Intended for healthcare professionals


Four futures for scientific and medical publishing

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 21 December 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:1472
  1. Kamran Abbasi, deputy editor, BMJa,
  2. Michael Butterfield, market intelligence managera,
  3. Jackie Connor, BMJ Careers directora,
  4. Tony Delamothe, web editor, BMJa,
  5. Stella Dutton, executive directora,
  6. Philip Hadridge, facilitatorb,
  7. Andrea Horgan, managing editor, specialist journalsa,
  8. Jane Smith, managing editor, BMJa,
  9. Richard Smith, editor (,
  10. Eunice Walford, sales and marketing directora,
  11. Alex Williamson, publishing director, specialist journalsa
  1. a BMJ Publishing Group, London WC1H 9JR,
  2. b Cambridge CB3 0HX
  1. Correspondence to: R Smith

    Strong forces are operating that may change radically the world of scientific and medical publishing. These include:

    • The appearance and spread of the world wide web, opening up the possibilities that authors might communicate directly with readers and that many intermediaries may not be needed

    • Increasing resentment in the academic community that it is having to pay ever more for information that it effectively produces itself

    • The rise of evidence based medicine and systematic reviews in particular, making people understand how medical information is disorganised and “Balkanised” and that finding information is expensive and difficult

    • Increased understanding of the “information paradox,” which says that doctors are overwhelmed with information and yet cannot find the information they need when they need it

    • Increased evidence that most medical studies are of low quality and of limited relevance to clinicians

    • Globalisation of medical publishing, exposing weak local products to strong international competitors

    • Appearance of new players—such as HighWire Press, BioMed Central, and PubMed Central—who are trying to capture value that currently belongs to publishers

    • Greater pressure on doctors to base their treatments on evidence

    • Increasing recognition that information alone will not change practice

    • Better understanding that improved health care will come not from exhorting individuals but by improving systems

    • The rise of patient power and doctor-patient partnership, meaning that patients expect access to the same information as doctors and that patients' evidence is just as important as doctors' or research based evidence

    • Growing acceptance that doctors cannot work effectively without considerable support from information and decision making tools

    • The spread of handheld technology, opening up new possibilities of delivering “just in time” information

    • Doctors and other health workers have to be regularly revalidated or recertificated

    • Those doing applied research are becoming increasingly impatient with systems that reward basic researchers but not them, and …

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