In The Field

AHA 2008: How can journal editors help conference organisers?

Journal publishers sometimes get a bad press for making a profit from academics’ hard work without adding much value to the scientific endeavour. Although I am a journal publisher myself, I have some sympathy with that sentiment, especially when journals simply reproduce the authors’ work without helping them to improve the communication of their data by editing the paper, improving the figures, or providing help communicating with the media. However, when journals live up to their side of the bargain, it’s clear that they (we) have a huge amount to offer to the scientific community.

Many of the major papers that have been presented over the past few days here at the American Heart Association have been simultaneously published in journals like Circulation, JAMA, and The New England Journal of Medicine. The advantages to this approach are obvious. Having the published paper available helps the media report on the study accurately. And when the news breaks in the popular press, doctors, who are often faced with questions from anxious patients, are able to download the full paper to educate themselves about what the clinical study means for patients in their care.

Peer reviewing and editing a paper accurately to tight timelines is an expensive and difficult thing to do. But in my opinion it is worth the additional effort from authors, editors, and publishers to expedite papers so that they can be released to coincide with the oral presentation of the data at scientific conferences. Indeed, I wish this happened more frequently than it does now. Everyone benefits from the end result.

James Butcher is publisher of Nature’s eight Clinical Practice review journals.


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