NEJM won't publish net papers

David Steffen steffen at
Fri Jun 30 14:44:51 EST 1995

In article <95181.085913FORSDYKE at QUCDN.QueensU.CA> <FORSDYKE at QUCDN.QueensU.CA> writes:
>    According to Jack Kapica of today's Globe & Mail, the New England Journnal
> of Medicine (June 22nd) says it will extend the anti-double-publishing rule,
> which is generally in effect for the paper literature, to the electronic media
>    This will make it even more difficult for electronic journals to get off
> the ground.

I read the editorial in the NEJM, and come to the opposite conclusion.  If
an electronic publication is "real" then NEJM is correct; double
publishing is double publishing. 

> The major problem is no uniform way of citing electronic papers,
> and the probable refusal of the paper media to agree to cite an electronic
> publication.

I don't think this follows, and I very much hope it is not true.  Refusal
to allow an author to pre- or re-publish something electronically is
unrelated to the willingness of the journal to accept a reference to
something published electronically. 

>    The great strength of the paper journals is their scrupulous reviewing
> process, but there is not reason why electronic papers could not be just as
> scrupulously reviewed, and carry some mark to indicate this.

I completely agree with you on this.  I personally am trying to get an
electronic publishing venture off the ground, and one property of this
publication that I consider essential is an absolutely conventional review
process.  I anticipate that the ejournal will have a (paid) editor in
chief and (paid) associated editors who will assign submissions to their
colleagues for review as is done now for paper journals.  I expect that
all steps in the process will be electronic and hopefully will proceed
much more quickly, but this would be the only difference in the review 

>    The great strength of the electronic media is that a contribution of little
> value takes up a negligible amount of "electronic space", whereas such contr-
> ibutions overwhelm our libraries and marginally make it more difficult to
> access the important literature.

NEJM argued that space is not the problem.  The problem is separating the
wheat from the chaff.  In particular, they commented on a paper by LaPorte
et al. (BMJ 1995 310:1387-90) in which the authors proposed a dramatic
change in how papers would be reviewed.  It was to this that NEJM

I agree with you that the "no space constraint" and related searchability
benefits imply things about what should and should not be published
electronically, but in the interest of clarity, I would like to save that
for another discussion. 

David Steffen, Ph.D., President, C/Si Consulting.
Adjunct Professor, Department of Cell Biology, Baylor College of Medicine.
Voice: (713) 668-3289.  FAX: (713) 668-3453.  Email: steffen at

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