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Ron LaPorte, who co-authors an essay on the brain drain in this issue (p 487), once argued that powerpoint presentations would replace manuscripts as the preferred medium of scientific communication. We are still some way from arriving at the future imagined by LaPorte but that does not mean that it will not come to pass. Certainly, doctors and journals are conducting more and more of their business by electronic means.
If any of you have submitted a paper recently to the JRSM you will be aware that we do not want you to send us paper copies of your article, an e-mail including the article as an attachment is all that is required. Whenever an electronic process replaces a paper based one sceptical voices rise from the darkness warning that many authors who are uncomfortable with the electronic world will be disadvantaged. In my experience on two previous journals—the BMJ and the Bulletin of the World Health Organization—introducing an electronic submission system has been painless with little complaint from authors. Indeed authors generally receive a much quicker service, something that matters considerably in an environment where rejection—and a search for greener pastures—is the most frequent result.
In addition to better communication with authors, electronic submissions are more easily sent to peer reviewers, and issues that arise can be resolved within moments. The JRSM’s transition to electronic submission has been straightforward thanks to our uncomplaining authors, reviewers, and editorial staff at the RSM. This is a first step towards introducing a full scale electronic manuscript submission system, which is a little trickier for authors than simply sending an e-mail with an attachment but offers a much better mechanism for tracking the progress of a submission. We expect to introduce an electronic manuscript submission system within the next few months.
The electronic world introduces a new section in this month’s JRSM called ‘Series’. We begin the serialization of a forthcoming book with its introductory chapter on personal digital assistants—PDAs or handheld computers, as they are better known (p 494). Other books produced by RSM Press and of interest to the JRSM’s readership will be serialized in future. The series section is not only for books. A three part series on research governance by Sara Shaw and colleagues also begins this month (p 496). Research governance is the kind of topic that encourages readers to reach for a stiff drink and alternative entertainment but I would recommend this series to you as one of the clearest accounts I have ever read on this sometimes incomprehensible issue. If you have an idea for a series do not send me a letter, send me an e-mail.
Ron LaPorte may be encouraging us to turn our research papers into powerpoint presentations but the JRSM’s new ‘Podium’ section seeks interesting talks that have been turned into prose (p 519). In case you have not yet delivered your inaugural lecture but simply have something interesting to say, the podium section can offer you an outlet provided that you can say it well. You may not agree with everything that Neville Goodman has to say about independent sector treatment centres and the NHS but his piece will help you understand a particular perspective on a topical debate (p 526).