I was pleased to see in your April issue a feature looking back on the 175 years of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) (
The Pharmaceutical Journal 2016;296:245).
With your new format for The Pharmaceutical Journal, I had initial concerns that your role as a journal of record, and by extension of history, was being sidelined. I was gratified therefore to see this review of the Society’s history, along with the recent confirmation (
The Pharmaceutical Journal 2015:295:474) that the RPS remains committed, through its museum and archive, to remain the guardian of pharmacy’s long heritage.
There are, however, two areas that I would urge upon you if The Pharmaceutical
Journal is to fulfil its function as the journal of record for the profession. One is in the area of obituaries, where I notice, you have widened your reports to non-pharmacists who have made significant contributions to medicine. Although this is appropriate and to be welcomed, it seems to be at the expense of some prominent pharmacists who have sadly passed on. For the latter, The Pharmaceutical Journal now seems to rely solely on the tributes paid by contributors rather than their own archives and analysis for an obituary, the flaw in that arrangement being that it relies on those contributors who may or may not write in, and then perhaps incompletely.
The second issue, and in some ways related, is that there is little reporting of the meetings of the assembly and boards explaining how they come to policy decisions, how their members influenced those decisions and the arguments those individuals made. We do not, of course, want to go back to the days of turgid verbatim reports, but for the benefit of historians in 50 or 100 years’ time, The
Journal should be reporting on the thinking behind important policy decisions and, indeed, who did that thinking and their contribution to the profession.
Nicholas L Wood
Former RPS president
Arash Hejazi, publisher of Pharmaceutical Journal Publications, responds:
Thank you for your letter and for your constructive feedback and comments on how we can make The Pharmaceutical Journal better.
You raised concerns about obituaries and how our strategy may have been at the cost of prominent pharmacists who have sadly passed on. We have two article types in this respect. One is an ‘obituary’ in the opinion section, which is an account of the life and work of an individual who made an outstanding contribution either to pharmaceutical science or pharmacy practice. The seminal work of such people continues to influence the world today. These people may be pharmacists or from other science or healthcare disciplines, but their efforts should have had a major influence in drug discovery or pharmacy practice. The other article type is our death announcements, which are dedicated to reporting of the deaths of members of the RPS. They are factual and, as a journal of record, important. Tributes are open to people who have known the deceased and wish to pay tribute to them. Although each member of the Society is of ultimate importance to us, unfortunately, The Pharmaceutical Journal does not have sufficient resources to investigate the lives and achievements of all members, unless they are reported by their peers, which we welcome. At the same time, I understand the Society is developing plans for a portal for members, meaning that information about individual members and their achievements, where within scope, can be disseminated.
The second issue you have raised is reporting of the meetings of the Assembly and boards. Our various surveys among members have shown that the majority of members are not interested in reading long meeting reports. The Pharmaceutical Journal reports on the key decisions the boards make, and the RPS also publishes the outcomes. Reporting of all meetings in a journalistic way will require significant resources and, as you rightly state, verbatim reporting is something that is outside the scope of the journal. However, the RPS is planning to dedicate a space on www.rpharms.com as a repository for board meeting reports, to which members of the RPS will have access.
Unfortunately, there seems to be an ongoing ambiguity between the function of The Pharmaceutical Journal and the RPS website and other communication channels. Many of these requirements fall outside the scope of a journal’s definition and within the scope of RPS’s online platform and other communication channels. The good news is that both us in The
Pharmaceutical Journal team and our colleagues in other departments of the RPS are aware of this ambiguity and, in the new digital platform for the RPS, many of these communication ambiguities will be addressed.