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Table of Contents 
EDITORIAL
Year : 2015  |  Volume : 60  |  Issue : 6  |  Page : 527-536
Sixty Years of the Indian Journal of Dermatology: An Interpretation of the Journey


Executive Editor, Indian Journal of Dermatology

Date of Web Publication5-Nov-2015

Correspondence Address:
Saumya Panda
Executive Editor, Indian Journal of Dermatology

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0019-5154.169121

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How to cite this article:
Panda S. Sixty Years of the Indian Journal of Dermatology: An Interpretation of the Journey. Indian J Dermatol 2015;60:527-36

How to cite this URL:
Panda S. Sixty Years of the Indian Journal of Dermatology: An Interpretation of the Journey. Indian J Dermatol [serial online] 2015 [cited 2019 Sep 20];60:527-36. Available from: http://www.e-ijd.org/text.asp?2015/60/6/527/169121


"Study the historian before you begin to study the fact… By and large, the historian will get the kind of facts he wants. History means interpretation.

…It [history] is a continuous process of interaction between the historian and his facts, an unending dialogue between the past and the present."


- E H Carr (1987) [1]

The Indian Journal of Dermatology (IJD) completes sixty years of its publication this year. Sixty years is a long enough time in the life of a journal for taking stocks - for taking into account the founding ideas and ideals behind the journal, the actual journey that the journal has undertaken, and finally, a glimpse of the road ahead. Sixty years is enough time to have a dispassionate look at the historic trajectory the journal has taken in its course, starting from its origins. And, it is time enough to set some records straight.


   The Foreground Top


IJD made its first appearance in October 1955 at Calcutta when the first copies rolled out of the Dorchester Printing Works [Figure 1]. [2] This, in itself, might be considered a bland statement and an unremarkable factoid until we posit the same in the global historical context.
Figure 1: 78, Dharamtolla Street, the birthplace of IJD (Courtesy Dr Koushik Lahiri)

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After all, medical periodicals specialized in dermatology and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) were being published from the nineteenth century. Europe, that was the birthplace and the nerve centre of the modern clinical discipline of dermatology in that century, saw the emergence of the first three of these. Syphilidologie was founded in 1838 in Leipzig by Friedrich Jacob Behrend. Annales des Maladies de la Peau et de la Syphilis, the first truly dermatological journal, was published in Paris from August 1843 to 1852 by Alphee Cazenave. Giornale Italiano delle Malattie Venereee delle Malattie della Pelle was founded in 1866 in Milan by Giovanni Battista Soresina. [3]

Later on, four more came into being which continue to being published today. Annales de Dermatologie et de Syphiligraphie founded in Paris in 1868 by Adrien Doyon, the Archiv fur Dermatologie und Syphilis in Prague in 1869, the British Journal of Dermatology in 1888, and Dermatology in Geneva in 1893. Even Latin America had its earliest dermatology journal in the form of Revista Argentina de Dermatologie (Argentine Journal of Dermatology) in 1908. [4]

The fact is that the foundations of Western Medicine in Asia were laid rather late in the day following the colonial expansion of the Western powers. India was possibly the place in Asia, however, that got to taste the fruits of Western Medicine the earliest courtesy its colonial masters, the British. It was in the latter half of the 19 th century that the colonial authorities in British India awoke to the need of having data regarding the prevalence of, primarily, the venereal diseases, and along with it, that of other dermatoses. [5] Accordingly, Dr Vandyke Carter, Surgeon Major, HMS Indian Medical Services was requisitioned to take stock of the situation. [6] Subsequently, Fox and Farquar, in the year 1872, determined the prevalence and pattern of dermatoses in India. [7]

Needless to say, the primary imperative was to protect the health of the men of the British army stationed here. It should not come as much of a surprise to know that at that time STDs were second only to 'malarial fevers' as a cause of hospitalisation among British troops. [8]

The first chair of dermatology in the country was established at the Grant Medical College and Jamshedji Jeejeebhoy (JJ) Hospital, Bombay, in 1895 courtesy Major C Fernandez, MD (Brussels). [9] It took 48 years for the next academic department of dermatology to commence. It was under the stewardship of Col Acton and Dr. Ganapati Panja at the School of Tropical Medicine and the Carmichael Hospital of Tropical Disease at Calcutta in 1923. [10] It was a full research department including various units, such as mycology, bacteriology, leprosy etc.

