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The realm of neurology—past, present and future
  1. Matthew C Kiernan
  1. Correspondence to Professor M C Kiernan, Neuroscience Research Australia, Barker Street, Randwick, Sydney, NSW 2031, Australia; m.kiernan{at}

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There would be nothing more satisfying than re-reading a manifesto formulated in youth to find that almost everything hoped for had come to fruition. For the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry's foundation editor, Samuel Alexander Kinnier Wilson (figure 1), the sense of achievement must have been monumental. In addition to his brilliant career as a neurologist, as acknowledged by the proposal of Nobel Laureates Sir Charles Sherrington and Lord Adrian for his admission to the Fellowship of the Royal Society,1 Kinnier Wilson was the driving force behind the establishment of JNNP.

Figure 1

SA Kinnier Wilson, Foundation Editor of the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

The first volume of JNNP (originally published as the Journal of Neurology and Psychopathology) was launched in 1920 with a commentary by Kinnier Wilson entitled ‘The realm of neurology.’2 In colourful prose, consistent with his flamboyant style,3 Kinnier Wilson incorporated serious discussion concerning the choice of a career as a neurologist. While developing his explanation he commented:

‘The nervous system still stands at the very core, the hub, of ever-widening theoretical and practical interests. More than ever must the neurologist be a man of culture and of aspiration….who can see his subject whole, and appreciate contributions from whosoever they come.’

This progressive and insightful observation is even more valid today as the world tends towards a globalised village. Distance and culture present fewer barriers than ever to Kinnier Wilson's ‘realm’. The aim of today's clinical neuroscientist is to discover and implement the research published in these pages, by garnering both theoretical and practical approaches (whatever their origins), rather than simply operating at a technical level. This conglomeration of experiences and approaches remains in stark contrast with the majority of subspecialties across the larger medical and surgical landscape where many of the mechanisms are already largely solved. The neurosciences, in contrast, still pose the question: will we ever truly know or understand every machination of the human mind?

Similarly, very few current journals capably boast coverage across the entire spectrum of the clinical neurosciences, whereas JNNP remains a fitting legacy for Kinnier Wilson's aspirations and in further keeping with his inclusive philosophy, JNNP maintains an ambition to publish the most ground breaking and cutting edge research from across the globe.

Presently, JNNP remains the only journal that ranks in the highest tier across the individual specialties of neurology, neurosurgery and psychiatry. This ranking traverses all forms of journal metrics, from impact factors through to eigenfactors, with the latter considered a more robust approach that applies weightings to the journal in which citations were derived. However, it is the journal's scientific content in relation to the clinical neurosciences that remains the key focus. Clinical impact, rather than merely simple metrics, remains the cornerstone of JNNP. As such, the current high standing of the journal is further supported by an immense archive collection, built up over almost a century, with the longest citation half life of any journal across the clinical neurosciences. In other words, the original manuscripts, as published in JNNP, are not only citation classics but continue to be regularly cited in the current literature, further serving to reinforce the fact that JNNP is a neuroscience trail blazer, not merely a follower.

And so there is indeed pleasure in re-reading the editorial that appeared in the January 2010 issue of JNNP to see how the journal has evolved in 12 short months.4 This period has witnessed rolling changes, from cover design, simple formatting and topic categorisation through to critical issues related to manuscript processing and publication. Accepted manuscripts are now provided early online publication, with the launch of regular podcasts incorporating interviews with authors as selected for the journal's monthly Patient Choice and Editor Choice. These selected manuscripts are also freely downloadable from the journal's website. Aligned with rapid online publication, the average time from manuscript submission to acceptance has been pared down to 29 days. The further popularity of the journal is evident in manuscript submission numbers which have increased to 3000 per year

So as we make these advances and look to the future, our manifesto remains the same: to build on the great foundations of that original JNNP spirit while constantly evolving to reinforce the journal's reach and relevance. True to the purpose of the journal and in line with Kinnier Wilson's ‘aspirational neurologist’, the overarching goal stands fast—to provide new understanding and practical solutions to the world's neuroscientific conundrums, the ultimate goal always being to improve patients' lives.



  • Competing interests Matthew Kiernan is Editor-in-Chief of JNNP.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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