Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from the British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd

  The British Journal of Surgery was established in 1913 following an agreement by Lord Moynihan, Mr Hey Groves, a Bristol surgeon, and a Bristol publisher, John Wright. It was published under this agreement until the mid 1970s, when the newly established British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd. bought out John Wright and changed publisher. Surgeons both manage the affairs of the Journal and edit the Journal, and the publisher publishes and markets the Journal. This has proved a successful formula enabling the Journal to thrive, such that it is now the second most important general surgical journal in the world, and is cooperating with its European colleagues to provide a European journal to compete with the leading journal, the American Annals of Surgery.

  It is our belief that the present environment empowers the smaller specialty journals to expand and contract as opportunities arise.

  We wish to make the following points:

    —  The financial implications of an open-access model would compromise learned societies who publish their own journals.

    —  The revenue streams from science technology and medical publishing are important for investment in innovative technology-dependent publishing methods.

    —  Surgical departments are underfunded compared with those departments undertaking molecular biological research. The cost to the individual author to publish his or her work would either be a departmental cost or fall on the individual author. Some of the most innovative surgical advances are derived from an individual surgeon outwith an academic department: that individual is unlikely to pay £1,500-2,500 to have his/her article published.

    —  The surgical community has an "ownership" of its journal. The editors receive an honorarium, those running the journal do it under Charity guidelines, and the referees are unpaid. The peer review process could collapse but for this ownership.

    —  Once money buys a publication the freedom of scientific publication will be at risk.

    —  The British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd is aware of the problems related to access and the difficulties librarians have regarding Enhanced Access Licences. These problems can be resolved by negotiation. The problem will only be made worse if governmental bodies make journal access free throughout the NHS Direct website. We see this as a particular threat to our subscription base.

    —  Competition is intense in the SMTP industry. Two years ago the British Journal of Surgery changed publishers and no less than six publishers bid for the contract. The Society was able to negotiate what has proven a very advantageous publishing agreement, maintaining a low cost journal.

    —  Academic publishing is open to scientific fraud and malpractice, of which dual publication is noteworthy. An interested, involved and responsible editorial and referee base will be aware of these problems and expose such malpractice. Our Journal has combined with its American colleagues to issue a joint statement on a related topic [Polk HC, Bowden TA, Rikkers LF, Balch CM, Organ CH, Murie JA, et al. Scientific data from clinical trials: investigators' responsibilities and rights. Archives of Surgery 2002; 137: 639-640].

  In summary, it is our contention that the involvement of dedicated professionals with personal responsibility for their product, will provide better access to the focused requirements of a surgical community than a monolithic open access policy utilising e-publishing.

February 2004

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