Creating a new Journal—Seizure

Open ArchivePublished:December 21, 2016DOI:
      1990 was an exciting time for epilepsy. New treatments were becoming available and others were showing promising signs, offering hope of achieving seizure freedom to those not yet seizure free. Advances in medical knowledge seemed to be accelerating and after many years of being in the wilderness, epilepsy was becoming interesting once more.
      Supporting the education and training of professionals and expanding the knowledge base around epilepsy was a logical activity for a charity determined to improve the care and treatment of people with the condition. British Epilepsy Association (BEA) had been doing this in different ways for many years. In 1989 the charity appointed Terry O’Leary as its new Chief Executive. He was keen to capitalise on the new wave of enthusiasm around epilepsy; to push the charity forward and to use its resources to keep the momentum going.
      It was O’Leary who appointed Brian Chappell as BEA’s new Director of Information and Training at the beginning of April 1990. Chappell had already worked for the charity for several years as an Education Officer and was experienced in developing and delivering educational projects for the charity. An early success was his creation of EPDATA, a pan-European data service providing access to 33,000 scientific papers on epilepsy.
      Chappell had often worked closely with Tim Betts, a consultant neuropsychiatrist and Chair of the charity’s trustee board from 1985 to 1991. They had a shared interest in developing education and training opportunities for medical and non-medical professionals. Together they had run the successful Burton Manor training courses and Betts was a frequent speaker at events organised by Chappell.
      Together they noted that there were only two Journals specifically focused on epilepsy—Epilepsia and Epilepsy Research. They concluded that there was scope for at least one more journal. More than that, they wanted something that would reach beyond the obvious readership and contributors and better reflect the diversity of seizures and epilepsy and the wide range of professionals working in the field including nurses, psychologists and social scientists.
      The new journal would have to be different to the others. As Betts put it in his last editorial in April 2004 when describing building Seizures original identity: “…it must be sufficiently like other Journals that people will read it but sufficiently unlike others that it makes its own identity and attracts new readers and new ideas.”
      Seizure 2004; 13: 137–138.
      1Seizure 2004; 13: 137–138.
      Chappell and Betts were clear from the start about their ambition for Seizure. The title of the new journal was not accidental. In his first editorial, Tim Betts explained: “… this journal is not just about epilepsy, but is about seizures in general.”
      Seizure 1992; 1:1–2.
      2Seizure 1992; 1:1–2.
      The journal was set up to be interdisciplinary and clinical aimed at health professionals working in medicine and other areas like psychiatry and psychology. It covered the basic sciences related to epilepsy, the differential diagnosis, natural history and epidemiology of seizures, and the investigation and practical management of epilepsy (including drug treatment, neurosurgery and non-medical and behavioural treatments). It was also intended to reflect the social and psychological burden and impact of epilepsy and the methods and ideas that might help to alleviate the problems these might cause. As well as publishing original peer reviewed papers, Seizure had a wider ambition to stimulate discussion and interest through such things as book reviews, correspondence and review articles.
      Having formulated the concept in 1990, negotiations took place with potential publishers and an agreement was signed between BEA and Bailliere Tindall in August 1991. Tim Betts was appointed as the founding editor and his first task was to put together an editorial board and bring out a first edition.
      The business plan for the journal was calculated on the presumption that it would generate sufficient revenue from advertising and subscriptions to at least cover its costs. Even with a robust financial forecast, the journal required a £100,000 investment from the charity and its publishing partners to get it off the ground and support it during its early years. A special discounted subscription rate was established for BEA’s 200 professional members right from the beginning. This was intended to help boost circulation as well as make membership more attractive. By 1999 the charity’s professional membership had increased to 1100.
      Marketing of the new journal began in September 1991. The first edition was scheduled for publication in March 1992 but in fact it did not appear until May due to a delay in processing the first papers. Despite this initial setback, the journal went on to be published four times in its first year as planned. It also produced a special supplement in September, sponsored by Marion Merrell Dow, to publish the abstracts for the Epilepsy Europe meeting in Glasgow.
      By the end of its first year, Seizure was establishing itself. Tim Betts wrote or co-authored 40% of the content in the first edition but the flow of papers was gradually building after a slow start. Advertising revenues were better than forecast, benefiting from the heightened marketing activity in the pharmaceutical industry and the pipeline of new products coming through. Subscriptions were not as good as had been hoped for, due in part to libraries and academic institutions being limited in their subscription choices, but these slowly picked up in the following years.
      In 1996 Seizure was sub-titled as the ‘European Journal of Epilepsy’. This differentiated it from the other epilepsy journals by giving it a more European identity. In the same year, the journal finally broke even financially. It was never the charity’s intention to create a cash cow, but the money that flowed back to it from Seizure was used to help develop the journal and to support the charity’s other work for the benefit of people with epilepsy.
      Brian Chappell left BEA in July 1993 to follow his interest in professional education by setting up NeuroEducation. Tim Betts continued as editor of Seizure until 2004. He concluded his final editorial in April of that year by saying: “Seizure has survived the early difficult years, has come of age and is established and ready for further change and development, with a secure future.”
      Over the years the purpose and the objectives of Seizure have not changed much since 1992. It remains focused on spreading knowledge about all aspects of epilepsy (and seizures of other types) to improve understanding, knowledge, care and treatment and so to ultimately help to improve the quality of life of people with epilepsy.