July 19, 2000 doesn’t appear to have been a particularly momentous day in the history books, and a Google search for that day doesn’t bring up many hits. However, here at BioMed Central this date is special, because it marked the publication of the first ever article in a BMC-series journal.
It was BMC Biochemistry which published that first article, closely followed on July 27 by articles in BMC Genomics and BMC Bioinformatics. 15 years, over 87,500 published articles, and over 1 million citations later, what have we been up to and where are we going next?
Starting something new
It seems odd now, that when the BMC series first started publishing 15 years ago, the idea of open access was new and unsettling. As some of the first open access journals ever published, the BMC-series journals have always championed the open access model and the importance of transparency in scientific publishing.
It wasn’t just the open access publishing model that we led the way on either. The BMC-series medical journals were the first to publish pre-publication histories for articles as part of the new innovation that was open peer review, enabling readers to see the reviewer reports and previous versions of the article.
While open peer review can sometimes present challenges, it does produce higher quality reports and the benefits of transparency provide an overwhelming argument for openness. A time-line of the developments in open peer review is given in this blog from F1000 Research.
Putting the author at the center
One of the aspects of this which is particularly important to the BMC series is ensuring the author doesn’t have to jump through unnecessary hoops on the way to publication.
One of the things that struck me when I joined BioMed Central in 2008, straight out of research, was the emphasis on giving the author a good experience as their manuscript went through the entire process from submission and peer review to publication. Open access, with its ‘author pays’ model placed the author rather than the library or institute in the position of customer, and so in this new world the publisher needed to pay attention to author service.
One of the aspects of this which is particularly important to the BMC series is ensuring the author doesn’t have to jump through unnecessary hoops on the way to publication. Authors have already put in the work producing quality research, publishing that research should be as straightforward a process as possible.
Articles need to add something of value to the scientific literature, and all the experiments and analyses behind the article need to be conducted according to good scientific standards. But the emphasis of peer review in the subject-specific journals of the BMC-series is on the scientific assessment rather than the subjective ‘interest level’ of the research.
Part of the research community
When the BMC-series journals were originally launched, they were completely run by in-house editorial staff, based in London. The BMC series still has a team of in-house Executive Editors and Assistant Editors, now spread across London, New York, and Shanghai, who all have scientific academic backgrounds. However, there are also now over 6,000 academic Editors working with the journals as Associate Editors and Section Editors.
This huge amount of involvement from researchers is invaluable not only to manage the growth of the journals, but also to ensure that each of the journals reflects the research community which it serves.
The journals in the BMC series continually look to be more involved in the academic community, with some journals, such as BMC Health Services Research, establishing affiliations with organizations and societies.
Two of the journals, BMC Ear, Nose and Throat Disorders and BMC Public Health, have also now taken the new step of introducing Editors-in-Chief, who will drive the journals forwards and root them in the research community. The changes in editorial model for these two journals were discussed in blog posts here and here.
15 years on – time for a new look?
At 15 years old, most people probably want a bit of a make-over, and as the journals grow and develop it is also time for us to have a new look.
The BioMed Central websites are all being re-designed and developed (the process of which was discussed here), and the BMC-series journals are no exception. An early beta of the new websites is already available, for example for BMC Nutrition, and we want your feedback on our new look.
One aspect which has recently been added to the beta sites is the geometric pattern behind the journal name, which will be present across all the journals in the BMC series. This pattern was chosen for the BMC-series journals because it is made up of different elements which interconnect. We think this is a great representation for the BMC series, made up of individual journals, which have their own distinct features, but which are all interconnected.
You can’t spend 15 years doing something and not learn a few things along the way, and the BMC-series journals have gained a lot of experience since July 19, 2000. The journals have developed far beyond where we started, and one short post is not enough space to talk about all that we have done and all we want to do in the future.
When I look forward to the next 15 years of the BMC series I want us to be innovative, to keep putting the author at the center, and to be part of the academic communities that our journals serve.
We should strive to make scientific research more transparent and available, to ensure that everything which adds value to the literature has the opportunity to be published, and to make the most of our experience over the last 15 years as we move into the next 15.
But right now I think that it’s time for some birthday cake…