Tuesday 20 July 2021

Dr Fiona Godlee to step down as The BMJ’s editor-in-chief

Dr Fiona Godlee is stepping down as editor-in-chief of The BMJ at the end of this year, after more than 16 years in the role.

Fiona first joined BMJ as an assistant editor in 1990 and became editor-in-chief in March 2005, the first woman to lead the journal since its inception in 1840. 

Under her editorship, The BMJ has become firmly established as one of the world’s most influential medical journals, defined by its mission to work towards a healthier world for all.

Fiona has overseen impressive growth in The BMJ’s impact and readership. The journal’s impact factor (an official measure of the importance or rank of a journal) has risen from 7 in 2005 to 39.8 today. The BMJ continues to be the most widely read medical magazine in the UK, and in the past five years, worldwide usage on has grown from around 1m unique users per month to nearly 6m. 

The BMJ has also become an investigative campaigner and a powerful force for change, continuously challenging the status quo - from highlighting research fraud and misconduct, campaigning for greater independence from industry influence and tackling the harms of medical excess, to advocating for action on climate change and championing patient and public involvement in research and healthcare.

Most recently, Fiona was instrumental in the UK government’s decision to abandon plans to allow households to mix over Christmas, almost certainly helping to save lives from covid-19.

Her important work during the pandemic was recognised last week when she won Editor of the Year in the prestigious Association of British Science Writers awards. The judges said: “There was nothing more that anyone could ask for the title of Editor of the Year. Vision, creativity, leadership, execution and impact.”

Fiona has also been the editorial director of BMJ, the company, helping it to extend its reputation as a pioneering publisher and champion of open access research. In 2011, BMJ launched what has become one of the world’s largest open access medical journals, BMJ Open. And in 2019, BMJ was a founding partner of medRxiv, the first dedicated preprint server for medical and health sciences.

Today, a third of BMJ’s 70 journals are open access, promoting exchange of ideas and rapid access to knowledge, to improve health and healthcare globally.

Fiona said: “It has been the great privilege and joy of my professional life to work at The BMJ and to help it develop as an international voice for improving the quality of medical research and practice. I’m deeply grateful to everyone I’ve worked with over the years - mentors, colleagues, advisors and contributors around the world, and I’m immensely proud of The BMJ team - there can be no more intelligent, creative and professional group of people. 

“BMJ is heading into a new and exciting phase of its development so it’s the right time for new leadership. Hard though it is to give up something you love, I’ll be leaving the journal in excellent hands. I look forward to exploring new opportunities that continue my interests in improving health and protecting the environment.”

Chris Jones, BMJ’s Chief Executive Officer said: “Fiona has led The BMJ with great energy and integrity and I want to thank her for her dedication and huge contribution to BMJ’s mission of helping to create a healthier world. The pandemic has seen unprecedented interest in what we publish and Fiona has shown extraordinary leadership, compassion, and clarity of thinking during this challenging time.”

He added: “Fiona leaves us at a moment of terrific growth for the journal and the company, as the publishing world adapts to new challenges and embarks on a truly digital future. We will now begin the process of finding the next editor-in-chief”

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, Chair of council at the British Medical Association said: “We’ve been incredibly fortunate to have someone of Fiona’s calibre at the helm of The BMJ for the past 16 years. I’m in no doubt that her commitment to fairness, equality, and quality of care, and her courage in addressing issues such as racism in the NHS, will have a lasting impact for both doctors and patients alike.

“I would especially like to thank her for the incredible support she has given us as a profession throughout the pandemic. On behalf of all BMA members I’d like to wish Fiona all the very best for the future.”



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