The views of the Steering Committee of Friends of the MJA
The Steering Committee has carefully considered all the information available (as now posted on this website) and come to the following views:
- The decisions taken by the Chairman and Board of AMPCo were ill-considered, ill-judged and not in the best interests of the MJA, the membership of the AMA, the Australian medical profession and Australian medical researchers.
- These decisions might reflect the lack of relevant knowledge and experience of medical publishing of the small Board of AMPCo; three of the four members were new appointees in 2014 and none has any experience of medical publishing. [One Board member has been the author of three medical journal articles, one in 1996 and the others in 2014.]
- The situation needs to be remedied by;
- The AMPCo Board members accepting that they were out of their depth in making these decisions and offering their resignations; and
- Reversing the decision to outsource production of the Medical Journal of Australia to Elsevier Publishing; and
- The Editor-in-Chief being reinstated; and
- The AMA conducting an independent external examination of the sacking of the Editor-in-Chief and the future of the MJA and the AMPCo Board. The examination panel should include persons of the calibre of a past Editor of a national medical journal and a past Chair of a Board of Management of such a journal. To provide transparency and restore the confidence of AMA members and MJA readers, the report from the panel must be made public.
In detail, we have formed these views based on several observations, including:
- We do not accept that the Board had sufficient knowledge and experience of medical journal publishing to conduct what they call ‘due diligence’ into the companies to which production might be outsourced. The acceptance of reassurances from representatives of Elsevier appears naïve and ill-judged.
- It shows lack of knowledge to compare and equate medical association-owned journals such as the MJA (and by extension the British Medical Journal, New England Journal Medicine, Canadian Medical Association Journal and New Zealand Medical Journal) with specialist medical and surgical journals. The MJA has a broad role including, apart from reporting original research, publishing editorials, opinions, medical news, clinical reviews, career advice and letters in a current and timely manner.
- The decision arrived at by the AMPCo Board indicates a unwillingness, or insufficient understanding, to appreciate and seriously consider the detailed and thoughtful submissions put to it by its own Editor-in-Chief and its senior MJA staff.
- The failure of the Board to allow the Editor-in-Chief the opportunity to adopt those cost-cutting and revenue-enhancing measures that he and his editorial colleagues considered could help alleviate AMPCo’s financial predicament.
- The abrupt dismissal of an Editor-in-Chief, and its manner, indicates arrogance and disrespect, as well as a failure to truly appreciate the steady improvements made to the MJA over the last 18 months, a feature which many regular readers have remarked upon.
- The curious opinion of the President of the AMA that members’ subscriptions should not be applied to the current extent for the production and distribution of the Association’s own journal, the MJA.
We suspect, but are unable to confirm, that the Board of the AMA (who are the sole owners of AMPCo) were not consulted over these actions and only learned of them after the event.