|Year : 2016 | Volume
| Issue : 2 | Page : 136-141
How do medical student journals fare? A global survey of journals run by medical students
Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin; New Zealand Brain Research Institute, Christchurch, New Zealand
|Date of Web Publication||19-Aug-2016|
New Zealand Brain Research Institute, 66 Stewart Street, Central Christchurch, Christchurch 8011
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
Medical students have made significant contributions to the medical and scientific fields in the past. Today, medical students still contribute to biomedical research; however, they often face disappointment from journals when trying to publish their findings. This led to the development of medical student journals, which take a more "student-friendly" approach. This article reviews the current medical student journals published in English and sheds light on current trends and challenges.
Keywords: Medical education, medical student, medical student journal, student research
|How to cite this article:|
Alamri Y. How do medical student journals fare? A global survey of journals run by medical students. Educ Health 2016;29:136-41
| Background|| |
From as far back as the 1600's, medical students have made significant contributions to the practice of medicine through conducting quality research and publishing seminal papers.  Preparing medical students for participation in research (e.g., by providing research opportunities and avenues to disseminate results) is important to the advancement of biomedical research. These students, who are the future's clinicians, will provide insights from the bedside to apply to future studies, including bench research. 
Publishing the results of research is the standard means of dissemination of scientific information.  However, the process of publishing -from writing the initial draft to acceptance of a manuscript- in peer-reviewed journals can be arduous, daunting and time-consuming. This is made more challenging by the increasing demand for limited space within most journals. The end result, more often than not, is a demotivating and confidence-crushing rejection letter. 
Medical student journals (MSJs) generally publish articles that are authored or co-authored by medical students. They are distinguished from medical student magazines through their more rigorous selection process which often involves peer review.  The editorial staff generally includes students, with senior editors and reviewers offering help and support. The review process if often student-friendly, and publishing in such journals may provide medical students with encouragement and foster their enthusiasm for research.
To the author's knowledge, the value of MSJs has not been assessed in the literature. A first step is to learn the current status of MSJs. Therefore, this article aims to provide information on current peer-reviewed MSJs that are published in English. A summary is provided in [Table 1].
| Search Process|| |
The phrase "medical student journal" was entered into Google© (www.google.com) and Yahoo!© (www.yahoo.com) search engines, as well as MEDLINE via PubMed, in January 2016 to locate the top 200 non-repeated results. To control for a potential search history effect, the search history was deleted in a computer, and the search was then conducted using a newly loaded web browser (i.e., Google Chrome™). Overlap between the search engines' results was eliminated.
| Journals Found|| |
Since around 2005, there has been an increase in the number of MSJs [Figure 1]. Most of the journals identified originate in North America and Europe, perhaps reflecting the amount of research activity conducted by medical students in these areas. 
It is difficult to trace the cumulative number of MSJs for several reasons, particularly the lack of indexing of the medical student journals. Examining the trend of articles related to the subject (i.e., medical student journals), as generated by searching PubMed, reveals literature existing from as far back as the last 1860s, but increasing in the early 2000's as outlined in [Figure 2].
|Figure 2: A timeline of the number of MEDLINE-indexed articles retrieved under the search term "medical student journal" in January 2016|
Click here to view
Nevertheless, a significant number of MSJs, regardless of country of origin, face demise after variable periods from inauguration [Table 2]. Most MSJs appear to begin strong, but then falter a few years later. The reasons for this remain unclear but could include a lack of enthusiasm or time from its student leaders, inadequate faculty support and poor funding. It might be reasonable to collect data from the editors of such MSJs in order to explore any potential causes for premature discontinuation.
| United States|| |
American medical student research journal
American medical student research journal (AMSRJ)  was founded in late 2013, with its first issue published in 2014. Most of the editorial team (medical students) and advisory board (senior clinicians and scientists) are based at the Louisiana State University. The journal is published biannually, and only accepts submissions from current medical students. Categories of submissions are wide-ranging, and the journal also offers an annual award for the best published case report.
Medical student research journal
Medical student research journal (MSRJ)  published its first issue in 2011, and is hosted by the Michigan State University, with which most of the current editorial board are affiliated. Akin to AMSRJ, authors submitting to MSRJ must be medical students currently enrolled at an accredited medical college. The journal had a brief hiatus in 2012, but currently publishes three issues per year (winter, spring and fall).
