Posted on February 17, 2012 at 6:24 AM
To the readers of bioethics.net, the bioethics community, and the general public:
As our publisher, Taylor and Francis, has announced, Glenn McGee has stepped down at Editor-in-Chief of AJOB. Upon making the decision to take a position in the private sector, Glenn made a recommendation to the publisher that one of us (David Magnus, co-Editor of AJOB), be promoted to Editor in Chief. He agreed, but only on the condition that Summer Johnson McGee, then Executive Editor of AJOB, be made the co-Editor-in-Chief with him. It took some time to persuade Taylor and Francis to release Glenn from his editorial contract and to work out details with its new editors regarding the transition plan. Thus the agreement was reached that on March 1st, 2012 Glenn would complete his contractual obligations and step down from AJOB, and from November, as Taylor & Francis has noted, Glenn has served only in an advisory capacity. The timetable was moved up and we took over our new roles beginning Feb. 13th, 2012.
In the intervening time since this agreement was reached in January, there have been questions raised about one of the new editors in chief (Summer) regarding nepotism and conflict of interest. As to the first, David has made very clear that he would only serve as Editor in Chief if Summer agreed to be Editor in Chief along with him. Glenn did not suggest and played no role in the selection of Summer as Editor in Chief. That invitation was made by David and the contract was offered by Taylor and Francis.
As to the second, there is no question that editors of AJOB will have conflicts of interest. As the World Association of Medical Editors policy on conflict of interest states, “Everyone has COIs of some sort.” The question is how one can properly disclose and also deal responsibly with management of conflict of interest. It has specifically been claimed that Summer, insofar as she is married to Glenn, has an unmanageable conflict of interest as Co-Editor-in-Chief in virtue of her husband’s working in the private sector, or because he works in the area of stem cells. We strongly disagree. We have also consulted with numerous experts in COI in bioethics as to how best to follow WAME policy, which states in pertinent part that “Editors should not make any editorial decisions or be involved in the editorial process if they have or a close family member has a COI (financial or otherwise) in a particular manuscript submitted to their journal.” AJOB has a conflict of interest policy. Determination of whether an editorial decision involves a COI will be handled, as is delineated in AJOB’s 2002 policy on conflict of interest, by a committee comprised of members of our Editorial Board. We have agreed that this committee, previously an ad hoc committee, will be reconstituted as a standing committee along side a handful of other new committees we will create as part of our Editorial Board.
Third, we are adding two new Associate Editors to the AJOB Editorial Office. This will broaden the base of review and ensure that the content expertise that Glenn had is covered in our editorial group. We have no idea what our new Associate Editors’ spouses do or for whom they work, nor the work affiliations of the members of our editorial board. But of course a possible COI could arise. Should any personal relationships held by any of our editors suggest a conflict of interest, they will recuse themselves from review for that manuscript. This has always been our practice and policy and we will continue with this plan.
In recognition of Glenn’s role in creating and nurturing the Journal, Glenn is to be acknowledged on the masthead as the Founding Editor in Chief. In no sense is this a designation meant to imply a role in the running or operations of the journal. Glenn formally requested to retire from editorship, and his contract has expired, and thus he does not have any role regarding the content of the journal. Likewise he will play no role in what has been called the AJOB “Family of Journals,” and the notion of an Editor in Chief of the “Family” has been discontinued, resulting in the promotion of the Editors of AJOB Primary Research and AJOB Neuroscience to Editors in Chief of those respective journals.
We appreciate the advice and support of the several experts in conflict of interest and the many Editorial Board members who have helped us to clearly articulate both old and new policy, and to respond to the misinformation and gossip that has unfortunately circled the transition.
We are also very grateful for the hard work and commitment to AJOB of all of our Editorial Board members the many emails of support over the past week. We will work hard to make sure that AJOB continues to function and perform to the high standards it has always met.
David Magnus, PhD
Director, Center for Biomedical Ethics
Thomas A. Raffin Professor of Medicine and Biomedical Ethics and Professor of Pediatrics
Summer Johnson McGee, PhD
Graduate Faculty, Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics and Health Policy,
Loyola University Chicago