JAMA Firing Reverberates

Science  05 Feb 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5403, pp. 787d
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5403.787d

The dismissal of a popular editor at The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has triggered an outpouring of indignation. But as the rhetoric heats up, the search for a new JAMA editor is gearing up, too.

On 16 January, AMA executive E. Ratcliffe Anderson sacked George Lundberg for allegedly injecting the journal into presidential politics by rushing into print an analysis of a 1991 college sex survey. The paper, published on 20 January, said most undergraduates didn't regard oral sex as “having sex.”

Other medical publications have since rallied to Lundberg's defense. The British Medical Journal's Web site (http://www.bmj.com/) has drawn dozens of e-mail messages labeling the sacking as everything from “tragic” and “disgraceful” to “barefaced censorship.” Among the few defenders of Anderson's action is an Indian anesthesiologist who pointed out that the information in the sex paper is “dated.”

In the 3 February issue, the JAMA editorial board affirms its commitment to editorial independence and says its members “strongly disagree” with the decision. Lancet editor Richard Horton went further, declaring in his journal's 23 January issue that “JAMA is no longer part of a free press.”

The principals in the fray are staying mum. Meanwhile, the AMA announced last week the creation of a committee to find a new JAMA editor. The panel, headed by Roger Rosenberg, editor of the Archives of Neurology, includes Science Editor-in-Chief Floyd Bloom.

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