Fare thee well _ the Editors last words

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					B R I T I S H J O U R N A L O F P S YC H I AT RY ( 2 0 0 3 ) , 1 8 2 , 4 6 5 ^ 4 6 6                                                                 E D I TOR I A L

Fare thee well ^ the Editor’s last words                                                                                        I would leave it to readers to judge but I
                                                                                                                                have had to acknowledge that it is imposs-
                                                                                                                                ible to please everybody (even some of the
                                                                                                                                time). Believe it or not, I once received a
                                                                                                                                letter from a complainant suggesting that
                                                                                                                                it is the British Journal of Psychiatry and
                                                                                                                                the published articles should originate from
                                                                                                                                Britain. I have adopted an international
                                                                                                                                outlook and I have encouraged submissions
                                                                                                                                from developing countries – indeed the
                                                                                                                                British Journal of Psychiatry is one of the
                                                                                                                                leaders in this regard (Wilkinson, 2003b).
This month I retire after 10 amusing years                                     Treatment,
                                                                               Treatment, the electronic journal, and           When I became editor there were concerns,
as editor of the British Journal of                                            new columns (e.g. ‘Highlights of this issue’,    particularly from psychotherapy and child
Psychiatry. I have not misused my office by
Psychiatry.                                                                    ‘Psychiatry in pictures’, ‘In debate’, ‘Ten      psychiatry, about the lack of coverage of
writing many editorials during my tenure                                       books’, ‘Focus on psychiatry’, ‘Preliminary      some sub-specialities. Now I receive criti-
and I wanted to write this last one to take                                    reports’). A marked increase in commis-          cism that I have not given adequate space
stock and to share some of my reflections                                      sioned editorials, independent of or linked      to biological subjects. I think this whole
on editing in general and on what, with                                        to articles of significance, has become an       biological/non-biological dichotomy is
my contemporaries, I have tried to accom-                                      established feature. There have been             nonsense – subjective and false.
plish. I became an Editor with the aim of                                      changes to the structure of articles, some
improving scientific communication in psy-                                     evident (three clinical implications and lim-    A favourite paper?
chiatry. My progress was developmental,                                        itations, structured abstracts, declarations
                                                                                                                                Any written by Robert Kendell or Robert
and I received my journological education                                      of interest) and others not immediately ob-
at the hands of Edward Hare, John Crammer                                      vious to readers (reducing references and
and Hugh Freeman (past editors of this                                         tables, and keeping authors to the point).
Journal), and Michael Shepherd (past
Journal),                                                                      I hastened the demise of the case report,        Do you think that psychiatry and psychiatric
editor of Psychological Medicine and the                                       to exclude what I see as psychiatric trivia.     research are any further forward?
doyen in this field).                                                          I published original research on my editor-      Not much, if at all; and, in clinical settings,
     I have relished the editorship of the                                     ial decision-making (Howard & Wilkinson,         there has been a deterioration.
Journal, in the youth of my career, and I
Journal,                                                                       1998) and on the feasibility of open peer re-
am equally content to relinquish my red                                                         al,
                                                                               view (Walsh et al, 2000). Throughout, the        Are better papers submitted now?
pen (Wilkinson, 1994, 2003a). I have
                           2003a                                               Publications Department has delivered a
                                                                                                                                I doubt it – judging from attending
assessed around 8000 articles. I have had                                      substantial financial surplus for the benefit
                                                                                                                                evidence-based journal clubs, when Journal
the final say, even though the decision has                                    of the College.
                                                                                                                                papers are regularly found wanting.
often been made by others for me. My                                                In a parallel existence, I have been
departing conclusion is that too much of                                       proud to contribute to the continuing
minor significance achieves publication,                                       growth and success of the Psychiatric Bulle-     What about appeals from disappointed
in spite of our acceptance rate of only                                        tin: The Journal of Psychiatric Practice         authors ^ does this work?
20–25%. In short, I would agree with                                           (edited formerly by Alan Kerr and now by         Hardly ever – peer review is very far from
Henry Fielding: a newspaper consists of just                                   Tom Fahy), Advances in Psychiatric Treat-        perfect but I wouldn’t encourage spurned
the same number of words, whether there                                        ment: Journal of Continuing Professional         authors to try again.
be any news in it or not. He might have                                        Development (edited by its founding editor,
added – provided there is advertising to                                       Andrew Sims, and now by Alan Lee), and           What makes you choose one paper over
support it.                                                                    an expanding book programme under the            another that has similar reviews and ratings
     I have embraced a progressive move                                        Gaskell imprint. Among the books, the            from the referees: writing style, length, title,
towards more editorial openness and                                            College Seminars Series is an outstanding        subject matter?
accountability, and I have tried to give the                                   collaborative achievement, and the Books
                                                                                                                                All of the above; and, I ask myself, ‘Will
Journal momentum and an accessible,                                            Beyond Words series (edited by Sheila
                                                                                                                                this be of interest to Dr X in routine clinical
open-minded style. A diverse and vigorous                                      Hollins) is a particular favourite.
group of critical younger psychiatrists has
refreshed and challenged the Editorial                                         ASK ME NO QUESTIONS,
Board. The delay in processing papers has                                      AND I’LL TELLYOU NO FIBS                         How can young researchers increase their
been kept to a minimum, and the flow of                                        There have traditionally been three main         chances of getting their paper published?
papers from acceptance to publication has                                      tensions regarding the Journal: being British    By learning to write (columns, letters, edi-
been consistent and efficient, with dates                                      v. international in outlook; balancing the       torials, reviews and articles) about topical
printed to avoid doubt. There has been a                                       ‘biological’ v. the ‘clinical/service’content;   subjects in an innovative style: and, after
refurbishment of the Journal and the                                           and general adult psychiatry v. the sub-         3 years without success, they should take
Psychiatric Bulletin, and the successful                                       specialities. How have you managed to            Mark Twain’s advice and return to sawing
introduction of Advances in Psychiatric                                        reconcile these opposing forces?                 wood.


