A Tribute to Douglas G. Altman, DSc | Medical Journals and Publishing | JAMA | JAMA Network
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Editor's Note
April 23/30, 2019

A Tribute to Douglas G. Altman, DSc

Author Affiliations
  • 1Phillip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, University of California, San Francisco
  • 2Former Deputy Editor, JAMA
JAMA. 2019;321(16):1621. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.3830

I met Doug Altman 30 years ago at the first Peer Review Congress. Over the next 28 years, Doug and his group became the single most prolific contributors to the Congresses and the science of journal publication. The Congresses led Doug to many collaborations. He and Iain Chalmers had collaborated in work on a meta-analysis that was crucial for the foundation of the Cochrane Collaboration in 1993.

Doug and the BMJ developed a long and fruitful relationship. Doug shared my conviction that much, if not most, clinical research was poorly designed and that journals could do a great deal to correct that. He would prove to be one of the most important influences in my life and one of the wisest and most farsighted of colleagues.

Doug was a powerful force in persuading clinicians and statisticians of the need for guidelines for the reporting of randomized clinical trials. With the formation of the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) group, and the success of their reporting guidelines, a model was established that soon became the standard. The Special Communication in this issue of JAMA is an extension of a revision of the original CONSORT statement.1 Work on CONSORT, particularly with David Moher and Iveta Simera, led to the birth of the Enhancing the Quality and Transparency of Health Research (EQUATOR) Network in 2006, which is an accessible repository of virtually all of the reporting guidelines (eg, MOOSE, STARD, STROBE, PRISMA, SPIRIT) for various types of research. Doug’s work and the work of others, embodied in EQUATOR, has helped to improve the quality of scientific reporting worldwide.

Doug understood that unless clinical research was reported transparently, honestly, and appropriately, it would be useless for patients. He realized that convincing researchers of the need for change, and showing how this change could be accomplished, required worldwide education and energetic cooperation. Doug’s many accomplishments, from statistical theory to changing research practices, have been well documented in an excellent obituary published in the Cochrane Library.2

After receiving his diagnosis, Doug wrote in an email: “The core word is friendship…I’ve realized, as I should have known before, how privileged we are in our line of work to collaborate with so many wonderful people, who rapidly evolve from colleagues to true friends even when we may not see each other often.”

Doug was a giant in an emerging field. We are all the grateful beneficiaries of his intellect, his contributions, his generosity, and, if we were very lucky, his friendship.

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Article Information

Corresponding Author: Drummond Rennie, MD (drummond.rennie@ucsf.edu)

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

Juszczak  E, Altman  DG, Hopewell  S, Schulz  K.  Reporting of multi-arm parallel-group randomized trials: extension of the CONSORT 2010 Statement  [published April 23, 2019].  JAMA. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.3087Google Scholar
Jonathan  JD, Hopewell  S, Moher  D,  et al.  Doug Altman’s legacy to Cochrane and evidence synthesis.  Cochrane Database Sys Rev. 2018;9:ED000127. doi:10.1002/14651858.ED000127Google Scholar