Creating an Open Access Journal; Medical Students’ Prospective

Steven Andrew Plato II, Andrew James Wyman, David Solomon


            As students interested in research and publication, it became clear that student work has not been fully represented in the scientific literature. Statistics on medical school graduates by the American Association of Medical Colleges reveal a greater number of medical students reporting involvement in research activities than those reporting publication of such work. Along with personal experience, this motivated the creation of a peer reviewed journal specifically intended for the publication of the work of medical students, residents and fellows and their introduction to scholarly work in medicine. Medical Student Research Journal is authored, reviewed, and edited completely by medical students. It utilizes Open Journal Systems, creative commons licensing, intimate faculty advising, and the resources of a top 100 US research university to promote and advance scholarly work among medical students.

Scholarly works of varying disciplines are welcome and should not be limited to biomedical research. Medical learners working in basic science, clinical and translational research, bioethics, medical humanities, public health and other areas are encouraged to submit their works. The journal will publish different types of articles from the following categories: original manuscripts, review articles, letters to the editor, research letters, case reports and reflections. MSRJ will accept submissions whose first author is a medical learner at any institution in the world. Articles will be published electronically upon completion.

In order to maintain high quality publications MSRJ has instituted a multi-tiered peer review that allows students to review articles with faculty advising. Upon submission, executive editors receive and initially review all submissions to MSRJ. If acceptable to standards of scope and general quality, articles that fall under peer reviewed sections of the journal are then assigned to section editors. These student editors then assign reviewers and oversee the review process. Reviewers for the journal are composed of medical learners who volunteer to complete training by faculty members who are highly experienced in academic medicine, medical education, editing and review of medical literature. This helps to assure high quality review for MSRJ submissions and helps to smooth the transition to academic medicine for training physician scientists. Reviews are solicited from three to five reviewers who have required correspondence with and access to further mentorship from experienced faculty. Once reviews are complete they are submitted to section editors who then meet with executive editors to make a final decision on submission acceptance. All reviews are then anonymously distributed back to all reviewers involved in the review of that submission; helping reviewers to gain proficiency. It is our desire to work with author(s) to revise articles until of acceptable quality. This process allows authors to gain confidence and knowledge in publishing high quality medical literature.

We have formed a sustainability plan to accommodate the transient nature of medical learners in training.  This process relies on students apprenticing for editorial roles and learning from those ahead of them. Also included in this plan is standardized training. Reviewers have received training in scientific writing, the review process and critical appraisal. Training for section editors and executive editors has not yet been standardized but will be included in the process of enhancing sustainability of MSRJ. The final aspect of our sustainability plan is an annual review report to be presented to all interested parties within the College and University.

The use of Open Journal Systems allows for submission remotely and quickly from all over the world, tracks the peer review process for expedited turnaround time, and allows us work cooperatively across a state-wide community campus system that has medical students training at six campuses throughout the State of Michigan. The use of Adobe Breeze Connect, a teleconferencing solution, makes meeting with faculty members, editors and reviewers feasible across a multi site campus; meetings can take place anywhere there is high-speed internet. This work ties together our medical school across its many locations and sets the framework for scholarly works to take place across geographic regions.  It creates opportunity for academia to extend away from academic centers where the majority of this work continues to take place and into communities where a majority of medical care is provided. It is our hope that this type of system will lead to increased interest in scholarly work by students, who prior to our endeavor may not have had the opportunity to publish their work. We envision the technology and innovation used by MSRJ enabling students to continue this academic work as community physicians - even those in the most rural locations.

            An important focus of the Medical Student Research journal is the development of physician scientists. We provide opportunities for medical students to be involved in peer review of manuscripts and editing of a medical journal; rare opportunities indeed. These students are provided with training in peer review, scientific writing, and academic integrity. This ensures quality reviews and provides our student reviewers preparation for careers in academic medicine. Faculty mentorship rounds out the transformation of undergraduate medical student to competent, confident physicians. It is our goal to produce high quality physician scientists, but also to increase the confidence of new physicians that continue to interact with medical literature and apply this vast wealth of new information as healthcare providers.

We are currently preparing a peer review run through that will allow student reviewers and editors a chance to gain experience with these tasks with close mentorship before accepting submissions for publication. Financial support has been graciously offered through Michigan State University, College of Human Medicine Dean's office. Outside funding is being investigated at this time.

 The Medical Student Research Journal is a unique endeavor that promotes the scholarly work of medical students through the use of open access journal editing software. This promotes creation, review, and distribution of medical literature to help create tomorrow's leading researchers and clinicians by enabling the students of today.



medical student journal; open access; creating new journal