Selected samples of feedback sent to the President of the AMA since the announcement of the sacking of Professor Leeder and the outsourcing to Elsevier.

From: Peter Arnold []
Sent: Sunday, 3 May 2015 3:38 PM
Subject: Re: Message from President about MJA

Dear Brian,

Your letter is precisely what, as a senior Fellow of the Association, I hoped I would not be hearing from you.

The matter has been mismanaged by the AMPCo Board. They are the people who should be sacked, not Leeder and his staff.

Your AMA Board is also missing the wood for the trees! You have, in ignorance of the details of editing and publishing, supported a Board which has acted without considering the views of the Editor-in-Chief, his expert staff and of so many of us who have, for so many years, given so much of our time and effort, gratis, to the MJA.

Nor have you, Mr President, considered the views of your members – the MJA is our journal, not the plaything of this AMPCo Board.

This Board has insulted Stephen Leeder from the start.

What sort of Board does not invite the Editor-in-Chief to Board meetings?

What sort of Board does not tell the Editor-in-Chief of their financial concerns and ask him to suggest whatever changes might be necessary to improve the bottom line?

What sort of Board relies on advice from individuals with a clear conflict of interest, having been previously employed by Elsevier.

What sort of Board fails to consider the likely reaction of the many hundreds of us reviewers who donate so much time to the MJA?

What sort of Board seeks to sully the reputation of the MJA by associating with a company whose ethics have left much to be desired?

What sort of AMA President does not consider what his members might think?

I appeal to you, to avoid the death of the Journal through even more reviewers withdrawing their services, to sack the AMPCo Board, tell Elsevier that the deal is off, appoint a competent administrator to run AMPCo and invite Prof Leeder, his staff and all reviewers to return to the fold.

Unless you do this, you will go down in history as the President who killed off the MJA. It has no hope of succeeding without the support and the free time given by all of us. To give you an idea of how many of us donate our time and effort, I enclose the list from the December issue of the MJA. Do you really expect the 960 of us to donate our time to swell Elsevier’s coffers?

As Oliver Cromwell rightly said, “I beseech you think it possible you may be mistaken.”

And, if you do me the courtesy of replying to this letter, please answer my queries. Please don’t fob me off with vague generalisations.


Peter Arnold


On 5 May 2015, at 10:20 am, President’s Inbox <> wrote:

Ref: D15/3524 & D15/3461

Dear Peter

Thank you for your emails about the Medical Journal of Australia and Prof Stephen Leeder. You have raised specific questions which reflect a particular view of what has transpired at AMPCo which is not accurate.

In answer to your questions:

  1. Prof Leeder has been invited to attend Board meetings to present on the editorial activities of the MJAsince the new board was put in place in mid 2014. He attended periodically, at times for the MJA report and at other times for the entire meeting. In 2015 the Board meeting dates were changed to accommodate Prof Leeder so that he could attend the entire meeting
  2.  The losses incurred by the MJAare well-known to Prof Leeder, having been discussed with him as part of the budget process within AMPCo. Prof Leeder was also provided with each monthly P&L so that he was fully aware of the financial position of the MJA.
  3. The Board undertook a competitive process to identify a preferred provider of production activities. The General Manager is a former employee of Elsevier at its regional office in Singapore. This is not unusual in a small pool of experienced publishing personnel. Ms Redden played no part in the AMPCo Board’s decision-making and is not a member of the AMPCo Board. There was no conflict of interest.
  4.  I am sure the AMPCo Board has the view that reviewers and others have loyalty to the Journal and that most will continue to support it.
  5.  Elsevier plays no part in determining the editorial content of the Journal. Whatever may be the criticism of past action by Elsevier, this matter was explored by the AMPCo Board which was assured that Elsevier changed its processes many years back to ensure that there is no recurrence of the event that has given rise to criticism. Prof Leeder sits on an Elsevier advisory board as does at least one member of the Journal’s editorial advisory committee.

You ask what AMA President does not take account of the views of his members? Of the members who have contacted me the overwhelming majority have supported the actions of the AMPCo Board in the decisions which it has taken. Any negative comment has come primarily from non-members who are associates of Prof Leeder.

Yours sincerely

Brian Owler


From: Peter Arnold []

Sent: Wednesday, 6 May 2015 7:18 PM


Subject: e-mail sent to the Chairman of the Board of AMPCo, Mr Richard Allely, Wednesday 6 May, 2015

Dear Sir,

Not only have I been contributing material to the Medical Journal of Australia for 50 years, but my fifty-second contribution was published in the latest issue.