Harvard medical student review
A relatively young publication, Harvard medical student review (HMSR) released its first issue in 2014.  Despite its name, the journal is intended for a broad international audience. Perhaps what it unique to HMSR is its attention to artwork, often submitted by medical students, which accompanies each of the published articles. The journal is published biannually.
Yale journal of biology and medicine
One of the oldest running MSJs,  Yale journal of biology and medicine (YJBM) publishes three thematic issues per year across a range of manuscript categories. In addition, the journal publishes abstracts of MD theses of Yale medical students. The student editors and senior advisory board come from the same university. YJBM is one of the very few MSJs that are MEDLINE-indexed.
| Canada|| |
Dalhousie medical journal
Dalhousie medical journal (DMJ) is one of several journals run by medical students in Canada;  it is also one of the longest running, albeit non-continuously, MSJs (intermittently since 1936). Although DMJ had primarily published articles written by Dalhousie students and clinicians, it now welcomes submissions from all health professionals.
University of Toronto medical journal
University of Toronto medical journal (UTMJ) is one of Canada's oldest MSJs,  having been established in 1923. The journal accepts national and international submissions from students and non-students. Issues, often triannual, are centred on a theme.
University of British Columbia medical journal
University of British Columbia medical journal (UBCMJ) was re-launched in 2009 after a prolonged hiatus.  The journal accepts submissions from any medical student. UBCMJ issues two editions per year, which may or may not be themed. Among the several categories published by UBCMJ are Elective reports and Global Health essays.
McMaster University medical journal
This journal, compared with most other MSJs, dedicates some space for the social aspects of medicine as well as public health.  McMaster University medical journal (MUMJ) has published one issue per year since 2003. Authors need not be current students nor affiliates of McMaster University.
| Europe|| |
Student British medical journal
Perhaps the most well-known MSJ,  Student British medical journal (sBMJ) has a strong international presence within medical student communities. Launched in 1992, the readership of sBMJ has gained significant momentum, with a membership growth rate of around 2,000 per year. The sBMJ editor, a 12-month full-time post, joins the BMJ's editorial office. The journal also offers four concurrent eight-week sub-editorial posts (all funded by the Clegg Scholarship) for medical students between February and December every year.
Until recently, sBMJ used to be a monthly publication. However, now it publishes three print issues (January, April and September);  authors do not have to be medical students. Unlike most other MSJs, sBMJ focuses on the different career and life aspects of pre-medical students, medical students and junior doctors. The journal does not accept original research, reports of rare cases or elective reports. Educational reviews must be co-authored by a senior expert.
Journal of medical students, Galway
Journal of medical students, Galway (JMSG) is an annual publication of the medical faculty at the National University of Ireland in Galway (NUIG) that commenced in 2014.  Authors must be medical students at NUIG, although international collaborators are accepted as co-authors.
Royal College of Surgeon in Ireland student medical journal
Royal College of Surgeon in Ireland student medical journal (RCSI SMI) is an annual publication of peer-reviewed articles written by RCSI students (home institution or RCSI-Bahrain)  The journal was first established in 2007, and has been run by RCSI medical students since.
Cambridge medicine journal
Cambridge medicine journal (CMJ) was established in 1978, and re-launched in 2010.  The journal is an online-only journal with no fixed number of issues per year. Submissions from students and non-students alike are considered for publication.
Amsterdam medical student journal
Amsterdam medical student journal (AMSj) publishes four editions per year, the very first one of which was in February 2015.  Authors of the best article of the year, as judged by the editorial office, receive the AMSj Award of €1,000. In addition to the standard article categories, the AMSj also publishes articles in such unique categories as Trial & Error (reflection on a mistake made by the student) and Solving Statistics (statistical questions addressed to the Statistics editors).
| Asia|| |
Turkish medical student journal
Geographically part of Eurasia, Turkey welcomed its first medical student journal in May 2014. Turkish medical student journal (TMSJ)  only accepts manuscripts authored by medical students. Almost all of TMSJ's editorial staff is based at Turkya University. The journal publishes a new issue once every four months.