The development of the discipline did not follow the same path in all the different pioneering centres in this country, namely Bombay, Calcutta and Madras. Before the antibiotic era, venereology or, more specifically, syphilology was the prime research area in our discipline, of course, due to the public health and epidemiological importance of syphilis. The number of journals catering to syphilology in the nineteenth and the first part of the twentieth century is a testimony to this fact. In fact, the terms 'syphilis', 'syphilography', 'syphilology' or 'venereology' were part and parcel of the name of almost every journal catering to this discipline in the pre-antibiotic era. A singular exception to this rule was the Journal of Cutaneous Medicine and Diseases of the Skin, created in London in 1867 by Erasmus Wilson. However, the journal lasted only four years. [11] It set the stage, though, for the establishment of the British Journal of Dermatology in 1888, without the baggage of syphilis or venereology in its name. Anyway, it too was renamed as the British Journal of Dermatology and Syphilis in 1917, and reverted to its original name only in 1950.

In tune with the overwhelming public health demand, and the conventional trend, the growth of the discipline had a very venereological accent in both Bombay and Madras. By 1918, a special clinic was in place in Bombay run by the League for Combating Venereal Disease, for serving the red light district of the city. [12] Madras was a step ahead, boasting of the Institute of Venereology, the only one of its kind in the South East Asian region, that had its origin in the Madras Medical College as a venereal disease clinic in the year 1928. [13]

Calcutta, on the other hand, was a laggard in the heyday of venereology. As late as in 1933, it was observed that in Calcutta there was 'practically no organised treatment' for venereal diseases. [8] This was due, a considerable extent, to the nature of academic activities pursued at the Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine, and the background of the men who ran the dermatology clinics, namely Col Acton and Dr. Ganapati Panja. The leprosy clinic was run by Dr. Muir. Acton was a pioneering mycologist, and founded one of the oldest mycology departments in 1924. He is credited with the detection and first description of red grain mycetoma. Ganapati Panja [Figure 2] was a trained bacteriologist. Also a clinical dermatologist of repute, his chief research contributions were in the fields of seborrheic dermatitis, cultivation and speciation of malassezia, diphtheritic ulcers of skin, etc. Both being miles apart from venereology, Acton, Panja and their compatriots in Calcutta had a very different academic outlook in dermatology compared to the majority of their peers in Bombay and Madras. This distinction is very important to perceive the circumstances under which IJD was born.
Figure 2: Ganapati Panja (1891-1959), the founding Editor of IJD (1955-1959)

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Academic journalism catering to dermatology in India started in the year 1935, when Dr. U. B. Narayan Rao, a trained venereologist in Bombay, started the Indian Journal of Venereal Diseases, in the hoary tradition of nineteenth century European dermatologists like Cazenave, Wilson, Doyon and others who all started journals at their own personal initiative. [14] Narayan Rao, a pioneering personality with a great far sight and institution-building abilities, changed the name of the journal to Indian Journal of Venereal Diseases and Dermatology in 1940, in order to accredit the increasing importance of dermatology as a speciality. In February 1947, he took the initiative of forming the Indian Association of Dermatologists and Venereologists, the first conference of which took place in December the same year. [15] In the second All India Conference held in April 1951, it was proposed to have the Indian Journal of Venereal Diseases and Dermatology as the official organ of the Association. [16] After prolonged parleys, the official journal was published in June 1955 with a new title, the Indian Journal of Dermatology and Venereology, with Dr. R V Rajam of Madras and Dr. Ganapati Panja of Calcutta as Editors-in-Chief of venereology and dermatology respectively, and Dr. U B Narayan Rao as the Managing Editor of the new journal.

