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Re: Taking Our Academic Medicine

It seems strange to me that researchers do not check on the status of
journals before extrapolating from what is clearly an inadequate
statistical base. It is not that difficult to check. It can be done by
e-mailing the societies (many of them) who partner with commercial
publishers or other non-profit organisations (e.g. OUP or CUP). Is it
something about economics as a discipline which causes its exponents to
build models before they have done their groundwork?

It is sad to see that these researchers (who have been looking into
scholarly communication for some years) also show their ignorance of the
relationship between many learned societies and publishing partners by
characterising it as "distribution and other services". The usual
relationship is for the society to control editorial policies etc. and for
the publisher to do the publishing - rather more than "distribution and
other services." Control over pricing varies.

For an out-of-date explanation of these sort of relationships see the
official document from the International Council of Science at

Anthony Watkinson

----- Original Message -----
From: "Alison Buckholtz" <alison@arl.org>
To: <liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu>
Sent: Friday, November 04, 2005 11:12 PM
Subject: 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
> http://www.journalprices.com/
> 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.
> Sincerely,
> Ted Bergstrom
> Preston McAfee