Improving Publication Quality and Quantity for Acute Care Authors From Low- and Middle-Income Settings

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Abstract

Study objective

Researchers from low- and middle-income countries have limited access to publishing and editing resources. This study describes a journal-initiated platform to improve publication quantity and quality in Sub-Saharan Africa emergency care research: Author Assist.

Methods

This is a descriptive report of a quality improvement project of referrals to the African Journal of Emergency Medicine’s (AfJEM’s) Author Assist program between January 2011 and December 2015. After either pre– or post–peer review rejection, authors are matched to an experienced volunteer assistant to revise and resubmit their article in a process that blinds handling editors and reviewers, but not the editor in chief, to participation. Participant data were collected from an Author Assist coordination database and linked to Scopus (Elsevier, Amsterdam, The Netherlands) and the journal’s online submission platform.

Results

Of the 47 articles referred for Author Assist, 12 (26%) were originally rejected in the pre–peer review stage and 35 (74%) after peer review. Twenty-eight (60%) authors offered Author Assist enrolled. Of the 14 resubmissions during the study period, 12 (86%) were accepted for publication. For comparison, 37 of 40 regular revisions (93%) (without assistance) were accepted for publication during the same period.

Conclusion

Author Assist reversed 1 in 4 rejection decisions through a process that unavoidably but minimally biases peer review. Of the few free publication-improvement services targeting researchers in low- and middle-income countries, AfJEM’s Author Assist is the only journal-led initiative, and the only one specific to emergency medicine. To continue to refine the design of the program, we recommend further qualitative research exploring author decisions to pursue or forgo enrollment in Author Assist and research examining author and assistant experiences once enrolled.

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