Friday, August 18, 2006

The restructuring of an embattled medical journal

In the wake of the fracas a few months ago over its leadership, the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) is reorganizing. Changes include a strengthening of the Joint Oversight Committee responsible for mediating disputes between the editors and the journal owners. It remains to be seen how the changes will play out but contrary to popular speculation, and no doubt to the disappointment of some, the sky hasn’t fallen at CMAJ.

As debate unfolded in the weeks following the dispute at CMAJ “editorial independence” became a tired mantra. Dr. Jerome Kassirer, a member of the CMAJ editorial board and a critic of the publisher during the dispute, is quoted in the August 15 CMAJ article: "You want an editor who is not intimidated by anything. ... It's critical to have an editor who is beholden to nobody." My translation: an editor who is accountable to nobody. Editorial independence is not an absolute value. There must be a healthy tension between independence and accountability, which is what the people screaming about editorial independence don’t seem to get.

Background: previous notes from Dr. RW on this topic here and here.

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