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Taking Our Academic Medicine

Ted Bergstrom and Preston McAfee asked me to forward this letter to the
list in response to the message posted yesterday.

Alison Buckholtz

Lisa Dittrich, the managing editor of Academic Medicine ommented on our
open letter to university presidents and provosts found at
http://www.hss.caltech.edu/~mcafee/Journal/OpenLetter.pdf and our website
on journal cost-effectiveness which is located at

She says that our

... journal prices website... lists our journal.. (Academic Medicine).. as "for profit," lists the wrong publisher, and lists it twice, with two
different ISSNs and two different "composite price indexes."

We have looked into this. We try hard to get our facts straight and we
welcome corrections. As far as we can tell, the claim that we reported two
different ISSN's for Academic Medicine is simply mistaken.

There is only one listing for the journal "Academic Medicine." Perhaps Ms
Dittrich was confused by the listing for a different journal "Academic
Emergency Medicine" which is owned by a different society and (quite
appropriately) has a different ISSN number.

The issue of for-profit status and who is the publisher is more complex. Academic Medicine is the official journal of a non-profit society, the
Association of American Medical Colleges. It recently changed publishers
from Hanley & Belfus (now owned by Springer-Kluwer) to Lippincott,
Williams, & Wilkins (which is now owned by Elsevier). We used the 2002
Journal Performance Index figures for the publisher name, and hence we had
the former name.

Our understanding from correspondence with Ms Dittrich is that the Society
still owns the journal and controls its pricing, but contracts
distribution and some other services to Lippincott, Williams, and Wilkins. While most of the large professional societies publish under their own
names, we are aware that many societies own their own journals and control
their pricing but contract with commercial publishers for distribution. It
is difficult to determine accurately which of the journals that the ISI
and Ulrich's list as published by commercial publishers fall into this
category. Many journals that are listed as affiliated with societies are
actually owned by commercial publishers who control subscription prices.
Our policy is that unless we have convincing information to the contrary,
we classify the journal as for-profit if the publisher recorded by the ISI
Journal Performance Index is a for-profit firm.

We have changed our listing to record Academic Medicine as non-profit and
published by the AAMC. If we receive other verifiable reports that a
journal that we have listed as for-profit is owned and controlled by a
non-profit organization, we will be happy to make the appropriate changes.

Ms Dittrich says:

"we are a non-profit journal, that is NOT based in a university and that
is published by a for-profit publisher--how does that fit into the neat
good and evil equation"

She apparently misunderstands our purposes. We have no interest in a
"neat good and evil equation" and it is certainly not our intention to
classify non-profit publishers as "good" and for-profits as "evil". We
are interested in helping librarians and university administrators to
understand which journals are providing scholarly information in a
cost-effective way and which are not. Indeed our data shows that Academic
Medicine is an extremely good bargain. Our measure of cost-effectiveness
shows its relative cost to be about 1/5 of the average of all non-profit
journals in its disciplines.

Ted Bergstrom
Preston McAfee