19 March 2007

FT referees war between medical journals

When The Lancet came out against its owner's trade in arms fairs, it seemed like a possible case of biting the hand that feeds you. But now, in Spat erupts between medical journals the Financial Times reports that the BMJ, "the former British Medical Journal," has called on researchers to boycott The Lancet.

As you would expect, the FT refrains from taking sides. It is up to others to decide if Reed Elsevier's small income from the unsavoury activity, "a little more than 0.5 per cent of its total annual sales of £5.2bn last year," says the FT, is any less palatable than the BMJ's income "largely from pharmaceutical industry advertising".

The odd thing is that The Lancet set the ball rolling back in September 2005, but only now has the BMJ weighed in. Perhaps they were responding to the recent piece on The Guardian's blogfest.

Now we have the item pasted all over the BMJ's home page. This has a link to the editorial in question.

You will have to buy access to the article, if you do not have it already. You can, though, for the time being at least, read the "rapid response" slot to the editorial. At last count, the comments were two to one against the BMJ's stand.

As Christopher E Nancollas, a GP from Gloucester, puts it

You write "The BMJ has no wish to see the Lancet diminished." Well, you could have fooled me. Calling for contributors to boycott the Lancet will lead to its closure, which would almost certainly benefit the BMJ. Is there a hint of self interest dressed up as moral outrage in this article?
This one could run and run. But there is still little sign of action on the part of other publications the Reed Elsevier roster.

Declaration of interest: I hold a few shares in Reed Elsevier, from the days when I worked for them. Now they just pay my pension.

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