Antwort von BioMed Central auf Kuan-Teh Jeang

Matthew Cockerill von BioMed Central hat in einer längeren Email auf die Kritik von Kuan-Teh Jeang, den Editor-in-Chief des independent BMC-Journals Retrovirology, geantwortet. Dieser hatte die Diskussion um den Code of Conduct for Editors mit ausgelöst. Da die Antwort etwas länger ist und außerdem von großem Interesse über den aktuellen Fall hinaus, poste ich ihn hier. Die Email von Kuan-Teh Jeang, auf die MC detailliert eingeht, habe ich gelöscht, da ich seine Einwilligung zur Veröffentlichung nicht habe.

First, I would like to say how grateful BioMed Central is to
Dr Jeang for the great enthusiasm and energy that he has
brought to the development of the journal Retrovirology, and
to the promotion and advocacy of open access in general.

It is certainly not accurate to characterize BioMed Central’s
model as throwing quality to the wind.
BioMed Central’s model does differ from that of PLoS, however.
As of 16th March 2006, PLoS had published 745 research
articles in its 5 journals. In comparison, this month alone,
BioMed Central will publish 600 research articles, and to date
we have published more than 12,000 such articles.
Whereas PLoS’s journals currently address only the very top
of the „pyramid“, effectively leaving all other research to
be published in traditional journals, BioMed Central has
some journals that cater exclusively for top calibre
research, and others that also accept more incremental contributions.
So, while many of BioMed Central’s journals are highly
selective (e.g. Respiratory Research, Retrovirology, Genome
Biology, BMC Biology, BMC Medicine, Journal of Biology to
name a few), others have a policy of publishing all research
that is judged by peer reviewers to be sound science, while
highlighting the most important work.
BioMed Central’s fundamental goal here is to make the
communication of research results between scientists as
efficient as possible. To achieve this, it is not enough to
have a few top-flight open access journals for a small
scientific elite. The whole science publishing model needs to
change, and BioMed Central is working hard to bring this about.

This is a very interesting point.
In fact, BMC Cancer, Molecular Cancer, Breast Cancer Research
and the World Journal of Surgical Oncology have each gone
from strength despite their overlap.
BMC Cancer is BioMed Central’s second most active journal,
after BMC Bioinformatics.
Molecular Cancer just recorded a highly respectable
unofficial 2005 impact factor of 2.71.
All the cancer journals published with BioMed Central are
brought together on BioMed Central’s cancer gateway:
BioMed Central’s alerting tools ensure that BioMed Central
registrants interested in Cancer research will be notified of
new cancer related articles in any of these journals.
All of this serves to raise the profile of all these open
access cancerjournals within the community of cancer researchers.
Similarly, another of BioMed Central’s most successful areas
is bioinformatics and genomics. The journals published in
this area are thriving despite the significant overlap between them.
It has been our experience that far from cannibalizing
research from other BioMed Central titles, new journals bring
in new communities of potential authors and so are a
positive thing for other BioMed Central journals in related
or overlapping fields. This is not surprising, given that
open access publishing is still relatively tiny, compared to
the overall scale of scientific publishing. Given that the
overall pool of potential authors is so large, any negative
cannibalism seems to be hugely outweighed by the positive
effects that a new journal has in drawing the attention of
additional potential authors to all BioMed Central’s journals
in the field concerned.
In addition to this practical point, there is also an ethical
point. BioMed Central offers its platform and systems for
open access publication to any group of researchers with a
sound idea for a journal who can meet certain minimum
requirements. To withhold the use of BioMed Central’s
publishing platform from groups of researchers simply because
the area that they wish to start a journal in overlaps with
an area that was already ‚taken‘ by another journal would be
contrary to the whole spirit of pluralism by which science
publishing operates.
BioMed Central recognizes, however, that the issue of ‚overlap‘
between journals is of concern to several independent editors and
is not one to be taken lightly. We look forward to further
discussions on this point.

