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The Pharmaceutical Journal re-launch: Mission and scope

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Old issues of The Pharmaceutical Journal

It seems natural to go back to the beginning. We needed to review our mission and to redefine The Pharmaceutical Journal according to the original vision.

In the previous post we talked about cross-journal article types that would introduce consistency to the way we categorise our content based on ‘tone’ and ‘function’. Next we should look at the scope of content and the topics we want to cover.

When I started as the Publisher of PJ Publications in September 2013, I began by looking at various issues of The Pharmaceutical Journal over the past 170 years. There were many things that I could think about improving, regardless of the digital/print issue (which is of course a very important component of our re-launch), such as the way we dealt with images, how we categorised our content, the way we could tell a more consistent story, or the fact that I felt many of our stories could have had more depth. I took notes as I flicked through our history. However, one thing seemed very strange. It seemed to me that the mission of The Pharmaceutical Journal had changed several times over the years. It started as an international publication that focused on science, regardless of the region from which that knowledge originated. At some point it became a newsletter that mainly reported and promoted the activities of the RPS. Sometimes it acted as a regional trade magazine that only cared about the healthcare policies of a specific government or region, and sometimes it tried to be everything to everyone.

So, it seems natural to go back to the beginning. We needed to review our mission and to redefine The Pharmaceutical Journal according to the original vision. Our mission had to be future-proof, technology or trends notwithstanding. This is the mission statement we devised:

  • FIRST, to aid pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists, by providing early information about advances made in any branch of pharmacy practice and pharmaceutical science throughout the world, and by affording them an opportunity to discuss various questions which arise from time to time;
  • SECOND, to place before health care professionals, policy makers, scientists and the general public, theresults of advancements in pharmacy practice and pharmaceutical sciences, in order to achieve a more general recognition for the pharmacy profession and pharmaceutical sciences;
  • THIRD, to be the main source of career information and advice for pharmacy professionals and pharmaceutical scientists, providing them with timely and relevant information that supports career progression and development opportunities.

Having read this statement many times, the next natural question was: ‘Are we doing this?’ One could say that we were doing the best we could with the resources we had. But at the same time we had to come back to our main source of inspiration to look at the result of our efforts from a different angle: through your eyes.

What we needed wasn’t a critique on how the journal was doing. We had a more fundamental question: ‘What do you, our readers, want from us?’ We did a survey to ask some important questions. I personally think real usage data can provide publishers with a much deeper insight into what readers are interested in, how a piece of content is doing, what would be ignored (no matter how much hard work has gone into it), and how a product is performing in general. But our existing website does not allow us that deep insight — the new website will, of course. Commercial performance is another indicator of how successful a product is, but we did not have this information either, because almost all of our readers are members of the RPS and therefore receive the journal as part of their membership package.

So, we now have a good idea of what the majority of our readers want to see in the journal.

The message from our readers was:

  • We want serious stuff. An overwhelming majority of respondents considered the primary role of The PharmaceuticalJournal to be a publisher of news and serious, in-depth articles on the latest advances in pharmacy practice, research and pharmaceutical sciences
  • Prioritise science over politics. The majority of participants prioritised medical conditions, medicines information, pharmacy practice and pharmaceutical sciences as their main priority and preferred topics.
    They expected The Pharmaceutical Journal to focus more on in-depth CPD and e-learning features and research reviews, as well as peer-reviewed original research articles and in-depth features
  • All sectors please. A large number of respondents asked us to be a journal for all sectors of pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences. You reminded us not to forget about the biopharma industry, drug development, hospital pharmacy, clinical trials, education and academia, research, information technology in healthcare, and veterinary pharmacy

The message was clear, the collective wisdom had spoken, and our mission was set. It was time to act, and the most important step was to get our building blocks right. We talked about article types before (which was about what an article is supposed to ‘do’); the next set of building blocks was about topics, or what any piece of content is about. If we had the big picture of all the topics we had to cover, we could build an infrastructure that would enable us to publish content about the things that mattered to our readers, and not the things that mattered to us. It was time to build a taxonomy of pharmacy

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