[UPS] Announcement: Clinical Medicine Netprints [LONG]
Fri, 17 Dec 1999 14:31:06 -0800
Open Archives folk:
The British Medical Journal and HighWire Press are proud to announce the
launch of Clinical Medicine Netprints, an eprint site for studies,
research, and articles in Clinical Medicine.
We don't support the Open Archives Protocol yet, but it's on my todo
list. I expect to support the protocol sometime in the first half of
next year, but probably not before March or April at the earliest.
(Sorry! Too much other work.)
So, please take a look at the site and let us know what you think!
The BMJ Editorial that announces the site:
(It's also the current "news" link from the BMJ homepage at <http://www.bmj.com/>.)
For those without handy web access, I've included most of the
Sorry for the length.
-- Mike Friedman
HighWire Press <email@example.com>
>From BMJ 1999;319:1515-1516 ( 11 December ):
This week we launch clinmed.netprints.org, an electronic archive where
authors can post their research into clinical medicine and health
before, during, or after peer review by other agencies. Resulting from a
collaboration between the BMJ Publishing Group and Stanford University
Libraries, it will allow researchers to share their findings in full,
for free, and as soon as their studies are complete.
Articles will be screened for breaches of confidentiality and libel
before we post them. After posting authors may submit them to any peer
reviewed journal that will accept submissions that have appeared as
electronic preprints. The list of such journals extends far beyond those
of the BMJ Publishing Group and is growing daily (see box). Researchers
who have retained the right to post their research results after
publication in a peer reviewed journal can archive their articles here
rather than on possibly more ephemeral institutional or personal websites.
With at least 20 000 websites devoted to health and medicine1 why start
another one? Arguments for and against electronic preprints have been
rehearsed several times in the pages of this journal and on our
website.2-5 In brief, we see electronic publication of a completed study
before peer review as analogous to the presentation of results at a
meeting, an important part of the scientific process. Not everybody can
travel to scientific meetings, but most researchers have access to the
world wide web. Often the eventual publication has benefited as much
from feedback received at meetings as it has from conventional peer
review. We will therefore be providing facilities for direct reader
feedback (familiar to anyone who has seen the rapid response feature on
the BMJ's website). In many ways the BMJ's new netprint server (covering
both electronic preprints and electronic reprints) is more evolutionary
than revolutionary because we have always regarded publication in the
paper journal as not the end but rather only part of the peer review
process. Every editor has seen published studies destroyed in the
The arrival of the world wide web has given us the chance to rethink the
trade offs that have traditionally been made in scientific publication.
Previously, we have accepted that the benefits of quality control have
outweighed its costs. These include the long delays between the
completion of research and its publication, the random scattering of
articles on similar topics among journals of varying accessibility, and
the loss of some articles (not necessarily the worst) from the system
completely. Meanwhile, the price charged for this value adding service
is rising faster than most customers can afford.
After three international congresses devoted to peer review its claims
as an efficient means of quality control are looking threadbare,6 while
the disadvantages of the current system are becoming more apparent. For
example, those attempting systematic reviews of all research on
particular topics often find that many studies are unreported or
unlocatable. Yet these results may be crucial, especially given the
publication bias against negative findings. Patient care depends on
clinicians having easy access to unbiased evidence, and researchers and
funding agencies want to avoid duplicating research. In these ways the
BMJ's netprint server shares the same aims as the calls from the Lancet
and BMJ for all clinical trials to be registered. 7 8
Opponents of free availability place a high value on peer review,
regardless of the contrary evidence. They argue that it efficiently
winnows out the wheat from the chaff and that articles not yet through
the mill of peer review may harm public health or even science itself.
Yet many unreviewed findings already find their way into the public
arena with the connivance of researchers and conference organisers,
usually in an uninterpretable form. Far better, we believe, for a study
to appear in full, with the opportunity for readers to assess its claims
and append their criticisms. We are alert to the danger that members of
the public may be misled by what they read on the website, but an
explicit warning appears on its opening screen and is repeated above
every article (see above right).
A substantial proportion of researchersour intended audienceseems in
favour of the concept. In a survey by Bioinformatics Inc two years ago
46% of 1067 scientists and medical professionals rated the practice of
publishing electronic preprints as very or somewhat valuable.9 Four
months ago we took a straw poll of authors of research published in the
New England Journal of Medicine, the Lancet, and the BMJ to see whether
our target user group shared similar views. Although the response rate
of 30% was too low for firm conclusions, the results suggested that they
did: three times as many respondents were in favour of preprints as were
against, providing prior publication of them did not prejudice
acceptance by peer reviewed journals. With this proviso 24 of 43
respondents would consider posting their articles on a preprint server.10
Our proposal is not a covert attempt to do away with peer reviewed
articles or journals but offers instead another route to "publication"
with a different set of advantages and disadvantages. We can't know what
clinical researchersas authors and readerswill choose until they have
been given the choice. In high energy physics a thriving electronic
preprint server coexists with traditional peer reviewed journals, where
most of the preprints are eventually published. The BMJ's hope is that
eventually the whole peer review process will be transformed from the
current black box to an entirely open process.11 The whole world will be
able to watch, perhaps helping to restore public confidence in science.
The modern world is suspicious of closed processes.
Other examples of preprint servers exist: the Lancet has one for
research into international health and for articles accepted by the
journal for peer review.12 More are planned in clinical medicine13 and
the basic life sciences. We hope to share common standards of
interoperability with other servers, and we support the open archives
initiative.14 The initiative's ultimate aim is to allow readers to
locate articles on different servers, as if the articles were all in one
virtual public library.
As the possibilities of the world wide web are being exploited, the old
style scientific journal is coming apart at the seams. Each function it
performed is being scrutinised, and how to deliver it is being
rethought. Netprints is just the latest example of this new tendency. We
hope that researchers will use clinmed. netprints.org and let us know
how it could be improved. It could take us one step closer to realising
Tagore's vision of untrammelled access to knowledge.
Tony Delamothe, web editor.
BMJ, and editor, clinmed.netprints.org
Richard Smith, editor.
Michael A Keller, university librarian and publisher.
John Sack, associate publisher.
Bill Witscher, associate director.
HighWire Press, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA