Abandoning print is a retrograde step

The announcement of a new and improved website for The Pharmaceutical Journal must be welcomed (Pharm J 2020;305[7944]:394), but the total abandonment of a print version is a highly damaging and retrograde step for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the profession. Before I am accused of a Luddite attitude and of failing to keep up with the times and current technology, I have to stress that my concerns have more to do with the loss of a physical journal of historical record, and of the damage to our archives and so to future historians of the profession.

Electronic versions are, of course, very accessible, but professional archivists are still debating which electronic records should and should not be kept, in what form they should be kept and how webpages (which are not permanent) should be maintained. As a pharmacist, as well as honorary curator for the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries (which holds 400 years’ worth of pharmacy archives), I am especially concerned that a physical record of the profession’s doings should be maintained. The introduction of the eBook reader has not resulted in the demise of books; the availability of the MP3 audio format comes with the revival of vinyl; and I subscribe to The Times to get print delivered both to my letterbox and to my tablet.

All this is alongside the simple fact that some people prefer to settle down with the current paper version and it surely cannot be beyond the wit of the publishers to maintain such a print version of the PJ for those who wish it. I suspect that we will be told that the project to drop the print version is now too far advanced to be changed, to which I ask the question: do the national Boards and the Assembly wish to see this retrograde policy implemented, or do they have the power to require The Pharmaceutical Journal to offer a print version to those who request it?

Nicholas Wood, past president, Royal Pharmaceutical Society

I am probably not alone in feeling both sadness and dismay at the decision to terminate the print format of The Pharmaceutical Journal from March 2021. To me, the current print journal is preferable as it is tactile; you can pick it up, read a bit, put it down and do the same again as time permits, without having to log in and out every time. Surely such a radical change should have been subjected to a vote of the members of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

David Norris, member, Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Response from Paul Bennett, chief executive, Royal Pharmaceutical Society:

The decision to prioritise the production of content through The Pharmaceutical Journal and to bring an end to the print production of the PJ was carefully considered by the members of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) Assembly. Although the option of continuing a print publication as an opt-in benefit for a subset of members was very carefully considered, this was ultimately dismissed as
it would not release adequate resource to focus on enhancing the PJ’s digital offering.

By removing print as part of the monthly schedule, we will free up capacity within the PJ team to manage the capabilities integral to the new digital platform. In particular, this will free up time for the PJ team to produce great multimedia content, such as PJ Pod (the journal’s new podcast), to diversify further our high-quality editorial content, and bring a new and exciting focus to how we serve our members.

In regard to records, a newspaper or journal can be considered a journal of record in one of two ways: publishing official notices and announcements, and maintaining the highest standards of journalism.
We are totally committed to the PJ continuing to meet both of these important functions for the RPS. Both can be adhered to through print and digital publications.

We have editorial procedures in place to ensure that digital content is maintained, and that any necessary changes are clearly detailed in the statement within an article. In addition to standard journal citation information, we apply a digital object identifier to every journal article we publish. This system involves a unique number that can identify academic, professional and government information.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ January 2021, Vol 306, No 7945;306(7945)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2023.1.171142

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