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BioMed Central Launches 12 New Author-Initiated Research E-Journals
Posted On September 3, 2001
In a major new publishing initiative, BioMed Central ( 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 or want?”

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 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

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.

Barbara Quint was senior editor of Online Searcher, co-editor of The Information Advisor’s Guide to Internet Research, and a columnist for Information Today.

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