Yale dumps BioMed Central

The research institution decides not to renew membership to the open access publishing company

By | July 31, 2007

Yale University's science and medicine libraries have decided to discontinue their membership to BioMed Central (BMC), an open access publishing company, citing skyrocketing membership costs in a public statement issued last Friday (Aug 3). The Cushing/Whitney Medical and Kline Science Libraries at Yale have been members of BMC since 2003. The libraries have covered the costs of membership on behalf of the university and its researchers but can no longer absorb membership fees that have grown in excess of $30,000 over the past year, Kenny Marone, director of the medical library, told The Scientist. "The library paying for faculty publishing has not been supported by the institution, we haven't been given additional money for this," Marone said. "If we have to make cuts this becomes one of the first things we cut." Marone added that while the libraries supported open access publishing, some of the costs should be absorbed by the individual researchers, research funders or the readers who benefit from the published articles. The costs of open access publishing in BMC are comparable to traditional subscriptions, Matthew Cockerill, publisher of BMC (a sister company of The Scientist) told The Scientist. But, he added, as opposed to fixed rates for subscription journals, open access publishing costs continue to rise as more authors submit their articles for publication, demanding more resources for peer review, layout, processing, and internet servers. BMC offers three different membership options: the prepay membership, which is the most expensive, covering all publishing costs of the institution's researchers in one lump sum; a quarterly pay membership paid by the institution after articles are published; and the supporters membership, a flat fee paid by the institutions that lets authors pay for publishing at a 15% discount. Under Yale's prepay membership to BMC, the institution had to pay a fee to completely cover publication costs for each article submitted by their researchers. Marone said it wasn't in the library's budget to downgrade Yale's membership. The university still has a membership to Public Library of Science -- another open access publisher -- under a fixed fee scheme. "We [paid for membership] initially because we did have the funds, we thought it was a good cause, and we wanted to support the content," Marone said. But with other scholarly journals increasing their publishing fees by 1000% in some cases, and a 45% increase in their bill for the electronic journal database EBSCO, the membership became unsustainable, she added. According to the most recent report available from the Association of Research Libraries, Yale spent more than $2 million in serial subscriptions in 2004-2005. "The impact factor for some of the journals in BMC is not as high as for Nature or JAMA or The New England Journal of Medicine, and of course that always figures into decisions," Marone said. She added there is no quantitative method that the libraries use to determine what's worth keeping in the budget. The New England Journal of Medicine has an impact factor of 51.296, whereas BMC's journal Genome Biology carries the publisher's highest ranking impact factor of 7.172, according to ISI's Journal Citation Reports. Yale is one of 16 institutions whose BMC memberships have not been renewed thus far in 2007, leaving 107 member institutions in the US, and 209 international members. The University of North Texas Health Science Center, which held a flat fee membership, did not renew it as of July 31. "The 15% discount did not make it financially worthwhile," Craig Elam, senior director for technical services at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, told The Scientist. "We like the idea of open access and I'd like to be able to support local faculty but the institution wasn't giving us the funds to do that. We had a flat budget." John Schumacher, electronic resources manager at the State University of New York, told The Scientist that they ended their BMC membership in April of this year due to rising costs that he assumed BMC was putting towards publishing costs. Deciding if the membership was worth keeping was "evaluated by impact factor, in general," he said. Two other university libraries that have recently dropped their BMC memberships did not respond for comment. "The fact that Yale dropped its membership does mean that other institutions might do so as well," Peter Suber, director of the Open Access Project at Public Knowledge, a public-interest advocacy group, told The Scientist in an Email. Even so, "institutional memberships make good sense for both open access publishers and universities," he added, "and I believe that BMC will continue to revise its terms to keep the program attractive to universities." Ann Wolpert, director of libraries at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology told The Scientist that Yale's decision will not affect their membership to BMC. The institution's libraries have a flat-fee membership plan. "I don't think Yale faculty has taken advantage of BioMed Central to the extent that MIT faculty has," Wolpert said. "It is used very heavily [here], and our researchers are heavily cited." The bioscience library at the University of California, Berkeley, will also not be changing its BMC membership status, Beth Weil, director of the bioscience library, told The Scientist. Berkeley libraries pay a flat fee for BMC membership and encourage research funders to pick up the publication costs, while keeping a close eye on citation rates in all of their journals. "Most of the high impact, society journals do have charges, and they can be substantially more than BioMed Central," Weil said. Dropping their membership was "a decision that Yale made, and that's fine, but I don't think it's one of those things that's going to ricochet around the library world." Three other prominent research university libraries did not respond or were not available to comment. Yale's decision is part of the growing pains associated with the transition from the traditional publishing funding model to an open access funding model, said Cockerill. "That transition is made difficult by the fact that library budgets are already tied, subscriptions have a lock in." Libraries have to maintain access to their subscription journals and therefore struggle to support alternative models, he added. The open access mandates issued by large research funders like the Wellcome Trust and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, in addition to pending legislation requiring all research funded by NIH to be made publicly accessible, may shift the burden of publishing costs from the researcher to the funding institution, Cockerill added. How much use do you make of BMC or other open access journals? Tell us in a comment on this article. Andrea Gawrylewski mail@the-scientist.com Editor's note (posted August 10): When originally posted, the article contained a typo in a quote from Kenny Marone, director of the medical library at Yale. The error has been corrected. Links within this article: Yale library statement href='http://www2.library.yale.edu/movabletype/scilib/archive/2007/08/library_drops_b_1.html
Association of Research Libraries href='http://www2.library.yale.edu/movabletype/scilib/archive/2007/08/library_drops_b_1.html
Peter Suber http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/hometoc.htm
Open Access Project http://www.publicknowledge.org/about/what/projects/open-access.html
T. Agres. "'Open Access' opens wider," The Scientist, July 5, 2007. http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/53366/


