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BMJ editor in chief becomes UM professor

BMJ editor in chief becomes UM professor

MAASTRICHT. Fiona Godlee, editor in chief of the top medical journal BMJ (British Medical Journal), will become a professor at Maastricht University. The chair was set up by the national research school CaRe, of which the Maastricht institute Caphri is a part. “I think our PhD candidates now have a greater chance of writing a top publication.”

The chair is a “real boost for education to young researchers,” says UM professor Onno van Schayck, also scientific director of CaRe. Because that is one of the objectives of research school CaRe, comprising university institutes from Amsterdam (VU), Utrecht, Nijmegen and Maastricht (overall coordinator). Its research area consists of primary health care and public health.

“Godlee, a GP herself, is a great lecturer,” says Van Schayck. “She is unparalleled when it comes to initiating PhD candidates in the art of publication. Not just in BMJ but also in similar journals such as The Lancet and JAMA. Dutch research into primary health care, according to Godlee, is trend-setting in the world but nevertheless does not often end up in top journals. Sometimes the problem is the accompanying letter, which may not be clear or formulated unattractively. Another problem may be the answers to review comments. These can be awkward or completely miss the point, but you still have to respond wisely.”

Godlee, who will not be paid for the chair, will hold her inaugural speech on 19 May. She will give a presentation or a master class twice a year at one of the CaRe institutes. Not just about publishing but also about scientific integrity.

Godlee already gave a master class for CaRe last year. That was when the editor in chief voiced her doubts about the present publication culture. “I could imagine a better system, where all studies are published in open databases, including the setup, all raw data and findings. All researchers, but also businesses, could then analyse or reproduce the results. In such a system, the journals would play a different role. Selecting instead of publishing. Journals would then write about the studies that are most praiseworthy.”

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