Re: Medical journals are dead. Long live medical journals

From: Jim Till <till_at_OCI.UTORONTO.CA>
Date: Fri, 3 Mar 2000 15:21:06 -0500

I've tried to obtain a copy of the paper by David Green, referred to by
Steve Hitchcock. I've been unsuccessful so far, but I did find a review by
Anne B. Piterick (Attempt to find alternatives to the scientific journal: a
brief review, The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 1989; 15(5): 269-266).
She comments that the IEG experiment was "virtually killed when it appeared
to threaten formal publication". even though "it was agreed to cite them
[preprints] as 'personal communications' and it was expected that formal
publication in refereed journals would follow. (In most cases, it did)". Her
reference list includes a citation of the paper by Green.

I've also looked at several letters published in Science in 1966, including
a very interesting series of evaluations of IEGs in Science 1966; 154:
332-336 (21 October), and the letter by Eugene Confrey in Science 1966; 154:
843 (18 November).

Confrey (of NIH) provided two main reasons why the IEG experiment was
'discontinued': 1) "the original purpose of the experiemnt has been
achieved"; and, 2) "the rapid growth of IEG in the last two years has now
reached the threshold limit for the NIH facilites to accomodate". Confrey
went on to suggest some lessons that were learned from the IEG experiment,
such as: "The [information exchange] group should be kept as small as
possible by the choice of scope of the phenomenon or problem encompassed",
and, "The area chosen should be characterized by a high energy of scientific

There's no mention in the Confrey letter about concerns that the IEG
experiment might threaten formal publication. Instead, Confrey wrote:
"Under suitable control, an IEG could serve as an adjunct system to
complement existing journals and periodicals in critical areas determined by
responsible officials of a society, or an organized group of the scientific

However the 'threat' is described, a key word seems to be 'control'!

--Jim Till

On Tue, 29 Feb 2000 15:22:46 +0000, Steve Hitchcock <sh94r_at_ECS.SOTON.AC.UK>
wrote [in part]:

>At 08:23 AM 2/29/00 -0500, Albert Henderson wrote:
>>Actually, the National Institutes of Health sponsored preprint
>>distribution in the 1960s, much like one in high energy physics
>>funded by the Atomic Energy Commission and run by the American
>>Institute of Physics. As described above, it involved paper
>>copies sent by mail and was not available to the general public.
>>The "Information Exchange Groups" (IEG) experiment went down in
>>flames amidst complaints about the deteriorating quality of its
>>content. See P H Abelson (SCIENCE 1966;154:727) or E A Confrey
>>(SCIENCE 1966;154:843) for some details.
>Or see Green, Death of an experiment, International Science and Technology,
>May 1967, 82-88.
>I can't instantly retrieve the Science articles cited above so I'm
>guessing, but I suspect Green has a different point of view.
>"The editors of five biomedical journals met and agreed to refuse
>publication of any manuscript previously circulated via IEG. This
>unaccountable decision turned out to be lethal to the IEG."
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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