Avatar of: Eric Murphy

Eric Murphy

Posts: 18

August 9, 2007

There are two issues. \n\nFirst, are non-paper journals real? I for one have never published in one of these journals as they have never developed a reputation. Perhaps I am old school, but then I was brought up that society journals are Tier I journals..........\n\nSecond, as BCM and The Scientist are sister companies and hence one has a financial interest in the success of the other, shouldn't this article make that point clear. There could be a bit of bias..........
Avatar of: Peter Bladon

Peter Bladon

Posts: 1

August 10, 2007

First let me state my position; I am a chemist (which means I am a scientist in a broader sense than "The Scientist" seems to adopt - but that's a separate issue). \n\nLet me offer a new method of publishing scientific research:\nStep 1. The author(s) submit a manuscript to one of the recognized professional societies.\nStep 2. The society arranges for peer review of the manuscript.\nStep 3. After passing the peer review stage, the society, issues a certificate of the quality of the paper.\nStep 4. The author(s) publish(es) the paper, together with the certificate, on a website controlled personally or by the employer.\nStep 5. For archival purposes the author(s) deposit a copy of the paper in one or more appropriate national libraries. \n\nStep 2 should be no more costly than at present; I have never been paid for reviewing journal manuscripts in the past. Step 3 is a formality.\nBoth steps 3 and 4 could be paid for by the membership subscriptions. Step 4 is catered for my most institutions and many researchers have their own web sites already.\nStep 5 is perhaps the most problematical - but most national libraries have remits that would make it difficult for them to refuse genuine material of value.\n\nThe professional membership societies and commercial publishers would still retain the valuable role of publishing review and abstracting journals. \n

August 10, 2007

Eric,\n\nYou rightly point out that the relationship between BioMed Central and The Scientist should be, and is, disclosed, in the fourth paragraph of this story. The two are financially and editorially independent of one another.\n\nRichard Gallagher\nEditor & Publisher, The Scientist

