It is both a pleasure and a privilege for me to join the list of editors-in-chief of BJOG and its predecessors. Starting in January 1902 as the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the British Empire, changing to the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the British Commonwealth in 1961, through the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 1975, to BJOG: an International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the turn of the new millenium, the changes of name have reflected the increasingly global nature of its orientation, contributors and readers. I am fortunate to have been personally acquainted with all the previous editors-in-chief from Sir Stanley Clayton in the 1960s onwards, and plan to continue their fine tradition of promoting the publication of the best possible scientific studies of reproduction and women's health. Having been on the editorial board of the Journal for almost 20 years, I am well aware of both the potential and the pitfalls of medical publishing and hope to encourage the former and avoid the latter!

Our publishers, Blackwells, have recently completed the task of putting all the editions of BJOG and its predecessors ‘on-line’ via their website, right back to the first edition in 1902. Those who enjoyed the review of some of the most important papers through the decades in the centenary edition can now read the originals at leisure from their personal computer. In a welcome gesture, Blackwells is making access to these historical issues free until the end of March 2006. Try browsing – you may well become hooked on how fascinating and prescient many of them are.

The increasing pressures on both clinicians and academics to maximise their output and efficiency is making it more difficult for them to put aside the necessary time for editing and refereeing. For this reason, the number of scientific editors supporting the editor-in-chief has grown from one in the early 1960s to nine at the present time, plus two trainee editors. I am very grateful to have such an expert team at the BJOG currently, but am conscious that eventually, pressures of other work encourages them to move on. Accordingly, I would be pleased to hear from anyone who would like to join the team for a 3 to 6 year term. In maternal fetal medicine, someone with an epidemiological bent would be useful, and there is a need for additional subspecialist editors in oncology, urodynamics and reproductive medicine. Minimal access surgery is growing in importance, so an editor expert in that area would be most welcome. Basic science is under-represented in the journal currently, so we would also welcome an editor with a laboratory background who was able to make sure such papers are accessible to a substantially clinical readership. It is vital that editors are scientifically credible, but they should also be able to write well, and preferably be published authors themselves. Most editorial work is now done ‘on-line’, including group consultation over difficult manuscripts, so international scientific editors are a growing proportion. Editors are paid a small fee per manuscript (currently £30) but the main attraction is the enjoyment of being not at the cutting edge of published knowledge, but some months ahead of it! The opportunity to debate the scientific and clinical issues with like-minded colleagues is a particular pleasure. We are also looking for statisticians to join our advisory panel; their analytical skills are in such demand that we will be paying them £100 per manuscript checked and amended as appropriate. Anyone interested in these opportunities is encouraged to contact me at the journal or at p.steer@imperial.ac.uk.

I hope you enjoy the new look of the journal. The use of colour has enabled us to demarcate the various categories of article, from editorials through commentaries to full papers and short reports. In future we plan to add new types of article with more conjecture and opinion, distinguishing them carefully from the publication of original data and systematic review. Readers like to be challenged, and new ideas are the lifeblood of science. Especially good referee's and editor's reports will be added as ‘mini-commentaries’, to set in context particularly stimulating papers and also illustrate the process of peer-review, a flawed but essential part of scientific publication. We will be publishing more supplements and themed issues. The next theme is ‘obesity’ and its implications for obstetrics and gynaecology. Our guest editor for this issue is Adam Balen, Professor of reproductive medicine at Leeds University. If anyone has any suitable manuscripts, we will be pleased to receive them.

So please do keep the submissions rolling in; our impact factor is recovering well from a brief dip due (for technical reasons) to the latest change in name of the journal. About the only submissions we wouldn’t welcome more of is case reports. Most refer to rare conditions that hold little significance for the general readership of the BJOG, who will probably never see them. We reject over 90% of case reports and only accept them when they convey an important message for obstetricians and gynaecologists in general, that will help them in their work, illustrate an important principle, or suggest a change in practice.

Finally, to the UK Fellows and Members of the UK Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists who will be getting the journal for the first time as part of their subscription, welcome. You will be receiving a publication that, perhaps more than any other in obstetrics and gynaecology, espouses an international orientation, reflected in the countries of origin of the majority of the papers we publish. Like the Royal College, we like to look outwards at global problems and challenges. We welcome feedback, particularly positive ideas about what you would like to see change in the way that we report scientific and clinical developments in our specialty. We look forward to hearing from you.