I have had a close involvement with the MJA for the past almost 30 years. Having been on the AMPCo Board for some years, I am aware of the many problems facing medical journals, in particular the MJA, and have been closely involved with the editors since we called on Stephen Lock, esteemed former editor of the British Medical Journal,  to ‘bail us out’ after Jill Forrest and her associate editor resigned their joint editorship.

The financial/medical dislocation commenced when AMPCo appointed a general manager during Martin van der Weyden’s editorship. This was insulting to him and diminished his authority. It brought a new, unwanted perspective into the business of AMPCo, a perspective focussed on ‘the bottom line’. The intrinsic professional value of the journal was relegated to secondary importance. Not only has this not changed, but its malignant influence has increased. There is no reason why our subscriptions should not subsidise the MJA. I find Dr Owler’s argument in that regard untenable. Having been on the AMA Federal Executive for many years, including four as Chairman, I know that there are many more effective and acceptable ways in which the AMA could save money, rather than interfering with our Journal.

Indeed, I was a member of the Federal AMA Executive which, under Dr Bruce Shepherd’s leadership, and with my understanding of editing and publishing, sacked the previous $$$-oriented Board, one of whose members was Richard Walsh, replacing them with AMA members with an interest in writing and publishing. That achievement has been progressively undone since the appointment of a general manager during Dr van der Weyden’s time.

The very first task I undertook back then was the editing and publishing of the Medical Directory of Australia, which had not been printed for ten years because the $$$-minded Board feared that the content would be copied by others – thus depriving all Australian health care workers of this most useful guide to the profession. I re-designed it and steered it through ten years of paper publication and then assisted when it went on-line. Many is the time when I visited the office to talk with the editors and others involved in the editing and production of both the MJA and the MDA.

I am no outsider to the problems of AMPCo. Indeed, my conversations with Professor Leeder over the past year have included ways of making the journal more topical (‘Comments’ and ‘Rapid Responses’) and more readable (one-page articles with the full text on-line), and of diminishing costs (offering members the choice of on-line access only, with significant savings in printing and postage – as well as the savings in printing and postage from the omission of many printed pages of tables of interest only to specialists in that particular topic).

I relate this to you to indicate that I know whereof I write.

Having “declared my interest”, I am appalled that you and your Board, and the Board of the AMA, have had the effrontery to meddle with OUR journal. This is a journal of all members of the AMA and of the literally thousands of unpaid contributors – many of whom are not members of the AMA, but are eminent researchers and scientists in Medicine and the related sciences – to its success over the past century.

Perhaps you do not appreciate that this journal depends on the goodwill of almost 1,000 unpaid reviewers of good will, of which I have been proud to be one. If you think that the Journal can survive under the aegis of profit-seeking Elsevier, and without the goodwill of these thousand men and women of good faith, you are sorely mistaken.

I call on you, for the sake of the Journal, our Journal, Sir, not yours, though you might have been delegated the task of managing it, to resign your position, and to urge your fellow Board members to do likewise. You have made a disastrous error. The sooner it is undone the better.



Dr Peter Arnold BSc MBBCh BA

Formerly: Chairman, Federal AMA; President AMA(NSW), Deputy President, NSW Medical Board; Deputy President Society of Editors (NSW)

Member MJA Advisory Panel. 1988-2001

Editor, The Medical Directory of Australia, 1990-2000

PO Box 280

Edgecliff NSW 2027

Cc: Many friends of the Journal




Email from a Professor of Medicine

 Date: Wednesday, 6 May 2015 4:37 PM
To:” <>
Subject: Re: MJA Commissioned Article BR.mja15.

Dear Editor,

I regret I am no longer willing to review this book in view of the circumstances surrounding Professor Leeder’s dismissal as Editor in Chief. I am returning it by post. Please also remove me from your list of reviewers. 


1 Comment

  1. “Do you really expect the 960 of us to donate our time to swell Elsevier’s coffers?”
    Well said, and my negative answer is given faster than the results of a google search for “elsevier publishing ethics” = Elsevier ask, preemptively, ‘what is our position on publishing ethics’? Make sure your incontinence aids are handy, because you will wet yourself laughing; their answer is… ”The publication of an article in a peer-reviewed journal is an essential building block in the development of a coherent and respected network of knowledge.” They mean, apparently, as in the Australian Journal of bone and joint surgery, or whatever it was they called it. Talk about barefaced effrontery. You do not need to have asthma to be left breathless and devoid of the power of speech.

Share This