Re: BioMed Central and new publishing models

From: Matthew Cockerill <matt_at_BIOMEDCENTRAL.COM>
Date: Thu, 15 Aug 2002 13:21:51 +0100

To address the technical question about long term maintenance and upgrading
of formats for Biomed Central content:

BioMed Central articles are marked up into fully structured XML - the HTML
version is rendered dynamically from that XML.

The BioMed Central article DTD is publically documented here:
but in fact the structure is readily comprehensible even without

The fulltext XML of the open-access research articles we publish is archived
with PubMed Central (PMC have a set of stylesheets which converts this, and
other publisher DTDs into their own XML format, and the NIH takes
responsibility for the permanence of that archive).

This fulltext article XML is also available through our OAI interface (it is
listed as another metadata format).

(Several groups are already making use of our fulltext XML to do data-mining

We believe that the goal of long term digital permanence is best achieved

(1) Using a fully documented (ideally self-documenting), structured format
(2) Archiving content in multiple locations
(3) Ensuring that the content is actively being used (open-access helps

By following these guidelines, BioMed Central ensures that our authors can
have confidence that their published research will be preserved in all

This should not be taken to mean that we do not intend to maintain and
enhance our own archive however. We are continually improving our site and
enhancing the functionality of the archive as new technology becomes

To give just one example, now that browsers such as Mozilla are capable of
rendering MathML natively ( ) we are
making good progress on enhancing our archive to display equations as MathML
(to those users who have capable browsers). [The underlying equations in our
articles have been being marked up as MathML for some time, but up to now we
have displayed GIFs to end users.]

Matt Cockerill
Matthew Cockerill Ph.D.
Technical Director
BioMed Central Limited (
34-42, Cleveland Street
London W1T 4LB

