CMAJ and a parting of ways

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 48 , No. 3 , April 2006 , Pages 108 Editorials

I have refrained from adding my voice to the recent tsunami of editorials clamoring over the firing of the editor and deputy editor of the CMAJ because I felt that without knowing the whole story, my comments would only end up parroting the already impressive list of medical journalists’ published statements of what seems to be philosophically obvious. However, recent comments by C.S. on DocLounge (essentially stating that because the BCMJ has not commented, we feel that editorial independence is unimportant) require a comment.

I concur that medical/scientific editors need a guarantee that their editorial integrity will not be compromised by the owners of the publication. However, I do know that in the past few years there have been instances of significant differences of opinion between Dr Hoey, his executive group, and many practising physicians in this country.

Association journals historically have had to practise prudent editorial management as they remain, in most cases, the communication flagship of their association. It makes no sense for an association to have a medical journal with which it is constantly at philosophical odds, and when this is the case, the only solution is to do exactly what the CMAJ has done.

During my tenure as a member of the Editorial Board of the BCMJ (about 10 years) and now as the editor-in-chief (about 12 years), there has been the occasional foray by the elected political core of the BCMA into direction of the editorial content of the publication, but, to their credit, the few approaches were tentative and quickly withdrawn when the editorial autonomy trump card was dropped on the table. In fact, I have yet to receive negative feedback about any of the editorials we have printed either before or after publication. Occasionally we must depersonalize editorials to avoid making potentially libellous statements, but, again, this is only prudent editorial management. To my knowledge, the BCMA has never fired an editor or member of the BCMJ Editorial Board. In fact, the BCMJ has rejected material submitted by the BCMA for publication, printed opinion pieces that were critical of the BCMA, and I personally have written several editorials that were critical of BCMA policy, all with no reprisals or threat of reprisals from the association.

However, there is a big difference between writing editorial comment concerning a political issue and writing editorial comment about a science-based article (either positive or negative), and, in my opinion, editors should refrain from publishing their personal opinions about the scientific validity of properly reviewed science.

Throughout my career in medical journalism, the BCMA management team has been a staunch supporter of the BCMJ and its editorial autonomy, and I assume that this is not only because of their combined commitment to the editorial autonomy of their flagship publication but also because of prudent editorial management by the editor and Editorial Board.

The relationship between an association and its medical journal is and always will be a bit of a clumsy one. In order to be successful, the relationship requires mutual appreciation of the needs of both parties. However, as in any relationship, sometimes philosophical divergence reaches the point of no return, and either the magazine disappears or the editors do. I’m sure I join a majority of Canadian doctors in the hope that common sense prevails in Ottawa and one of the top general medical journals on this planet survives, intact.

—JAW

James A. Wilson, MD. CMAJ and a parting of ways. BCMJ, Vol. 48, No. 3, April, 2006, Page(s) 108 - Editorials.



Above is the information needed to cite this article in your paper or presentation. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommends the following citation style, which is the now nearly universally accepted citation style for scientific papers:
Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Caplan AL, Marion DW, Palmer AM, Schiding JK, et al. Solid-organ transplantation in HIV-infected patients. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:284-7.

About the ICMJE and citation styles

The ICMJE is small group of editors of general medical journals who first met informally in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1978 to establish guidelines for the format of manuscripts submitted to their journals. The group became known as the Vancouver Group. Its requirements for manuscripts, including formats for bibliographic references developed by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), were first published in 1979. The Vancouver Group expanded and evolved into the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), which meets annually. The ICMJE created the Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals to help authors and editors create and distribute accurate, clear, easily accessible reports of biomedical studies.

An alternate version of ICMJE style is to additionally list the month an issue number, but since most journals use continuous pagination, the shorter form provides sufficient information to locate the reference. The NLM now lists all authors.

BCMJ standard citation style is a slight modification of the ICMJE/NLM style, as follows:

  • Only the first three authors are listed, followed by "et al."
  • There is no period after the journal name.
  • Page numbers are not abbreviated.


For more information on the ICMJE Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals, visit www.icmje.org

BCMJ Guidelines for Authors

Leave a Reply

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.