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PLOS BLOGS Speaking of Medicine

Training the Next Generation of Scientists from Disease Endemic Countries Should be a High Priority in Disease Elimination Efforts

Serap Aksoy, co-Editor in Chief of PLOS NTDs, comments on the importance of training young scientists in the Tropical Infectious Disease community.

Image Credit: Serap Aksoy
Image Credit: Serap Aksoy

There is a lot of excitement in the NTD community around the “E” words. After the many investments made by many, Elimination or Eradication is anticipated for several of the devastating Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). The WHO roadmap includes 17 NTDs, which have transmission characteristics or treatment possibilities that make them good candidates to be effectively controlled and, in many cases, eliminated. The most promising diseases targeted for elimination by 2020 include Leprosy, Chagas Disease, Leishmaniasis, Onchocerciasis, Soil-transmitted Helminthiasis, Trachoma, Human African Trypanosomiasis, Dranculiasis, Lymphatic Filariasis and Schistosomiasis. While this progress is most welcoming, the sustainability of such elimination efforts will no doubt pose the next major challenge for the NTD community. An essential tenant for their sustainability requires presence of local capacity in disease endemic countries both in terms of infrastructure that can continue surveillance and treatment efforts when needed and the availability of scientists and clinicians trained in these diseases. Now is the time to invest in the next generation of scientists who will ensure the sustainability of the progress made on these diseases. An essential tenant of this effort also includes the development of enhanced capacity for local journals, including publication and peer-review ethics.

I recently organized the 2015 Gordon Conference on Tropical Infectious Diseases in Galveston Texas, which brought together over 150 scientists, almost half from disease endemic countries in Asia, Africa and South America. Another highlight of the meeting was that almost half of the attendees were graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, representing the next generation of Tropical Infectious Disease community. The conference began a day earlier with a Gordon Research Seminar (GRS) that was organized by Stephanie Trop— a graduate student at Johns Hopkins. The GRS specifically targeted junior participants and was designed to promote networking among them and to provide training in Good-Publication-Principles (GPP). PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases sponsored a Writing Workshop at the GRS led by the Deputy Editor Photini Sinnis and the Editor-In-Chief of Journal of American Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Phil Rosenthal. Upon the request of the participants, we set up a special “Meet the Editors” table at each lunch manned by the PLOS NTDs Editorial Board members who attended the meeting. The lunch-time activities allowed the participants to interact with the Editors and learn about the publication process as well as how to get involved in the manuscript review efforts globally as an Associate Editor as well as a Reviewer.

Enhancing global capacity in principles of publication is a pivotal goal of PLOS NTDs. I, as well as many of the Deputy Editors of PLOS NTDs, have held “Writing Workshops” at meetings we attend including in Peru, Kenya, Uganda, China and Turkey. The materials we presented at the workshops have been translated to Spanish and are on the PLOS NTDs website. I also recently held two meetings in Kenya with the Editors of regional African journals in order to develop closer ties with PLOS NTDs to exchange knowledge and resources on publication ethics and editorial guidelines and principles. Enhanced regional capacity in research and publication will undoubtedly result in more effective data dissemination and ensure the anticipated sustainable control of NTDs in the long term.

 

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