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Former staff at CMAJ launch open access journal

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39191.702269.DB (Published 26 April 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:870
  1. David Spurgeon
  1. Quebec

    Canada's first paperless, open access, online medical journal was launched last week (www.openmedicine.ca). Its origins lie in a dispute about editorial independence that led to the firing of senior editors at CMAJ, the journal of the Canadian Medical Association, and the resignation of most of its editorial board (BMJ 2006;332:687, doi: 10.1136/bmj.332.7543.687-a).

    The new journal's mission is “to facilitate the equitable global dissemination of high-quality health research; to promote international dialogue and collaboration on health issues; to improve clinical practice; and to deepen the understanding of health and health care.” It is not for profit, editorially independent, and will not charge subscription fees or run advertisements for drugs or medical devices.

    Six of the editorial team at Open Medicine were formerly editors at CMAJ and left after the dispute. Ten editorial board members at CMAJ resigned and now are on the board of Open Medicine.

    Open Medicine's publisher is John Willinsky, a professor in the education faculty of the University of British Columbia. Its co-editors are Anita Palepu, an internist at St Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, and Stephen Choi, an emergency physician at the Ottawa Hospital.

    Dr Palepu, one of the six editors who left CMAJ, says she thinks that the editorial interference at CMAJ led to the move to create the new journal. “It was a catalyst,” she explained.

    She said that Open Medicine was applying for charitable status. It hoped to get operating funds from research libraries, institutional memberships, and foundations that share its mission, and also from non-drug, classified, and career advertising. A research group has already offered $C5000 (£2200; €3300; $4500) for three years.

    “So, I am encouraged, but I really have no empirical data to say [whether] this is going to work or not. But I feel that we have to try, and we're committed to making it sustainable, and we're passionate about it. The authors entrusted their work to us—they gambled—so we owe it to them.”

    She said that there were so many new users signing in to their internet server early on the date of launch that the launch was delayed, which was encouraging.

    Paul Hébert, editor in chief of CMAJ since January, said, “I wish them well. Launching a medical journal is no small feat and it's very hard work.

    “Since I've taken on the job, the CMA [Canadian Medical Association] has decided to invest heavily in the journal, and they basically want to make this journal weekly within five years. We're already increasing and enhancing the quality of the science.”

    Dr Hébert, who is a critical care physician at the Ottawa Hospital and critical care researcher at the University of Ottawa, added, “I'm a scientist and have a long history of publishing in the best journals, and so that's my strength.

    “We've made some substantial changes to the journal already, including hiring people in key positions, so at CMAJ life is looking very good.”

    Open Medicine's website explains how to submit a paper for publication and register as a reviewer at the same time—and why this is advantageous for researchers. The journal will publish articles as soon as they are made ready by an experienced editorial team and an editorial board composed of renowned scientists and academics.

    Dr Palepu added that Open Medicine believes that authors should retain ownership of their work, not the journals in which they publish their articles, which is not generally the case for traditional journals. Moreover, authors will not need to pay for reprints.

    The first issue contains an editorial entitled “Why open medicine?” written by James Maskalyk, an assistant professor at the medical school of the University of Toronto and a member of Doctors without Borders; three research articles; a systematic review of studies comparing health outcomes in Canada and the United States; four analyses and comment articles and one on clinical practice; and a book review on pharmaceutical ethics by Jerome Kassirer, professor at Tufts University medical school and editor in chief emeritus of the New England Journal of Medicine.

    Footnotes