This was thought to be an acceptable solution at a time when the polarization between the venereologists and dermatologists was becoming nearly total. Once again, let us take a panoramic view of the historical context. Penicillin began to be mass produced in 1945. By 1954, India was producing penicillin for its own use. Syphilis rapidly ceased to be a scourge. Consequently, the epidemiologic shift began to convulse the arena of academic dermatology and the field of scientific publications. The middle of 1955 saw the renaming of the American Medical Association (AMA) Archives of Dermatology and Syphilology to the AMA Archives of Dermatology. The same year saw the conversion of the hoary Archiv fur Dermatologic und Syphilis, started in 1869 in Prague by Heinrich Auspitz and Philip Josef Pick with the collaboration of Bazin (converted to a quarterly in 1874 under name Vierteljahresschrift fur Dermatologie und Syphilis, and reverting to the original name in 1889), to the Archiv fur Klinische und Experimentelle Dermatologie. This is the forerunner of the journal known since 1975 as the Archives for Dermatological Research.

In a way, 1955 may thus be considered as a watershed year in the history of publication of dermatological journals, when the field of dermatology sought an identity for itself independent of the baggage of venereology. Here in India, just four months after he had become the Editor-in-Chief of Dermatology of the Indian Journal of Dermatology and Venereology, Ganapati Panja unveiled the new journal called the Indian Journal of Dermatology in October 1955.

This detailed historical foreground, including the international movements in academic dermatology in the given period, has been deemed necessary because hitherto the widely accepted view of the origin of the IJD has been through a rather narrow lens of subjectivism:

'...A rift occurred amongst the members on the issue of the working of the association. The members of the Calcutta branch parted company from the association and formed the Dermatological Society of India (DSI). The Indian Journal of Dermatology was their official organ.' [15]

In isolation, none of these facts are indisputable. However, the sequence of facts as presented give rise to impressions that all Calcutta branch members and only Calcutta branch members engineered a schism, and that the formation of the society, DSI, was the primary occurrence, and the journal, IJD, was an off shoot of these divisive activities. None of these conclusions would be borne by historical facts, as we shall see in the next section.


   The Beginning Top


Why would anyone start a journal almost simultaneously when he had became the Editor-in-Chief of the Dermatology section of the organ of the Indian Association? The Editor of the IJD was very clear in expounding his vision for the new journal. The following is an excerpt from the first Editorial [Figure 3]:
Figure 3: The first editorial by Prof. G. Panja (image reproduced from IJD Selections 1955-2005)

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'In India researches in dermatology are badly needed… India is a virgin and potent soil for cultivation and intensive research in dermatology… The most important needs are finance, facilities for work and training in researches… It is time now that our country… must try to contribute to the world at large… considering all these points, it is felt that an exclusive Indian Journal of Dermatology devoted to the advancement of the study of this subject… will not be an unwelcome proposition.' [17]

The Editorial is remarkable not only for its clarity, but also for the arrogance of its vision, and an unbridled expression of confidence in putting Indian Dermatology at the same pedestal with the rest of the world. The very act of publication of a journal in the exclusive domain of dermatology brought the world of Indian Dermatology much closer to the more advanced and long established academic arenas in Europe and the United States, that were in the process of acknowledging the viability of dermatology as an independent discipline minus venereology at exactly the same point of time [Figure 4].
Figure 4: The cover page of the first issue of IJD (Vol. 1, No. 1, October 1955)

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As pointed out in the same Editorial, the founder of IJD had a very clear notion about the limits of the discipline:

'One remark may be made here in leprosy. This disease should be classed and considered under Dermatology though it is admitted that it is a big branch of the subject. Leprosy bacilli invade the ectodermic tissues, namely the skin and the nerves and the disease is most commonly acquired through the skin. Venereology on the other hand, be better considered as a separate subject though a major part of it is considered under dermatology. The international congress of Dermatology does not, as a rule, either admit venereology under its domain or leprosy in its deliberation…' [17]

Even though the tone seems too strident regarding the rejection of venereology and a grudging acceptance of leprosy, the prescience of this vision was resonated decades later by our peers in the clinical sciences when, during the next big STI pandemic caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the speciality of dermatology was rather royally ignored, and the public health activities and medical care and treatment were overseen mostly by internists, infectious diseases specialists, virologists, immunologists, in short, by anyone except dermatologists, mostly.

Thus, it is far too simplistic and less than objective to view the publication of this journal as the result of a parochial attitude displayed by a group of dermatologists. Definitely, real personalities were involved, but IJD was born out of a much larger debate that involved the impersonal vision of the future of dermatology as a clinical discipline.

