Advertising Feature: The Tohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine
Link to Japanese page [Profile] Dr. Shigeki SHIBAHARA, Tohoku University School of Medicine professor, Editor-in-Chief of The Tohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine (TJEM) [Profile] Dr. Tatsuro MISU, Tohoku University School of Medicine Assistant Professor

The value of TJEM

80% of paper submissions come from overseas

[Photo] Prof. Shigeki SHIBAHARA

Why do you think TJEM has such an outstanding reputation among professionals at journals published outside of Japan?

SHIBAHARA: I think that reputation is essentially due to our track record for consistently publishing based on the open-door concept we have had since inception, and the trust we have built in doing so. Our popularity is also boosted by our impartiality, accuracy, and quick review process.

How many paper submissions do you receive each year?

SHIBAHARA: We get nearly 600 submissions every year, about 80% of which come from overseas. I believe ours is the only journal in Japan that gets that degree support from researchers outside of Japan. It is the job of the Editor-in-Chief and editing committee member to select the good one from a wide variety of submitted papers; in fact, some submissions are too specialized. This first stage eliminates roughly half of the submissions. Papers that make it through the first stage are then reviewed by qualified referees, an editorial committee, and an Editor-in-Chief, all of whom are volunteering their services. In particular, because TJEM is a monthly journal and can publish papers very quickly in furiously competitive fields, we also contribute to the priority acquisition of information.

You also make a special effort to publish on a diverse range of topics.

[Table] Prof. Shibahara's achievements as a researcherSHIBAHARA: TJEM aims to promote medical research from every possible angle. So we cover a diverse range of research fields. In April 2011, just after the Tohoku earthquake, we added the field of disaster prevention sciences, including paleoseismology. These days I think it would be more precise to regard TJEM an integrated sciences journal.

Based on such achievements, in 2005 TJEM was selected by the Japan Science and Technology Agency as one of their "Top 74 Electronic Archived Journals." TJEM has electronically converted every issue it has published since 1920 (

[Chart] How extensively Prof. Shibahara is cited.As a researcher, you have also been cited extensively in papers published from many different countries, and you say even if you weren't Editor-in-Chief, you would want to publish a lot of papers in TJEM. You also find the journal very appealing as a researcher.

From a researcher's perspective

I sense a "but" coming next.

SHIBAHARA: The reality is that a lot of researchers around the world do not know about TJEM. I think a lot of authors from other countries feel apprehensive about publishing in this journal in the Far East in a town called Sendai that they have never heard of. That is why since I took over as Editor-in-Chief I have tried to make as much information about the journal as possible available to increase overseas submissions. We put TJEM's history, its track record, and information about our fast and fair review process up on our website, along with my own photo and bio ( Since we did that, submissions have increased, so I think it has given contributors a bit more of a sense of security.

An unprecedented ultra-fast response

The paper by Assistant Professor Misu mentioned at the beginning made a very deep impression on Dr. Shibahara. We opened up a dialogue on the paper between the two.

[Photo] Assistant Prof. Tatsuro MISU

MISU: Multiple sclerosis is a disease that targets the sheaths that cover nerves (myelin sheaths), and there was thought to be a similar condition, neuromyelitis optica (NMO), characterized by acute optic neuritis and myelitis. However, because there was no means of clearly differentiating the two, whether the two diseases were actually one and the same was disputed for over 100 years. As the result of accumulated clinical research and experimentation, I was able to demonstrate that NMO and multiple sclerosis are entirely different diseases. In other words, it became clear that NMO is a disease with a new concept of pathology involving damage to the astrocytes (a type of cells in the central nervous system).

SHIBAHARA: We received this paper on May 12, 2006, very happy that it was a case report, and asked two professors to review it very quickly. It was accepted on the 15th following some revision work. It left a deep impression on me because it reminded me of a patient that I happened to have back in my student days that had a similar very painful illness. I felt immediately that this was an important report. Additionally, thanks to an elegantly written cover letter, we could quickly see that there was intense competition going on in this field. This unprecedented ultra-fast response is still our fastest to any paper to this day.

MISU: I was the first in the world to be concerned with this matter. The one who understood the intent of my article before anyone else was Dr. Shibahara. It was accepted on May 15th and quickly published online, and I can't forget how relieved I felt (Tohoku J. Exp. Med. Vol.209 (2006), No.3 p.269-275). The article was published in June of 2006. The largest European multiple sclerosis treatment conference in the field, with over 1,000 topics presented annually, was also held in Madrid in September of the same year. The topic deadline had already passed, but I was accepted for a late-breaking abstract submitted following my acceptance by TJEM, and I got the chance to present as one of the final topics on the last day of the conference. After my presentation, many doctors rose to their feet and applauded. The doctors who spoke to me then had read my article published in TJEM, which is also a proud memory. It was an incredibly fulfilling and precious experience in my research life thus far. I was also able to get my TJEM article quoted in many articles important to the formation of the NMO disease concept that were published in succession starting the following year.

SHIBAHARA: I am glad to know such a nice consequence of my ultra-fast response. The reason why TJEM publishes case reports is to contribute to establishing successful treatment of future patients suffering from a relevant disease.

From review to publication

The review process for submissions involves collaboration between qualified referees, an editorial board of 40 (20 of whom are non-Japanese), and the Editor-in-Chief. The peer review takes an average of 14 days. The period between selection and publication averages about 16 days.

SHIBAHARA: As I explained before, submissions that pass the first stage of review (about 300 annually) are reviewed by over 800 reviewers all over the world ( Submissions are re-examined by referees or relevant editorial committee members, and following revisions, final acceptance or rejection is decided by the Editor-in-Chief according to high standards. In Journal Citation Reports, a database compiled from the world's major academic journals, TJEM received a top-class index ranking of 7.6 years denoting the life span of articles. This data could be seen as an indicator of the high quality of the articles published in TJEM in that they continue to be quoted for a long period of time. I have nothing but gratitude for the doctors from around the world who have kindly cooperated with me.