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CMAJ loses most of its Editorial Board

Sixteen board members leave the Canadian journal due to ongoing debate over editorial independence

By | March 16, 2006

Fifteen Editorial Board members of the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) quit this morning -- following the resignation of their colleague Jerome Kassirer earlier in the week. The move comes following weeks of debates over editorial independence between the journal and its publisher, the Canadian Medical Association, sparked by the CMA's decision to fire the journal's top two editors. Another of the CMAJ's remaining part-time editors, Claire Kendall, has also resigned, Josephine Sciortino, the CMAJ's managing editor, told The Scientist. Kendall is the sixth editor to leave the journal in less than a month. The saga began February 20th when editor John Hoey and senior deputy editor Anne Marie Todkill were abruptly fired after publishing an investigative article noting that pharmacists were asking buyers of emergency contraception personal questions, including about their sexual history. One week after Hoey and Todkill left, their replacements also resigned. The departing Editorial Board members told CMA president Ruth Collins-Nakai in a letter that they didn't believe the journal's editorial independence was being protected. The letter outlined the Editorial Board's "loss of trust in the CMA leadership" whose efforts at promoting independence at the journal they described as "cosmetic." A spokesman for the Editorial Board members who quit, P.J. Devereaux at the McMaster University Health Sciences Centre in Ontario, told The Scientist that Board members felt "it was a farce" for them to remain at the journal, "which was refusing to even communicate [with us]. We are no longer willing to remain associated with the journal," he said, adding that "we have great reservations. We believe there has been a complete lack of transparency" in the affair. Four Editorial Board members have not resigned. There are now three part-time editors left at the journal along with the interim editor, Noni MacDonald, and the Editor-Emeritus, Bruce Squires. Neither the CMA president nor the Editor of the CMAJ were available for comment when The Scientist tried to reach them this morning. Collins-Nakai is preparing an open letter in response to the resignation of the Editorial Board members, which a CMA spokeswoman said would be released later today. On Wednesday (March 15), the New England Journal of Medicine posted a Perspective article on the affair two weeks before the article is published in the March 30th edition, arguing the issue of editorial independence at a prominent medical journal was of importance to the scientific community. Doug Payne dpayne@the-scientist.com Links in this article Canadian Medical Association Journal http://www.cmaj.ca/ A.McCook, "Canadian journal fires top editors," The Scientist, February 22, 2006. http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/23140/ L. Eggertson and B. Sibbald, "Privacy issues raised over Plan B: Women asked for names, addresses, sexual history," Canadian Medical Association Journal, December 2, 2005. http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/rapidpdf/cmaj.051461v1.pdf D Payne, "Resignations at embattled Canadian journal," The Scientist, March 1, 2006 http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/23176/ Canadian Medical Association http://www.cma.ca/index.cfm/ci_id/121/la_id/1.htm M Shuchman and D Redelmeier, "Politics and independence - The collapse of the Canadian Medical Association Journal," New England Journal of Medicine, March 15, 2006 http://content.nejm.org/cgi/reprint/NEJMp068056v1.pdf
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