Open, inclusive and trusted
Almost 14 years ago the BMC-series was launched as a ground-breaking series of journals built on the new concept of open access. Like many teenagers, now seems to be the time to reflect on what we value, who we are and what we want to achieve.
Unrestricted by the page budgets of print journals, the goal of the BMC series was a complete and unbiased scientific record. The journals would publish technically sound work, conducted according to good scientific standards, that added value to the scientific literature, but which tended to be overlooked by high impact journals due to lack of an exciting story. The journals combined a thorough peer review process with the (then) novel innovation of open access publishing to promote transparency and the publication of work which would provide useful knowledge to the scientific community.
Now, 14 years on, the BMC series has 65 journals across three tiers. BMC Biology and BMC Medicine are more selective, aiming to publish work which is of special importance and broad interest. At the other end of the spectrum, BMC Research Notes has a particular emphasis on publishing incremental advances, updates, confirmatory results, short reports and data sets, with the aim of reducing the loss to the scientific record when such work remains unpublished. In the middle are the 62 subject-specific journals covering almost all areas of biology and medicine that make up the core of the BMC series. These 62 journals work closely together and have the same aims and ethos.
The ethos of the BMC-series subject-specific journals
My online dictionary defines ethos as the “disposition, character, or fundamental values peculiar to a specific person, people, culture, or movement”  or “the distinguishing character or disposition of a community” . Ethos might seem an unusual word to use in relation to a series of journals, but nothing else seems to describe so well the values of the BMC series. Ethos is something which is rooted deeply within the character of a person or organization. The values of the BMC series have been part of the character of the journals since they were launched, and remain the basis on which we move forwards.
The values which define the ethos of the BMC series mean that the scientific community will recognize any title within the BMC-series as open, inclusive and trusted.
Open: Promoting openness and transparency in peer review, as well as in scientific publication, has always been a fundamental value of the BMC series. As well as the series being at the forefront of open access publication, the medical journals in the series also operate a system of open peer review, which means that reviewers sign their reports and these are published online if the manuscript is accepted. Readers can see who commented on the manuscript and what they said, so the peer review process is open and accountable. As the landscape of scientific publishing changes and develops we will keep promoting openness and transparency in peer review, publication and data sharing.
Inclusive: The BMC series remains true to its origins and what it was launched to achieve, a complete and unbiased scientific record overseen by editors who do not make interest level a criterion for publication. Of course being inclusive means that we do also welcome articles which are ground-breaking and exciting! Whatever the interest level of the article, technical quality cannot be compromised and submissions are rigorously assessed by the wonderful academics from across the world who contribute their time to the journals as Section Editors, Associate Editors and peer reviewers and who share our commitment to publishing all sound science, provided that there is some advance in knowledge presented by the work. The definition of what is an advance in knowledge in specific fields may change over time: some journals in the series no longer accept manuscripts which they might have previously considered, because the work presented is no longer considered by that scientific community to be an advance in knowledge. See, for example, this editorial in BMC Evolutionary Biology on standards in phylogenetic analysis.
But inclusivity isn’t just about being willing to publish the less ‘sexy’ articles. Constructive rejection is also a part of our focus on inclusivity: our editors always aim to provide authors of rejected manuscripts with helpful comments to enable them to improve their work in the future. We also want to reduce barriers in the way of publishing sound science, particularly those facing new authors, or those for whom English is not their first language. BioMed Central has resources to support authors in preparing their manuscripts such as our author academy and our partnership with Edanz, who provide language editing services.
Trusted: Although I have referred to the BMC series as being in its teenage years, it is more mature than your average teenager, and indeed more mature than most other open access journals. We have gained a huge amount of valuable experience and have seen the open access landscape change a great deal over the past 14 years.
For the BMC series thorough peer review remains key to ensuring that the published articles can be trusted by readers. We benefit from the experience of our academic Section Editors and Associate Editors whose expertise in their fields is invaluable; whilst our teams of in-house Executive Editors and Assistant Editors who work on the journals combine academic science backgrounds with expertise in publishing and the editorial process. The BMC series also works closely with our Biology and Medical Editors to ensure that our rigorous editorial policies are upheld. BioMed Central is a member of OASPA and COPE and we follow the Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing. The quality of our peer review and our experience in publishing open access journals make us a trusted venue for authors and readers.
The mission statement of the subject-specific BMC-series journals encompasses the values which are set out in the ethos, and sets out what the series aims to achieve:
The BMC series publishes subject-specific journals focused on the needs of individual research communities across all areas of biology and medicine. We offer an efficient, fair and friendly peer review service, and are committed to publishing all sound science, provided that there is some advance in knowledge presented by the work. We are innovative in our approach to peer review and publication, promoting transparency, and working with our authors, editors and reviewers to make scientific knowledge widely available.
As a series we are already involved in various initiatives to improve our peer review service to authors, including portable peer review and projects such as the community peer review initiative Peerage of Science. We are promoting data sharing through integration of some of our journals with the open data repository Dryad. We will keep pushing forwards new innovations to improve our service to the scientific community in the different fields where our journals publish.
BMC series – open, inclusive and trusted
“Ethos” is the right word to describe the overarching mission and values of the BMC series: it is the distinguishing character of these journals that although they are separate, subject-specific journals, as a series they together aim to be open, inclusive and trusted. Our mission statement highlights these values and the way in which we want to develop in the future. As the BMC series grows through its teenage years, being open, inclusive and trusted remains fundamental to the character of the journals.
Senior Managing Editor, BMC-series journals.
 The Free Dictionary http://www.thefreedictionary.com/ethos