Re: Freedom of information - the impact on biomedical science

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 5 May 2000 17:28:26 +0100

> This e-mail was sent by BioMed Central
> _______________________________________________________
> 6-7 July 2000, New York Academy of Medicine

A welcome conference, but caveat emptor! Please read the following

The PubMed Central initiative is predicated on publisher collaboration
in free public archiving of the refereed literature. Such collaboration
would be most welcome, but is it likely to be forthcoming from current
refereed journal publishers?

The BioMed Central initiative is predicated on the assumption that
collaboration in free public archiving from current refereed journal
publishers will NOT be forthcoming. Hence, new, competing
refereed-journal publishers are needed (e.g., BioMed Central).

This is accordingly the question that research authors should
be asking themselves:

    "If I want my research papers to be freely available to everyone
    online, do I now have to submit them to new, unknown journals, with
    indeterminate impact factors, instead of continuing to submit them
    to the established journals, with their known prestige, quality and
    impact factors?"

The answer is: No. Authors can all self-archive their refereed papers
online for free for all right now, without having to switch journals.

Switching to new journals in exchange for guaranteeing free access
to one's refereed papers is as unnecessary as paying the established
journals in exchange for "unlimited free eprints" is (indeed, these
two proposals, which have appeared in the same week in this Forum, are
mutually contradictory).

The sensible course (and the one I believe we will all follow sooner or
later) is the one that the authors of 128,000 Physics papers have
already taken: online self-archiving, either centrally, as in,
or in distributed but interoperable Open Archives:

Now read the rest of the BioMed Central press release bearing these
points in mind.

Stevan Harnad

> ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
> Science is changing. Soon, scientific research will be made
> freely available to all online. PubMed Central and other free
> access initiatives are making it clear that the way science is
> communicated, used and done will change forever. But what
> will the impact of free access publishing be on the working
> lives of scientists, publishers, librarians and the general public?
> And what effect will free access to research have on science
> itself? Some of the key players from the scientific community
> are due to discuss these issues at a conference to be held
> on 6-7 July 2000 in New York.
> "Personal computers and the Internet promise revolutionary
> changes in methods of scientific publishing that have persisted
> for three hundred years," says Dr Harold Varmus, President
> of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center who will
> address the conference. "Now we have the opportunity, and the
> imperative, to distribute scientific findings in a fashion that
> allows free access and serves the scientific community and
> the public in a highly responsible way. We need to know how
> this will change the way we, as scientists, go about our
> business."
> "Not all publishers and librarians are adding enough value to the
> information they handle," says Jan Velterop, Director of
> Publishing at Nature who will also be speaking at the conference.
> "If they are going to continue to earn their existence, they must
> find new ways to serve the scientific community. But does
> "freedom of information" mean information for free? This
> conference will be a very important forum to discuss this issue."
> The conference will be held on the 6-7 July 2000 at the
> New York Academy of Medicine, New York, USA.
> Information on the event and registration details are available
> on-line at
> ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
> There are a limited number of places for the media to attend
> this event free of charge. To register or receive further
> information please visit or contact
> Andrew McLaughlin on
> or +44 (0)20 7323 0323
> ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
> Notes
> 1. Organizing committee:
> Professor Pat Brown (Associate Professor of Biochemistry at
> Stanford University), Dr Fiona Godlee (British Medical Journal
> Publishing Group) Dr David Lipman (Director of the National
> Center for Biotechnology at the NIH) and Jan Velterop
> (Publishing Director of Nature) in association
> with BioMed Central.
> 2. Dr Harold Varmus's proposal on 5 May 1999 for an archive
> of electronic publications in the biomedical sciences can be
> found at:
> 3. Registration to attend the conference will be free to journalists.
> A fee of $200 (US) for individuals from not-for-profit organizations
> and $500 (US) to individuals from corporate organizations will
> be applicable to registrations before 1 June 2000. The fee will
> rise to $250 (US) and $750(US) respectively after this date.
> Registration for the event is ONLY online at
> 4. Directions to the New York Academy of Medicine can
> be found at
> 5. BioMed Central is a new publishing house that will give
> free access to research at
> BioMed Central is part of the Current Science Group - a group
> of independent companies that collaborate closely with each
> other to publish and develop information and services for the
> professional biomedical community. The Group has its
> head-office in London (UK), with additional offices in
> Philadelphia, New York and Tokyo.
> BioMed Central - Freedom of Information
> Customer Services -

NOTE: A complete archive of this ongoing discussion of providing free
access to the refereed journal literature is available at the American
Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00):

You may join the list at the site above.

Discussion can be posted to:
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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