Freedom isn't free 2

July 18, 2003

Carl May conveniently forgets that successfully managing a modern international journal involves editing, distribution and archiving.

These processes are complex and costly. If publishers were taken out of the equation, they would still have to be done, with the result that there would be less funding for researchers.

Sure, publishers are there to make a profit, but would research councils or the other channels May suggests for publication be willing or be allowed to take the often massive risks that launching journals entail?

In the non-commercial sector, many learned societies, which are often the publishers of high subscription journals, depend on their journal income to support their other scholarly activities. Should learned society journals be driven out of business by "free" publication on the web?

May's suggestion that monographs should be hosted on research council servers begs the question of who selects, edits and organises the contents, indexes or illustrations? Does he really want to read the latest work on medical sociology as raw text on screen?

No act of publication can ever be "free". BiomedCentral has its costs and charges and these have to be met.

If journal and monograph publishers are unfairly driven out, the result will be an impoverished research environment and an endangered academy, particularly in subjects with less financial clout.

Iain Stevenson
Director, publishing studies
City University

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