Sunday, March 26, 2006

CMAJ: Open Access & "Flattening" Is Best Rx

According to an article in Saturday's Globe and Mail - "Prescription for Canada: an unfettered medical journal" - the cure for what is ailing the Can Med Assoc J is twofold: first, a move to a fully independent, not-for-profit journal for medical research; second, an open access (OA) model similiar to the Public Library of Science (PLoS).

UBC's John Willinsky, who resigned last week from the CMA Board, is quoted in the article as saying: ".. the events at the CMAJ suggest an alternative scientific publication may be needed in Canada". Willinsky adds that "The advantage of this [OA] model is that it can be started quickly and at low cost. We don't want to rush into this, but we could definitely do it."

The backlash against the CMAJ seems to fit into a global trend described by Thomas Friedman as "flattening" in The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century. Simply put, the digital revolution makes it possible for researchers to collaborate easily, and for decisions to be made less hierarchically by private interests - more "flattened". Globalization 3.0, as he calls it, is driven by new economic models, individual innovation and freelancing. (By the way, Globalization 1.0? The discovery of North America in 1492.)

Whatever model is adopted, CMA's Board needs to restore editorial freedom and move the journal toward more transparency. They got the open access part right, but need to recognize the importance of freedom and transparency in a world that is increasingly going global, and flat.

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