Advertisement
The Scientist
The Scientist

When journal editors get fired

When our news editor, Alison McCook, emailed me yesterday to tell me that the editors of the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) linkurl:had been sacked,;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/23140/ I had a bit of déjà vu. Just over seven years ago, I received a similar email from a colleague at JAMA, where I had recently finished a stint as co-editor in chief of the medical student section. JAMA?s editor, George Lundberg, with whom I had worked and whom I still consider a close ment

By | February 23, 2006

When our news editor, Alison McCook, emailed me yesterday to tell me that the editors of the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) linkurl:had been sacked,;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/23140/ I had a bit of déjà vu. Just over seven years ago, I received a similar email from a colleague at JAMA, where I had recently finished a stint as co-editor in chief of the medical student section. JAMA?s editor, George Lundberg, with whom I had worked and whom I still consider a close mentor, had been fired by the CMA?s US counterpart in what on the surface appear to be similar circumstances. Lundberg was sacked for ?inappropriately and inexcusably? interjecting the AMA into the debate over the impeachment of President Clinton by publishing an article on college students' answers to the question of whether oral sex is sex. Unfortunately for Lundberg ? and for readers of JAMA ? he and the AMA?s board of directors had been occasionally clashing throughout his 17-year tenure because of his outspokenness on issues such as whether doctors perform enough autopsies (he once said on ?60 Minutes? that doctors are burying their mistakes ?in large numbers?) and abortion. My JAMA medical section colleague Scott Gottlieb ? he?s now deputy commissioner of the FDA ? and I wrote in USA Today a few days after Lundberg?s firing: ?By firing JAMA's popular editor over an issue of political perceptions, the AMA has damaged the reputation of its once-editorially independent journal. It also has lost credibility with the medical profession and the public it seeks to influence.? We concluded: ?If the AMA fails in these bigger tasks, patients as well as JAMA readers will forever wonder whether they're being prescribed politics in the name of patient care.? There was an outcry from editors of other major journals, including John Hoey, who was CMAJ editor at the time and was fired yesterday along with Anne Marie Todkill, who was editor of the CMAJ?s Left Atrium and was also fired yesterday. They linkurl:wrote:;http://epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/100/201/300/cdn_medical_association/cmaj/vol-160/issue-4/0507.htm ?Editors can of course be fired, like anyone else. But firing a respected editor in the absence of any frank misconduct on his part, without debate or witnesses, does not meet anyone's criteria for fairness. This is not to say that readers will not be critical of the article Lundberg decided to publish. Some will say that it stretches the domain of medical journals too far. Others will argue that data collected 8 years ago are no longer relevant. But by squelching debate and snatching JAMA from the hands of its true owners, the AMA has done itself and medical publishing a great disservice.? I suppose we should be surprised it took the CMA seven years to get around to reading that bit about editors being fired. They evidently didn?t read the rest of the paragraph.
Advertisement
The Scientist
The Scientist

Follow The Scientist

icon-facebook icon-linkedin icon-twitter icon-vimeo icon-youtube
Advertisement

Stay Connected with The Scientist

  • icon-facebook The Scientist Magazine
  • icon-facebook The Scientist Careers
  • icon-facebook Neuroscience Research Techniques
  • icon-facebook Genetic Research Techniques
  • icon-facebook Cell Culture Techniques
  • icon-facebook Microbiology and Immunology
  • icon-facebook Cancer Research and Technology
  • icon-facebook Stem Cell and Regenerative Science
Advertisement
The Scientist
The Scientist
Advertisement