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BioMed Central

Of possible interest to readers of liblicense-l and in response to
inquiries from a few readers.  We thank Mr. Velterop, BioMed Central
Publisher, for his timely and detailed response.  The Moderators

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Ann Okerson [mailto:ann.okerson@yale.edu]
Sent: 28 May 2002 20:11
To: Jan Velterop
Subject: BioMedCentral journals

Dear Mr. Velterop:

In my role as liblicense-l moderator, I have recently received messages
pertaining to BioMed Central's pricing and licensing policies.  In the
past year or so, BioMed Central has become known largely (and positively)
for its campaign for "free access" to journal articles, taking a high
ground on the issues of pricing.  At the same time, the library community
has received quotes for medical journals/titles from BioMed Central that
would appear to be both substantial in price and comparatively narrow in
what users are permitted to do under license.  Are there are two different
companies called BioMed Central, or is there one company with two
different pricing and access policies?  As there seems to be confusion, I
wonder if you might clarify these matters in such a way that could be
posted to the liblicense-l list in response to this message.

The clarification would have the benefit of reaching many readers at once,
which would be a service to you and to the library community.

With thanks for whatever you can provide,  Sincerely, Ann Okerson

To:  Ann Okerson

Having received some questions about BioMed Central from members of this
list, here is some clarification of what BioMed Central is, publishes, and
stands for:

BioMed Central Ltd. is one of the companies in the Current Science Group.
The Current Science Group is not a legal entity, but a loose concatenation
of companies, which are bound by ties of ownership and have in common the
fierce quest for innovation and the desire to challenge existing business
models. These companies have an arms-length relationship with one another.

Among the companies in the group, there is a cluster concerned with
publishing biomedical information. In order to understand the different
focus of the various companies in the cluster, it may be good to spend a
few words on the types of scientific information we distinguish.

*Primary research results: papers from the 'publish-or-perish realm'.
Scientists *must* publish these. They are published in open access
research journals.  *Reviews and Opinions: the 'guide-books'. Nobody is
compelled to write these papers and many are indeed invited and even paid
for by the publisher.  They are published in review journals.  *Data:
'raw' information, often without much (or any) interpretation beyond
annotation, where much of the added value lies in the comprehensiveness or
structure of the collection, and in convenient and efficient tools to use
the data. They are published as databases or data collections.

BioMed Central Ltd. is the publisher of the first category, primary
research. We publish some 75 open access titles now, and counting. All
these open access journals work on an 'input-paid' model: payment is made
for the *service of publishing* on behalf of, or by, the author, after a
process of peer-review has established the paper's scientific merits. We
believe that for research papers the input-paid open access model is not
only the fairest and cheapest, but most importantly, caters best to the
needs of the scientific community. Average full-text download figures are
in the order of 5000/paper/year from the BioMed Central and PubMedCentral
web sites. Wide distribution to anyone interested and no restrictions on
use are major benefits to authors. Which conventional journals other than
perhaps Science and Nature are used so intensively? And they impose
restrictions on use, which we don't at all.

But open access is not free. It is only free to the reader because the
publication has been paid for at input. The fact that this model can be
much cheaper is a welcome by-product. As is the fact that the publisher
doesn't need to take the copyright away from the author.

Sister companies of BioMed Central publish review, analysis, and opinion
material. None of this material is spontaneously submitted. Instead, the
publishers take great pains in choosing candidate authors, inviting them
to write on specific subjects, and editing what they produce. Getting
authors to write reviews and opinions is no sinecure, and asking them to
pay for publication would be unrealistic, to say the least. These journals
have no choice than to operate on a subscription or licence model. But for
this material we believe that this model is perfectly alright. However
interesting and useful, it is 'additional material' to the basic
communication of scientific results, and not part of 'publish or perish'.

BioMed Central Ltd acts as a 'sales agent' for its sister companies. That
is why the library community has received quotes for medical review
journals from BioMed Central. None of the journals in such quotes are
primary research journals.

BioMed Central also offers 'Institutional Membership'. This is a way to
deal with the payment on behalf of authors for publication. Authors from
member institutions receive an automatic waiver for article processing
charges. As an added incentive, member institutions also receive a
discount on the review journals and databases published by our sister
companies, if subscribed to via BioMed Central.

Our commitment to open access for primary research is strong. In order to
substantiate that, we will shortly publish an 'Open Access Charter' and
the names of the members of a Board of Trustees who will hold us to our

Jan Velterop