August 10, 2007

"The costs of open access publishing in BMC are comparable to traditional subscriptions, Matthew Cockerill, publisher of BMC (a sister company of The Scientist) told The Scientist. But, he added, as opposed to fixed rates for subscription journals, open access publishing costs continue to rise as more authors submit their articles for publication, demanding more resources for peer review, layout, processing, and internet servers."
\nThe above paragraph represents a misunderstanding - it gives the impression that subscription journals are able to publish an indefinite amount of research at a flat cost. Clearly this is not the case. Subscription journals are no different to open access journals in this respect ? the costs to the publisher goes up as more articles are published, and those increased costs are generally passed on to the customer. This was acknowledged by Reed Elsevier CEO Crispin Davis, giving evidence to the House of Commons Science & Technology Committee in March 2004:\n
"On pricing, we have put our prices up over the last five years by between 6.2 per cent and 7.5 per cent a year, so between six and seven and a half per cent has been the average price increase. During that period the number of new research articles we have published each year has increased by an average of three to five per cent a year. [...] Against those kinds of increases we think that the price rises of six to seven and a half per cent are justified."
\nThanks to strong support from the scientific community, open access publishing is growing at a much faster proportionate rate than traditional publishing, and so the growth of the costs involved is more noticeable. But in both cases there is an clear relationship between the underlying cost and the number of articles published.\n \nOne angle that is unfortunately missing from The Scientist's article is the perspective of a research funder. As discussed in BioMed Central's public response to Yale, funders are now playing a key role in helping libraries to cover the costs of open access, at least in a transitional phase while the bulk of libraries budgets remains continues to pay for subscriptions.\n \nIt should also not be forgotten that open access is not just an additional cost - it is already providing cost-savings for libraries. For example, three of the top journals in computational biology (BMC Bioinformatics, PLoS Computational Biology and Nucleic Acids Research) are fully open access, and the subscription price of a fourth journal in the field (Bioinformatics) was recently reduced by 19% to reflect the increasing proportion of open access content in the journal. Clearly, open access is helping to keep library subscription costs down in this area. Many major publishers including Springer and Oxford University Press have pledged to reduce subscription costs on all their journals proportionately, as they publish more open access articles, helping to enable a progressive transition in the allocation of library budgets. \n
Avatar of: Atanu


Posts: 1

August 10, 2007

"Ann Wolpert, director of libraries at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology told The Scientist that Yale's decision will not affect their membership to BMC. The institution's libraries have a flat-fee membership plan. "I don't think Yale faculty has taken advantage of BioMed Central to the extent that MIT faculty has," Wolpert said. "It is used very heavily [here], and our researchers are heavily cited." \n\nBMC cites a total of 73 items (63 research articles) published by MIT in their website, less than half of what Yale has published. MIT would be saving more if it pays per article published by its authors.
Avatar of: Madame Ghost

Madame Ghost

Posts: 2

August 13, 2007

Having published a few times now in TBioMed journals, I think there is much room for cutting cost of production. In the best English style, my interaction with TBIOMED shows it embraces the future while dragging the methods of the past along. \n\nThere is one discount, and that is for using EndNote. This is good, but it could go farther. \n\nThere could be another discount for using one or two image formats. For instance, TIFF files could be a discounted standard with doc files second. \n\nThere could be a tool for auto-assembling manuscripts, and then outputting them in proper PDF and HTML form. The author could be responsible for running those steps and checking the end product. Then, all the production editing staff would need do is look it over and say: \n Aye. Yer time before the mast is done! \n or \n Nay - puttest thou thy back to to more labor! \n\nThe editorial look-over could discount depending on how many times the manuscript must be looked at. \n\nAlso - is it really necessary to have a separate IT person to make setting changes to spam filters when PDF files get filtered from authors? \n\nAutomation is the ticket here for saving lots of money.
Avatar of:  Owen Jones