The composition of the first Editorial Board is revealing [Table 1]. Though the Editor and his associates were all from Calcutta (as would be expected in the pre-internet era), the majority of the members of the Editorial Board (nine out of fifteen) were not from the city. They included figures like P N Behl, who founded the Delhi Branch of the Indian Association of Dermatologists and Venereologists (IADV) in 1955, and K C Kandhari, who would be the President of IADV in 1966.
Table 1: The first Editorial Board of IJD


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DSI did not exist at the time of establishment of the IJD. In fact, a full scale rebellion of the Calcutta Branch members and formation of a new society were not even at the horizon at that point of time. This is further corroborated by the fact that Col. K Chatterji, a Calcutta Branch member, was the President of IADV during 1957-1962.


   The Golden Age (1955-1972) Top


Ganapati Panja breathed his last in 1959. But in those four years, he had managed to build a strong foundation for the journal. B N Banerjee became the next Editor (1960). During the fifties and sixties, the who's who of dermatology from everywhere in the world published their original research in the IJD, viz., Aldo Castellani, [18] Foldvari et al., [19] Hellgren and Hersle, [20] Ragab and El Zawahry, [21] El-Mofty, [22] Minor Ito, [23] to name a few.

This was also the period when the journal became indexed with the Index Medicus (Vol. 8, No. 1, Oct-Dec 1962). With this, IJD earned the distinction of being the first dermatology journal from Asia to be indexed. Till 1990, this was the only Indian dermatology journal to feature in the Index Medicus.

Meanwhile, the DSI came into being in 1960. After five years of formation of the DSI, and ten years since it was first published, the IJD became the official organ of the DSI in 1965 (Vol. 10, No. 4, April-June 1965). On 20 August, 1972 in a meeting at Calcutta, the DSI and IADV representatives finalized the modalities of merging the two organizations together [Figure 5]. [24] The new unified Association would take shape in 1973 and would be known as the Indian Association of Dermatologists, Venereologists & Leprologists (IADVL). B N Banerjee, the longest serving Editor in the history of IJD (1960-71), became the first President of the IADVL. K D Lahiri replaced him as the Editor of IJD (1972).
Figure 5: The historic notice of merger of the Dermatological Society of India with the Indian Association of Dermatologists and Venereologists in the IJD (Courtesy Dr. Koushik Lahiri)

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The ownership of the journal was now vested with the West Bengal State Branch of the IADVL according to the terms of merger of DSI and IADV. IJDV was to be the official organ of the new Association with a new name, the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology (IJDVL).


   The Slow Decline (1973-1994) Top


The seventies saw the beginning of a slow but steady downhill slide for the journal. At first, the signs of deterioration were subtle. Apparently, the baton of editing was being passed from one illustrious dermatologist to the next: From K D Lahiri to S K Ghosh (1974-76) to J Majumder (1976-79) [Table 2]. The journal was getting published in time. But the international contributions, particularly the original research, were going down all the time. In the eighties, there were two eminent Editors, A K Dutta (1980-85) and S K Panja (1986-94).
Table 2: The Editors of IJD


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Landmark original articles were still being published, notably from Indian authors, till the first half of the eighties. To name a few of the illustrious contributions during this period: A widely cited seminal study on cutaneous tuberculosis by R K Pandhi and others; [25] basic research on relative tensile strength of naturally pigmented versus depigmented human hair done by A B Gupta and his associates; [26] genetic studies on prognosis in vitiligo by Lalit Mohan et al; [27] and the landmark study by K C Saha that blew the lid off the silent epidemic of arsenicosis that involved both the Bengals, [28] a study of enormous importance in public health in recent memory and an excellent example of public health investigation where a dermatologist has played a leading role. The journal seemed to be playing its cherished role of being 'devoted to the advancement of the study of this subject', [17] despite having fallen off the radar of the international dermatological community. After all, the journal remained the only indexed medium of publication in dermatology in India.

The contiguous halves of the eighties and nineties saw the journal reach its nadir:

'...The publication of the journal became highly irregular; this irregularity in turn stalled the arrival of articles for the journal; the inadequacy of articles was sternly reflected in the external health of the journal - a lean and thin structure a few pages between two covers; the turn over from the sales of journal touched the rock bottom…' [29]

Thus later reminisced Dr B Haldar, the Editor (1995-99) who embarked upon the painstaking process of lifting up IJD from the abyss. The lowest point reached was in 1990 when Index Medicus de-indexed the journal. It was the proverbial last nail in the coffin.

