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Editing The Pharmaceutical Journal

We, the undersigned, are pressing for the restoration of the post of editor for The Pharmaceutical Journal. We believe that the The Pharmaceutical Journal needs to be refocused and that the recent departure of its publisher presents an ideal opportunity to review the situation.

One of us (Douglas Simpson) addressed the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) Assembly on this matter on 16 November 2016. However, no indication has been given about any of the Assembly’s decisions. Indeed, The Pharmaceutical Journal’s historic role of recording the policy decisions of the Society’s governing bodies seems to have been lost.

The role of ‘publisher’ was created by the RPS when the editor’s post was made redundant. The publisher was given responsibility for the type of content that appears in The Pharmaceutical Journal. This has led to a broad international focus while playing down domestic matters. Indicators for this can be found in the obituary articles, in which the deaths of American academics who were generally unknown in Britain have been given detailed coverage, while the demise of distinguished British pharmacists has been noticed late, if at all.

We understand that the previous publisher was not a pharmacist and that expertise in digital production rather than sector knowledge was a priority when recruiting for the role. There is now an imbalance in the journal, and we urge the Assembly to step in and restore order.

For more than 150 years, from its foundation in 1841, The Pharmaceutical Journal had a series of distinguished editors with journalistic ability and a deep knowledge of pharmacy. The publication once again needs a principled editor chosen on the basis of sector knowledge and journalistic skill to lead its hard-working staff and provide the Society’s members with an appropriate balance of information.

Appointment to this post should be the subject of an open competition.

Douglas Simpson

Former editor of The Pharmaceutical Journal and former editorial director of PJ Publications

John Ferguson

Former secretary and registrar

Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain

Nicholas Wood

Past president

Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain

Marshall Davies

Past president

Royal Pharmaceutical Society

John Balmford

Past president

Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Robert Timson

Former member of council

Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Dilip Joshi


Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham Local Pharmaceutical Committee

Jayesh Patel

Chief executive

Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham Local Pharmaceutical Committee

Andrew Haynes

Former deputy editor

The Pharmaceutical Journal

Graeme Smith

Former deputy editor and former acting editor

The Pharmaceutical Journal

Peter Lowe

Former secretary, North of Tyne Local Pharmaceutical Committee, and support team volunteer, Pharmacist Support

Disclosure: Douglas Simpson is a freelance journalist whose principal client is the Independent Community Pharmacist magazine. Mr Simpson, Andrew Haynes, John Ferguson and Graeme Smith are pensioners of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS). All the co-signatories are Fellows of the RPS.

The appointment of a publisher to The Pharmaceutical Journal is the responsibility of the leadership of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS). Your letter was forwarded to the RPS for consideration. We have been informed that you have been invited to a further meeting with the leadership of the Society to discuss the issues you have raised. We trust that the Society will act in the best interests of the journal and the membership as they appoint a successor to the recently departed publisher.
The Pharmaceutical Journal

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20202301

Readers' comments (6)

  • I have read the PJ for over 50 years and in my opinion it is only in the last15 years or so that the journal became interesting.
    For most of my career I found that, unless the author was a high academic , it was rare to read a reader's contribution from anyone north of Watford.
    Leave well alone and let a new generation take over I do not want a so called "distinguished" editor I want one that makes the PJ interesting and open to all.

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  • Surely a capable and experienced editor worth his or her salt, with the members' interests at heart, is capable of doing this?

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  • Had I been approached by "the undersigned" I would have gladly supported the thrust of their concerns. It seems to me that as a key membership benefit of the RPS the PJ must first and foremost recognise and support the needs and interests of members. With a wide cross-sectoral membership base comprising colleagues at all career stages this is a challenging remit, but by no means impossible. In fact I would suggest that it is essential. If the PJ is to continue to maintain relevancy it must focus on what its members consider relevant, which increasingly feels divergent from the views of its publisher. Like many of the signatories to this letter I have enjoyed an extremely interesting relationship with the PJ and its editors. I have both valued it and been frustrated by it - but the important underlying premise has always been that it was there to serve the interests of members (and, rightly, not just those of the RPS) and act as an extremely good communication channel through which all of those with an interest or involvement in the profession could contribute and learn. It has certainly, in my view, become more elitist and niche in its tone and content, and I suggest, as an unfortunate consequence, less relevant, accessible and interesting. I do not claim to have all the answers to these issues, but it seems to me that a good start would be to listen seriously to those with the best of intentions at heart, and to revisit the decision to focus on publication at the expense of an experienced and discerning editor - of which there have been several over the years. This is not about some misplaced reminiscing, or a nostalgic hankering for the past - rather it is about enhancing engagement, improving relevancy, and bringing together the RPS and the members on which it relies. Members who are looking for reasons to engage. Members who want to be the best they can be. Members who are the voices of the present and future. Members who wish to be heard, to be supported and to influence.

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  • Graham Phillips

    Spot on Steve! During my own time as a member of the English Pharmacy Board I raised similar concerns. I asked repeatedly that the role of the PJ within the organisation be (re)considered. As the RPS delineates its influential role as the de facto "Royal College for Pharmacy" the position of the PJ becomes ever more important.

    Why is it that I often learn more about the RPS from other publications than I can glean from the PJ?

    If nothing else surely THE key role of the PJ is as the professional journal that represent the role of pharmacists to external stakeholders and (of equal importance) the mouthpiece of the RPS to its members?

    Currently the PJ fails effectively to perform either role

    Graham Phillips

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  • This comment has been removed because it breached our terms of use and community guidelines.

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  • I wish to add my voice to those who have commented here.
    In recent months I believe the journal has suffered from a lack of clear editorial policy. There have been some useful developments and the staff of the journal undoubtedly work hard and do a good job. It seems to me that they have been held back by the recent leadership. The PJ has become one of the least accessible of professional journals. I am still baffled by the decision to remove PDFs (other professional journals have not done this) and the fact that it required such a lengthy explanation (PJ blog, August 2014) only serves to confirm my view that it is difficult to justify. If it was a no-brainer surely it could have been explained in one or two paragraphs? I have the impression that digital publishing expertise was bought at the expense of depth of knowledge of the profession. Whilst I understand the need to move forward with new technology I think that the replacement of the editor with a ‘publisher’ should now be acknowledged as an experiment that did not work well. For many of us the functions of publisher and editor are distinct and different. Our profession needs and deserves a journal with a strong identity that serves the needs of RPS members and represents the roles of pharmacists to others outside the profession. I hope that the Assembly will take the opportunity to revisit its decision.
    I too believe that the post of editor of the PJ should be resurrected and that a suitable individual with appropriate knowledge of the profession and journalistic skill should be appointed. I support the suggestion that the post should be filled by open competition.

    Christine Clark BSc Msc PhD FRPharms

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