Having been involved over the years in the setting-up of quite a few Addiction Commentary series, it comes as something of a shock to find oneself at the receiving end of the process. The eight commentaries (Babor 2006; Buhringer 2006; Calafat 2006; Jaffe 2006; Room 2006; Schuckit 2006; Walmsley et al. 2006; West 2006) on ‘Addiction: a journal and its Invisible College’ (Edwards 2006) that are published in this issue of the journal are, however, so personally generous and so rich in ideas as to make the role reversal an entirely pleasurable experience. What follows is an attempt to identify three main themes emerging from the comments.
Journals: the role of individuals and of collectives
Several commentators emphasize the importance of individual editorial vision and leadership in fostering the success of a journal. People will always matter for the success of a journal. An important insight is, however, offered by Jaffe (2006) when he points out that Addiction has matured towards a style of collective leadership. This journal is committed to a mode of operation which supports individual creativity but which is, at the same time, based strongly in the idea of an editorial collective. We want the management of this Journal to be a widely shared enterprise with a large cast of stakeholders involved. That joint individual/collective formula is a policy predicated on the belief that a journal which is run, in many ways, as a cooperative, is most likely to make good use of individuals, nurture their creativity and build fruitful relations with the invisible college. Broad involvement is what helps make the college actual.
There is no contradiction between those two complementary perspectives—quite the contrary, in fact. The role and influence of the individual Editor is, however, traditionally more readily perceived and acknowledged than the contribution made to the success of a journal by its capacity for team-building and a supporting structure.
The actuality of the invisible college
Babor (2006) and Room (2006) identify accurately the historical origins of the phrase ‘invisible college’, and Schuckit (2006) rightly emphasizes the core importance, in many different settings, of understanding the needs of one's audience. Our invisible college undoubtedly has many different disciplinary, professional and national sectors within it, but recent decades have seen the gradual emergence of a field of endeavour with a shared identity as addiction science (Edwards 2002). There is an invisible college of addiction researchers to which many individuals belong, whatever the national learned society to which they pay their subscriptions, their national base or their discipline of origin, and the college to which this Journal tries to relate is increasingly globalized. Helping to build that sense of contact and cooperation, of belonging to the larger whole with which we identify, the construction of a shared ethical framework: these are aspects of community building in which all our journals may be expected to play a part.
West (2006) usefully challenges any accidental slide towards complacency, and Jaffe (2006) reminds us that journals can sink quite easily on the incoming tide. Futurology is dangerous where journals are concerned. It is all too possible that as one struts the deck some frogman is, at that very moment, attaching a limpet mine to the hull. It is difficult to see around all the corners of the electronic revolution, free access and the impact of such inventions as research assessment exercises. Babor (2006) identifies several important conditions for future success. What one might perhaps take from the conjoint wisdom of these commentaries is that any journal which hopes to have a future had better serve the needs of its invisible college accurately, make good use of individuals and of the editorial collective within a well-constructed and always evolutionary system, be proactive and constantly scan the horizon, avoid the limpets and enjoy a good relationship with publishers who share its values and where, as Walmsley et al. (2006) put it, ‘there is lots of plain old-fashioned good fun working with stimulating friends and colleagues’. That is my sense of what, taken together, these perspicacious commentaries in essence tell, and the last point is as important as any other.
This commentary series was set up and managed by Thomas Babor and I am grateful to him for doing so. Janet Fullerton has provided expert office support.