[open-science] Sad news : Closing Open Medicine

Florence Piron florence.piron at com.ulaval.ca
Mon Nov 17 23:50:19 UTC 2014


Home <http://www.openmedicine.ca/index> > Vol 8, No 4 (2014) 
<http://www.openmedicine.ca/issue/view/34> > Kendall 
Closing /Open Medicine/
Claire Kendall, James Maskalyk, Anita Palepu

Despite our passion for making high-quality medical information freely 
and widely accessible, we always knew it would come down to 
sustainability. This is our final editorial in /Open Medicine/. It has 
been an inspiring journey for all who have been involved in the 
journal’s inception, launch, and day-to-day operations. Around the idea 
that there is a need for unbiased, publicly accessible platforms for the 
dissemination of medical research and discussion, a lively community 
gathered. There were great debates, wonderful authors and articles, 
excitement and enthusiasm for what was possible, and freedom from the 
constraints of paper and for-profit ownership. We are closing /Open 
Medicine/ knowing that we have made a meaningful contribution to 
something bigger than ourselves, and that our efforts have helped to 
change the landscape of medical publishing.

/Open Medicine/ was born from our refusal to stand behind blatant 
interference with editorial independence in biomedical publishing.^1 
<http://www.openmedicine.ca/article/viewArticle/654/572#ref1>, ^2 
<http://www.openmedicine.ca/article/viewArticle/654/572#ref2> Such 
interference is a recurring theme in medical publishing, a fact hinging 
on the vested interests of medical journal publishers (typically, 
medical associations and societies, who sometimes find themselves at 
odds with outspoken editors) and of their advertisers (mainly, 
pharmaceutical and medical device companies). Our desire to free 
ourselves from this model launched us quickly and passionately into the 
emerging and evolving world of open access.^1 
<http://www.openmedicine.ca/article/viewArticle/654/572#ref1> Our 
presence caused other journals to change, to become more open, and to 
evolve with the times. Although there is some debate about whether these 
efforts are open enough (/Open Medicine/ is both open access and open 
source, for instance), they have helped to make information access more 

While inspiring, the process was also chronically frustrating. Despite 
everyone’s best intentions, it was challenging for a small team to keep 
stoking the interest and engagement of the general academic community, 
and it was difficult to recruit members to our editorial board and board 
of directors who could provide the kind of hands-on involvement that our 
small but ambitious operation required. Academic medicine has been slow 
to recognize the importance of stepping out of the comfort zone of 
traditional publishing: unfortunately, the benefits of disseminating 
information freely still takes second place to the allure of publishing 
in a prestigious forum, however difficult that forum may be for readers 
to access. By the end, despite continual efforts to deepen our bench 
strength, there were few stalwart supporters. Perhaps our mistake was to 
focus our recruitment efforts too much on those who were well 
established in their careers, rather than on up-and-coming authors and 
editors, who might have been more likely to embrace new possibilities.

The work was also exacting. Launching and running a medical journal is 
more work than it might seem.^3 
<http://www.openmedicine.ca/article/viewArticle/654/572#ref3> Based on 
our previous experiences, we thought we might need operational funding 
of about $3 million dollars per year. Ultimately, by dint of optimism 
and volunteerism, we were able to run the journal and publish articles 
for a tiny fraction of that. We built upon the Public Knowledge 
Project’s Open Journal System, the open source platform whose 
development was led by our friend and publisher John Willinsky, and 
which now hosts over 7000 open access journals in 105 countries.^4 
<http://www.openmedicine.ca/article/viewArticle/654/572#ref4> We were 
also accepted for indexing in PubMed after three short years; this was 
no small achievement.^5 
<http://www.openmedicine.ca/article/viewArticle/654/572#ref5> We had 
immense support from Canadian research libraries, thanks to their own 
commitment to making knowledge freely available and their frustration 
with ever-escalating fees for bundled journal subscriptions. We also had 
contributions from our own colleagues and institutions to build on in 
our early years. Finally, thousands of volunteer hours were generously 
given to journal logistics, technical support, and web design, not to 
mention what accrued from the editorial and communications expertise of 
team members and the contributions of our valued bank of peer reviewers.

The publishing landscape we are leaving is very different from the one 
we entered seven years ago. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research 
have adopted, and now strengthened, an open access policy for their 
publicly funded research and are collaborating with the Social Sciences 
and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Natural Sciences and 
Engineering Research Council of Canada to develop a tri-council policy 
that will broaden and further reinforce these requirements. Many 
Canadian universities now have institutional repositories to help their 
faculty meet these open access requirements, as well as author funds to 
help authors pay publication charges that allow their work to be freely 
(if not openly) available. Most researchers now recognize that 
high-quality open access publications require the same level of peer 
review and editorial input as traditional journals.


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