- EditorialNews About the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
Oxford University Press (OUP), the publisher of the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, has informed us that the recent Covid-19 crisis has hastened a plan they have been discussing for some time: to transition the journal to an online-only format. The plan had been to make this change during 2021, but the pandemic moved the timeline up such that the last print issue was the last one published (April 2020). This decision was made primarily to reflect the reality of how readers are using journal content in the days of internet access. The vast majority of users are accessing individual articles online through subscriptions (either individual or institutional). It does not appear that a transition to an online-only version of the journal will change the way that most people read it. The online-only presence of the journal will not change our rigorous peer-review process, nor the value of the journal to the history of medicine community.
When our editorial board learned of the decision by OUP, we had a searching and thoughtful discussion about ensuring the permanence of the journal articles over time. As historians, we know only too well that trends in media storage do not necessarily endure (e.g., Betamax video tapes!). We also discussed our visceral reaction to eliminating paper in favor of data streams, a storage mechanism that feels innately temporary. We agreed that the board would continue, with the assistance of the Fulton Associates, to discuss ways in which we might ensure that enduring copies of the journal's content are preserved for future generations of historians.
On the positive side, the online version of the journal will allow us to do some creative things that are not possible with the rigid structure of print editions. We can create virtual issues that will group similar content to make it easier for scholars looking into particular topics to locate material. We can also do more with OUP's strategies to increase reader engagement and enhance the visibility of the journal and the authors who publish in it. Readers can subscribe to table of contents alerts from the journal, and of [End Page 243] course the online publications of articles will continue to count for promotion purposes for authors.
While the crisis of the global Covid-19 pandemic has challenged us all in ways too numerous to mention, it has also highlighted the value of the history of medicine. Our histories provide tools to critically view the past and assess the present. In the coming years we will continue to publish histories that illuminate areas previously unexplored, new analyses of better known stories, insights into questions and problems that remain (or are newly) relevant, and examples and methods to help us educate trainees in the health sciences in general, as well as in history. We have some exciting special issues planned, and we continue to receive outstanding contributions from scholars in many areas.
In the coming months and years, I want to especially invite contributions that highlight stories of recovery or response to disaster. We know that historians' stories about past pandemics or public health challenges have been invaluable to the public and to health analysts who are trying to make plans for the present. Histories of recovery may not only help our readers but also ourselves as scholars to engage with stories that inspire us. We do not know how the Covid-19 story is going to end, but we have access to stories from the past that will help illuminate the pitfalls and promises of what we might expect going forward. [End Page 244]