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Am Fam Physician. 2008;78(1):14

Just as physicians attend conferences or continuing medical education programs, journalists and publishing professionals join various organizations and attend conferences to keep up to date on industry trends and to improve their skills. I recently attended the annual meeting of the Council of Science Editors (CSE) in Vancouver, British Columbia, along with Bob Edsall, AFP's editorial director, and two staff members from the Annals of Family Medicine.

The mission of CSE is to promote excellence in the communication of scientific information. Its members include editorial and publishing professionals in a wide variety of disciplines: medicine, mathematics, chemistry, astronomy, physics, nutrition, environment, government, laboratories, and pharmacology, to name a few. The annual meeting is an opportunity to network with professionals in these areas, learn how they overcome publishing challenges, and keep up to date on publishing trends.

The Changing Landscape of Publishing

It had been nine years since I had attended a CSE meeting. At this year's meeting, I realized how much the publishing industry and medical publishing has changed. Nine years ago, online manuscript submission, Web-based peer review, electronic proofing, and paperless workflows were relatively new on the scene. This year, it was clear that most successful publishers are adopting these types of technological advances, and AFP is in the process of implementing many of these. All areas of scientific publishing are experiencing reduced advertising, and therefore reduced revenue, which results in the need to find the most efficiencies in every part of the process—doing more with less.

It is also clear that the rate of change in online publishing is increasing, and all publishing professionals are challenged to keep up with the latest trends. Some of the most interesting sessions at this year's meeting included discussions on what some people call Web 2.0, and even Web 3.0. What do those terms mean? Unfortunately, there are no clear definitions, but online publishing is moving from posting static pages online to a much more interactive, intuitive, and dynamic relationship between the publisher and the reader. Among all the technical jargon (such as blog, peering, wiki, Squidoo, Drupal, Ning, permalink, and Skype), we managed to come away from the CSE meeting with new ideas, which we will further evaluate toward the goal of making your AFP online experience as valuable as possible.

Other Publishing Challenges

In addition to online trends, publishers, especially medical publishers, are struggling with issues related to online advertising, conflict of interest, disclosure, ghostwriting, and authorship. We monitor trends and guidelines from the CSE, the World Association of Medical Editors, the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, as well as the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education. Although some issues relate more to journals that publish original research, many also affect AFP. Our goal is to publish the most up-to-date yet unbiased information available. We also strive to make the publishing experience rewarding and satisfying for our authors.

Obtaining Reader Feedback

I attended an interesting session called “Listening to Our Readers,” where the speakers discussed several aspects of reader surveys. At AFP, we are genuinely interested in what our readers think and how we can improve the print and online versions of the journal. This session gave us some new insight into what to ask readers, how to ask it, how to interpret the results, and how to put the data to work for positive change. We will be incorporating some of this into our next reader survey. When the next survey is announced, I encourage you to complete it so that your voice is heard. Also remember that you can mail in a comment card or send an e-mail to We do read each and every card and e-mail.

Reader Satisfaction Is Our Ultimate Goal

Attending conferences like the CSE annual meeting, reading various publications, and monitoring online resources are all ways we use to stay up to date on publishing trends and issues. The ultimate goal is to keep AFP the most valuable resource available for our readers.

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Copyright © 2008 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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