Journal of the Asian medical students' association
Journal of the Asian medical students' association (JAMSA)  pays particular emphasis on original research findings, but also publishes other articles. The editorial team comprises students from different countries within the Asia-Pacific region. Two issues are published each year, with an occasional additional issue for the proceedings of regional medical student conferences.
Journal of Pakistan medical students
Established in 2011, Journal of Pakistan medical students (JPMS) is the official outlet for Pakistani medical student who want to publish their research findings.  Non-Pakistani authors are also encouraged to submit their work to JPMS, however. The journal is quarterly, and is edited by senior clinicians and scientists, rather than medical students.
| Australasia|| |
Australian medical student journal
Australian medical student journal (AMSJ) released its inaugural in April of 2010.  The journal emphasises the presence of medical students from the different universities across the country, in both its editorial board and accepted manuscripts. Articles (except letters) can only be biomedical students enrolled at an Australian university (although exemptions for New Zealand students are often made). The journal aims to release two issues annually, although only one issue was released in each of 2013 and 2014. The current readership of the journal is upwards of 10,000, mainly confined to Australia.
New Zealand medical student journal
The New Zealand medical student journal (NZMSJ) is one of the longest running MSJs, having published its first issue in March 2004.  The editorial housestaff (student editors and senior reviewers) is roughly split between the country's two medical schools: Auckland and Otago. The journal publishes two issues per year, and submissions are not restricted to medical student authors. The NZMSJ publishes selected elective and conference reports.
Other parts of the world
A few journals of local medical student associations (e.g., Abia State University and Obafemi Awolowo University) exist in Africa.  Both journals originate from Nigeria, and accept submissions from students for a variety of categories. MSJs have a strong presence in many South American countries, although most of them are published in languages other than English.  Finally, the International journal of medical students (IJMS)  aims to attract medical students from around the world. This is reflected in its editorial board, formed by medical students from several countries. IJMS has been in production since 2013.
| Discussion|| |
This review sheds light on currently running MSJs. Most student journals appear to target medical students on a national level (e.g., NZMSJ), but other journals have a narrower (university-specific e.g., JMSG) or international (e.g., JAMSA) audiences. Of the reviewed MSJs, the YJBM is the only one indexed by MEDLINE.
Questions remain as to the feasibility of MSJs as stand-alone journals. A survey of the sBMJ readers revealed that original articles published by the journal were "boring, irrelevant and too specialised."  This may be more reflective of the disinterest of the journal's readers, rather than being a gauge of the papers' quality, and it applicability to other journals is unknown. However, the visibility of research published in MSJs to the wider scientific community is questionable given that only one is currently MEDLINE-indexed. 
Perhaps student research would be more visible if more peer-reviewed journals with established audience introduced "student-friendly corners". Previous research has suggested that mini-article formats, such as letters to the editor, within established journal may be particularly suitable avenues for students to publish their research. , This may not only help articles get more exposure, but it also maintains a venue for medical student research. Examples of such journals include the Journal of Medical Ethics,  Education for Health  and the Medical Journal of Australia.  An alternative solution would be for fledgling MSJs to launch in partnership with more established "parent" journals as "student corners", and established MSJs remain stand-alone journals.
Finally, there have been calls for medical students to consider outlets other than traditional peer-reviewed journals to publish their work. Traditionally, such outlets included student magazines and newspapers;  however, social media have recently emerged as powerful, modern and easily-accessible sources of information. While the academic potential of social media is promising,  its use as a means of academic communication is still in its infancy.  Its advantages, such as wide readership, and disadvantages, such as potential lack of rigorous scientific review, are yet to be fully assessed.
A few limitations inherent to the design of this study ought to be mentioned. The results presented remain a single snapshot evaluated over a limited timeframe. Furthermore, the completeness of the search could not be ascertained. However, data from multiple sources were sought in order to corroborate the findings reported.
| Conclusion|| |
Medical students today have a variety of local and international avenues for disseminating their research findings. However, whether published research in MSJs reaches the desired audience and the visibility of these journals is unclear. Future studies should evaluate the impact of medical student research and assess the value of publishing in MSJs.
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
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[Figure 1], [Figure 2]
[Table 1], [Table 2]