Soon after the foundation of the EFMC, much attention was given to the question of whether its own flagship journal should be started. Traditionally there have been European scientific journals in most of the important modern languages, but the communities served by several of these languages could (and still can) be too small for viability. In Europe, English, French and German have long been the leading languages for sciences. As a case in point, the Royal Netherlands Chemical Society has for many years published its journal under the title “Receuil des travaux chimiques des Pays Bas”. With regard to medicinal chemistry, there have been journals in French (Chimie Therapeutique), Italian (Il Farmaco) and German (Archives der Pharmazie). All these journals faced severe competition from the well established Journal of Medicinal Chemistry (JMC) published by the American Chemical Society. It is not generally known anymore that the JMC was started – as the Journal of Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Chemistry – in Europe (more precisely the UK), by Arnold Beckett. Subsequently this British journal was sold to the ACS, becoming ultimately a very successful medium for the field.
In the early 1970s discussions were initiated to explore the possibility of transferring the French journal Chimica Therapeutica, published by the Societé de la Chimie Therapeutique (SCT), into a European journal, for which the EFMC would take responsibility. A major point of discussion with the SCT and especially the editor of the journal, Claude Combet Farnoux, concerned the language to be applied for the papers. Originally the journal had accepted English and German alongside French, these three languages being listed in an alphabetical order! Each paper had to be published together with abstracts in all three languages. Starting with the first issue of 1976, the French journal was renamed as the European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry (EJMC) and published “under the sponsorship of the EFMC’, although the responsible publisher remained the SCT. The new journal received the permission to use the logo which had been designed for the 4th ISMC, held in 1974 in Noordwijkerhout, the Netherlands. Gradually this ” pharmaceutical snake represented as a benzene ring” was used as the official logo of the entire EFMC.
Despite the efforts of all parties concerned, the success of the newly named journal was rather limited and the American JMC remained the leading journal in the field, both for the quality of the papers and the volume of the issues. Gradually there was much dissatisfaction within the EFMC about the performance of the EJMC and eventually the sponsorship of the EFMC was withdrawn from the journal. In the meantime the Societé de la Chimie Therapeutique had sold the journal to a commercial publisher in France.
In the late 1980s Elsevier Science Publishers became the owner of the journal after having acquired the publisher of the EJMC, and approached the EFMC with the request to explore possibilities to take over responsibility for their journal. The executive committee of the EFMC entered into serious discussions with Elsevier and in principle an agreement was reached. However, only hours before the announcement of the “new life”, including also a new editor, Elsevier had to withdraw from the proposed changes, being put under pressure by the SCT which finally and unexpectedly had decided it did not accept the agreed construction. As a consequence no changes took place, and the status of the journal remained as it had been. Not long thereafter the ACS decided to appoint a European Regional Editor (Povl Krosgaard Larsson from Denmark), alongside the editor in chief of its JMC. This action by the ACS became very successful for the position of the American journal in Europe.
During the early years of the 21st century the EFMC’s executive committee realized once again that it is was an odd situation the EFMC did not have its “own” journal and the existing European journal had only a limited impact. An attempt was made to approach Elsevier, which in the meantime had started new successful journals, such as Bioorganic Medicinal Chemistry, Bioorganic Medicinal Chemistry Letters, and Drug Discovery Today, to make a link between EFMC and Bioorganic Medicinal Chemistry Letters, but Elsevier had reasons to decline the proposal, suggesting instead to re-opening the discussions of the early 1990s regarding an involvement of the EFMC in the EJMC.
During the same years, the scenario changed considerably. Indeed, 14 National chemical societies founded ChemPubSoc Europe, an organization resulting from the amalgamation of several chemical journals owned by national societies into a few, high-quality European journals, published by Wiley. This had an impact also for medicinal chemistry, since ChemMedChem rapidly became a leading journal in the field. Another publisher, Bentham, had appeared in those years in the market with several medicinal chemistry related periodicals, covering both primary science and review journals.
EFMC was therefore in the somewhat fortunate situation of starting negotiations with these publishers to evaluate the possibility of formal links with one these leading journals. However, for several reasons, these negotiations did not lead to a formal agreement. Finally, in spring 2009 the Royal Society of Chemistry approached the EFMC to jointly launch a new journal, MedChemComm, which will be the official journal of EFMC. With RSC, being itself a learned society, an agreement could be reached and the Council approved the proposal in June 2009 in Budapest. MedChemComm publishes concise articles and reviews and the first issue is expected to be ready for the forthcoming ISMC XXIst in Brussels.
By Henk Timmerman
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