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Editors from some of the world's leading medical journals have pledged to increase the amount of mental health research from developing countries that is published in their journals.

In a joint statement with the World Health Organisation (WHO), 42 editors representing journals such as the British Medical Journal and The Lancet agreed to reduce the barriers that impede publication of mental health research from the world's poorer nations.

"There is very limited research written from and about low- and middle-income countries and we need to change this trend," says Benedetto Saraceno, WHO's director of mental health and substance abuse.

"Scientific journals can play a fundamental role in encouraging the production and dissemination of research findings. Mental health research in these countries is needed to better inform governments in planning the various aspects of care."

Researchers from developing countries often fail to meet the rigorous requirements of the world's top journals because of limited access to information, lack of advice on research design and statistics, difficulty in writing in a foreign language and overall material, financial and infrastructural constraints.

As a result, most research from such countries is published in low-profile journals that are not widely distributed.

The joint statement proposes a number of strategies to reverse this trend. These include providing developing-world scientists with training in research methodology and scientific writing, and ensuring that international journals improve submissions from developing countries by diligent assessment and detailed recommendations.

The statement also calls for more support to be given to the editors of developing-world publications to raise standards in editorial procedures, peer review and overall journal management. "This could be achieved through their participation in the publication process of established journals, mentorship, twinning arrangements and training workshops," it says.

According to Laragh Gollogly, senior editor of The Lancet, the initiative is "a worthy attempt to oblige editors to confront the uneven representation of the global burden of mental health disorders in their respective journals".

With effort and goodwill, these recommendations "should help to redress the balance of proportionate representation, a task that looms for all medical specialities," Gollogly says.

Link to full text of the statement in English

Link to full text of the statement in French