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RE: Journal start-ups

Responding to Alan Edelson's comments about new journal start-ups:

Both publishers and editors of new journals undertake such endeavors
because they truly believe that these publications will make a
contribution to the field -- as well as the literature.  Indeed, because
there are so many journals, it is difficult to launch important new
periodicals today. Highly-respected members of the biomedical community
only agree to serve in the capacity of Editor if they are convinced that
the publication will be a worthy and enduring endeavor.

Most of these Editors will consult with their colleagues before they
accept this responsibility, asking them to challenge the assumption of yet
another journal. The colleagues who agree to serve on the editorial board
know that they are expected to make an on-going commitment to the
recruitment of high-quality manuscripts and participation in the review
process.  Both demand commitment, time, and participation that does not
end with the last issue of the first our second volume. The compensation
for such work is minimal for the effort this entails..

During Dr. Edelson's tenure at Raven and Lippincott, it was easier to
assemble an editorial board because many who were asked serve on editorial
boards agreed more readily, and in some cases, merely by lending their
names to support the effort of a friend or close colleague.  This is not
the case today.

Today, the number of published papers today counts less than the quality
of papers, in terms of terms of academic advance-ment and tenure
Publishers do not determine a journal acquisition editor's success based
on the number of journals they start.  Those days also passed many moons

It is very expensive to start journals.  And, publishers will not make
profits on journals that are not well received, respected, and subscribed
to. Last, but not least, is the issue of society self-publishing and
control. A journal that is independent of a society is completely free
from cumbersome politics that may come into play, including editorial
appointments. In fact, the Editors of independent journals may have the
broadest authority to accept or reject papers, without worrying about
political considerations.

				Mary Ann Liebert
				President, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.

-----Original Message-----
From:	Alan Edelson [mailto:amedelson@topnet.net]
Sent:	Thursday, October 14, 1999 7:27 PM
To:	liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu
Subject:	Re: Electronic availability

	As a recently retired publisher myself, I too cannot refrain from
adding some comments of my own to those of Anthony Watkinson and others
regarding the debate over quality in today's journals. I am pleased to be
able to speak out from a safe vantage point, above the fray, as it were.

	It is true that newly started journals may benefit for a time from
the extra efforts expended by the journal editor and his/her editorial
board to obtain quality papers. In fact, it is tacitly understood when one
is invited to join the editorial board of a new journal that one is
supposed to divert one or two important articles to it rather than send
them to more established and presumably more prestigious journals.

	This is intended to "jump start" the new publication.  I always
warned my new journal editors that while filling the first few issues may
seem to go fairly smoothly, albeit with a very significant effort on their
part, they should be steeled for a rough ride when it comes to filling out
the rest of Volume 1.  All too often, authors, having fulfilled their
obligations to the editor, go back to their regular pattern of
submissions. It is the rare new journal today that can sustain the quality
of Volume 1 in Volume 2 and 3. But enough on this topic.

	More generally, let me address the flood of new journals that
seems never to abate. There are at least three main reasons for this

	1. As the volume of new research continues to expand in a given
field, it becomes increasingly difficult to find a "home" for weaker
articles, or articles by younger and thus less well known authors.  The
stronger journals have the luxury of picking and choosing the best
articles by the best known authors, fulfilling their task of screening for
quality (but also, at times, giving unfair preference to the well
connected and well recognized authors).Hence the opportunity for starting
yet another journal, and another, and another.

	2. The pressure on commercial journal publishers to add to their
journal lists is hard to appreciate from outside the companies. Publishing
careers may literally rise or fall based on how many new journals have
been signed up each year. In firms that yield indiscriminately to the
pressures from "above" to raise subscription revenue through growth of
their journal lists, this can at times lead to an acceptance of lower
quality editors, questionable selections of topics, and the notorious
"twigging" effect in which the focus of new journals becomes ever
narrower, sometimes to the point of absurdity.

	3. Professional societies woke up years ago to the potential for
journals to generate revenue streams to support society activities. Either
by self-publishing or by contracting with commercial publishers, socities
increasingly seek to start journals, using the lure of their sponsorship
and the loyalties of their members. While it is often believed that a
society sponsored/owned journal is going to be of a higher quality than
that of a journal wholly initiated by a commercial publisher, I'm afraid
that this is not necessarily the case. In both types of journals, the
profit motive is heavily involved, with all that this implies.  And
society politics have often been known to conflict with considerations of
quality when it comes to choosing the most able editors and editorial
board members, as well as articles.

	Sadly, it has often been remarked by scientists I know that
virtually any article, however weak, can ultimately get published in some
journal or other if the author is persistent enough. And whereas a better
quality journal may demand revisions to improve the article, authors have
frequently been known to decline such advice and simply resubmit to a less
demanding journal. This raises many troubling questions about the
beneficial effects of the peer review process today. Suppose that one day
soon all journals were indexable and retrievable. How would peer reviewing
really have helped to prevent publication of articles that spread more
confusion than light on their subject?

	It appears likely to me that a not insignificant proportion of the
journals rolling off the presses today contain a not insignificant
proportion of articles that the scholarly and scientific world could well
live without, or that should not have been published in the form in which
they were presented.  Perhaps the author tried to pad his/her CV by
splitting a body of research into five separate publications rather than
writing one weighty, well-documented paper, as was thought proper a
generation or two ago. Perhaps he/she ought to have delayed publishing
anything until more solid data leading to a more significant insight could
be realized. Unfortunately this is unrealistic for most authors who, under
our current systems, must frequently document their activities to obtain
research grants or tenure, or both.

	For several years now I have followed with interest and sympathy
the comments written here by conscientious librarians agonizing over the
question of how to spread their inadequate budgets so as to best serve
their clientelle. But given the present system of scientific and scholarly
publishing, with its financial consequences to libraries and others, and
given also the ever expanding demand, if not need, for more room for more
articles, I do not see how this system as presently configured can be
sustained indefinitely. I know that I am not alone in drawing this

	The sooner all parties, i.e., publishers, authors, librarians,
societies, and information technologists, as well as research funding
agencies and tenure granting committees begin to work together toward a
solution that incorporates at least some of the main concepts behind the
Varmus proposal, the sooner the creators and consumers of information will
be better served, and at a sustainable cost.

		Alan M. Edelson, Ph.D.
		(retired) President and CEO
		J.B. Lippincott Company