Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Lancet editor on the value of the current journal system

Dr. Richard Horton, Electronic Cultures and Clinics: Reasons to be Hysterical and Hopeful. In a lecture given at the Medical Library Association meeting on May 25, 2004, Horton outlines several challenges for science and then spends the bulk of his talk exploring the question of open access. As a physician, he regards OA as a worthwhile goal. As an editor, Horton views OA with some skepticism, feeling put off by the rhetoric of OA advocates and wanting to preserve the best aspects of the journal system, which he notes has "worked rather well." He argues that print journals will remain necessary and that OA isn't necessarily well suited for them. "We need a mixed economy of media, and we need publishing models that are going to support a mixed economy of media." Furthermore, he cautions against a loss of quality, noting that his own Lancet rejects close to 90% of papers submitted to it. Horton is skeptical of author-payment models, pointing out that societies may have to charge enormous amounts to sustain their revenues, and that it would create "complexity" and "bureaucracy" sorting all those author checks. Finally, he maintains that tolls are necessary: "I need to have revenue coming into the journal to give me my freedom to do what we should be doing at the journal, which is to hold people to account for what they do in medicine and medical science, to protect the integrity of the values that underpin medicine."