USTLG Summer 2001 Meeting

Electronic Publishing and Online Support Materials

Tuesday 12th June 2001, Aston University Library

Reports by Clare Humphries, Adrian Smith, Angela Newton and Joanne Yeomans, all University of Leeds


BioMed Central - Challenging the Traditional STM Publishing Model
Harvey Schoolman, BioMed Central

BioMed Central (BMC) sees itself as an online publishing house (with the intention of showing a profit) but expects the author to retain copyright.

Harvey started by suggesting that the number of significant inventions or discoveries being made is not affected by the number of scientists at work. This may be because the "himalaya of data" impedes our understanding of basic science. We need new, sophisticated tools to retrieve and analyze information.

BMC hopes to make available online the results of primary research. This would be free as the copy-editing and publicity required would be small. Established SMT [science, medicine & technology] publishers do not provide or pay for the peer-review mechanism, on which quality control depends, but take a substantial fee for the less important printing and editorial functions. He suggested that publishers extract $106 billion from the research community (subscriptions, page charges) leaving biomedical researchers in a feudal, dependent relationship with publishers.

BMC intend to retain the peer review process (but electronically) and to publish good basic science, but will add value to the online texts by providing a fast turnround, commissioning review articles or compiling complementary databases. There will be around 60 core journals across disciplines, but also niche journals with a very small user base and the highest editorial standards. These will be hospitable to radical or unorthodox views, providing a home for papers, which might have been excluded from commercial titles with high impact factors. Critical commentaries will be provided, with a forum for associated online debate.

There will be fee-based alerting services and Faculty of 1000 "will offer researchers a qualitative and concise evaluation tool that will keep them fully up to date". Launching in Oct 2001 users of Faculty of 1000 "will be able to customize the service to their interests and opt for weekly (or monthly) updates by email".

A commercial model might be based on "hits" on the webpages, rather than subsequent citation counts but BMC wishes to annihilate the culture of "impact factors" which require no evaluation of content, and seeks to restore qualitative assessment of the work of individuals and groups.

Although there may be 27,000 journals in SMT few such as "Brain research" have the high impact of "Nature" or "Cell" [look at JCRweb 2000 for the latest, lowest impact factors of some of the most expensive publishers/titles].

In some disciplines "priority" is a particular issue, but there are many aspects of the BioMed Central model which have yet to be understood by Universities UK (the CVCP) and individual academics. Librarians and researchers need to develop alternatives to the RAE, and stop siphoning research funds to commercial publishers. Open archive initiatives provide for prompt publication and are a timely challenge to the status quo. SPARC-approved journals and PubMed Central show that these issues can be addressed.


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