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Integrating the Literature with the Internet


J.F. Myles Clough, M.D., FRCSC
Kamloops, BC

In 1998 the founders of the Orthogate Project (www.orthogate.org) posted the Orthogate Project Manifesto to explain their vision. Part of it read

What is the OrthoGate Project? Quite simply, the goal of this project is to make every information resource you may need as an orthopaedic surgeon, allied healthcare provider, or patient available from a web browser. This includes access to high quality electronic orthopaedic textbooks and journals - both those that exist now in the traditional sense - and those that will undoubtedly develop to take advantage of the new capabilities introduced by this new electronic medium.

It was an enticing idea; whenever you wanted orthopaedic information, of whatever type, you could sit down at a computer anywhere in the world and with a minimum of fuss, access what you needed.

In those days, it looked as though the journals were trying to ignore the Internet and we foresaw an uphill battle to convince the orthopaedic world that all orthopaedic information, especially journal articles, should be accessible through the Internet. We should have had more faith in the power of common sense and economics. By now, the vast majority of publishers of orthopaedic journals have made their articles available on the Internet. Table 1 shows a representative sample of English Language orthopaedic journals, their websites and the access to their articles.

Table 1 Internet Access to Journal Articles

Journal
What is available
Cost of
pay per view
JBJS (British)
http://www.jbjs.org.uk/
Free Abstracts
Full Text for subscribers
Pay per view for others
$10 per article
JBJS (USA)
http://www.jbjs.org/
Free Abstracts
Full Text for subscribers and Fellows of AAOS
Pay per view for others
$15 per article
Journal of AAOS
http://www5.aaos.org/jaaos/index.cfm
Free Abstracts
Full Text for subscribers and Members of AAOS
Pay per view for others
$7 per article
Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research
http://www.corronline.com/
Free Abstracts
Full Text for subscribers
Pay per view for others
$10 per article
Journal of Arthroplasty
www.sciencedirect.com/web-editions/journal/08835403
Full Text Free as of Jan 2004
Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics (USA)
http://www.pedorthopaedics.com
Free Abstracts
Full Text for subscribers
Pay per view for others
Price not posted
Spine
http://www.spinejournal.com/
Free Abstracts
Full Text for subscribers
Pay per view for others
Price not posted
American Journal of Sports Medicine
http://journal.ajsm.org/
Free Abstracts
Full Text for subscribers
Pay per view for others
$5 per article
$25 for 24 hours access
Journal of Trauma
http://www.jtrauma.com/
Free Abstracts
Full Text for subscribers
Pay per view for others
$25 per article


Orthopaedic surgeons who are members of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) also have access to some journals through the CMA (www.cma.ca).

So the battle for access is won or is it? It is easy to believe that the prices quoted in Table 1 reflect a desire to restrict access and protect the subscription base of the journal. Publishers have a lot invested in the concept of a big chunk of paper being printed and distributed several times a year. The fact that most of us dont read each issue cover to cover and indeed would prefer to pick and choose what we read, is a reality to be ignored. The academic worlds response to what is seen as greed on the part of publishers is the Open Access movement.

In economic terms, these prices do not make sense. The work of placing the article on the web has already been done to allow the subscribers access. So all income from Pay Per View is additional and can attract no costs greater than the credit card transaction fee. In this information-hungry age, one would predict that there are 200 people willing to pay $2 for a view of an article for every single person willing to pay $25. Once again, one should assume that common sense and commercial pressure will bring down the price of Pay Per View to levels which would allow us to use the Web for access to most journal articles.

Is this the integration that we believe to be so desirable? Actually, it is only the transference of the information distribution system that evolved for paper journals into the electronic domain. All the delays, the expense, and the secrecy of the paper system remain untouched, as the paper journal would still be primary and the web version secondary. The paper system has two resounding advantages; the peer review system and tradition. What might be the corresponding advantages of true integration with the electronic medium being the primary domain for publication?


Todays battle seems to be about open access and it seems certain to be won. But once research reporting is transferred to the Internet, all these other elements will be brought to bear and can be expected to raise questions about the way in which publication of orthopaedic research happens.


There will be no shortage of contentious issues to face as the integration of the Literature and the Internet proceeds.


Resources

List of Orthopaedic Journal Websites http://freeortho.com/journals.html

OWL list of Orthopaedic Journals
http://www.orthopaedicweblinks.com/Publications/Journals/index.html

Open access publishing takes off. BMJ Editorial http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/328/7430/1

PLoS Biology http://www.plosbiology.org/ The Public Library of Science open access Biology Journal.