When John H. Noseworthy, MD, becomes the new Editor-in-Chief of the journal Neurology in January, he will have no small task. With the journal expecting a record 4,500 manuscript submissions in 2006, work in upcoming years is sure to continue to grow.
But Dr. Noseworthy, Professor of Neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, is well prepared, having served on the Neurology editorial board for that past 10 years. He has also been an editorial board member for the Journal of Neurology, as well as an external reviewer for several publications including the Annals of Neurology, Archives of Neurology, and the New England Journal of Medicine. He will replace Robert C. Griggs, MD, Chair of the Department of Neurology at the University of Rochester, who is completing a 10-year term.
In an interview with Neurology Today, Dr. Noseworthy discussed changes to the journal, which will be unveiled with the January 2 issue.
WHAT EDITORIAL CHANGES DO YOU HAVE PLANNED?
First of all, the journal has done extremely well under Dr. Griggs' leadership and it is an outstanding journal for the Academy and its members. The changes we are recommending support the direction that the journal has been moving in for the past 10 years. We have decided that this direction should be referenced to a vision statement, which is where we want to go, and a mission statement, or why we exist. Our vision statement is that Neurology should continue to be the premier peer-reviewed journal for clinical neurologists. The mission statement is that Neurology will provide clinical neurologists with outstanding peer-reviewed articles, editorials, and reviews, to enhance patient care, education, clinical research, and professionalism. Our editorial decisions will be based on that mission statement, which will appear on the masthead of every issue. That also helps authors decide whether we would be interested in their paper.
WHY WILL THE JOURNAL BE PUBLISHED WEEKLY?
The size of the twice-a-month journal was overwhelming to our readers. It required a fold-out table of contents because of the number of papers in it. We decided to reduce the number of editorial pages each month, by about 10- to 15- percent. We are guided in this decision by successful weekly journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, and Circulation. We decided to have 70 to 80 editorial pages per week, which seems to be manageable by busy doctors.
A few features that don't primarily pertain to research studies, such as neuroscience reviews, a section on clinical pathological conferences, and a monthly creative writing piece, will only run once each month. And we will probably accept slightly fewer studies.
HOW WILL THE DEPARTMENTS CHANGE?
The new format will emphasize full-length, peer-reviewed articles and to a lesser degree, editorials and reviews. Every issue will have a department called “This Week in Neurology,” which will highlight the key articles. One or two editorials will appear with eight to 10 full-length articles. In addition, a very brief “Clinical and Scientific Notes” and two or three pages of correspondence will appear in every weekly issue.
WHAT ARE THE NEW FEATURES?
A special feature will differ for each of the four weeks of the month. Currently, the journal includes two or three of these elective pieces every two weeks: for example: “In Memoriam,” medical education pieces, neuroimaging, “Humanities and Reflections,” which will occur with variable frequency. Starting in January, these features will appear just once a month.
We're also adding a new section called “Neurology Clinical Pathological Conferences” – case series that are discussed by an expert. This will appear in the first issue of the month. We're also adding a department called “Clinical Implications of Basic Neuroscience Research,” which will run in the third issue of the month. That will give the journal a sense of predictability for the busy doctor. The patient pages will be featured once a month.
WILL YOU ELIMINATE ANY DEPARTMENTS?
We've decided to discontinue “Clinical Trials Recruiting” because it has been almost impossible to make it complete and up to date, given all the changes made regularly by local institutional review boards.
We're also dropping the “Brief Communications” section from the editorial offerings. Those types of articles will continue to be reviewed and printed in the length they need to be to communicate the message, but they won't be printed under a separate header.
WHAT TYPES OF ARTICLES WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE MORE OF?
We're looking for articles that address the mission statement. For instance, we don't get a lot of submissions that relate to education or professionalism, so we will be accepting more of those. We also want to get the best science articles that indicate a new trend in neuroscience, or in research that has implications for practice. Discoveries in neuroscience are clearly going to change the way we think about our patients' illnesses so we must continue to attract pivotal clinical trials.
WILL YOU BE CHANGING YOUR STANDARDS FOR PEER REVIEW?
No. But right now fewer than 20 percent of all submissions are accepted. So the associate editors and I have decided that not every paper will be sent out for peer review. Papers that appear highly unlikely to be accepted will be reviewed only in the editorial office and then sent back to the author within a few days of receipt. We'll be triaging papers that seem unlikely to meet the quality standard of the journal or the mission statement of the journal.
WILL THERE BE ANY CHANGES IN YOUR CONFLICTS-OF-INTEREST POLICY?
All authors will need to provide the journal with a full declaration of all their competing interests; not just those that seem to pertain to the manuscript. Right now, authors are sending only the conflicts-of-interest statement information that seems related to that particular paper. Instead, every author, as well as the entire editorial board, and the associate editors and editor in chief, will disclose all their funding sources. The information about the authors will be published at the end of each article. We'll let the reader decide whether there is a conflict of interest.
WHAT CHALLENGES DO YOU SEE AHEAD OF YOU?
There are two big ones. The first one is adjudicating the quality of science. It's hard from the peer-review process to be certain you are identifying the best science but it still seems to be the best way to attempt to do so. We need to provide authors with timely and thorough reviews but this is, admittedly, an imperfect process. That's a challenge we face everyday in the publishing business.
The second major challenge is that the industry is increasingly competitive. There has been a proliferation of subspecialty journals and journals that focus on review articles. Authors and readers have many options. We want to remain relevant and we hope to continue to be the premier peer-reviewed journal for clinical neurologists.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT WORKING IN PUBLISHING?
It's a tremendous opportunity for personal growth. From a selfish standpoint, it's a great way to remain current with what's happening in neurology. In terms of influencing the profession, it's a wonderful way to help bring forward the most important advances to the community. You have an impact on residents, fellows, colleagues, and of course, patients. It's a great opportunity to serve the educational needs of the profession.