Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, May 01, 2006

Growing pains at BMC

Stuart Blackman, BioMedCentral faces angry editors, TheScientist, May 1, 2006. Excerpt:
Open access publisher BioMedCentral (BMC) is facing a potential revolt from a number of the editors at its independent journals, who are upset with how the journals are being managed. Several editors of the 93 independent journals published by BMC have told The Scientist that they are considering taking their journals to other publishers.

"BMC have done a good job at promulgating the open access -- probably more than any other publisher, said Kuan-Teh Jeang, editor-in-chief of Retrovirology, a BMC journal. "The model is right, the principle is outstanding, but the execution is somewhat questionable."...Although editors at independent BMC journals say they still support open access, they...are voicing a range of complaints. For instance, editors are protesting recent increases in the APC [article processing charage], and reductions in the number of waivers that editors are permitted to offer to contributors who cannot afford those costs, among other issues....BMC's publisher, Matthew Cockerill, said the company is working with editors to resolve the problems, and insisted that the complaints are normal for any new company. "Yes there are growing pains, but we are making huge efforts to address those," he told The Scientist....Cockerill also argued that there is no evidence that increases in APC have affected submissions. For instance, previous increases in APC have not, he said, been associated with drops in submissions. Instead, some journals may struggle for submissions because some fields are less open to open access. "Young fields like bioinformatics have a high uptake of open access," he told The Scientist. "In other, more traditional, fields such as surgery, it has been a slower process."...Even editors who are voicing complaints about BMC are hopeful about its future. [Philippe] Grandjean [co-editor-in-chief of Environmental Health] said..."But I'm confident that we can work it out," he said. "It is important for all of us that [BMC] succeeds."

Richard Gallagher, publisher of TheScientist, has A word about BioMedCentral in the same issue. Excerpt:

Some of you may be wondering why The Scientist is today publishing a news story that on the face of it seems quite critical of BioMedCentral, our sister company.  It's a fair question, and one with a simple answer: We are commited to covering significant developments, in science publishing and elsewhere, that are likely to be of interest to our readers, irrespective of the source of the story. This particular article is a test of the editorial independence of The Scientist, and it is a test that has been passed. The co-owner of The Scientist, who also owns BioMedCentral, has not tried to influence the story in any way. I believe in open access, and the editorial position of The Scientist is to support its development. BioMedCentral and the editors of the independent journals that they publish are passionate about open access. Together they are blazing a new trail in publishing, and inevitably this will result in some conflict. Transparency is needed in working out these growing pains. Sweeping issues like the ones raised in the story under the rug would be far more damaging in the long run.