MJA names open access campaigner to replace Professor Nick Talley

By Geir O'Rourke

14 Sep 2022

Queensland University of Technology academic and open access research campaigner Professor Virginia (Ginny) Barbour has been named the next editor-in-chief at the MJA, becoming the seventh woman to lead the journal in 108 years.

Best known as one of the three founding editors of PLOS Medicine, Professor Barbour was appointed following a lengthy search for a replacement for Professor Nicholas Talley, who announced his resignation six months ago.

She will take over from Professor Talley in late January 2023.

Commenting on the appointment, Professor Barbour said she had been attracted by the heritage and history of the journal but broadening access would be a key priority.

“I’m very much looking forward to leading the MJA in these exciting and important times for medical publishing,” Professor Barbour said.

“My predominant professional interest is improving scholarly communication, through increasing access to research for medical practitioners, researchers and the wider public, and enhancing the integrity, quality and reproducibility of the scholarly literature.”

The announcement follows some upheaval at the MJA, which published its final print edition in June last year, a move the journal said was about reducing waste as well as cost.

Professor Talley said it had been a privilege to lead the journal, citing his work to reduce publishing turnaround times and deliver international collaborations as two highlights from his seven years in role.

He also restored the journal’s standing following the controversy which surrounded the firing of his predecessor Professor Stephen Leeder back in 2015 for speaking out publicly against the board’s decision to outsource some production, copyediting and administrative work to the publishing house Elsevier.

This also prompted the resignation of two deputy editors and all but one member of the 20-person editorial advisory committee. From 2019, the journal was published by Wiley, while the editorial advisory committee was also under Professor Talley’s editorship.

Described as the Queen of Open Access by the BMJ in 2018, Professor Barbour trained in the UK, completing a DPhil on globin gene regulation at Oxford University in 1996.

She then spent five years as a senior editor at The Lancet before going on to become a founding editor of the open access journal PLOS Medicine in 2004 and was later editorial director of PLOS for biology and medicine.

Other roles include chair of COPE (2012-2017), chair of the Cochrane Library oversight committee and a seat on the NMHRC’s research quality steering committee.

She now works as co-lead of the Office for Scholarly Communications at Queensland University of Technology and is director of the Australasian Open Access Strategy Group.

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