- Fiona Godlee (firstname.lastname@example.org), head of BMJ Knowledge
- BMJ Publishing Group, London WC1H 9JR
“I am that wicked editor,” announced the email from Richard Smith, then editor of the BMJ, to members of the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) on their listserve two years ago. An aggrieved author had, at Smith's suggestion, complained to WAME's ethics committee after the BMJ went back on its promise to publish a paper. When the anonymised case was posted on the listserve, opinion from WAME's members was unanimous—the editor in question had behaved wrongly and the journal should honour its commitment to publish. The BMJ did.
This case is important. Although of a different order of magnitude than serious cases of editorial misconduct that have been uncovered over the past 10 years,1 it may be the first example of self regulation by journal editors. An author complained, a body of editors responded, and right—as perceived by those editors—was done.
Editors have traditionally enjoyed power without well codified responsibilities. They decide what gets published and they control an author's right of reply. Much effort has been focused, largely by editors, on what constitutes good and bad behaviour on the part of authors and peer reviewers.2 Far …