Context.— Journal editors are responsible to many publics, and their choices of
articles to publish are a frequent source of dispute.
Objective.— To assess the extent of agreement between topics identified by experts
and by JAMA readers as most important for publication.
Design and Participants.— Modified Delphi process of polling of JAMA Editorial Board members
and senior staff (ie, experts) in 1996, and masked direct mail survey of a
stratified sample of JAMA readers in late 1996 and early 1997.
Main Outcome Measures.— Agreement between experts and readers on the topics most important for JAMA
to deal with in 1997.
Results.— Of 55 experts polled, the 40 respondents (73% response rate) proposed
178 topics. Editing to combine similar topics left 73. The same 55 persons
were asked to stratify all 73 alphabetically arranged topics on a scale of
1 to 5 (85% [47/55] response rate). They were then given the results of this
ballot and asked to vote again (76% [42/55] response rate). Of the 55 experts,
40 attending the annual editorial board meeting were given all results; 39
attendees voted on the final topics. In response to the mail survey, a single
pass of the same 73 topics yielded a response rate of 41.6% (208 returns).
Nonresponders were roughly equivalent to responders demographically. Readers
agreed with the experts on only 3 of the top 10 subjects: managed care, cancer,
Conclusion.— Expert opinion and the opinion of readers as to what JAMA should emphasize