Owen Jones

Posts: 1

August 20, 2007

We just ran into the BMC problem while in the middle of submitting an article. BMC informed us that we had to pay full charges as our institution - the University of Manchester, UK - more specifically, our library, had not renewed its subscription to BMC and were 'reviewing the situation'. Apparently, there were twenty two submissions in a similar position. After several phone calls and emails our library gave an explanation - BMC had increased its subscription rate, significantly, and the library felt it unfair that they were picking up the bill for what was, essentially a research tool. Likewise, our faculty appears to be unhappy about picking up the bill for journals. Fortunately, our library has agreed to continue its subscription to BMC, enabling us to submit free articles, but only for the interim. \n\nThe open access, rapid, low-cost, publication aspect of BMC is terrific, especially for papers with many colour or video images and supplemental information. I just hope the BMC concept doesn't go down through 'market forces'without a proper debate about publication modes and costs, especially when support to researchers for journal overheads is limited.\n\n
Avatar of: jitendra Mehrishi

jitendra Mehrishi

Posts: 12

February 2, 2010

BMC started with good intentions- most of us wanted to support it- for members, it was free-later it became a business, very unimaginative poor reviewing, charges became prohibitive- no concessions in 'no provision' for high charges.\n\nhey need to rethink!
Avatar of: jitendra Mehrishi

jitendra Mehrishi

Posts: 12

July 1, 2010

BMC started with good intentions- now a business, not quite so efficiently run.\n\nby Jitendra Mehrishi, PhD, FRCPath.\n\nThe Cambridge Blood Cells, Stem Cells Research Initiative-High altitude Doping Blood Res.\n\n[Comment posted 2010-07-01]\nBMC started with good intentions- now a business- trying to whip up even more dollars. \n\nFirst, there were going to be no publication charges for the participating supporting universities, then the goal pasts changed- and with a charge of ~1500$- it became one of the most expensive Js. A practising highly distinguished EIChief of a series of Cancer Js (USA) agreed with me - as another J- that free access it might be but it was one of the most expensive Js to publish in. \n\nIt was said- if a MS was worth publishing and there were no funds for some Labs, semi-retired academics, money will not prevent it from being published, I think- from memory. \nWe tried one MS: astonishingly, it was handled badly, carelessly, nit the height of efficiency that we had to send FIVE reminders-- what was happening to the MS- futile mails and correspondence was very time consuming- several telephone calls- messages within department - there was no coordination. The delays did not seem to be entirely because of the tardy reviewers. The reviewers - open signed were top people fair- I am sure that the MS will have improved. As Szent-Gyorgyi and others have said- all MSS can improve by revisions. Eventually after 6 month and some concession in fees, but costing 6m salary of a young technician, the paper was published- hooray! \nThis will have been the last effort that my colleagues and I would risk sending a valuable MS to BMC Js. \n\nLet us face it- the scientific publishing is not what it is meant to be. \n\nValuable MS are being handled - and the fate being decided by less than widely read assistant editors- with no deep knowledge that only proper scientists can have the perception/knowledge to decide albeit they might have PhD- of 10 yrs or so ago-! \nThe basis for 'choosing' MS for a wide readership is quite obscure I recently discovered. \nToday on the train I happened to reading Max Perutz writing about one of the major pieces of advances sent to NATURE (do not know whose editorship at the time) that was rejected. Max then sent this MS- containing a major advance that contradicted a prevailing theory by Edsall and associates to PNAS- Edsall was the editor- it was a tribute to the fairness of Edsall that Perutz's MS was published. \n\nI think that today Js BMC and PLoS and others as well have to rethink that scientific publishing is not a magazine business for selling detergents and businessmen at such Js, who can't see the virtue (that able do see) should stop sending - the Bernard Shaw type 'tick box card', "we have nothing against your paper, but we get too many MSS (meaning we are so great, every one comes to us) about proper evaluation - it is perhaps best to say- sorry, we do not wish to publish- we are far too superior. \n\nI cannot see a good future for such Js unless there is a radical rethink. \n\n\n\nRead more: The Scientist : Post a comment http://www.the-scientist.com/forum/preview/53450/#ixzz0sThzKTEs\n\n\n\n

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