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  Table of Contents  
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 58  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-2

Outgoing editor's thoughts – On Sisyphean tasks and the last refuge of scoundrels

Ex-executive editor, Indian Journal of Cancer

Date of Submission12-Jan-2021
Date of Decision12-Jan-2021
Date of Acceptance13-Jan-2021
Date of Web Publication24-Mar-2021

Correspondence Address:
Sanjay A Pai
Ex-executive editor, Indian Journal of Cancer

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijc.IJC_56_21

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How to cite this article:
Pai SA. Outgoing editor's thoughts – On Sisyphean tasks and the last refuge of scoundrels. Indian J Cancer 2021;58:1-2

How to cite this URL:
Pai SA. Outgoing editor's thoughts – On Sisyphean tasks and the last refuge of scoundrels. Indian J Cancer [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Aug 12];58:1-2. Available from:

This issue of the Indian Journal of Cancer (January-March 2021) marks the changing of the guard. I have, of course, been responsible for putting together much of the contents of this issue as it was being planned over the course of the last few months. However, it is the first issue in which Dr Adwaita Gore takes over as Executive editor.

As editor, I discovered, as have thousands of editors in the past, that editing, and specifically, the act of getting good referee comments on manuscripts submitted to the journal, is a Sisyphean task. For those not well versed with the term, Sisyphus was a Greek, who was punished by the Gods to roll a boulder up a hill. Every time he managed to get it close to the top, it would roll back all the way and he would have to start all over again – with the same results. Editing a journal, while not a punishment from the Gods, still entails doing jobs which never seem to attain completion – there is always something more to be done and the job always seems incomplete!

The problems that we faced seem to continue. Soon after I took over, we had referred to the fact that it was difficult to get referees; we had also added that letter writers were conspicuous by their absence.[1] Over the next 3 years, we seem to have made very little progress in addressing the latter issue – this, despite my actively following up with people who would comment or criticize a paper, often informally or offline. We had also referred to the disdain that authors seemingly had for the “Instructions to contributors”, as they submitted manuscripts without even bothering to look them up.[2]Despite our entreaties (and protests?) in a later issue, letter-writers and enthusiastic referees seem to be almost nonexistent ![3]

In another forum, I have invoked that last refuge of a scoundrel – patriotism – in an attempt to have the best Indian data submitted to Indian journals. Specifically, I had stated “the fact [is] that most Indian journals have low impact factors. By encouraging Indian researchers to publish in the high impact journals from abroad, we are advising our researchers to publish their best research in non-Indian journals! Thus, the impact factors of Indian journals will continue to remain low.” I had also written “The ethical issue of publishing in a paywall journal, where the research is not even openly available to many who cannot afford the journals is obvious. To me, this argument is a sound one and I recommend that whenever possible, one should strive to publish in an open access journal, one which is freely available to other researchers and the public.”[4] Indian Journal of Cancer is Indian in its entirety and it is free full-text. Scientific papers, like Olympic medals, are an indicator of the soft power of the nation. By continuing to submit your best cancer research to the journal and by refereeing papers for it, you do your nation a service.

We (Georgiaria Fernandes and I) have recently evaluated some parts of the editing process; our paper on the audit is currently in the review process in this journal. Briefly, our findings give hard, objective data on some of the recurring themes that we have experienced. We hope to publish the paper in a forthcoming issue of the Indian Journal of Cancer and trust that the lessons from that study help the editor, readers, and authors make more sense of what happens behind the scenes in a journal (virtual) office.

I take this opportunity to thank the referees (who responded!), authors, members of the working group, and some of the editorial board members as well as those from the Indian Cancer Society and Wolters Kluwer, who helped out. I expect that their continuing support will go a long way in ensuring that Dr Gore does not have to rediscover that editing is a Sisyphean task!

With my best wishes for the coming year

Sanjay A. Pai

  References Top

Pai SA, Deshmane V, Borges AM. Where are the letter writers? And the referees? Indian J Cancer 2017;54:591.  Back to cited text no. 1
Pai SA, Deshmane V. Instructions to authors and other literary works of fiction. Indian J Cancer 2018;55:315.  Back to cited text no. 2
Pai SA, Deshmane V. Letter from the editors. Indian J Cancer 2020;57:1.  Back to cited text no. 3
Pai SA. Ethics in biomedical science. In: Patwardhan B, Thakur A, editors. Academic and Research Integrity. New Delhi: University Grants Commission; 2021 [in press].  Back to cited text no. 4


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