The wheel had turned full circle. There was no reason for anyone to contribute to IJD anymore. The last significant original research that may be traced was Michalowski's electron microscopic study on Langerhans cells in urticaria, [30] that was published the year before the de-indexation.

In retrospect, the downfall of the journal may be traced to the dissolution of DSI and handover of the journal to the West Bengal State Branch of the IADVL. One may aver that a journal founded by the Calcutta Branch members of the erstwhile IADV had been formally reinstated to what was by then the West Bengal State Branch of the unified Association. So, practically speaking, the change was not much of a change at all. I have to agree to disagree with this view. For one thing, as I have shown earlier, though both the editors of IJD prior to unification were from Calcutta, there had always been fairly a national representation in the Editorial Board, as also among the office-bearers of the DSI. For example, at the time of merger in the year 1972, half of the 18 office bearers of DSI were from outside West Bengal, including the Vice President, the Hon. General Secretary and six of the eleven members of the Executive Committee. [31] This was, in turn, reflected in the authorship of the journal that included P N Behl, K C Kandhari, Sovanadri, Thambiah, Dharmendra, V N Sehgal, to name a few.

Also, we must remember that Ganapati Panja, the founder of this journal, was a basic researcher of dermatology of a very high calibre. At his time Calcutta had the institutional capability that supported good quality basic and clinical research. Original research published during the first two decades in the life of the journal, even the home grown variety (e.g. Dutta et al[32] on classification of vitiligo that is still being quoted in international textbooks), could thus be favourably compared with that published in the overseas journals at that period. Confidence in the quality of their own research was the bedrock upon which the founders of IJD established the journal. Along with this, if we take into consideration the historic essence of the time in question, it was the period of Nehruvian idealism and optimism that a large segment of the middle classes, including conceivably, the founders of IJD, were imbued with. Combination of a unique societal mindset and a strong institutional research environment provided a singular historic opportunity that gave rise to the journal.

Two decades later, the situation could not have been more different. The sense of optimism had long since evaporated. Institutions in West Bengal were, on one hand, collapsing due to lack of a political will, bureaucratic apathy and lack of financial support, and on the other, being convulsed by political unrest that was anathema to academic activity of an order required for the flourishing of a journal of this nature. It should come as no surprise that the de-indexation of IJD fairly coincided with the crumbling down of the institutional infrastructure of medical research activities in West Bengal.


   The Resurrection (1995-2005) Top


The job of turning around the journal from the lowest depths it had found itself in was tenaciously undertaken by B Haldar. The process was continued during the editorship of Sujit Ranjan Sengupta (2000-2005). The journal was once again being meticulously published on time. The quantity and quality of articles gradually improved. Despite being in dire straits, the de-indexed journal got the patronage of academic dermatologists, particularly from West Bengal, who helped the journal stand on its feet by submitting high quality original research. Dhar and Kanwar's landmark article on atopic dermatitis (1995) [33] is an outstanding example in the regard. The determination of the editorial team and the publishers (IADVL, West Bengal State Branch) to claw their way back became evident when on November 18, 2000 IJD announced its presence in the web by inaugurating its website, www.e-ijd.org. [34] Koushik Lahiri, who would later be the Editor of the journal, took the lead in conceptualizing and executing the project [see [Table 3]]. After forty five years of its inception, IJD had set yet another benchmark in dermatology journal publishing in the Indian subcontinent, this time by being the first journal to be in the internet (vol. 45, no. 3, Oct-Dec 2000) [Figure 6]. [35] The journal had once again begun to get noticed.
Figure 6: The first look of the IJD website (November 2000)

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Table 3: The Indian Journal of Dermatology timeline-major historic milestones of the journal 1955-2015


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   The New Age: 2005 Onwards Top


