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.
medical journals editors pharmaceutical advertisements publishing peer review information dissemination