, Volume 10, Issue 8, pp 443-450

Policies, practices, and attitudes of north american medical journal editors

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE: To describe U.S. and Canadian medical journals, their editors, and policies that affect the dissemination of medical information.

DESIGN: Mailed survey.

PARTICIPANTS: Senior editors of all 269 leading medical journals published at least quarterly in the United States and Canada, of whom 221 (82%) responded.

MAIN MEASURES: The questionnaire asked about characteristics of journal editors and their journals and about journals’ policies toward peer review, conflicts of interest, pre-publication discussions with the press, and pharmaceutical advertisements.

RESULTS: The editors were overwhelmingly men (96%), middle-aged (mean age 61 years), and trained as physicians (82%). Although 98% claimed that their journals were “peer-reviewed,” the editors differed in how they defined a “peer” and in the number of peers they deemed optimal for review. Sixty-three percent thought journals should check on reviewers’ potential conflicts of interest, but only a minority supported masking authors’ names and affiliations (46%), checking reviewers’ financial conflicts of interest (40%), or revealing reviewers’ names to authors (8%). The respondents advocated discussion of scientific findings with the press (84%), but only in accord with the Ingelfinger rule, i.e.,after publication of the article (77%). Fifty-seven percent of the editors agreed that journals have a responsibility to ensure the truthfulness of pharmaceutical advertisements, and 40% favored subjecting advertisements to the same rigorous peer review as scientific articles.

CONCLUSIONS: The responding editors were relatively homogeneous demographically and professionally, and they tended to support the editorial status quo. There was little sentiment in favor of tampering with the current peer-review system (however defined) or the Ingelfinger rule, but a surprisingly large percentage of the respondents favored more stringent review of drug advertisements.

Supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Princeton, New Jersey.
The views herein do not necessarily reflect the policies of the authors’ institutions or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.