Re: BioMed Central and new publishing models

From: Michael Jacobson <mjmd_at_JOURNALCLUB.ORG>
Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2000 11:32:23 -0500

My second posting on the topic of BioMed Central was not really intended for
the whole list and was a bit more strident than I like to broadcast, but
that's OK :>

In reply to Barry:

> 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?

Deriving substantial income from advertising is still quite different from
being fully sponsored or owned by. How would we feel about the NEJM if the
Massachusetts Medical Society decided to sell the journal to a large
pharmaceutical conglomerate?

> 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!

Yes, but this has evolved gradually over the years, with substantial
adaptation on all sides and some understanding of the pressures and
counterpressures that exist. On the Internet, this is all happening very
quickly and in a rather chaotic fashion. Look at the brouhaha over the Dr.
Koop website.

> 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 ....

As long as the most prestigious journals retain the S/L/P paradigm and do
not allow self-archiving, any partial attempts at circumventing these
barriers will just fragment the literature into free-but-lesser-quality and
licensed-but-top-quality. Although, as you know, I don't believe that
self-archiving is about to happen, it is one way to prevent this sort of

My view on marketing and the distribution of biomedical information
parallels a similar problem in commercial marketing. Credit card and other
companies have long shared and traded information about our personal buying
habits and used this information to target us for mailing lists and other
purposes. With the rise of the Internet, the ability to do this sort of
thing has increased exponentially and websites can now track our surfing
habits and interests quite closely. This is not just my paranoia, but is a
problem and concern that is appearing in newspapers almost every day. Some
people feel that privacy advocates are exaggerating the issue, but many
people are quite concerned about the degree to which the Internet is being
used to gather information about us and, potentially, to manipulate us.

My concerns about the medical Internet being used to manipulate the flow of
biomedical information are along the same lines. And, just as society will
eventually settle into some sort of balance between privacy and commerce,
the medical Internet will also end up balancing the need for a free and
independent flow of medical information with the needs of industry
marketeers to influence that flow.

I apologize if this seems somewhat off-topic, but I believe that efforts to
commercially "free" some of the biomedical literature are not without risk,
may run counter to truly freeing the literature and should be taken with a
grain of salt.

Michael Jacobson


Michael Jacobson, MD, MPH, FACP
Journal Club on the Web
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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