From the Editor


Gill Nelson, Editor-in-Chief

Although there is no ­obvious theme for this issue of Occupational Health Southern Africa, there are several overlapping topics in the three original research papers. Leeat Blatt and Estelle Watson, and Felix Made discuss musculoskeletal conditions and pain: the association with return to work, and a comparison of nurses and bank workers, respectively. Nurses are at risk of musculoskeletal pain from long hours (including night shifts) of labour-intensive activities, while bank workers are at risk due to inactivity. Nurses and other women will be interested to read Odette Volmink and colleagues’ paper on the risk of breast cancer in night shift workers.

With regard to return to work, in July, the UK’s Society of Occupational Medicine released a press statement,1 welcoming the launch of the British government’s consultation on improving workplace health. The focus will be on improving access to quality occupational health services (including increasing the numbers of doctors, nurses and specialists in occupational medicine) and improving workers’ health, with a focus on “enabling those with long-term health conditions and disabilities to remain in work if they wish to do so”. I was particularly interested in the mention of funding for research to provide answers to workplace health-related questions. Let’s hope that South Africa follows suit soon. 

While on the topic of research, I would like to draw your attention to two matters, related to research integrity, that were published in The Lancet in July. The first concerns authorship – a topic that I wrote about in a previous Occupational Health Southern Africa editorial.2 Have you ever wondered how some people manage to publish 10 or more papers a year, while we mere mortals only manage two or three, in addition to all our other academic responsibilities? It is commonplace for the head of a research department or institute to have his or her name on all publications, often as the senior author. This practice recently came back to bite a renowned researcher in the UK.3 From 2000 to 2005, his name was on 80 papers in the PubMed repository. An investigation revealed misconduct: data were both changed and reused in several of the papers. While he was not guilty of misconduct himself, as such, he had willingly facilitated this by not fully participating in the research and the reporting of the results, yet allowed his name to be added to the papers as an author. The Lancet editorial ends with two thoughtful comments: 1) “Authorship is a valuable commodity, for which authors receive enormous credit. But with that credit comes great responsibility, and it is each author’s duty to ensure they are satisfied with the integrity of any work that carries their name”, and 2) “Research leaders with complex responsibilities and limited time for research should consider whether it is appropriate to continue to be named as authors on work largely conducted independently.”

The second matter of importance was published as a World Report in The Lancet.4 It concerns the control of academic research in Hungary, where the conservative government is planning to take over the Academy of Sciences which has 15 research institutions, employing around 3 000 academics. The government will control funding and key appointments at the Academy. The government claims that its aim is “to boost innovation and to generate more economic benefits”. It is suspected that the government does not want research conducted in areas that it considers to be “not science”. For example, university gender studies programmes were stopped in 2018; gender research is categorised as ideology and is excluded from funding.

Closer to home, both the Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC), and the National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH) have been collating information related to occupational health (and safety, in the case of the MHSC). The MHSC has released a compendium of the research undertaken under its auspices over the last two decades.5 The research is categorised under nine thrust areas: fall of grounds/rock falls, rock bursts, air pollutants, explosions and fires, machinery and transportation systems, occupational diseases, physical hazards, behavioural safety, and special projects. In July, the NIOH published OccuZone, its first electronic quarterly newsletter, edited by Angel Mzoneli.6 The newsletter is full of the latest developments at the NIOH, and the editorial team plans to use the newsletter to share information about activities, events and accomplishments at the NIOH, and to profile emerging researchers. We wish them well with this endeavour. To subscribe to the newsletter, please e-mail niohnewsletter@nioh.ac.za.

We are pleased to announce a new initiative by SASOM, in the form of a cash prize for the best paper published in Occupational Health Southern Africa, by a novice author. For more information, please visit the SASOM website: https://sasom.org/. We encourage those of you who have not written scientific papers to submit them for publication. Author guidelines are available at https://ohsa.scholasticahq.com/for-authors.

Last, I would like to extend my gratitude, on behalf of the editorial team, to Dr André Rose who is now voluntarily assisting with the editorial process of identifying reviewers, and hastening the overall review process. He is now formally a member of the newly-formed Editorial Advisory Panel.

 

REFERENCES

1. Caluori A. Society of Occupational Medicine. Occupational health organisations welcome consultation to improve workplace health, 15 July 2019. Available from: https://www.som.org.uk/occupational-health-organisations-welcome-consultation-improve-workplace-health (accessed 23 Jul 2019).

2. Editorial. Authorship: rights and responsibilities. Occup Health Southern Afr. 2017: 23; (6):2.

3. Editorial. Research integrity: recognising the responsibilities of authors. Lancet. 2019; 394(10193):94. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(19)31575-2 (accessed 23 Jul 2019).

4. Devi S. World Report. Hungarian Government taking over science academy. Lancet. 2019; 394(10194):201. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(19)31668-X  (accessed 23 Jul 2019).

5. Mine Health and Safety Council. Compendium. Available from: http://www.mhsc.org.za/compendium (accessed 23 Jul 2019).

6. National Institute for Occupational Health. OccuZone. 2019; 1(1).

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