Supa fly

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 51, No. 8, October 2009, Page 332 Editorials

"A good editor’s job is to be a fly in the readers’ nose and make them sneeze.”

I heard this quote at a recent conference of scientific editors I attended. The speaker was talking about editors having the courage to publish controversial viewpoints and less mainstream scientific papers to stimulate and provoke the readership. I am going to keep this in mind during my tenure as editor, and I did have the thought that if everyone gets rhinovirus my reign may be short.

I have never been to a scientific editors’ conference before and found the process interesting and stimulating. I found it particularly fascinating how journals around the world and particularly in the United States decide which manuscripts to publish. Even private, for-profit journals send potential manuscripts to a number of outside peer reviewers who perform this duty for free. Once the reviews are collected the assistant editors and editor-in-chief make final decisions on publication. These journals’ editorial boards act as reviewers and experts in their various fields, often supplying names of other potential reviewers. I was amazed that some well-known journals receive more than 40 manuscripts per day and have acceptance rates for publication as low as 6%.

All of this caused me to reflect on our own Journal and our informal, collegial, yet highly effective system, which has led to us being voted the top provincial medical journal in British Columbia for more than 20 years. Submitted manuscripts, unless they are completely inappropriate, are distributed to the Editorial Board for review. The Editorial Board consists of seven members plus yours truly. The physician Board members have different backgrounds and practise in different areas of medicine. The Editorial Board meets once a month, where the reviewed manuscripts are discussed. General consensus is reached surprisingly easily on papers stamped accepted or rejected, allowing more review time for those manuscripts that require further thought (please revise). I am constantly humbled by the intellect of the Board members and the different perspectives they bring forward. Their thoughtful opinions lead to the improved revised manuscripts that are published in our Journal. Outside reviewers are occasionally sought out if the manuscript’s subject matter doesn’t fall within the Board’s comfort level or expertise. At our monthly meetings, submissions to Personal View and other working parts of the Journal are also discussed. Our fabulous, experienced Journal staff are also in attendance, taking notes and acting as excellent advisors.

At the conference much of the dialogue revolved around bias in peer review, substandard editorial board members, and internal journal conflict. I am glad to say that your Journal remains a happy place devoid of these apparently common problems. Our monthly meetings remain one of my favorite and enjoyable tasks. So now for something controversial—I believe the egg came first.


David R. Richardson, MD. Supa fly. BCMJ, Vol. 51, No. 8, October, 2009, Page(s) 332 - Editorials.

Above is the information needed to cite this article in your paper or presentation. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommends the following citation style, which is the now nearly universally accepted citation style for scientific papers:
Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Caplan AL, Marion DW, Palmer AM, Schiding JK, et al. Solid-organ transplantation in HIV-infected patients. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:284-7.

About the ICMJE and citation styles

The ICMJE is small group of editors of general medical journals who first met informally in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1978 to establish guidelines for the format of manuscripts submitted to their journals. The group became known as the Vancouver Group. Its requirements for manuscripts, including formats for bibliographic references developed by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), were first published in 1979. The Vancouver Group expanded and evolved into the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), which meets annually. The ICMJE created the Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals to help authors and editors create and distribute accurate, clear, easily accessible reports of biomedical studies.

An alternate version of ICMJE style is to additionally list the month an issue number, but since most journals use continuous pagination, the shorter form provides sufficient information to locate the reference. The NLM now lists all authors.

BCMJ standard citation style is a slight modification of the ICMJE/NLM style, as follows:

  • Only the first three authors are listed, followed by "et al."
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For more information on the ICMJE Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals, visit

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