Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate

The death of biomedical journals

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: (Published 27 May 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:1387
  1. Ronald E LaPorte, professor (,
  2. Eric Marler, independent consultantb,
  3. Shunichi Akazawa, information specialistc,
  4. Francois Sauer, managing partnerd,
  5. Carlos Gamboa, regional advisere,
  6. Chris Shenton, internet engineerf,
  7. Caryle Glosser, psychologistg,
  8. Anthony Villasenor, managerh,
  9. Malcolm Maclure, associate professori
  1. a Department of Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh, 3460 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA
  2. b Tarrytown, NY, USA
  3. c Geneva, Switzerland
  4. d AT (GIS), Group of Enterprise, Design and Development, Boca Raton, FL 33434, USA
  5. e Pan American Health Organisation, Washington, DC, USA
  6. f Sterling Software, Washington, DC, USA
  7. g Pittsburgh, PA
  8. h NASA Scientific Internet, Washington, DC
  9. i Department of Epidemiology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
  1. Correspondence to: Dr LaPorte

    The musky scent of aging paper in our medical libraries still evokes an atmosphere of scholarship. But the cloistered peace of the stacks is increasingly punctured by the faint sounds of the coming revolution: the clicks, beeps, and whirrs of computers linked to the internet. For whom do they toll? Are they the death knell of biomedical journals as we know them? Or are they the pealing spire of the global village summoning health scientists to the electronic commons to share the harvest of knowledge?

    We are at a watershed in biomedical publishing. For some time the costs of paper journals have been mounting and the budgets of health science libraries contracting, while the number of have nots in poorer countries clamouring for access to medical literature has been growing.1 But now the information technology explosion that revolutionised banking and the airline industry is at the gateway of the biomedical community.

    As the hard copy journal system has started to decay, there has been an information technology explosion that, some argue, will completely transform the exchange of information in the biomedical community. The current process of biomedical publication expanded in the late 1800s. The approaches towards delivery of information to the scientists have changed little during the 20th century: mailed journals, textbooks, and scientific meetings. Transmitting information through the journal system can be likened to the use of the Addressograph in the 1950s for producing mass mailings, or the vinyl records that we all remember. New technology came in to produce the mailings more effectively and to “deliver” music to the consumers. Within a short period the Addressograph and the record player became virtually extinct. We believe that biomedical journals as we know them will become extinct in the next few years as the result of the development and …

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