Are there advances in psychiatry or, simply,
research activities in psychiatry?             GREG WILKINSON, FRCPsych, Editor, British Journal of Psychiatry, The Royal College of Psychiatrists,
                                               17 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8PG, UK
The latter. I would incline to the view that
we are producing more answers than

Should the editor be elected or selected?      change in the past 10 years from my point                have played a crucial role in the editorial
                                               of view has been the move to online pub-                 process, particularly Andrew Morris and
It does not matter – provided the editor can
                                               lishing. This is more than just a change in              Mary Leach, and in the past Sue Thakor,
be dismissed at any stage.
                                               the delivery mechanism, but strikes at the               Zofia Ashmore and Judy Ashworth. I must
                                               question of what journals are for, how they              also thank all those people who have
Would you say that 10 years is a suitable      will be used in future and what sort of                  submitted their work for consideration by
period of tenure?                              economic model will allow them to work.                  the British Journal of Psychiatry over the
Yes: you can make it, or otherwise, in that    They allow searching, personalised alerts,               decade of my tenure. I recognise that I have
time.                                          instant access and rapid cross-linking, but              been privileged to be in my position and I
                                               what this might mean in the long term                    am grateful to all those with whom I have
Did you have editorial freedom?                remains uncertain. At my last Editorial                  been in correspondence for their (almost
                                               Board meeting the question arose as to                   unanimous) patience, dignity and courtesy.
My editorial decision-making was once
                                               which is the definitive version of the                   The rest, I forgive. The University of
usurped – by a former president – but it
                                               Journal – print or online? That requires                 Liverpool has generously supported my
did not affect the scientific content of the
                                               resolution, which I readily bequeath to my               Editorship, albeit they have received scant
                                               fortunate successor Peter Tyrer.                         compensation for their gift to the common
                                                                                                        good. Christine, Adam, Victoria, Dominic
Have you made any mistakes?                                                                             and Alexander Wilkinson have had a lot
A few. I have tried to correct my editorial    ALL THINGS TEND TOWARD                                   to put up with, and things are about to
mistakes when I have recognised them           ONE FINAL END                                            get worse.
and/or they have been pointed out.
                                               I thank the Editorial Board, hundreds of re-             REFERENCES
THERE’S A GOOD TIME                            markably generous unpaid peer reviewers,
COMING                                         the Publications Management Board and                    Howard, L. & Wilkinson, G. (1998) Peer review and
                                               my fellow College Officers, who have with                                                              Psychiatry,
                                                                                                        editorial decision-making. British Journal of Psychiatry,
                                                                                                        173, 110^113.
I leave the Journal at an exciting time for    quiet application enabled and enhanced the
medical publishing – electronic publication    Journal.
                                               Journal. I am grateful to them all for their             Walsh, E., Rooney, M., Appleby, L., et al (2000) Open
of print journals; competition with open-      advice and support, invention and hard                   peer review: a randomised controlled trial. British
                                                                                                                   Psychiatry 176,
                                                                                                        Journal of Psychiatry, 176, 47^51.
access online publishers (e.g. BioMed Cen-     work. I am especially grateful to Alan Kerr,
tral); the crucial importance in the UK of     the Deputy Editor, David Jago, Head of                   Wilkinson, G. (1994) The British Journal of Psychiatry:
impact factors for the Research Assessment     Publications, Vanessa Cameron, Chief                                                                        ,
                                                                                                                                                 Psychiatry 164,
                                                                                                        achieving excellence. British Journal of Psychiatry, 164, 1.

Exercise; the ethical dilemmas regarding       Executive, and Howard Croft, Editorial                   _ (2003a) Editing the British Journal of Psychiatry.
declaration of interest, ghost-writing and     Adviser, for their wisdom and guidance                                               Sociale, 12,
                                                                                                        Epidemiologia e Psichiatria Sociale, 12, 5^8.
industry sponsorship; and the changing         before and after I became Editor. The excel-             _ (2003b) Editorial boards of international psychiatric
nature of peer review. The most significant    lent staff of the Publications Department                          Lancet,
                                                                                                        journals. Lancet, in press.


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