Background: The quality of biomedical reporting is guided by statements of several organizations. Although not all journals adhere to these guidelines, those that do demonstrate "editorial leadership" in their author community. To investigate a possible relationship between editorial leadership and journal quality, research journals from two European countries, one Anglophone and one non-Anglophone, were studied and compared. Quality was measured on a panel of bibliometric parameters while editorial leadership was evaluated from journals' instructions to authors.
Methodology/principal findings: The study considered all 76 Italian journals indexed in Medline and 76 randomly chosen UK journals; only journals both edited and published in these countries were studied. Compared to UK journals, Italian journals published fewer papers (median, 60 vs. 93; p = 0.006), less often had online archives (43 vs. 74; p<0.001) and had lower median values of impact factor (1.2 vs. 2.7, p<0.001) and SCImago journal rank (0.09 vs. 0.25, p<0.001). Regarding editorial leadership, Italian journals less frequently required manuscripts to specify competing interests (p<0.001), authors' contributions (p = 0.005), funding (p<0.001), informed consent (p<0.001), ethics committee review (p<0.001). No Italian journal adhered to COPE or the CONSORT and QUOROM statements nor required clinical trial registration, while these characteristics were observed in 15%-43% of UK journals (p<0.001). At multiple regression, editorial leadership predicted 37.1%-49.9% of the variance in journal quality defined by citation statistics (p<0.0001); confounding variables inherent to a cross-cultural comparison had a relatively small contribution, explaining an additional 6.2%-13.8% of the variance.
Conclusions/significance: Journals from Italy scored worse for quality and editorial leadership than did their UK counterparts. Editorial leadership predicted quality for the entire set of journals. Greater appreciation of international initiatives to improve biomedical reporting may help low-quality journals achieve higher status.