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December 2014


Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts
  • 3Editor, JAMA Psychiatry
JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;71(12):1321-1322. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.2282

It is with mixed emotions that I announce my retirement as editor of JAMA Psychiatry, effective with this December 2014 issue. It has been an honor to serve as the editor over the last 13 years and to be entrusted to carry on the tradition of scientific excellence and integrity established by the prior editors of the Archives of General Psychiatry. In this regard, I have believed that the mission of the journal is to serve as the repository of the most important research in the field of psychiatry writ broadly: clinical trials, epidemiology, health services and policy, genetics, imaging, postmortem studies, neuroendocrinology, and cognitive and affective neuroscience. I have also believed that the sources of the research and the audience for the journal should not be limited by national boundaries. Thus, the journal, which a decade ago published a smattering of non-US articles, now has a decidedly international scope with more than half of the articles and reviewers from outside the United States.

However, being editor does present its challenges: a steady and unremitting flow of manuscripts, which has increased nearly 2.5-fold during my tenure; the competitive necessity of a rapid turnaround of review decisions and fast publication (now less than 3 months from acceptance to electronic publication); and the increasing complexity and sophistication of the research methods. The requirements to be more topical with Viewpoints, to foster dialogue with Letters to the Editor, and to “translate” arcane science for the general reader with invited Editorials have transformed the position of the editor from that of being simply an “umpire” to that of being an impresario.

Nevertheless, the position has brought great rewards, not the least of which are being the first to see transformative research advances in psychiatry and being the first to shape its scientific agenda by the choice of articles that we publish. I am also gratified by the generosity of the research community in providing honest, thoughtful, and constructive reviews and the submitting authors, who very rarely react negatively to the harsh reality of a 90% rejection rate.

The landscape of scientific publishing has also changed radically during the period that I have been editor. When I became editor of the Archives of General Psychiatry in 2002, my first purchase was several 5-ft–long, 3-tiered file cabinets to store the manuscripts and all the correspondence. Currently, all transactions (manuscripts, reviews, and correspondence) are performed and stored electronically. Historically, the Archives of General Psychiatry was notorious for taking months to process manuscript reviews and make editorial decisions. Now, more than 90% of the submissions receive a decision within 21 days, and of these, more than half receive a decision within 3 days. Also, the venues for publishing psychiatric research have changed markedly with the ascendance of Molecular Psychiatry, with the change in orientation of the American Journal of Psychiatry, and with the appearance of Translational Psychiatry, BMC Psychiatry, and Lancet Psychiatry. I have viewed these journals not so much as competitors but rather as fellow proponents, providing opportunities for researchers and clinicians alike to speak to readers with different, albeit overlapping, interests.

Under my watch, all review assignments and editorial decisions were made by me in council with the deputy editor to ensure consistency and balance for a journal attempting to cover the entire panorama of psychiatric research. I have been blessed with 2 superb deputy editors: previously Stephan Heckers, MD, at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and currently Dost Öngür, MD, PhD, at Harvard Medical School/McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. Art and Images in Psychiatry, written monthly by James Harris, MD, has been the feature that has garnered the most unsolicited praise. Jim regularly amazed me with his creativity, brilliant insights, and eloquence in linking art to psychiatry. Peter Siekmeier, MD, MSc, has brought his abundant computer skills to bear on developing a first-rate website for the journal. The members of the editorial board, composed almost entirely of members of the Institute of Medicine, with 2 members also at the National Academy of Science, generously provided their wisdom in helping me resolve tough editorial decisions. I could not have undertaken the editorship without the herculean efforts of my first editorial assistant, Fran MacNeil. Fran, a very proper and formal woman, originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, nevertheless had a great sense of humor that made the drudgery of chasing reviewers and authors a tolerable task. After Fran’s untimely death from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Deborah Johnson has ably filled this position.

I especially want to thank Cathy DeAngelis, MD, the previous editor in chief at JAMA, for selecting me to be editor of the Archives of General Psychiatry 14 years ago. She also was an inspiration to me in her successful battle against corrupt scientific publishing by getting major journals to require disclosure of financial conflicts of interest and prior registration of clinical trials. I also wish to thank Howard Bauchner, MD, the current editor in chief of JAMA, for allowing me to continue as editor during the transition to JAMA Psychiatry, which, as I noted in 2 editorials, strengthens the linkages between the rest of medicine and psychiatry.1,2 Finally, a very special thanks to my wife, Genevieve, who tolerated my “affair” with a journal that intruded on our time together at home and on vacation.

I welcome Stephan Heckers, MD, as the new editor of JAMA Psychiatry. Stephan is the Chairman and Professor of Psychiatry at Vanderbilt University, a former deputy editor of the Archives of General Psychiatry, and an internationally recognized researcher in the area of brain imaging. I can rest easy, knowing that the journal is in excellent hands.

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Article Information

Corresponding Author: Joseph T. Coyle, MD, McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School, 115 Mill St, Belmont, MA 02478 (joseph_coyle@hms.harvard.edu).

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

Coyle  JT.  Changing to JAMA PsychiatryArch Gen Psychiatry. 2012;69(7):661.PubMedArticle
Coyle  JT.  Much more than a name change. JAMA Psychiatry. 2013;70(1):8.PubMedArticle