There’s Been a Murder

The reader-focused journals world has been left for dead, two guys think they'll tackle scientific AI, and BMJ Medicine struggles with open peer-review

For centuries, the implicit goal of scholarly and scientific publishers was to serve a community of interested readers with relevant, quality information — until 2000, when suddenly the conceptualization shifted, and the idea of the community-oriented, reader-focused journal was replaced with the concept of an author-oriented, funder-focused, article-filled substitute. Those peddling the shambolic substitute hoped nobody would notice the swap.

As of today, the idea of serving communities and readers — and, through them, society — is, in many areas of scientific and scholarly pursuit, basically comatose, if not entirely dead. Those of us who have been paying attention can follow a trail of clues left behind by the perpetrators, as well as describe and identify the rattling avatar of what once was the reader-focused journal — the mega-journal, the preprint server, the predatory publisher, the exploitative publisher, the mega-publisher, the cascade.

While the body still animates in ways that appear normal, we know it is an automaton, a puppet of funders and authors as much as a living, breathing entity informed by editorial, practitioner, and community needs.