From a career in GP academia to editing the BJGP
Professor Roger Jones, a former GP and professor of primary care at King’s College London, describes his role at the helm of the RCGP’s medical journal
Professor Roger Jones
Role: Editor, British Journal of General Practice, emeritus professor of general practice at King’s College London and former GP in Lambeth, south London (retired 2010)
Location: RCGP head office, central London
What are your main tasks as editor in an average week?
My central task at the BJGP is to deal with the 500 or so original research papers we are sent each year. I have to decide whether they merit peer review and, if so, who to send them to. I then have to decide, on the basis of the reviews, whether they are priorities for publication, and plan future editions of the journal. As well as this, I give lectures and run workshops on publishing, peer review and publication ethics around the UK and abroad.
What is the best thing about your role?
The constant stimulation of reading research papers, plus opinion pieces, letters and reviews each week. It’s a great way of keeping up to date as well.
What is most challenging in your role?
Two things really. One is making finely balanced decisions about accepting or rejecting manuscripts, recognising what is at stake for the authors. The other is providing constructive feedback to authors of opinion pieces, as well as the research papers – trying to encourage better writing and spot new talent.
What is the most common assumption GPs make about your role?
That I am infallible.
How much are you paid for this work?
I’m paid on a sessional basis, seven sessions a week.
What is the hardest thing about combining this with a career as a GP?
I was lucky to get this job after I retired from clinical practice – I worked as a GP in south London until 2010. I edited another journal, Family Practice, for several years while I was a GP (I was also a professor at King’s College London for 17 years), so fitting it in at the end of the day and at weekends was really difficult. A lot of significant journals are still run by editors working part-time, and relying on support from their institutions.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
The redesign and restructuring of the BJGP, which I think is now an excellent publication combining research, news, politics and debate in a unique way.
What is your worst habit?
Somebody once said that every successful person needs a touch of OCD – I have, perhaps, more than a touch.
What have you given up to have a career as a GP?
I almost started reading English at Oxford, so I suppose I could have ended up doing something completely different.
The one trait you most deplore in your colleagues?
If you hadn’t been a GP, what would you like to have done for a living?
I would have loved to have edited a newspaper or a periodical, and now wouldn’t mind trying my hand as a restaurant critic.
How much are you motivated by money?
Not much at all – you certainly don’t go into academic medicine for the money, although there are compensations. I have been fortunate to have seen the world while lecturing, examining and advising.
What makes you angry?
Pointless bureaucracy, negativity, lack of imagination and laziness.
What was the best thing about being a GP?
I can still remember how good it felt to see someone leaving the surgery feeling better about themselves than when they came in. And realising how grateful people are for a health service based on respect, commitment and caring.
And the worst?
Lack of time, but I got out before the bureaucracy really started to hit.