Environment Health Perspectives faces cuts

Journal trims news and other sections after plans to privatize fail

By | August 3, 2006

Environment Health Perspectives (EHP) appears to be facing hard times. After nixing plans to privatize due to strong public opposition, the publication faces cuts in funding, forcing it to trim the news and commentary sections, and axe translations and free shipping to developing countries. One of the first journals to go open-access, EHP is the peer-reviewed scientific publication of the NIH's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). Currently, the journal, which has an impact factor of 5.34, costs $3.5 million per year to publish. NIEHS director David Schwartz declined to specify how much of this funding the journal was going to lose. "NIH has gone through two flat budget cycles with salaries increasing and cost of grants increasing," he said. "We have to look very closely at all of our expenditures. We are not singling out EHP." Facing a tight budget, NIEHS floated a proposal last September to privatize EHP. Strong public opposition to this plan convinced the institute to continue publishing it, but in June, Schwartz announced that the journal would need to "reduce production costs during difficult budgetary times." Among the targets of cost cutting at EHP will be the journal's free shipping of print copies to developing countries, a quarterly Chinese language edition, and translations of parts of the journal into Chinese, French, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish. "We just don't have the funds to translate it into many languages and ship it all over the world," Schwartz told The Scientist. The news, commentary, and announcement sections of the magazine will also be curtailed, Schwartz said, adding that these pages account for almost half the magazine's annual budget. The details are still being worked out, he said. Schwartz pointed out that there are other open-access journals "of equal or higher quality that are published for far less," such as the Journal of Clinical Investigation, which has an annual budget of $2.5 million and an impact factor of 15.1. "We really want to make sure that EHP is competitive with other journals both in terms of its cost as well as its impact," Schwartz said. Environmental health researchers had mixed reactions to the proposed changes at EHP. "I'm delighted that they decided not to privatize it," said Philip Lee, former US Assistant Secretary of Health and current chair of the Collaborative on Health and the Environment, a Bolinas, Calif-based nonprofit that promotes study of the links between human health and environmental factors. "The most important thing is to continue publishing the peer-reviewed scientific papers. If you have to cut somewhere, the news and commentary section is a logical place to cut," he said. "It is unfortunate that they have to eliminate the translation." The cost cutting at EHP is "the opposite of what should be happening," said Joel Michalek, co-director of the department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Texas Health Sciences Campus at San Antonio. An author as well as reviewer at EHP, Michalek said the journal's financial problems could "generate a groundswell of concern among researchers that might rescue the journal," but added that, with the NIH funding crunch, "everyone is worried about keeping their projects funded. The EHP dilemma is not at the top of the list." Chandra Shekhar cshekhar@the-scientist.com Links within this article Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) http://www.ehponline.org/ The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences http://www.niehs.nih.gov/ K.Y. Kreeger, "Environmental Health Institute blends toxicology and molecular biology," The Scientist, May 1, 1995 http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/16493/ David Schwartz http://www.ehponline.org/docs/admin/schwartz.html Congressman Dennis Kucinich's letter opposing privatization of EHP http://www.kucinich.us/floor_speeches/hl_privatize_env_hlth16nov.php Journal of Clinical Investigation http://www.jci.org/ Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE) http://www.healthandenvironment.org/ Center for Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio http://ceb.uthscsa.edu/index.html

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