Tel. +44 20 7631 9127
Fax. +44 20 7580 1938

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Steve Hitchcock [mailto:sh94r_at_ECS.SOTON.AC.UK]
> Sent: 15 August 2002 11:31
> Subject: Re: BioMed Central and new publishing models
> An excellent and persuasive summary of BioMedCentral's
> innovative model for
> open access publishing of peer reviewed papers. I have a
> question for Jan
> Velterop. Does the model, and the money it generates, cover future
> maintenance and upgrading of formats - we are told papers are
> converted
> into HTML and PDF - so that papers can continue to be viewed on new
> generations of browsers way into the future? Or does the policy of
> archiving by multiple redundancy suggest that conversion is a
> one-time only
> operation, and that preservation and upgrading of formats to ensure
> accessibility must be performed by other agents? I note your comment:
> >our 'archiving' efforts are more 'archivability' efforts and
> focussed on
> >metadata (OAI and other standards) and securing 'a good
> long-term home'
> >for the articles we publish, just in case we are forced to give up
> >maintaining our own archive in the long run.
> Steve Hitchcock
> Open Citation (OpCit) Project <>
> IAM Research Group, Department of Electronics and Computer Science
> University of Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK
> Email:
> Tel: +44 (0)23 8059 3256 Fax: +44 (0)23 8059 2865
> At 20:26 14/08/02 +0100, Jan Velterop wrote:
> >BioMed Central. What we do and what we don't do.
> >
> >BioMed Central's main motive is the promulgation of open access for
> >peer-reviewed primary research articles. Our secondary
> motive is to find
> >ways of building a stable framework for open access, getting away, as
> >much as we can, from the begging bowl and being at the mercy
> of fickle
> >subsidies, and instead, find a business/economic model that
> sustainably
> >works for open access.
> >
> >A couple of axioms:
> >
> >a. Research articles must be peer-reviewed
> >
> >b. Copyright must not be allowed to play a role in the
> business model
> >
> >The latter may need some clarification. When talking about copyright,
> >there is always the difficulty of having two sets of
> interpretations of
> >what copyright fundamentally means: the European one (Roman
> Law countries)
> >and the Anglo-Saxon one. This is relevant, because although we would
> >like to keep copyright at bay, we do believe in the inalienability of
> >the 'droit de paternite'. The Anglo-Saxon copyright laws do not have
> >such inalienability, but often recognise, at least in common
> practice,
> >the authors' moral rights.
> >
> >At BioMed Central we leave the copyright in the hands of
> authors, but we
> >insist on users of the open access articles we publish honouring the
> >authors' moral rights such as the right to be acknowledged
> and to have the
> >integrity of the articles being left intact. Other than
> that, we 'ignore'
> >copyright and it certainly plays no role in our economic model.
> >
> >How do we promulgate open access?
> >
> >We currently employ two models:
> >
> > Bundled - journals for which we organise both the
> peer review
> >(along the lines of Nature) and subsequently the online
> >open access publication (examples: BMC Cell Biology -
> > - and Journal of Biology -
> >;
> >
> > Unbundled - journals for which the peer review is
> organised by
> >independent editors and editorial groups, whose accepted articles we
> >publish online in open access (examples: Cancer Cell International -
> > - and Kinetoplastid Biology and Disease -
> > This is the
> prevailing model
> >(minus the open access!) in the conventional STM publishing
> world. The
> >conventional STM publishers have no dealings whatsoever with the peer
> >review processes of the vast majority of their journals.
> >
> >In both cases we levy an article-processing charge (APC) for accepted
> >articles, payable, if at all possible, from research grants or by the
> >authors' institutions. An increasing number of institutions
> have become
> >BioMed Central member institutions, which entitles authors from those
> >institutions to automatic waivers of APCs. Waivers are also
> available for
> >authors in circumstances where paying APCs amounts to a de facto
> >impossibility, such as in developing countries. Some
> additional income is
> >generated from advertisements on our site.
> >
> >We do not currently charge for peer review if the article is
> not accepted.
> >There are costs to organising peer review, but we have been,
> and still
> >are, building tools to keep those costs to a minimum. These tools are
> >available, gratis, to the independent editors and editorial groups of
> >the 'unbundled' journals. These tools comprise, inter alia, an online
> >submission module, referee selection module, online
> 'mail-to-reviewer'
> >module, admin and version-control module, et cetera. They have been
> >created and are continually improved to make the peer review
> process as
> >quick, efficient, reliable and cheap as possible.
> >
> >Especially for the 'unbundled' journals, where peer review
> and publishing
> >are more clearly separated, I have likened what we do with articles
> >accepted after peer review to what is known as 'self-archiving'. In
> >quotation marks, though, for it is similar in certain
> respects, but not
> >the same. The articles we publish are not just marked up and
> converted
> >into HTML and PDF and put online (and made available via Avant-Go),
> >they are also firmly and actively embedded in the web-like
> structure of
> >the scientific literature, among others via CrossRef
> linking, indexing
> >in PubMed, Medline, BIOSIS, and other services, rather than
> just relying
> >on them being found by search engines or harvesters (all our
> material is
> >OAI-compliant). We actively pursue a policy of redundancy of
> availability,
> >by placing copies of all our output, in full, in other archives, such
> >as PubMed Central (negotiations with other archives, outside the US,
> >are ongoing and likely to result in further announcements in the near
> >future; we are aware that these national archives are often
> subsidised and
> >therefore vulnerable - see what is happening to PubSci - so
> we are seeking
> >refuge in large numbers and are also collaborating with LOCKSS).
> >
> >On an aside, archiving, of course, never was a publisher
> activity, but a
> >library one. It is only recently, with the advent of online
> publishing,
> >that some publishers have started to see a way of making money out
> >of archives, in many cases borrowing older issues from a university
> >library in order to digitise them! Our policies make exploiting our
> >archive impossible - we do not, after all, have copyrights - so our
> >'archiving' efforts are more 'archivability' efforts and focussed on
> >metadata (OAI and other standards) and securing 'a good
> long-term home'
> >for the articles we publish, just in case we are forced to give up
> >maintaining our own archive in the long run.
> >
> >Articles of exceptional interest are also press-released to
> a wide and
> >global variety of specialist and general media, giving the
> authors maximum
> >exposure.
> >
> >All the research articles we publish can, of course, be included in
> >institutional self-archives or authors' own web sites. We do
> more than
> >just archive, but our archiving 'component' is typically
> organised along
> >disciplinary lines rather than geographical ones, the latter being
> >the case for the typical institutional self-archiving facility. With
> >the majority of articles in the life sciences and medicine written by
> >multiple authors with multiple affiliations, this approach
> offers some
> >advantages over institutional archives, although
> sophisticated indexing
> >and OAI-compatibility of the material levels the differences
> to a degree.
> >
> >The fees we charge for our services (the APCs) are, on a per-article
> >basis, materially lower (up to a factor 10) than the
> aggregate cost per
> >article to academia of conventionally published material. We
> are finding,
> >however, that scientists are rarely concerned with that.
> They do certainly
> >not seem concerned if their institution picks up the bill. What they
> >value most in open access journals is the vastly increased
> visibility and
> >findability of their articles, leading to increased use and,
> reportedly,
> >to increased citations to their articles.
> >
> >Because the new open access journals do not have an impact
> factor (IF)
> >assigned by the ISI impact factory yet (they are too young
> to have one;
> >the formula calls for several years of track record), some authors
> >are reluctant to trade off prestige (which comes with publishing in a
> >journal with a reasonable IF) for increased exposure. They need this
> >prestige in order to get tenure or grants, as many tenure committees
> >and funding bodies are not yet ready to recognise articles published
> >in non-conventional journals. This is likely to change once there is
> >a track record of the new open access journals that enables IFs to be
> >calculated. Early indications of citations to articles in
> the open access
> >journals published by BioMed Central point to very good IFs
> in due course.
> >
> >The changes open access imposes on the conventional
> publishing edifice
> >are fundamental, and there will always be scepticism and
> reluctance to
> >embrace new models that are so far-reaching. Fortunately, however,
> >there is a growing corpus of authors who see the importance, benefits
> >and opportunities of open access and who are willing to 'blaze the
> >trail'. 'Established' scientists are in the best position to
> give open
> >access a boost; their careers don't depend on impact factors. We are
> >engaged in efforts to reach especially these echelons of authors.
> >
> >Jan
Received on Thu Aug 15 2002 - 13:21:51 BST

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