I write in response to your recent coverage of The New England Journal of Medicine’s role in disseminating new medical knowledge and best practices (“Sheen dims at esteemed journal of medicine”). Having published in dozens of medical journals, including online, open-access journals, I have found the New England Journal to be consistently at the forefront in the quality of its reviews; in its diligence and expertise in ensuring that information is accurate, unbiased, and presented in a manner that makes it useful to its readers; and in its effectiveness in communicating results in a manner that rapidly changes medical practice for the better.
The journal played an important role in ensuring that investigators register their research in a public research database and, more recently, with other journals, in proposing a requirement that authors proactively create mechanisms for sharing research data.
Sharing of research data is a complex topic, especially when the data are obtained from medical records. We have important work as a society to set an appropriate balance that allows us to learn from medical practice while respecting individuals' privacy. The New England Journal is playing an active role in advancing a national discussion about how to set that balance.
The writer chairs the department of population medicine at Harvard Medical School and is executive director of the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute.