REPORT OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES B of T Report 32-A-04 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 Subject: Editorial Independence at JAMA and the Archives Journals Presented by: William G. Plested III, MD, Chair Referred to: Reference Committee F (William C. Sternfeld, MD, Chair) The AMA’s Journal Oversight Committee (JOC) was created in 1999 as a result of an Editorial Governance Plan approved unanimously by the AMA Board of Trustees and AMA management. That plan was published in the June 16, 1999 issue of JAMA (attached)1. The JOC met in Chicago on May 20, 2004, for its fifth annual meeting to evaluate the performance of the Editor-in-Chief of JAMA and the Archives Journals, to review the performance of the journals, and to deliberate on issues that have been brought before the JOC by the Editor-in-Chief, AMA management, and other interested parties. As part of its mandate, the JOC prepares and submits a report to the Board of Trustees. The Board reviewed and discussed the JOC’s June 2004 report at the Board’s meeting on June 10, 2004. The Board wishes to share with the HOD the Board’s views on the editorial independence of our journals. The Importance of Editorial Independence The JOC report stresses the importance of JAMA’s editorial independence, and states, “… the editorial independence of JAMA and the Archives Journals is directly linked to the journals’ reputation, credibility, readership, and value to AMA and its membership, and must be preserved.” In an editorial in JAMA, Davies and Rennie called editorial freedom “the sine qua non of a respectable medical journal.”2 In a paper reviewing journal policies on editorial independence, Davis and Müllner3 summarized the dangers of encroaching on editorial freedom: “When editorial independence is compromised – by pressures from advertisers, by sectarian interests of the publisher, by an editor’s conflict of interest, or by any other factor – the integrity of the research published in the journal is called into question. The journal loses credibility and is less likely to attract manuscripts from authors, to receive assistance from peer reviewers, to be read by researchers and practitioners, to be taken seriously by the lay press, or to be supported by advertisers.” B of T Rep. 32-A-04 -- page 2 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), of which JAMA is a member, and the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) have strong policies on editorial independence. ICMJE’s Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals (http://www.icmje.org/) states, “Owners have the right to appoint and dismiss editors and to make important business decisions in which editors should be involved to the fullest extent possible. Editors must have full authority for determining the editorial content of the journal. This concept of editorial freedom should be resolutely defended by editors even to the extent of their placing their positions at stake.” WAME’s policy statement on editorial independence (http://www.wame.org/wamestmt.htm) states, “Editors-in-chief should have full authority over the editorial content of the journal, generally referred to as ‘editorial independence.’ Owners should not interfere in the evaluation, selection, or editing of individual articles, either directly or by creating an environment in which editorial decisions are strongly influenced.” Editorial Independence at JAMA As noted in the JOC report, “… the issue of JAMA’s editorial independence is not new. Since the formation of JAMA 122 years ago, those who have provided governance and oversight to JAMA have reaffirmed editorial independence repeatedly.” This issue has been revisited over the years, and at its I-92 meeting, the House of Delegates considered Resolution 604, which asked that JAMA “strengthen its peer review process while refraining from entering the public policy debate, … devote equal space to proponents of all sides of an issue addressed in its pages and, as a matter of policy, letters to the editor from state medical association presidents be printed in JAMA.” The resolution was referred to the Board of Trustees, which submitted BOT Report PP to the House of Delegates at A-93. BOT Report PP, which was adopted by the House of Delegates, recommended: 1. That the AMA reaffirm existing policy on the editorial independence of the editors of AMA scientific journals in lieu of Resolution 604 (I-92). 2. That JAMA and other AMA scientific journals display a disclaimer in prominent print that editorial views are not necessarily AMA policy. The following disclaimer appears on the Table of Contents of each issue of JAMA: “All articles published, including editorials, letters, and book reviews, represent the opinions of the authors and do not reflect the official policy of the American Medical Association or the institution with which the author is affiliated, unless this is clearly specified.” B of T Rep. 32-A-04 -- page 3 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 As noted above, the Board of Trustees and AMA management signed the Editorial Governance Plan in 1999, which states, “Editorial independence of the Editor-in-Chief will be absolutely protected and respected by AMA management…. The Editor-in-Chief will have total responsibility for the editorial content of JAMA and responsibility for the performance of the Archives Editors and other AMA publications under his/her jurisdiction.” 1 According to the updated Editorial Governance Plan, the Editor-in-Chief reports to the JOC for editorial matters. The Editor-in-Chief reports to the AMA Executive Vice President for business matters. The Editorial Governance Plan’s commitment to editorial independence is carried into the current JAMA editor’s employment contract with the AMA. The Board believes, however, that the matter of how and where to place disclaimers in JAMA and the Archives journals—indicating that editorial content within the journal does not represent official AMA policy—deserves careful consideration. This is a matter within the province of a journal’s editor and publisher, and thus the Board proposes to discuss this issue with the Editor-inChief of JAMA and the JOC, and to report back to the House of Delegates on the outcomes of those discussions. View of the Board of Trustees The Board of Trustees believes strongly that editorial independence must be preserved in order to maintain the strength and integrity of JAMA and the Archives journals. Recommendations The Board of Trustees recommends: 1. That the House of Delegates affirm that JAMA and the Archives journals shall continue to have full editorial independence as set forth in the AMA Editorial Governance Plan. 2. That the Board of Trustees discuss with the editor of JAMA and the Journal Oversight Committee options for how and where to place disclaimers in JAMA and the Archives journals, indicating that editorial content within the journal does not represent official AMA policy. 3. That the Board of Trustees present a report to the House of Delegates at the Interim 2004 meeting regarding the outcome of discussions about the use of disclaimers in JAMA and the Archives journals. B of T Rep. 32-A-04 -- page 4 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 References 1. Rosenberg RN, Anderson ER. Editorial governance of the Journal of the American Medical Association. JAMA 1999; 281: 2239-2242. The plan was revised to update the reporting structure of the Editor-in-Chief. DeAngelis CD, Maves MD. Update of the Editorial Governance Plan for JAMA. JAMA 2004; 291; 109. 2. Davies HTO, Rennie D. Independence, governance, and trust: redefining the relationship between JAMA and the AMA. JAMA 1999; 281: 2344-2346. 3. Davis RM, Müllner M. Editorial independence at medical journals owned by professional associations: A survey of editors. Science and Engineering Ethics 2002; 8: 513-528.