Role of The Pharmaceutical Journal

Nick Wood, a past president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, has complained at the current policy of the The Pharmaceutical Journal in relation to publication of obituaries and governing body reports (The 
Pharmaceutical Journal 206;296:295). The publisher, in response, has indicated, with regard to obituaries, that it is people who have made outstanding contributions to pharmaceutical science or practice who will be noticed, whether pharmacists or not, and that members of the Society will be covered by tributes sent in by readers. The 
Pharmaceutical Journal does not have sufficient resources to investigate the lives and achievements of all members, he avers.

That is a questionable approach. Such people as the eminent clinical pharmacologist Andrew Herxheimer, who had a page devoted to him in a recent issue, will feature in the obituary columns of a number of publications, whereas that will almost never be the case with eminent pharmacists. If The Pharmaceutical Journal does not give them a decent death notice, no publication will. A recent notable omission was Ron Alcock, who developed the Doncaster-based Weldricks chain.

As to the necessary resources, The Pharmaceutical Journal always used to have them. In my day, we had an extensive series of box files rather morbidly called “the morgue”. Contemporary cuttings and other information about pharmacists of note were inserted on a regular basis and when a well known pharmacist died a trip to the morgue would produce an abundance of material. I have no reason to believe that that is not still the case.

In relation to reporting on governing bodies, the publisher says that the majority of members are not interested in long meeting reports. However, the pharmacy profession is a broad church. If The Pharmaceutical Journal only published what the majority wanted it would be a slim publication indeed. In my day, a significant number of members welcomed such meeting reports. They were also valued by historians because they included details of the reasoning that led to important decisions.

When I worked on The Pharmaceutical Journal, we saw our principal target audience as members of the Society as it then was (i.e. all practising and retired pharmacists in Britain). Judging by the content today, that is no longer the case.

Incidentally, the journal never published verbatim reports, turgid or otherwise, as Mr Wood implies. We used to publish summarised reports of Council meetings, using verbatim transcripts as a source material.

By the way, if a publisher had sought to explain editorial policy in my day it would have been over my dead body.

Douglas Simpson


The Pharmaceutical Journal 1987–2000

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, June 2016, Vol 296, No 7890;296(7890):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2016.20201265

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