This is my first issue as Editor-in-Chief, and readers will be interested in my plans. I intend no major changes; the journal is in excellent health, and publishing the highest quality original research from all over the world remains our core business. My predecessor John Grant strengthened the peer-review process after the Malcolm Pearce publication fraud,and this rigorous scientific assessment, as emboided in the regular face-to-face editors meetings, through which all published articles have to pass, will remain. I'm delighted to welcome three new editors this month, Iain Cameron from Southampton, Patrick Chien from Dundee, and Zoe Penn from London.
Nevertheless, I want to raise our general interest and readability. This does not mean competing with The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, which already publishes educational review articles highly successfully. Rather, it means hard work for referees and editors. As John Grant wrote last month, too many articles remain poorly written. My personal bugbears are figures that obscure rather than reveal the data, results repeated in text and tables and rambling discussion sections, which wander off the main topic into the author's hobbyhorse. I will be writing more about how to improve those troublesome discussion sections over the coming months.
We must also keep a good balance between the original research and the other parts of the journal. Editor's Choice, introduced by John Grant, provides an easy entry point for readers and a nice puff for favoured authors, and I will continue it, albeit in shortened form. With one or two reviews or commentaries each month, and an occasional topical editorial, no major development should take place in our specialty without the BJOG noticing it. Achieving a balance between basic and clinical science and between the different subspecialties is less easy but just as important. We cannot expect specialists in, say reproductive medicine or oncology, to put us on their ‘must read’ list if their areas are underrepresented. The BJOG is available to provide wide exposure for all our subspecialties.
My ultimate aim is no secret. It is to make the journal so readable, relevant and reliable that our owners, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, are persuaded to include it within the Members, and Fellows, annual subscription. My predecessor wanted this too, the marginal costs are modest, and nearly all our sister organisations are already do the same with their own peer review journals. Let's make it happen.
Finally, the most important development affecting scientific journals today is electronic publishing. It is an opportunity. Subscribers already have access to the full text of all articles published since the journal moved to Elsevier, and we hope to have 100 years of back issues available this way soon. Electronic manuscript submission, for which plans are also far advanced, will permit us to speed up the review process without compromising scientific quality. It will be hard work but it can be done. We need referees that are comfortable with this method of working and for ourselves to make minor adjustments to our editorial systems. I will be writing more about this as well over the coming months. Authors and readers have a right to expect that manuscripts be dealt with promptly. Hold my feet to the fire if I fail on this.