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Changing of the guard at Occupational and Environmental Medicine
  1. Malcolm R Sim, Editor-in-Chief
  1. Correspondence to Professor Malcolm R Sim, Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, VIC 3004, Australia; malcolm.sim{at}monash.edu

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This is my first editorial since being appointed as the Editor-in-Chief of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (OEM), taking over from the previous editor, Dana Loomis. Lesley Rushton, a long-time member of the OEM editors’ group, has taken over from me as Deputy Editor. Under Dana's time as editor over the past 5 years, OEM has gone from strength to strength, recording its highest ever Impact Factor of 3.64 and publishing a series of commentaries on key papers from the journal's archives. Dana also played a pivotal role in enhancing the scientific quality of the original articles published in OEM, and we will miss his wise counsel on methodological issues and other aspects of the journal's development.

This changeover of the editorial team provides a useful opportunity to reflect on the past achievements of OEM and to consider the future direction of the journal. OEM has had a long and illustrious history in identifying many occupational and environmental causes of disease and injury since it began as the British Journal of Industrial Medicine (BJIM) in 1944. Many of the key papers have been highlighted in a series of commentaries, which have been published over the past few years.1 Many of these OEM papers have played a major role in developing exposure guidelines and helping to shape policy and practice to reduce the burden of such diseases in the workplace and in the general community. Research that identifies and quantifies risk from occupational and environmental hazards will, therefore, continue to be an important area of content matter to be published in OEM in the future.

An important question being asked by policy makers and practitioners today is: ‘Which interventions work?’ To address this, we would like to publish more papers which demonstrate the effectiveness or otherwise of proposed interventions to reduce disease and injury related to workplace factors and the environment. To this end we have already introduced a ‘Cochrane Corner’ in OEM to highlight the important work of the Cochrane Collaboration OSH Review Group.2 With an increasing number of Cochrane reviews being undertaken, we plan to publish more of these Cochrane Corner papers, as well as more systematic reviews relating to interventions to help guide policy and practice in the future. We would also like to encourage the submission of more articles on occupational health services, to promote more evidence-based practice in this field, in line with other fields of healthcare.3

Since changing from the BJIM to OEM almost 20 years ago, environmental health papers have become an increasingly important part of the journal's content, but despite this, only about 15% of the original articles published in OEM are related to environmental health topics. Given the high scientific and public interest in this research field, we are keen to increase the amount of environmental health content. We also recognise that many of the world's occupational and environmental health problems are becoming more concentrated in newly industrialising countries in Asia, South America, Africa and Eastern Europe, and we would like to promote more journal content from those parts of the world.

Of course, a journal such as OEM should not be just a collection of original research articles, but should also highlight emerging occupational and environmental health issues, and promote debate among researchers, policy makers and practitioners. To address this, we are taking steps to increase the number of commentaries on our published papers to highlight the broader aspects of the research findings and implications for better control of workplace and environmental hazards in the future. Editorials also play an important role in scientific debate, and we plan to commission more of these from key figures in the field on emerging and/or controversial issues.4

The Impact Factor for OEM, after a steady increase up until 2009, has stabilised over the past few years, although there was an increase from 3.02 in 2011 to 3.21 in 2012. OEM needs to keep working on the quality and relevance of the papers it publishes to maintain an upward trend in citations and the Impact Factor, as this is a key aspect of a journal which researchers consider when deciding where to send their papers. The journal's Impact Factor is only one measure of impact of a journal, and OEM is one of the most influential international journals in the field of occupational and environmental health. We intend to continue to publish high quality papers of real relevance to practitioners and policy makers to assist them in controlling occupational and environmental health hazards.

The landscape in which medical and scientific journals operates is constantly evolving, and there is an increasing range of information technologies available which can help disseminate findings to far greater audiences than can be achieved through the traditional print form of a journal. OEM, using the extensive communication resources available through its parent journal; the British Medical Journal, is planning to make better use of modern communication technologies to extend the reach of its influence and expand its impact on a global scale. The use of such technologies will also help to facilitate two-way communication, so that OEM can receive feedback from our authors and readers.

We will be making some changes to the operations of the journal, including the editorial board structure of OEM. We plan to broaden input to the strategic direction of the journal by involving more leaders in research, practice and policy making in the occupational and environmental health fields, as well as key professional bodies. This will help to ensure relevance of the content in OEM to a broader audience internationally.

The major target of the fledgling journal in 1944 was the factory medical officer in the UK. In the very first editorial of the journal in that year, the author expressed the hope that the journal would, in time, associate with representatives of industrial medicine in the ‘dominions’ (an old term for Australia and other far-flung parts of the British Empire at that time) and the USA.5 This hope has now been realised, in part, by consecutive editors being appointed from those two parts of the world. More importantly, OEM has become a truly international journal that publishes papers and influences practice around the world, not just among factory doctors, but among the full gamut of stakeholders seeking to reduce the disease burden from occupational and environmental hazards. The new editors of OEM look forward to your continued involvement with the journal as it enters its next exciting stage of development.

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Footnotes

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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