The Second Regional Conference on Medical Journalism in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region
Following the success of the first regional conference on medical journalism in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region held in Cairo, Egypt, last year, the Saudi Medical Journal, the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office (EMRO), and some other Saudi science and research centers organized a second conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 10-12 October, 2004.
The participants, including editors, scientists and researchers of the region, as well as several invited guest speakers from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom tried to outline the current status, as well as the problems and constrains of scientific research and biomedical journalism in the region. The presence of our western colleagues was more pronounced than at the 2003 conference we had last year. However, some of our colleagues such as those from Iraq could not attend the conference.
The first day of the conference was devoted to delineating the current status and importance of biomedical research in the region, along with several talks presented on research methodology, a workshop on biostatistics, etc. Although, organizers meant to devote the second and third days of the conference to journalism in the region, we witnessed the extension of some intriguing discussions on research raised on the first day to the next two days. The audience provided lively comment and raised important questions following many of the talks. Many of the researchers have independently identified the problems in conduction of scientific research in the region. The problems mentioned were almost the same across the region: limited governmental funds for research, the brain drain, and lack of incentive for researchers, among other things. I learned that although many of the participants realized that they have trouble doing scientific research and even could identify some of the problems, almost none was successful enough to take a single step forward to find out a practical way to resolve the condition; almost all of them remained in state of self-analysis.
The most important event of this conference, in my opinion, was the announcement of the official birth of the Eastern Association of Medical Editors (EMAME). During the first conference held in 7-9 October, 2003, in Cairo, Egypt,1 a taskforce was developed to establish the EMAME. On Sunday, 10 October, 2004, after a long discussion, the taskforce members, along with Bruce Squires and Farrokh Habibzadeh of WAME, Najeeb Al-Shorbaji of WHO EMRO, James Tumwine of the Forum of African Medical Editors (FAME), and Andrew Herxheimer of the Cochrane Collaboration finalized the EMAME constitution and agreed that the taskforce could be terminated. They then assigned the members of the taskforce to the interim Executive Council of EMAME, comprising: Basim Yaqub of Saudi Arabia, President; Ahmad Jamal of Bahrain, Vice-President; Farhad Handjani of Iran, General-Secretary/Treasurer; Ahmed El-Morsy of Egypt, Yusif Kordofani of Sudan, Maqbool Jafary of Pakistan, and Jane Nicholson of WHO EMRO, Members; and Susan Douglas of Saudi Arabia as Administrative Secretary. Furthermore, Najeeb Al-Shorbaji of WHO EMRO and Farrokh Habibzadeh of WAME were elected as advisors to the interim Executive Council. Bruce Squires accepted the invitation of being an honorary member of EMAME.
According to its constitution, EMAME shall be a non-governmental, non-partisan and non-profitable organization whose mission is to support and promote medical journalism in the Eastern Mediterranean Region by fostering networking, education, discussion, and exchange and to be an authoritative resource on current and emerging issues in the communication of scientific information.
The Discussion Group of EMAME, though not highly active, has been working since last year. The interim Executive Council is now working on the structure of the Association committees, on registration of members, and on the launch of its website to be announced in near future. It was agreed that the third conference will be hold in Shiraz, Iran, within the next two years.
I believe, editors in the region should be members of both EMAME and WAME. EMAME will help them to discuss and face their current problems—very basic problems specific to the region such as lack of expertise in desktop publishing—that, because editors working in developing countries seldom contribute to WAME discussions, are rarely mentioned on the WAME listserv. WAME will assist our editors in becoming familiar with obstacles they will encounter certainly in future (eg, conflict of interests, contributorship vs authorship, redundant publication, etc), if they have not already.
Farrokh Habibzadeh, MD