Re: BioMed Central and new publishing models

From: Barry Markovitz <markovitz_at_KIDS.WUSTL.EDU>
Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2000 16:07:43 -0600

Michael Jacobson (Hi Michael! - we all did get your message by the
way...) suggests that BioMed Central is a commercial
pharmaceutical/biotech subversive attempt to "get biased research
'published.'" As Stevan has pointed out so eloquently repeatedly, we
must keep separate in our minds the service of peer review and the
product of the "journal." If the community of
scientists/clinicians/scholars trusts the peer review process and the
editorial leadership, who is helping pay for the formatting and
presentation of the work should not influence our trust of the
results. How different will an online archival/journal resource that
is supported by industry funding be from JAMA or the New England
Journal of Medicine, which no doubt derive substantial portions of
their revenue from pharmaceutical companies? And certainly we have
seen examples of biased/illicit research that finds itself on the
pages of even these two respected journals. Furthermore, we have seen
in one year what happens to editorial leadership of such journals
when trust -(in one case of the editor's trust of the sponsoring
organization and the other the trust of the organization of the
editor) - erodes.

At least in clinical medical journals and circles, we have grown
accustomed (rightly or wrongly) to industry sponsorship of so much
around us - our journals, our meetings, our visiting professorships!
Until all the libraries and universities are able to shift their
subscription costs to supporting new models, such as author payment
for publication charges, having industry sponsorship of intermediate
solutions may not be so bad. We are taught to be suspicious and keep
our guard up. I believe that the processes introduced by
evidence-based medicine can only help in this regard....

As far as BioMed Central competing with the expensive, rarely cited
journals - I say bravo. If even a minority of these esoteric journals
were eliminated, allowing free access via the net to the results that
would have appeared in them, this can only benefit the community.
Less "Tower of Babelism" with thousands of disconnected journals that
cost too much to access and more organized, connected, freely
available results in front of the eyeballs of the people that need it
the most. (But don't make authors transfer copyright and therefore
repeat all the evils of the print past...) I do think it might well
take a generation to fully transfer trust from the top tier journals,
and it is certainly "risky" to submit to an unproven entity. So let's
give it a chance to prove itself - put together a top notch editorial
board and peer reviewers, and get the buy-in from the NLM and NIH (as
Michael points out). We might be surprised at how rapidly it takes

To me, the reasons for allowing authors to self-archive is that the
journals are not making the work available online without access
barriers. If those barriers could be brought down, as the BMJ has
done and perhaps BioMed Central/PubMed Central will do, then maybe we
could rethink the primacy of self-archiving ....

Apologies forthwith to the general scholarly audience for this
somewhat focused "medical" diatribe...


     _________________begin included message_________________

>I posted a message on this topic to the list, which is available on the
>website but didn't show up in my email (I don't know if the sender doesn't
>get an email copy). I would like to re-emphasize my point to you,
>BioMed Central is just the beginning of what will be a subversive attempt by
>the biotech and pharmaceutical industries to get biased research "published"
>online, in new, online-only journals. Precisely because online publications
>have not yet been adequately "rated", there is a free-for-all, with
>everybody trying to establish a brand-name. Nobody knows what is good, what
>is bad, what is sponsored and what is independent. This free-for-all is a
>paradise for "medical communication companies" in which to hawk their wares.
>I am amazed by the fact that the NIH, which really should be a model of
>independence, is partnering with commercial enterprises to distribute
>medical literature. The mere association with NIH / NLM / PubMed is enough
>to give any enterprise significant credibility.
>I remain very skeptical about the ultimate fate of self-archiving, but it
>seems to me that to allow biomedical publishing to shift towards sponsored,
>Internet-based commercial enterprises is even worse than the status quo.
>But this seems to be the way of the world right now...
>Michael Jacobson
> __________________end included message__________________

Barry P. Markovitz, MD
Pediatric Anesthesiology/Critical Care
St. Louis Children's Hospital, Washington University School of Medicine
email: WWW:
voice: 314-454-6215 fax: 314-454-2296
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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