HOW TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY
OF HOMŒOPATHIC JOURNALS
(Lecture delivered on the occasion of the Platinum Jubilee celebration of the Bengali Journal ‘The Hahnemann’, at Calcutta on ….)
….Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you very much for the opportunity you have given me to be with you today on the occasion of the Platinum Jubilee celebration of the journal ‘The Hahnemann’.
There is full justification to be proud of a journal which has been alive for 75 yrs. and going still strong. Perhaps there is no other medical journal let alone homœopathic journal in India which has survive 75 years. My very sincere good wishes for further long life of ‘the Hahnemann’. I hope to live to see it 100 years and take part in that centenary celebrations too.
Surely unless the journal has maintained its quality it couldn’t have survived all these years. Nevertheless since my talk today is on how to improve the quality, I venture to enter into that subject. By ‘Quality’ we mean the literary and scientific standard values of the Journal.
What or who is the object of the Journal? The reader, naturally. What kind of reader do we have in mind? A critical reader, So the objective is to satisfy a critical reader. The Editor or Editorial Board should therefore place himself or itself in the place of such a critical reader and go through the articles that come for publication in the Journal.
A Journal is the media through which a homœopath gains access to everything new that is gaining in the Homœopathic world — in Homœopathic Materia Medica, Therapeutics, Repertory, Education, Books and other literature, Events, etc. Through the Journal the homœopath updates his/her knowledge and keeps sharpening techniques so that he/she is able to make quicker and most appropriate prescriptions and the ideal of safe, rapid and permanent cures follow.
The Journal, each issue, should contain articles on the ‘Philosophy, Materia Medica, Repertory, Therapeutics and Researches, etc.
Homœopathic therapeutics is “Practical Therapeutics” as HAHNENANN called it — “Heilkunde der Erfahrung”. The Organon teaches the principles as also the art of practical application of the principles in day-to-day practice. The Journal must therefore carry articles which not merely explain in pedagogic fashion the principles but also the actual application in the clinic.
Materia Medica section should contain articles which carry verifications of the (proving) symptoms and clinical symptoms.
The section on Therapeutics should carry articles which analyse cases including the pathology and repertorisation, details of the medicine administered, the number of doses given and the follow up.
The Repertory is used very much more now than it was about even 50 years ago. There have been so many reprints of the Repertory all claiming to be ‘corrected’ etc. versions. However, there still are many errors to be listed; there is need for certain revisions also. The Journal should contain articles on these.
The Journal should stimulate the homœopaths to take intense study on all these. It can encourage the formation of study circles, small viable groups, whose contribution may be published periodically.
How many times have we not felt frustrated when reading some article in a Journal, because of its poor quality.
Let us consider as to why articles written nearly one hundred or more years are still eagerly read and while journals that carry these ‘reprints’ are so popular among homœopaths. What do those articles have which the present day journals lack?
The question is: from where and how can the Journal obtain such classy articles. Well, the Journal has to generate them. During the past decade we have seen that journals have closed down and also at the same time, new ones have come up, the world over. Journals which were going down have picked up and improved very much. I can cite in this regard the British Homœopathic Journal and the Journal of the American Institute of Homœopathy, both of which were poor just 3 or 4 years ago. They have improved so much because of the dynamism and involvement of the Editors and the Boards.
I have seen in the recent past some new journals poor quality and some of really good quality. This difference is in my experience because of the Editor and the Editorial Board. Talents are there and it is for the Editor and the Board to locate, and encourage to write. The Journal should have “Peers” in its panel to review the articles that come for publication. After the ‘Peers’ review, the article is to be sent again to the author for his/her compliance or views and return. The editor should not be influenced into accepting an article merely because it comes from a well—known personality or someone is sponsoring it. The sole test is the total quality of the article.
Publishers should constitute really motivated Editor and Editorial Beard. I have seen journals which flaunt a long list of ‘Advisers’ or ‘Editorial Board’ some prominent names too but all totally non—functioning.
