Vivienne Bachelet: Medical editorial and publishing worlds – are they working together or not in the Chilean outback

I am writing from London and due to get back home in a few days. Home for me is Santiago, Chile, a beautiful place to live in and to visit. My stay in the UK has been extremely fruitful, and it all started on a medical editor’s course held last week in Oxford.

You may have guessed that I travelled far to attend this course. I did this because I felt I had become stuck in Chile and needed the fresh air of a high level exchange of experiences and an exposure to new trends in the medical editorial field. As a Chilean defence minister once said after the 9/11 attacks… Chile is a bit eccentric. Our eccentricity stems from our distance from where top journals and research are based, but also from the fact that we do not master the English language.

Only three life science Chilean journals are currently indexed in MEDLINE and only two are biomedical. So my possibilities of benchmarking at home are quite limited, which is made worse by the fact that I run an open access, online only peer reviewed journal with no equivalent in all of Latin America. The course provided me with great insight into what is going on both in the editorial and publishing fields of medicine. However, the main take away point for me was that no matter where you’re at, uncertainty is the rule. Things are changing so fast and globalisation is so pervasive that it was not surprising for me to find that journal editors from first world countries are facing challenging issues not so different from those faced by emerging countries’ editors.

Chilean medical journals are in a conundrum at present. The majority of them get their online versions out by relying on a publicly funded electronic library called SciELO. This project does not charge journals for putting them online making it very alluring to small journals that struggle to finance themselves. Having said this, the emerging problem is that medical publishing in Chile and in most Latin American countries is not keeping up with the pace of change in the online world. Things like podcasts, author in the room or overlay sections, QR codes for iPhones, outlinks to social networks and services of the likes of Connotea, author and article metrics, web based manuscript submission systems with online peer review tracking, plagiarism checks, article references properly linked to PubMed or CrossRef, online advertisements, related articles, correct use of key words in article titles, mobile versions of the journal, understanding online stats such as the stickiness factor, how to set up a cover page appropriate for your e-journal, understanding new reader trends such as scanning and skimming, inclusion of YouTube channels, and proper metadata and XML file generating arrangements, are not being addressed by our publishing systems. And this directly affects the life of an editor.

If editors are limited by the capabilities of their online publishing systems, then readers will be shortchanged by not getting the right local based, locally relevant contents in the right packaging. And while the world moves on, especially countries like India, Saudi Arabia, or New Zealand who are getting their message out on time, online and in English, we in Latin America are stuck. This is not good news for practising clinicians in Spanish speaking countries, but it is even worse news for clinical researchers and academics that may not get their manuscripts into high impact factor international journals.

The course was great fun. But now I have to go back and turn the fun into action plans. Then I have to push for the action plans to actually get done with the right people and proper funding. And while I was thinking that I had to go back saying that technology and content is crucial to pertinence and impact, I got an invitation to a seminar in Santiago on scientific journals and quality. The presentations will be on indexation, book publishing, research ethics, and funding from public grants. It seems a world away.

Vivienne C Bachelet is the managing editor for Medwave (journal) and managing director of Mednet (publisher).

  • Iriasolvi

    Dra. buenos días con gran atención he leido tu cronica y creeme que
    las cosas que sabíamos de antemano ya estan en nuestra nariz. Como es
    posible que nuestros editores apenas están dominado el papel y las
    versiones electrónicas de sus revistas, cuando es otros lugares se está
    explotando toda la tecnología para poner el conocimiento de forma más
    diligente en manos del lector. Sin embargo no es el dominio de la
    tecnología lo que me preocupa, es la cultura de la información, el
    saber como escribir. De que sirve contar con infraextrutura necesaria
    para manejar un Blog, Metadatos o XML si no tenemos que publicar y
    estamos a la caza de articulos.

    Como en todo la educación esta en primer plano y el reto es hacerla
    llegar a todos los profesionales de la salud, para que entonces tengan
    el conocimiento para trasmitir su experiencia. Este reto se puede
    lograr con personas como tú, que son inquietas y buscan avanzar. Siento
    que la propuesta que te hice sobre el curso de redacción, otro de
    lectura critica y el de manejo de información, tiene cavida aquí.
    Porque no Medweb lanza estos para que todos sus lectores reciban el
    adiestramiento necesario

  • Pertti Saloheimo

    Thank you, Vivienne, for very informative and thoughtful blog text. Similarities and differences between the medical journal and publishing world between Latin America and, let's say, Europe are nicely illustrated. I'm back in Finland subediting manuscripts.

  • Simon Escoffier

    Dear Vivienne,


    I must say that, although I have very
    little familiarity with the world of publishing, I found your blog article most
    interesting. It seems evident that the Chilean publishing field (and perhaps
    most developing countries) needs to broaden its institutional networks
    overcoming national borders. Your effort coming to BMJ will most likely pay
    off, however as you clearly convey here, it will not be an easy task. You might
    notice some common concerns among editors from all over the world, however the
    whole Chilean context is lights years behind countries such as the US or the

    I wonder what opportunities of achieving
    visibility in first world countries a journal like yours has. I think if this
    because I suppose research in developing countries has very little impact in
    Europe and the US – compared to the research that is published in main global academic

    I wish you the best of lucks with all the innovations
    you will be implementing in the following months/years.


    Simón Escoffier

    DPhil Student

  • Agustín Salazar

    Dear Vivienne

    Any moment is a good moment to take the next step… Even if it is a giant one.

    From the medical student and young medical doctor's perspective I can say that a journal that is web based, up to date, written in spanish, high quality, with free access and certanly, easy to use and consult in a smarthphone, is most needed in Chile.

    It's time to take Chile to the 20 first century regarding medical journals.

    Thank you and good luck.

  • Pippa Smart

    Thanks for your kind words about the course – it was great to meet you there! As you rightly say that uncertainty is the rule – there are huge opportunities, and in some ways people outside the mainstream anglo-american journal publishing environment have more scope to be innovative, to use technology and to develop new systems that are appropriate to your environment. I've no doubt that you will take on the challenge and I'd love to hear your talk at the seminar in Santiago – I suspect you will make some of the participants' hair stand on end!
    Pippa (