Domhnall MacAuley: On being an editor

Domhnall MacauleyWhy be a medical editor? Pippa Smart, with whom I run a course for medical editors, asked me recently if she could reproduce something I had written. As a strong advocate of open access—free access and unrestricted reuse—I had no hesitation in saying yes. I wrote this paragraph in 2010 to be included in “Why should I be an editor” materials for the Qatar Foundation. See what you think:

“Editing a journal you can change the world. Your editorials may challenge current thinking, your review articles can change current practice, your analysis pieces might fire people’s curiosity, and imagination, and your research add to the body of knowledge. It is a privilege, a pleasure, but also a responsibility. Few of us have the opportunity to influence the way people think. With a medical journal, you don’t just publish, report, and communicate, you can help doctors make better decisions, improve healthcare for patients, and in your own way, make the world a better place.”

And, on my walk from the tube station to the BMJ, I pass a window at the back of the Wellcome Trust building where there is a large sign that says, “What gets us out of bed in the morning? It’s the thrill of discovering something totally new.” As an editor we may not discover anything new, but we help communicate it—and that can be just as exciting.

Idealist, naive, misguided, or delusional, I still love it.

Domhnall MacAuley is primary care editor, BMJ.