In a major new publishing initiative, BioMed Central (http://www.biomedcentral.com)
has expanded its role in pioneering alternatives for scholarly publishing
on the Web. The company has announced the first group of research journals
on its service in which groups of researchers publish online journals for
their research communities at no cost to the readers. The journals use
BioMed Central’s publishing infrastructure, which comprises an online submission
system, electronically assisted peer review, digitization, and publication
of accepted articles in both Adobe PDF and HTML formats. Peer-reviewed
research articles in these journals will join the rest of the citations
to respected medical literature through indexing in the National Library
of Medicine’s (NLM) PubMed (Medline) bibliographic database. The full text
will also go immediately into PubMed Central, NLM’s electronic repository
of medical journal articles available to Web users at no cost.
The new initiative represents
BioMed Central’s success at attracting groups of researchers to initiate
their own research journals using BioMed Central’s Web publishing facilities.
Most of the 60 journals already on BioMed Central were developed by the
company’s own editors, writers, and peer-review advisors. The first 12
journals under the new initiative will come online sometime this month.
They are Annals of General Hospital Psychiatry, Cancer Cell International,
Cardiovascular Diabetology, Directed Evolution, Filarial Infections—Diseases
and their Control, International Journal of Equity in Health, Kinetoplastid
Biology and Disease, The Malaria Journal, Microbial Cell Factories, Natural
Negatives, The Nutrition Journal, and Proteome Science.
Harvey Shoolman, BioMed
Central’s commissioning director, said: “This is an exciting development
in scientific journal publishing. These 12 journals are the first of many
that we will be launching in response to the enthusiastic demand for this
service. Essentially we are trying to empower focused research groups wherever
they may be. We want to respond to their needs and encourage them to advance
their field and publish their results within a framework that nourishes
and incubates the journal without being constrained by the conventional
publisher’s concern for subscription revenues.”
Denys Wheatley, editor of
Cancer Cell International, one of the new BioMed Central journals,
described the advantages of this form of publishing. “Some of the more
obvious benefits are [that] papers can be published as they arise, peer
reviewing will be done electronically—speeding up this practice—the time
from submission to online publication can be less than 50 days, images
will be publishable at no cost at the resolution required, and the problem
of reprints and their cost will not arise.... What more can you expect
To start a new research
journal on BioMed Central, researchers must commit to the company’s copyright
policy, by which neither BioMed Central nor the journal owns copyright,
only the authors. Journal officers determine the scope, content, and quality
parameters before launching a journal. Each journal must have an advisory
or editorial board with at least three members who are grantees of a major
funding organization to act as official guarantors of the scientific and
ethical standards of the journal. The journal officers set a peer-review
policy, e.g., entry level, number of referees, acceptance/rejection policies.
BioMed Central offers automated peer-review support. Journals contain only
primary research material or secondary material in the form of editorials
or reviews commissioned or approved by the editors. With these protections
in place, BioMed Central will accept and permanently archive full-text
searchable articles from the journal. In-house journal editors at BioMed
Central work with external editors to produce the final product.
Though committed to the
goal of immediate free access to peer-reviewed primary research in the
biological and medical fields (i.e., no subscription charges to users),
BioMed Central does allow charging for access to online review material.
It also allows charges for print versions of journal material. Individual
printing of articles is available for a fee, but Adobe PDF files of articles
can be downloaded at no charge. As publisher, BioMed Central retains 70
percent of the profit from charging for online material. BioMed Central
does not pay journal officers, except for portions of the profit through
commercial marketing and review-material revenues.
According to a BioMed Central
representative, the company will continue to look for new revenue streams
in the future, some of which may affect content flow. For example, next
year it may install author charges. Information about the author charges
debate can be found at http://www.biomedcentral.com/editorial/charges.asp.
A FAQ comment on the prospect already indicates that BioMed Central would
waive the charges if an author couldn’t afford them. When the company provides
special services to authors that are similar to those a publisher might
offer—such as translation—it also will charge.
BioMed Central already publishes
over 60 journals in biology and medicine that are developed by its own
editors and peer-review advisors. The company expects to add over a hundred
new journals over the coming months. Some of its journals, such as Breast
Cancer Research and Genome Biology, also operate preprint servers
that supply unrefereed material. To track new journals, readers can monitor
Readers interested in BioMed Central’s electronic publishing services can
learn more at http://www.biomedcentral.com/info/startyourown.asp.
BioMed Central journals
are archived in several ways: on the company’s own servers, on PubMed Central’s
servers, through CD-ROM collections developed by national libraries, through
the Scirus archive, etc. BioMed Central also offers annual print compilations
for a fee. The company has worked with ISI to develop citability standards,
enabling its articles to be reliably cited in both conventional and online
journals. Since the material is available without registration or subscription,
search engines such as Google also index much of the research material.
When users register (again for free), they can customize the site and set
up individual interest profiles.
In content terms, BioMed
Central accepts material similar to that received by traditional journals
in the field, but it also welcomes articles and data that traditional journals
may not due to space constraints or editorial judgment about reader interest.
Examples, according to a FAQ, include negative studies, studies confirming
previous work, regional or sub-specialist material, follow-up studies,
clinical trial protocols, or full experimental datasets.
BioMed Central belongs to
the Current Science Group and has no connection to BioMedNet, a former
unit of Current Science Group acquired by Reed Elsevier.