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Celebrating 40 years of In Practice
  1. Stephen Baines, Clinical Editor

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With the publication of this issue, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of In Practice. This represents over 300 issues of the journal and nearly 3000 articles.

In Practice was started as a result of a desire by the BVA to include educational content as part of its publication output, in addition to the information contained in its original, and considerably older, sister journal The Veterinary Record.

The first issue of In Practice was published in January 1979 and contained four articles: Skin Diseases of the Dog and Cat Transmissible to Man by Keith Thoday; Collecting Specimens for Virus Disease Diagnosis by Paul Gibbs; Abortion in Sheep by Karl Linklater; and a self-assessment quiz on Contagious Equine Metritis. That’s quite a range of topics across different species, and In Practice has remained true to this goal over the years.

I have been involved with the journal for many years as a reader, author, reviewer, member of the editorial board and clinical editor.

I first encountered the journal when I entered my clinical years at the University of Cambridge in 1987, where it became my go-to source of additional information on topics I was being taught, or for conditions I encountered when seeing practice. Articles were commonly flagged up as further reading by lecturers. I have fond memories of seeing clinical pathology articles pinned to the wall of practice laboratories for reference, and useful practical articles being kept in filing cabinets to help with less commonly performed procedures.

In Practice continues to be a great source of information for me. There is a natural tendency for clinicians to become focused on their own speciality or particular interest, but, thanks to my editorial work with In Practice, I know considerably more about equine, farm animal and exotic animal medicine than I otherwise would. One of the benefits of a veterinary degree is the wide-ranging multi-species education with a consideration of the importance of comparative medicine at its heart, and In Practice supports this. I am not considering a career change, but I know where I would turn if I were!

The journal has undergone a number of changes over the past 40 years. We have had four clinical editors – James ‘Jimmy’ Armour, Dixon Gunn, Ken Urquhart and myself – and a larger number of editorial board members, supported by an active publication team.

The In Practice management section, covering all areas of practice management and business, was introduced in 1992. In 1995, the first Partner Ponders column, which later became ‘A Practitioner Ponders’, was published and these columns continue to be just as amusing today. Ethical dilemmas were included and discussed in a new Everyday Ethics section in 2006, which has proved very popular with the readership.

Since joining BMJ in 2009, there have been a number of changes, including a move to an online platform for the submission and review process, a more robust peer-review procedure and a redesign of all the BVA’s journals.

We have undergone several redesigns to keep the journal modern and up to date, have increased the number of articles published per issue, and have introduced supplements as collections of articles on a related topic – many of our top-read articles were those published in our 2016 supplement on otitis externa in dogs, with the number one top-read article, Tim Nuttall’s ‘Successful management of otitis externa’, receiving over 44,000 views.

More recently, Veterinary Record Open and Veterinary Record Case Reports have joined the BVA publications list, but In Practice has kept its position as the main provider of clinical continuing education.

This journal has also kept pace with changes in practice. New diseases, new diagnostic methods (particularly diagnostic imaging), and new medical and surgical therapies have ensured a constant output of articles. The rise in importance of exotic species has increased the number of articles in this field. Changes in the pig and poultry industries has resulted in fewer articles dealing with mainstream problems, but an increased number of articles to help the practitioner faced with the smallhold or backyard animal.

While we have tended to present information of interest to the general practitioner, progress in veterinary medicine and an increased move to develop specific interests, achieve further qualifications and to specialise has resulted in some articles that are more specialised and in-depth. These remain educational and aspirational articles, if not of instant relevance, to every reader.

However, in many respects, In Practice has changed relatively little. We have remained true to our goals of producing well-illustrated, peer-reviewed, opinionated reviews on all aspects of veterinary medicine containing practical information relevant to vets in practice. In Practice refers to what may be achievable in practice as well as where the target audience works.

In independent surveys of vets in general practice, this journal is consistently regarded at the most popular source of continuing education articles. It is also the journal that is most commonly read from cover to cover, reinforcing the fact that we appear to get it right with our broad range of topics. Just as importantly, the journals, particularly In Practice, are cited as the number one member benefit for joining the BVA.

It remains only to express our sincere thanks to previous editors, current and previous members of the editorial board and editorial staff. Thanks are also due to readers, authors and reviewers who have supported the journal over the years. It has been a privilege to serve In Practice as a member of the editorial board and clinical editor over the past years. It has been interesting and educational, and it’s also been a lot of fun. Here’s to another 40 years.

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