BioMed Central increased its standard APC in July 2005 for
one very simple reason. At the old APC, we were losing money
on each and every article we published.
It was obvious that BioMed Central, as a company with finite
resources, would not be able to continue indefinitely while
losing money on every article. This issue became rapidly more
urgent as BioMed Central succeeded and grew. Given that we
lost money on each article, the more we published, the more
money we were losing!
An analysis of the costs of the publication process made it
clear to us that in order to continue, we would have to
increase the amount we charged per article to cover costs.
We continue to do everything possible to increase efficiency
and to keep costs down. We have not yet reached break even,
but we believe with the new APC in effect across all titles,
it will be achieveable.
Dr Jeang is quite right to ask, effectively „Will scientists pay
£750 to publish an article in BioMed Central’s journals?“
The good news, though, is that we do not need to guess the
answer to that question – we have direct evidence.
In the 6 months Jan 1st to June 30th 2005, the BMC-series
journals received 2461 submissions.
In the 6 months following the increase of the APC to £750 (July 1st –
Dec 31st 2005), the same journals received 3031 submissions.
i.e. despite the increase in the APC, submissions to the
BMC-series journals did not fall, in fact they continued to rise.
Of the many scientific funders who we know to have explicitly
indicated that they allow their grants to be used to pay APCs:
not one has, to my knowledge, indicated that they find our
charges at all unreasonable. The charges remain
lower than typical charges of other publishers offering open
It is worth bearing in mind that when traditional publishers
criticize open access publishing, one of their main arguments is
that open access is financially unsustainable – see for example
the Royal Society’s position statement on open access
There are plenty of reasons why the criticism of
unsustainability is misleading, but the clearest
possible demonstration of its invalidity would be for a major
commercial open access publisher such as BioMed Central to
break even. By working in partnership with independent
journal editors, we can make that happen.

On the broader issue of BioMed Central’s relationship with its
independent journal editors and how to improve it:
BioMed Central welcomes input and feedback from independent
editors, and we also recognize that this is something which
has not received sufficient attention in the past.
That is one of the reasons that we recently set up
the mailing list discussion forum for editors to use.
We also feel that it could be extremely useful to arrange a
face-to-face gathering of editors and representatives of
BioMed Central. Given the wide dispersal of editors across
many continents, there are practical challenges with this
however. But perhaps a meeting in the UK would be a start,
to be followed by a meeting in the US at some point in the future.
Another excellent suggestion that we have received is to carry
out a survey of BioMed Central external editors, to identify
the key issues that are a cause for concern to a large number
editors. We will be organizing such a survey shortly.

In terms of journal development and marketing: we see this
as a partnership between BioMed Central and the Editor(s)-in-Chief of
the journal concerned. As well as providing the basic publishing
platform, BioMed Central provides independent journals with
PR and marketing support, and works hard to promote
independent journals, through conference attendance, call-for-
papers campaigns etc. All of this activity works best when
done in close collaboration with an active editor. For example,
BioMed Central will press release exciting articles, but
independent journal editors can help by alerting us to new articles
worthy of such attention.
BioMed Central’s recent work with Retrovirology is a good
example of what can be achieved by active participation from
both publisher and editor. BioMed Central played an active role
in working to get Retrovirology tracked by ISI, and now that
it has been accepted for tracking, we are actively promoting
this fact, along with the journal’s impressive ‚unofficial impact
factor‘. The current BioMed Central email update (available here: ) highlights these
developments, and also draws attention to the annual Retrovirology
prize, instituted by Dr Jeang.
Of course, there is always room for improvement in
BioMed Central’s marketing and development efforts for independent
journals. I look forward to working with Editors to identify specific
areas where BioMed Central can and should to more, and to see what
needs to be done to bring that about.
Once again, I welcome your comments on the points raised above, either
directly, or to the independent-journal-editors discussion list.

Best regards,
Matt Cockerill
Matthew Cockerill, Ph.D.
BioMed Central (
34-42, Cleveland Street
Tel: 020 7631 9127
Fax: 020 7631 9926