In 2005, the task of publication of the journal was entrusted for the first time to a professional publishing house, Medknow Publications, a Mumbai based publisher [Figure 7]. Dr D K Sahu was the owner of Medknow. Sahu should be considered as a visionary who utilized the fast-accelerating accessibility and penetrability of the internet by championing ethical, double-blind, peer-reviewed, 'fee-less free' model of open access publishing that would radically alter the matrix of digital publication of biomedical journals in India, and later, abroad. The association with Medknow resulted in a complete revamp of the journal management system through the Journal on Web portal. The manuscript submission, reviewing and editorial processes become fully web-based, transparent and blinded. The journal became open access outline with full text for free. Articles from all over the globe started pouring in again. Reviewers having contributions in their respective fields started joining from all over the world. The new age in IJD had begun.
Figure 7: The beginning of the new age - IJD joins hands with Medknow: signing of the memorandum of understanding between Dr Sanjay Ghosh, Editor, on behalf of IJD and Dr DK Sahu (extreme left) on behalf of the Medknow Publications, 25 November, 2005

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During the last ten years, the journal has seen three editors - Sanjay Ghosh, who resigned after editing just one issue, Sandipan Dhar (2006-11), and Koushik Lahiri (2012 onwards).

The period has seen remarkable growth of the journal from all aspects of publishing. Midway during the tenure of Sandipan Dhar came the first big break. IJD became indexed with Pubmed on 30 October 2009 with effect from issues of 2008. [36] The acceptance rate of articles dropped down to six percent. A new section named 'Symposium in Dermatology' was introduced from the April-June 2009 issue, which would regularly feature review articles from workers in a field of particular relevance to Indian dermatology.

With effect from 2011, the journal became bimonthly instead of being quarterly, no doubt another comment on the rapidly improving academic and financial health of the journal. [37] December 2011 saw the emergence of the facebook page of IJD (https://www.facebook.com/groups/indjerdermatology). This is, yet again, a brainchild of Dr Koushik Lahiri. Going by the stats, this unprecedented move has reaped great dividend. With 3509 members in its fifth year, this dermatologists-only group is one of the largest facebook groups in academic dermatology, if not the largest. Meanwhile, the number of annual submission of articles had risen phenomenally from 139 in 2006 to 548 in 2011, a jump of 394%. [38]

2012 saw IJD getting an international imprimatur in the form of the Asian Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (AADV) adopting the journal as its official organ. Medknow Publications was acquired by Wolters Kluwer Health and Medknow / Wolters Kluwer became the publishers from the beginning of the year (issue no. 1, Vol. 57, 2012). The subscription volume too expanded almost tenfold, when courtesy a gracious academic grant from Ranbaxy, IJD started reaching almost all the qualified dermatologists in the country. [39]

In 2013 IJD made adherence to the CONSORT 2010 guidelines mandatory for publishing reports of randomized controlled trials (RCT)s. [40] This was also a first from an Indian dermatology journal. One of the members of the International Advisory Board of IJD and a pre-eminent figure in the field of evidence based dermatology (EBD), Prof Hywel Williams, was named Special Advisor, Clinical Trials, for enhancing the reviewing and publication quality of interventional trial reports in the journal.

Very much in keeping with the prevailing trend, 2013 was also a year of consolidation and expansion. The vital Science Citation Index (SCI) publication indicators like cites per doc, total cites, percentage of cited documents etc., that form the basis for the SCImago Journal Ranking (SJR), all showed a very health upward swing, resulting in the IJD jumping five places in the SJR over the preceding year, making it the 27 th ranked dermatology journal in the world among all the indexed journals. [41]

2014 was even more spectacular a year when IJD jumped 15 places in the rankings to reach the 12 th place among all the indexed dermatology journals in the world. [42]

It goes without saying that the great revival of the last ten years has been largely predicated upon the dedicated, cohesive teamwork by the Editorial team led first by Sandipan Dhar, and later, by Koushik Lahiri. However, this turnaround also gives us an opportunity to test the truism that a journal is only as good as the soil in which it is seeded. It is perhaps no coincidence that this period also saw an upward swing in the quality of dermatology teaching and research work in, at least, a handful of the dermatology departments in the state. Though IJD now attracts a healthy proportion of contributions from overseas (36% in 2013) [41] , it should be remembered that not only, numerically speaking, the journal will forever be dependent upon the local authorship, but the quality, and ultimately, the level of contribution from overseas would depend upon the academic quality of the bulk of the published material, that is the local contribution. In fact, this is the invaluable historical lesson provided to us by the dark days that the journal had survived.

