Can medical journals lead or must they follow?

Richard Smith
Med J Aust 2005; 183 (11): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2005.tb00072.x
Published online: 5 December 2005

We can put issues on the agenda, but perhaps not achieve reform

For Thomas Wakley, the founder of The Lancet, an important function of his journal was to reform medicine, which he saw as full of incompetence, quackery, corruption, and nepotism. He wanted to reform as well as inform. But can journals reform? Can they lead? Are medical journals important for leadership in medicine? Or is this grandiosity on the part of editors? Aren’t journals there to follow, reflect, and comment rather than to lead?

  • London, United Kingdom.


Competing interests:

Richard Smith was the Editor of the BMJ and the chief executive of the BMJ Publishing Group from 1991 to 2004. He is now a member of the board of the Public Library of Science.

  • 1. Bartrip PWJ. Mirror of medicine: a history of the BMJ. Oxford: British Medical Journal and Clarendon Press, 1990.
  • 2. McCombs ME, Shaw DL. The agenda setting function of mass media. Public Opin Q 1972; 36: 176-187.
  • 3. McCombs ME, Shaw DL. The evolution of agenda-setting research: twenty five years in the marketplace of ideas. J Commun 1993; 43: 58-67.


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