution of each chapter of a book to one or more authors, this is a disadvantage. It disallows direct communication with the author(s) for clarification or debate.
The rationale for producing this book is detailed on pages xi-xiii and can be summed up thus: healthcare in developing countries is challenging. It is also substandard because most of us continue to blindly follow leads from those working in rich countries without identifying what is relevant to our circumstances. We are unwilling to make the effort for devising successful, practical and cost-effective care, especially for our sick poor. The scientific method is jettisoned in favour of slipshod methods. We lack the discipline required to prepare records that can be used not only for the benefit of individual patients but also in studies of the natural history of disease, efficacy of measures to prevent disease and the results of our therapy. No wonder our research is generally re-search and publications of value are the exception.
The book is intended to help our healthcare workers – especially those in academia – to eliminate present deficiencies and in doing so, raise the standards of patient care and medical research. A broad canvas has been used for this purpose.
The book is divided into ten parts, each part being subdivided into chapters. These, in turn, are broken up into subchapters. The last subchapter carries the number 48.16 (subchapter 16 of chapter 48.). I have used this format below.
Most chapters deal with the conduct of high-quality research and the means by which our findings can be placed before discerning audiences.
Chapter 39 in Part 9 discusses the importance of bedside teaching and the present sorry state of education in our wards. Chapter 5 highlights clinical evaluation and evidence-based medical care and shows their relevance to research. Attempts are made to define good clinical medicine and sound scientific research and provide a guide to our younger colleagues on how these can be made the rule. Several chapters emphasize the dependence of research on clinical features.
Practical questions are raised and discussed. Why should we do research and publish articles? Is it ever too early or too late to carry out research? The chapters dealing with medical students and interns are especially instructive.
Separate chapters describe local conditions and requirements in Latin America, Africa and Asia (including India). As expected of any publication where Dr. Nundy has a voice, there is brutal honesty. Answering the question that will arise in the minds of all Indian readers, 'Among all the developing countries where does India stand in medical research?', we see the following assessment: 'Although India had a sizeable number of publications, their quality, as judged by the number of citations they receive, is poor'.
An interesting subchapter has, as its heading, 'Can India be the leader in South Asian health care over the coming years'? I will leave you to read the answer.
Part 3 of the book deals with the nitty-gritty of planning and conducting research studies. It includes chapters on 'Understanding medical biostatistics', the art and science of writing the research proposal and a discussion on ethics in research.
Part 4 helps the budding researcher step by step on various aspects of writing up findings and conclusions. Chapter headings commonly start 'How to…'
Part 5 discusses formats of publication other than the formal articles – the editorial, a letter to the editor, a case report and reviews.
Part 6 advises on the appropriate journal for your article and how you can evaluate the quality of journals. Subchapters discuss open-access and e-journals. Chapter 33 helps the reader to cope with rejection of the manuscript by the editor of a journal.
Part 7 is intended as a guide to those ambitious enough to want to start a new journal. This is an area in which Dr. Nundy has immense practical experience. Practical suggestions are provided in each of the subchapters. Thorny questions such as 'Should Indian researchers pay to get their work published'? are of special relevance to young researchers eager to add rapidly to their list of publications and build significant curriculum vitae. The Chinese example (35.3) of paying authors for publishing their work in peer-reviewed journals is a double-edged weapon. (Discussion on predatory journals is to be found in 30.6).
Part 8 takes a step further and shows how your work can also be presented at meetings through oral presentations and on posters at conferences.
Bedside teaching, electronic or online learning (including webinars), problem-based learning, teaching through lectures, assessment of what has been assimilated by the students and journal clubs form Part 9.
Part 10 is labelled 'Other topics' and cover medical records, clinical audit, drug trials and genetic research.
The chapters on ethical research, 'Who should be an author'? and plagiarism in the conduct and reporting of findings are especially to be applauded.
Many chapters start with a relevant quotation. Here are some examples: 'To get to know, to discover, to publish – this is the destiny of a scientist'. 'Progress is made by trial and failure; the failures are generally a hundred times more numerous than successes; yet they are usually left unchronicled'. 'There are two important things about references; firstly, you should have read them and secondly, they should be retrievable'. 'Copying from one it's plagiarism, copying from two, it's research'. 'Editorial writers enter after battle and shoot the wounded'.
Tables; charts; facsimile reproductions; cartoons; radiographs; photographs of clinical and histology findings are scattered throughout the book.
Here is an example illustrating the need for rumination and the avoidance of rushing into print:
Each chapter is followed by references to the literature.
The book lacks an index and a table of charts, tables and illustrations.
Springer has maintained the high quality of publication expected of it.
We have several Indian books on better medical communication and how to write better medical articles. Drs. Peush Sahni and Rakesh Aggarwal edited Reporting and publishing research in the biomedical sciences in 2015. (The preface in that book is by Dr. Samiran Nundy.) Why, then, you will ask, do we need another book on such subjects?
As noted above, the editors of this book have taken a broad-based view and covered topics ranging from clinical examination of the patient, clinical audit, the teaching of medicine, the need for research of high quality and the means for such studies and the communication of the findings from them in print and at meetings and conferences. In addition, they have included details on related topics – the social determinants of health, biostatistics, ethics in general and in genetic research, plagiarism, predatory journals, medical records, journal clubs and drug trials.
Thus far, I have not seen this range of topics in one volume.
At a time when authors, editors and publishers are raising prices and the cost of books produced by reputed agencies is sky-rocketing, it is gratifying to see that the editors and the publisher of this volume are keen on wide readership in developing countries. The book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution, making all its content open access.
Those in academia will benefit most from the book but there is much in the volume that benefits the individual clinician in a rural or urban setting.
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.