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Progress report
  1. R C Spiller, Editor

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While March may seem an odd month for an end of year report, it is only now in January when I write this report that all the statistics for 2003 are available. This is our first full year of web based electronic submissions and, as expected, we have seen a substantial rise in manuscript submissions, up from approximately 1500 in 2002 to 1977 in 2003. It is very much to the credit of my hard working associate editors that, in spite of this 32% increase, the average time to first decision for all manuscripts is 29 days, one day less than the average in the previous year. The time to first decision for reviewed papers has also fallen from 41 to 39 days. We have worked hard to increase the efficiency of manuscript handling and have engaged the additional support of three specialist editors, Professors Columbel, Dusheika, and Lerch, to help with manuscripts which lie outside our current field of expertise. Skilled and impartial reviewers who have the time to perform this service are regrettably in short supply. An inevitable consequence of the increased submissions is the need for a rapid filter to exclude those unlikely to make the grade and so avoid exhausting our reviewers unnecessarily. We realise that this ”reject without review” option causes some concern and must emphasise that our aim is to be fair to all our authors. No “reject without review” is done casually but only after careful consideration by the associate editors and editor. We recognise that these are a source of great disappointment but we also recognise that the most aggravating aspect of the review process is prolonged delays over decisions with ultimate rejections, when a prompt rejection would have allowed resubmission and acceptance by a journal with less pressure on its space.

Our manuscripts come from all over the world. The most significant contributors being, in order of manuscript numbers, the UK, Japan, Germany, France, USA, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, and China. Once accepted, all authors are keen for rapid publication and by keeping our acceptance rate low we are steadily reducing the time lag between acceptance and publication, which is currently less than four months.

Choosing highlights of the year is inevitably a difficult matter. The editor’s choice has included articles on the mechanisms of oncogenesis in Barrett’s oesophagus,1 adenovirus delivery of interleukin 10 as treatment for colitis,2 and evidence of prolonged immune activation in post-infective irritable bowel syndrome.3 We also published a controversial article about the effect of eradication of Helicobacter pylori on plasma ghrelin4 and the effect of a ghrelin antagonist on weight gain in mice.5 Other key articles covered the importance of genetics in gastro-oesophageal reflux,6 a novel treatment for pruritis ani with capsacin,7 and the value of second look endoscopy in the management of bleeding peptic ulcer. The year ended with several important articles on colon9 and gastric cancer,10 a selection which I hope gives some flavour of the wide range of articles published.

Our “Recent advances in basic science/clinical practice” series is now beginning to come on stream and we hope that our readers will find them of value. This year should also see a steady stream of “GI snapshots”. Reading scientific articles is often hard work and somewhat passive, and I feel our readers need a brief respite, which involves some interaction. The GI snapshots are designed to both fascinate and stimulate the diagnostic skills by forcing readers to make a decision. They all have some serious teaching point to make and are not just rarities, although some are most unusual. So far we have had some fascinating and instructive cases. Please keep them coming.

Our next big development will be the online “Gut tutorials”, a new CME approved educational series providing a combination of a review on an important topic together with case based interactive learning run from the Gut website. Alastair Forbes, Dean of St Marks Academic Institute, Harrow, London, will be the series editor and we hope to start later this year. Finally, I would like to express my sincere thanks to all our office staff and associate editors, particularly the two retiring associate editors, Professors John Atherton and David Adams, who have contributed so much over the last four years. We continue to strive to serve both our authors and readers and would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have contributed to the journal in the last year, particularly our unsung hero’s, the reviewers.