About us | About Scoope | Contact us
Scopelogo
 
google

 
  
 Sponsor Links
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
INTERVIEWS  
Archive - by Month
Archive - by Title
 

Knowledgespeak Exclusive -- An interview with Mr.Peter Ashman, Publisher, Nature Clinical Practice. - 17 Aug 2006

Q

When Nature Publishing Group (NPG) assigned you the responsibility of developing Nature Clinical Practice (NCP) , back in 2003, what were your key priorities? What were the critical challenges that you faced, as you prepared for these launches? Are you pleased with the progress that you have been able to make, as far as these priorities are concerned?

A

I believe that launching medical journals with a brand that is as influential and prestigious as Nature has to be the most exciting challenge that any STM publisher could face. The most fundamental issue we had to address was that, with so many medical journals already available, why would NPG want to launch more? We have an incredibly successful program of Nature-branded journals for the science community as well as a society publishing division that continues to attract some of the world's most prestigious academic and scientific journals. Why should we take the strategic and financial risk of moving the Nature brand into the medical community?

For me, that fundamental question of the crowded medical market answered itself as we developed the NCP editorial concept. Yes, doctors have information overload - so how can they identify what original research is important, what is relevant to their practice and, critically how can they interpret the original research to improve patient care? NCP addresses these questions - we scan over 360 journals to filter the original research, we highlight the articles that are most important and relevant to practicing clinicians and then explain how the research impacts on patient care. We're not competing with the original research journals - what we're doing is complementing them by helping clinicians identify and understand the research that's most relevant to them and their patients.

The key priorities for any Nature-branded journal are editorial quality, timeliness and relevance. We know that, if we are to be taken seriously as a medical publisher, we have to offer high-quality, accessible content. We felt that, in order to achieve this, we needed to work with the world's leading specialists. So each NCP journal has an external Editor-in-Chief and Advisory Board who take an active part in developing the content of the journal - our in-house editorial team work closely with these specialists and call on their knowledge, influence and expertise to help ensure the relevance, quality and accessibility of the content.

I'm not going to pretend that launching new journals into a crowded market has been the easiest job in the world! But NPG is a company that takes the long-term view and our ambitions are exceptionally high. Our first priority was to attract high quality in-house editorial staff - our editorial team now extends to over 40 people - finding that many quality editorial staff was tough but we did it. Then we needed to approach our hit-list of Editors-in-Chief. We met them and explained the NCP editorial concept and outlined our ambitions for the journals. This was a gratifying experience - to go to the world's top medical specialists and have them confirm that there is a need for an NCP journal in their field made us realise that we were heading in the right direction. The Editors-in-Chief and the Advisory Boards play a vital role in the success of the journals. You would be hard pushed to find a more prestigious and influential group of Editors-in-Chief, Advisory Board and authors.

All the NCP editorial content is invited - in the early days, one of the biggest challenges was persuading leading authors to write for a journal that didn't exist and for a publisher that had no track record in medical publishing. Then we had the challenge of finding people to rigorously peer-review the submitted articles. This resulted in some very stressful times and late nights for our in-house editorial team. As the journals became more established this challenge became easier.

Alongside this, we had the challenge of building awareness of the journals in the marketplace and with industry. One thing that has helped us make great strides in this is by working with medical societies. The European School of Oncology gives a subscription to NCP Oncology to all their ESO Masterclass alumni and we're delighted that four of the NCP journals are now Official Publications of major medical societies and I expect that all eight journals will be adopted by societies in the coming months. Again this has been a very rewarding experience - to have leading societies such as the American College of Gastroenterology, International Society of Nephrology, World Heart Federation and International Society of Endocrinology not only endorse our journals but adopt them as official publications and offer them as a member benefit is to me a ringing endorsement of the importance and relevance of the NCP series. These society partnerships also dovetail strategically with NPG's society publishing division.

So yes, despite the challenges that any publisher would face under these circumstances, I'm delighted with progress to date.


Q

Within a short span of one year (from fall 2004 to fall 2005), Nature Clinical Practice (NCP) had launched eight new medical journals. Can you comment on the objective behind this aggressive approach, given the backdrop that there are no new journal launches being planned for the year 2006?

