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The Pharmaceutical Journal relaunch: Introduction

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Francis Bacon, the 17th century philosopher, said: “Things alter for the worse spontaneously, if they be not altered for the better designedly.” The time has come for us to alter The Pharmaceutical Journal for the better designedly.

Jacob Bell (Royal Pharmaceutical Society museum)Change is not new to The Pharmaceutical Journal. As one of the “oldest professional journals in the world” — according to the ’Dictionary of Nineteenth-century Journalism in Great Britain and Ireland’ — it first appeared as The Transactions of the Pharmaceutical Meetings in 1841. It was a private venture by Jacob Bell, who was also one of the founders of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (now the Royal Pharmaceutical Society). The title changed to Pharmaceutical Journal and Transactions in January 1842. A year later, it contained all the features of a professional journal: leading article, meeting reports, critical commentaries, letters to the editor, book reviews, and personal notices about members of the profession. Bell remained the editor of The Journal until his death in 1859 and, on his deathbed, bequeathed it to the Pharmaceutical Society; the Society has published it ever since. In July 1870 it became a weekly publication, and the title The Pharmaceutical Journal was adopted in July 1895.

The first issue of The Transactions of the Pharmaceutical Meetings (1841) opens with a modest statement:

The cover of the first volume of The Transactions of the Pharmaceutical Meetings (1841)“Instituted as an experiment, for the purpose of illustrating the advantage of Scientific Discussion, and in the hope that similar Meetings will shortly be appointed by the Pharmaceutical Society.” 

Times have changed since the launch of The Journal and the world has witnessed many advances in science and technology, but “scientific discussion” in its various forms has never lost its importance. Scientists and practitioners still need to discover trustworthy information that is relevant to their field, which will help them improve their understanding of their professional environment and to progress in their careers or, in short, to become better at what they do.

That said, the way people consume content has been revolutionised. Science, by its very nature, has always torn down walls and ignored borders, although the tools at scientists’ disposal have not always made it easy for them to communicate and share their ideas and the results of their efforts with peers in every corner of the world. Now, thanks to the progress made in the digital era — which would have been unimaginable in the 19th century — borderless, indeed global, communication is easier than ever. You can set up a blog at no cost in the morning in a small town in India, post an idea at noon, and see thousands of people across the globe reading your idea and debating it in the evening. However, although the internet has made it easy to publish and share content, the challenge of discovering “trustworthy” content still poses issues for those who are eager to “know”. Today, there is an ocean of information out there, not necessarily structured in a seamless and intuitive way, and a reader with limited time has to navigate through this seemingly amorphous mass of content to discover the most relevant and trustworthy pieces in any given field. This is where The Pharmaceutical Journal feels the need to step up, so readers can find their way through thousands of pieces of content published each week.

For this reason, and because you have clearly expressed your expectations of us in various ways that you want The Pharmaceutical Journal to change and to become what the founders of The Journal wanted it to be, we will be going through a series of overdue changes starting very soon.

You have shown us that you need news and interpretation of current policies, clinical and scientific research, and trends affecting the pharmacy profession, science, and industry, as well as career information and advice. You want it to be rapid, authoritative, insightful and arresting. It must be easily accessible so that you are well informed whenever and wherever you need this information. You want to express and share your views and concerns in an interactive way, and for your profession to gain the influence and recognition it deserves. We have a plan for this, which requires significant changes in our editorial content strategy and structure, how we develop our platform of content, and how we employ technology to deliver that content to our readers.

We are using the umbrella term of “relaunch” to cover all these changes. Unlike a “launch” that happens at a single moment, when a ship floats on open waters for the first time, or a product hits the market, our relaunch will be a journey that starts with the adoption of a strategy to embrace continuous change and to adapt to both your needs and the wider publishing environment. Like any journey, we are bound to “experiment”, and in this sense The Pharmaceutical Journal still considers itself to be an “experiment”, as stated in the first issue in 1841 by its founding editor. But we will also stand on the shoulders of many giants in scientific, technical and medical publishing, who have already experimented, recorded and generously shared their findings on how users prefer to discover, read, and share their content in this new era.

We also believe that the relaunch should not be a monologue, with us deciding on a roadmap and you, our most valued members, readers and users, only on the receiving end of change. Our roadmap is a living thing that should be flexible enough to react and adapt to the constantly changing environment. This is why we decided to share our journey with you in this series of blog posts, so we can embark on it together.

Arash Hejazi


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