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Editors' Note: Delivering content practitioners can count on
Last month, editors at both The New England Journal of Medicine and the journal Science were put in the unfortunate position of having to publicly question the validity of data in studies they'd published earlier.
Last month, editors at both The New England Journal of Medicine and the journal Science were put in the unfortunate position of having to publicly question the validity of data in studies they'd published earlier. Any allegations of fraud are yet unproven. Still, such reports shake our confidence in what we read—especially in clinical journals.
Medical journals' safeguards—peer review and the editing process—aren't perfect. Yet both are indispensable to providing reliable medical information. Having outside experts screen papers helps ensure the content's authority and bolsters its accuracy and thoroughness.
At Veterinary Medicine, we ask two or more reviewers to evaluate every paper for suitability, accuracy, and thoroughness. They may recommend we reject a paper outright. Or they may make suggestions on how an author, even the best of authors, can improve a manuscript—perhaps by re-examining data, expanding material that's relevant to general practitioners, updating references (sometimes to include publications only a few days old), providing more details on diagnostic and treatment protocols, or reorganizing to enhance readability. Some papers require only a few changes, while others need substantial revision. Regardless, over and over again we're impressed at the enormous role good reviewers play in assessing the reliability of the information and in improving the paper's overall content.
Members of our Editorial Advisory Board are also important to this process. Besides writing and reviewing papers, they provide guidance. And they suggest relevant topics for us to cover, as do our Practitioner Advisory Board members. For example, we thank board member Dr. Michael H. Riegger for suggesting the topic for this month's Skills Laboratory on calculating the mean electrical axis.
By the time an article is ready for publication in Veterinary Medicine, reviewers, authors, editors, and oftentimes board members have put considerable time and effort into it. But that's what it takes to deliver information that readers can trust and confidently put into immediate clinical use—and that's what we're determined to do.