A

Our objective is for NPG to be as influential and prestigious a medical publisher as we are a scientific publisher. We could have dipped our toe in the water by launching one journal to see how well it fared but we felt that we had an excellent editorial concept and that, if we were to be taken seriously, we needed to show our commitment to our new communities. NPG has the vision, resources and commitment to achieve our long-term goals so we decided to go for a very aggressive launch program of monthly print and online journals. Eight journals in a year is a tough call (!) so we decided to make 2006 a year of consolidation where we can continue to establish the NCP journals and undertake research to see how they're being received. But we haven't finished growing our medical portfolio - in 2006 we've launched dissectmedicine.com (our participatory medical news site), and we've launched a new company, Macmillan Medical Communications which provides a range of med comms services and look for an expansion of the NCP series in due course!


Q

Can you list the major abstracting and indexing resources under which NCP’s journals have been indexed for inclusion?

A

Yes we have been accepted by all the major A&I services - particularly gratifying is that all journals were accepted onto Medline/PubMed after just 4 issues - some journals wait for years before being accepted and many never achieve it - so we take this as a compliment to the quality and relevance of our content. We are also indexed by EMBASE/Excerpta Medica, ISI Web of Knowledge (Science Citation Index Expanded), Current Contents/Clinical Medicine, CINAHL, CAB Abstracts and CAS.


Q

How do you ensure editorial quality while writing technically complex interpretations of key research developments (in the medical publishing domain)?

A

As I've mentioned, editorial quality is the key driver of any Nature-branded journal. The Editors-in-Chief and Advisory Board play an active role in helping us ensure that the quality of our content and we have been delighted with the quality of our authors. But the in-house editorial team is what makes the difference. An enormous amount of time goes into scoping out an article idea before we invite someone to write for us. Then when the article is submitted it undergoes heavy developmental editing before going out to rigorous peer-review. Once accepted, the article undergoes stringent in-house copy-editing which ensures accessibility for our readers. Our editorial processes add an enormous amount of value to our content.


Q

Do you take any specific steps to ensure that NCP journals score high on impact factors? Please elaborate.

A

I'm going to be radical here and say that Impact Factor is much less important to us than people might think. Yes IFs are a measure of perceived comparative editorial quality - but for NCP we're much more interested in whether or not our target readership of clinicians find the journals relevant and help them improve the way they treat their patients. The first NCP Impact factors will be published in June 2008 and I'm sure that they'll be impressive but these journals are written primarily for doctors in practice.


Q

Can you comment on the user response for the mobile services feature that NCP launched in 2005? Do you plan to enhance the functional features in the near term?

A

We felt that it was important to offer a PDA version of our journals as an additional benefit to our subscribers and to librarians and the feedback to this has been positive. As for new developments, NPG has invested heavily into Podcasting and the first NCP podcast will be published in September in partnership with the World Heart Federation. I expect podcasting to be an important communication channel for the journals over the next year. Also, from January 2007 selected NCP content will be available online ahead of print which will help to increase the all-important timeliness of the journals.


Q

What according to you are the unique characteristics of the medical publishing industry, when compared to the scientific publishing industry? Given these unique characteristics, what are the major challenges that you foresee for publishers like NCP in the near term? How well is NCP geared to tackle these challenges?

A

We knew that scientists and doctors access their information in different ways and have different expectations of their reading material. In the recent clinician focus groups that we held, all respondents said that they only spend around an hour or so per week reading medical journals and that online access to medical journals was not that important to them. This was quite a shock to us and may not be truly reflective of the broader picture (particularly as the NCP journals we launched in November 2004 each have over 65000 people signed up to received our electronic table of contents) but it reinforced to me the need to provide doctors with easily accessible relevant information in a variety of channels. The amount of medical information available is only going to grow so the challenge for any medical publisher is to ensure that the information they provide is accessible and relevant whilst adapting to new technologies. As I've mentioned, NCP is well set up to tackle these challenges - we have the vision, resources and commitment to offer the global medical community the best available medical information.


For banner ads click here