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J R Soc Med. 2005 October; 98(10): 439.
PMCID: PMC1240092

A subtle change of spots

Journals have a tradition of making changes to design and format that only a few readers notice or comment on. This makes it hard to fathom the worth of these editorial tweaks. I trust readers of the JRSM, however, will not hold back. One obvious question is why any tweaking is necessary, particularly with a journal that has gone from strength to strength under the dedicated supervision of its outgoing editor, Robin Fox?

Since considering and accepting the editorship of this historic journal I have been struck by how much the journal is loved by its readership. Many readers have praised its readability and its relevance to their clinical practice. Those are attributes I intend to preserve in combination with a lack of concern for impact factor, a malign influence on modern journal publication policies. A final attribute that is assured is the editorial independence of the journal.

But as with any evolving publication, change is inevitable and the beginning of an editorship seems to me a good time to make it. This page itself is new and will be a regular feature. A note from the editor has become a standard component of many publications. The list of recent peer reviewers at the bottom of this page will also appear monthly and is a feature that I believe is new to journals. It is one way of thanking and recognizing people who have given up their valuable time to help the JRSM with decision making and improving the quality of articles that are published.

The next obvious difference is that the letters section has moved nearer the front of the journal. Many of you will be baffled by this but my view is that the aim of any good publication is to stimulate debate and the letters section is an important way of continuing debates begun in the journal and an essential part of post-publication peer review. In addition, this movement to the front gives prominence to the views of the people for whom the journal is really intended: the readers.

A new essay section brings together 'think pieces' on current medical issues and medical history, and the original article section has been renamed research. Another name change is from case reports to grand round, although there will be fewer published each month. Book reviews will still appear but in a section called media to reflect the diversity of formats that deliver medical information. And lastly, and perhaps most valuably, this issue launches a regular selection of commentaries from the James Lind Library, an online resource for patients and professionals that documents the evolution of fair tests of treatments in health care (p. 478). This new section begins with a piece from Sir Richard Doll, who sadly died earlier this year.

More new developments will come your way over the next months, but my intention is that these changes will simplify the journal's layout while continuing its development. The final question, though, might reasonably ask about the focus of the JRSM? With the BMJ and the Lancet looking internationally there is a large gap to be filled by a publication that is a forum for debate, education, and entertainment for clinicians interested in UK medicine—as well as relevant international developments and research— in order to influence clinical practice and policy making. It is a vacuum that the JRSM could and should fill.

Articles from Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine are provided here courtesy of Royal Society of Medicine Press