A Journal cannot maintain quality on shoestring budget. In fact good authors should be ‘commissioned’ to write on select subjects and rewarded with suitable remuneration even if only honorarium. The Publishers should consider payment of reasonable honorarium to the contributors; after all the authors have to spend valuable time, and money in preparing the articles; good authors have to stock reference books and updated knowledge. All these require money. To the best of my knowledge most of the journals don’t even supply free ‘reprints’ of articles, let alone honorarium.
I learnt from Dr. G.N. MUKHERJEE Editor of the ‘Hahnemann’ only today morning that this has been introduced in so far as this journal is concerned.
Journal should insist that contributors assure that articles are exclusively written and not already published and also that it has not been sent at the same time to other journals. All these unethical practices are prevalent in Homœopathic journalism and hence these are mentioned here.
Quality is generally incompatible with quantity. We cannot give bulky journals containing high quality articles. Even if the Journal carries only 4 or 5 articles they should be so complete and interesting, valuable that one would like to re-read it many times; it must stimulate the reader to raise questions.
All articles must be referenced. When something from Materia Medica or some author is quoted it should be fully mentioned in the bibliographical note: author, title of the article, page number, publisher and year of publication. In these we should emulate the well—known leading scientific journals. A ‘sample’ of such referencing should be published in every issue of the Journal for the guidance of the contributors.
I would suggest that we read such good journals as the ‘Simillimum’, ‘The Homœopath’, The ‘Journal of the American Institute of Homœopathy’, The ‘British Homœopathic Journal’, the ‘New England Journal of Homœopathy’ etc.
The editor must have access to the leading homœopathic journals from abroad so as to adapt the good features suitably.
It is always advisable to provide full infrastructure to the Editor — secretarial, stationery, postage, telephone etc.; after all almost all the editors of our journals are only on ‘part—time’ and honorary and provision of these basic infrastructure would help the editor to do better work.
Lastly, the cosmetics: a good get—up, good quality paper and print and double or treble proof reading. In fact the journals (German, British, etc.) send proofs to the authors for corrections besides professional proof reading and a final proof reading by the Editor.
Personally I feel that a professional journal should not compromise upon quality for sale price. The journal may be priced appropriately to make it self—supporting.
One more word: target the journal at the genuine fairly well- knowledged Homœopath. It is not at all necessary then to allow unethical advertisements viz, mixtures, compounds, specifics, etc.
May I draw your attention to some of the homœopathic journals which have been in existence for well over 80 years now. The British Homœopathic Journal is now in its 82nd year and the journal of the American Institute of Homœopathy in its 86th year. The oldest living homœopathic journal, indeed of any scientific journal for that matter is the Allgemeine Homöopathische Zeitung from Germany, which began in 1832 during HAHNEMANN’s life time: now in its 161st year except for a brief absence during the World War.
We have seen many journals in their declining years and their ascending years. we have seen what a Margarat TYLER or Elizabeth Wright HUBBARD or J.N. KANJILAL could do and what many others could not or did not do.
Today we see a great renaissance in Homœopathy world over and there is a great need for quality journals.
Personally I am confident that high quality Homœopathic journal, as good as any in the world, can be produced here. If there is any doubt pick up any copy of the journals published in the early part of this century. We have today too as good Homœopaths as we had then.
There have been pre-eminent Homœopaths in Bengal. Their records must be dug up and sifted and printed in the Journal. A veritable gold mine this would be. Decades have already gone by. At least some of these treasures can be retrieved now before the century end. Also selected articles from other languages be translated and published. Keep (as on Seminars, Conferences etc.) the journal’s representative must visit all these and prepare Reports which can be published.
Having said all these let me confess, in the light of my experience, that it is very very difficult to obtain good quality contributions to the journal. Many people send a copy of one of their presentation years ago in some conference or Seminar; some send poor xerox copies of a badly/typed articles; some send long rambling articles containing material culled from various authors; some furnish vague cases devoid of any details. Nearly 80%, if not more, have to be totally rejected and out of the remaining most have to be re—written or thoroughly revised etc. But let me also confess, it is also possible to motivate good authors and obtain high quality articles. It is all a question of one’s commitment to the cause.
[P.S.: The Bengali Journal ‘The Hahnemann’ also closed soon. Whereas there were at least 4-5 English journals published from Calcutta during the 1950s, by 1980 it dwindled and currently we do not know of even one! = KSS.]