The uniqueness of IJD as a journal lies in its being on the global stage of scientific journalism, not only taking into account the field of dermatology but the entire gamut of biomedical journals, where a cash-strapped state branch of an Association in an underdeveloped economy could not only regularly publish for sixty years but also continue to enhance its position on a global scale as an influential publication. Though we must acknowledge the role of the journal editors, all of whom have been powerful figures who have shaped the course of the journal in their own way, this historic feat would not have been possible in the absence of a strong foundation in the form of dermatology departments of excellent quality, regularly churning out highly capable dermatologists, led as they have been by dedicated academic leader of excellence, who have ensured, in spite of infrastructural bottlenecks and an overall absence of systemic encouragement, teaching and research of dermatology of an unusually high quality in this part of the world.


   The Way Ahead Top


Guessing the future is a hazardous job, as the historians would agree. But if we have to hazard a guess about the future of IJD, we better take a look at the following lines:

'… In this country, however, the study of Dermatology has not advanced as satisfactorily as it should have done. General practitioners have to tackle an increasingly large number of cases, because skin complaints are generally more prevalent amongst the poorer and labour classes. The study of skin disease occupies but a small corner in the undergraduate curriculum and very little importance is attached to this particular branch. Questions on skin disease figure rarely, if ever, on the MBBS question papers. As a result students' interest in the skin and its complaints is not properly stimulated. They feel the consequent gap in their knowledge when they go out to practise. Not unnaturally, patients have to suffer at their hands both physically and economically.' [17]

It is really striking how contemporary this description sounds. It is more than merely surprising, shocking really, to know that, once again, this is from the first paragraph of the first editorial of this journal. It is a sad commentary on how little things have changed in six decades. Unless the policy makers entrusted with medical education can be made to see the logic of the ground reality, dermatology in this country cannot progress beyond a certain extent despite the availability of brilliant teachers and academicians in the discipline. And the growth of the dermatology journals will be stunted.

Together with this, let us take into account the utter lack of physical infrastructure and finances for undertaking basic and independent clinical research in dermatology that is currently prevailing. Barring just a handful of institutions in this country, undertaking even ordinary basic research, let alone the cutting edge stuff, is extremely difficult. Add to it the notorious bureaucratic red tapism and institutional inflexibility that have forever been the bane of meaningful interdisciplinary research. All of this have resulted in ours falling much farther behind the advanced nations than we were six decades earlier.

Even in clinical research, the modern advances in methodology that requires the understanding of the fundamentals in biostatistics have been largely beyond the scope of postgraduate curricula, turning us into backbenchers of what has been traditionally one of the more visible domains of our research activity. Of late, IADVL as an organization has been making efforts in imparting the nuances of research methodology to the members. IJD, within its own limited ambit, is trying to promote the new way of thinking clinical research - starting with the adoption of CONSORT 2010, taking active part in the worldwide WebCONSORT project as one of the 46 journals to evaluate a web-based tool to improve reporting of clinical trials, and publishing editorials and a symposium on EBD involving key thought leaders in the field. On December 17 this year, IJD is organizing an Interactive course to educate current and prospective reviewers and authors in the tenets of research methods (www.dermazoneeast2015.com). From January 2016, ten successive issues of IJD will carry two teaching modules, one each in biostatistics and research design.

So IJD continues to march ahead in these challenging times. Its uniqueness among the biomedical journals in the world may be summed up as being a journal published by a State Branch of an Association that is not only being published regularly for a long time, but also, sometimes, managing to stay ahead of the curve, thus setting an example to journals published by peer societies, and continuing to be a voice that is heard with respect around the world. But how long, and how effectively it can continue to be a symbol of elitist exception, island-like, within a sheltered domain, in an academic environ largely mired in mediocrity is as open a question as any. As our history teaches us, that depends a great deal on circumstances beyond the control of this journal. The future, if anything, is going to throw up many more unexpected challenges. It is only to be hoped that in the times to come IJD finds the leaders who will understand the contradictions inherent in the existential reality of the journal and will be up to the task of reconciling them. Are they listening?

Acknowledgment

The author wishes to acknowledge Dr.Koushik Lahiri, Editor, IJD for providing access to much of the primary and secondary source material used in this article.

 
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    Figures

  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5], [Figure 6], [Figure 7]
 
 
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   The Foreground
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