Editorials

What is publication?

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.318.7177.142 (Published 16 January 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:142

A continuum

  1. Richard Smith, Editor
  1. BMJ

    Just as in the modern world there is more than one way of being dead, so there is more than one way of being published. Publication is not a dichotomous event: rather it is a continuum. And the academic community should accept this, not resist it. This was one of the main conclusions of a recent workshop in Paris, organised by Unesco, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the International Council of Scientific Unions, on developing practices and standards for electronic publishing in science.

    Traditionally a scientific paper has been deemed to be published once it appears in a paper journal. Publication might even be defined to the moment by the lifting of an embargo: the BMJ, for example, lifts its embargo at 00.01am (London time) on Fridays. But even in the old, predigital world publication was not precise. Authors often circulated drafts of their papers to colleagues, presented their findings at meetings, and published abstracts months or even years before publishing their papers in peer reviewed journals. The invisible college thus often knew of important research results …

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