Medical journals: past their sell by date?

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 04 January 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:45
  1. Stuart W G Derbyshire, senior lecturer, School of Psychology, University of Birmingham (

    A former BMJ editor lets rip about medical journals, but is he right? asks Stuart Derbyshire

    According to Richard Smith, former editor of the BMJ, there is much trouble with medical journals. Medical journals include studies that are often misleading through author negligence, a failure of peer review, a conflict of interest, or because of blatant fraud. Medical journals are insensitive to the needs of patients and too responsive to the needs of the big pharmaceutical companies. Medical journals employ poorly trained editors who are blind to the ethical abuses documented in submitted studies. Medical journals even look awful and there are too many of them.

    To an extent, Smith is following in the footsteps of other “miserabilist” tracts regarding the state of the world in general and medical science in particular. But Smith does, at least, manage to do it with some humour. It is hard not to warm to an author who explains that publication does not equal editorial support with the following self-deprecating example:

    “The BMJ has carried many letters arguing that I am an idiot. That argument doesn't always have my editorial support” (p …

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