In England, you learn to talk, and shortly thereafter, to answer the question, “What will you be when you grow up?” For better or worse, kids soon set a goal, be it fireman, footballer, or pharmacologist. My brother planned to be a horse, one of the few aims he didn’t achieve. The UK education system plays into this – from around age 14 students begin to specialize. I studied English Literature at Cambridge University. I didn’t major in English Literature, I read English Literature for my BA, and nothing else.
After graduating, I entered a field related, arguably, to Literature – journalism; specifically, BBC TV news. I learned editing, news writing and film-making, and met Paul McCartney and Phil Collins. I then married (not Paul or Phil, but Gerassimakis) and moved to Greece for a year before my husband took a research post at Harvard in 1987. For over 10 years, I freelanced as a writer, but after my three boys were born, I wanted a change, a career with meaning, and a five figure income. For the usual reasons – personal obstacles met with inadequate answers – lactation attracted me. I became an IBCLC in 1999, gained my MPH in 2006, and my PhD from Cambridge in 2010. During this time I moved away from the purely clinical into teaching and my grown up passion – research.
My vision for JHL emerges from this mottled background in science and journalism. I believe excellent research and accessibility can be – indeed, must be – compatible. Research is fun – exciting – an endless creative torrent of new information pouring from the pages to readers thirsting for knowledge. Writers and editors must make this knowledge accessible for practicing clinicians and personal enlightenment. At JHL, I will strive to increase clarity and readability of research, reduce restrictive jargon, and battle against – yes – the distancing drone of the passive voice. The first rule of good writing is to make the reader read it. Why are so many academic journals hard to read and, frankly, so boring?
Before the purists run screaming for the archives, I don’t advocate sacrificing quality for over-simplification. Specific terminology is critical and beautiful, nothing beats clarity of meaning in excellent writing. Indeed some of our breastfeeding terminology could use a dose of epidemiologic precision. As more than one epidemiologist has asked me, what do you mean by a breastfeeding rate?
With all this in mind, changes I hope to bring to JHL will include some revamping of writers’ guidelines. We will print longer, structured abstracts, and shorter articles. We will feature student research, expert round tables, and regular themed issues, the first of which will focus on the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, in August 2012. Editorially speaking, Donna Chapman, RD, PhD, will remain as Associate Editor; Supriya Mehta, MHS, PhD, (Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Chicago School of Public Health) will join us as Methods Editor. We will create an International Advisory Board to involve proactive non-US researchers, and subject area Assistant Editors to reach more expert reviewers in the ever growing field of lactation research.
A field, it seems, that failed thus far to nourish my English family. When I announced my new position, my brother shook his sadly depleted mane and said, “the Journal of What?” I proceed undaunted, despite my healthily humbling British roots. Touring SAGE Publications back in June, I was delighted to discover so many strange people like myself – ex newspaper editors polishing scientific tables; ex lab technicians crunching data and deadlines. I had found what I grew up to be. I hope my platform of readable research will serve ILCA members well for many years to come.
Anne Merewood PhD, MPH, IBCLC
Incoming JHL Editor