Assessing medical ethics journals

Ethics is a major branch of philosophy, and also has applications in many areas. Medical ethics and bioethics are examples. Publications in these areas of applied ethics are of interest to readers with a wide variety of professional and/or disciplinary backgrounds. Open access to these publications would be expected to broaden the readership even more. And, if it’s accepted that some of the more powerful justifications for Open Access continue to be ethics-based (see, for example, Distributive justice and open access), one might hope that ethics-oriented journals might be among the leaders of the OA movement. One purpose of the analysis reported below was to test this possibility. Another was to assess the frequency of contributions of NIH-supported authors to ethics-oriented journals.

An analysis of some journals that specialize in medical ethics, bioethics, clinical ethics, or nursing ethics was carried out using the same methodology described in a previous post. Values of the SJR journal rank indicator were obtained via SCImago; subscription prices per citation were obtained via Journal Cost-Effectiveness 2005-6 BETA; information about publisher copyright policies & self-archiving were obtained via the SHERPA/RoMEO directory; NIH-supported publications were identified by searching PubMed for these keywords: Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural [pt] OR Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural [pt], using the “Search by Journal” option.

An advanced search of the Eigenfactor.org site was carried out to identify and rank journals (JCR Subject Category: Ethics; Eigenfactor Subject: Medicine). For the results of this search, see: Eigenfactor.org: Ethics in Medicine. The top three journals that were identified were:

1. Bioethics (Blackwell Publishing): ISSN 0269-9702
SJR (2007): 0.141
Subscription price per citation: 30.15
SHERPA/RoMEO excerpt: a paid (hybrid) OA option, Online Open, is available.
Access to the free full text (FFT):

    Of NIH-supported articles published in the last 2 years: 0/4=0% FFT;
    Of total articles published in the last 2 years: 0/130=0% FFT.

2. Hastings Center Report (Hastings Center): ISSN 0093-0334
SJR (2007): 0.136
Subscription price per citation: 8.69
SHERPA/RoMEO excerpt: no publisher copyright information found.
Access to the free full text (FFT):

    Of NIH-supported articles published in the last 2 years: 0/3=0% FFT;
    Of total articles published in the last 2 years: 0/180=0% FFT.

3. Journal of Medical Ethics (BMJ Publishing Group): ISSN 0306-6800
SJR (2007): 0.116
Subscription price per citation: 5.56
SHERPA/RoMEO excerpt: If funding agency rules apply, authors may post articles in PubMed Central 6 months after publication. (Otherwise, the embargo in PubMed Central is 36 months; information obtained by putting the journal’s name into the search box in PMC’s Tabbed List).
Access to the free full text (FFT):

    Of NIH-supported articles published in the last 2 years: 9/15=about 60% FFT;
    Of total articles published in the last 2 years: 178/382=47% FFT.

Comment: Only the third of these 3 highly-ranked journals, Journal of Medical Ethics, yielded a substantial proportion (almost 50%) of freely accessible articles published within the past 2 years.

The Journal-Ranking.com website could only be searched for Ethics journals, not specifically for those concerned with ethics in medicine. The above three biomedically-oriented journals were ranked among the top ten journals, along with:

4. The American Journal of Bioethics (Taylor & Francis Group): ISSN 1526-5161
SJR (2007): 0.156
Subscription price per citation: 3.64
From SHERPA/RoMEO: Information about copyright. The embargo period for archived postprints wasn’t found via this journal’s website, but appears to be at least 12 months (and could be 18 months, if Taylor & Francis considers it to be a “SSH journal”, and not a “STM” journal). This journal is not currently listed among those that participate in iOpenAccess.
Access to the free full text (FFT):

    Of NIH-supported articles published in the last 2 years: 0/13=0% FFT;
    Of total articles published in the last 2 years: 1/390=0.3% FFT.

5. Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics (American Society of Law, Medicine & Ethics): ISSN 1073-1105
SJR (2007): 0.103
Subscription price per citation: 3.88
SHERPA/RoMEO excerpt: Identified as a Blackwell publication. (However, no mention of Blackwell’s publication policies could be found via the journal’s website).
Access to the free full text (FFT):

    Of NIH-supported articles published in the last 2 years: 1/29=3% FFT;
    Of total articles published in the last 2 years: 2/181=1% FFT.

Similarly, a SJR Journal Search was carried out for the Search query: Ethics. Two clinically-oriented journals that, in addition to some of those listed above, appeared in the top 10 results of this search were:

6. Journal of Clinical Ethics (The Journal of Clinical Ethics): ISSN 1046-7890
SJR (2007): 0.074
Subscription price per citation: 10.68
SHERPA/RoMEO excerpt: no publisher copyright information found.
Access to the free full text (FFT):

    Of NIH-supported articles published in the last 2 years: 0/2=0% FFT;
    Of total articles published in the last 2 years: 0/74=0% FFT.

7. Nursing Ethics (Sage Publications): ISSN 0969-7330
SJR (2007): 0.065
Subscription price per citation: 20.12
SHERPA/RoMEO excerpt: 12-month embargo for archived postprints. Not listed among the journals that participate in the Sage Open paid OA option.
Access to the free full text (FFT):

    Of NIH-supported articles published in the last 2 years: 0/3=0% FFT;
    Of total articles published in the last 2 years: 0/135=0% FFT.

Comment: None these four journals (#4 to #7) appear to be well-positioned to attract NIH-supported authors.

Two Journals that submit articles to PMC (PubMed Central):

8. BMC Medical Ethics (BioMed Central): ISSN 1472-6939
SJR (2007): 0.088
Subscription price per citation: 0 (no subscription required).
Access to the free full text (FFT):

    Of NIH-supported articles published in the last 2 years: 1/1=100% FFT;
    Of total articles published in the last 2 years: 28/28=100% FFT.

9. Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine (BioMed Central): ISSN 1747-5341
SJR (2007): 0.119
Subscription price per citation: 0 (no subscription required)
Access to the free full text (FFT):

    Of NIH-supported articles published in the last 2 years: 1/1=100% FFT;
    Of total articles published in the last 2 years: 44/44=100% FFT.

Comment: These two OA journals are well-positioned to attract NIH-supported authors. It will be of interest to see whether or not the number of NIH-supported articles increases as a result of successful implementation of the NIH’s OA policy.

There are some other more specialized, or more recent, journals that also merit consideration. Two examples are:

10. IRB (Hastings Center): ISSN 0193-7758
SJR (2007): 0.109
Subscription price per citation: not available
SHERPA/RoMEO excerpt: no publisher copyright information found.
Access to the free full text (FFT):

    Of NIH-supported articles published in the last 2 years: 1/13=8% FFT;
    Of total articles published in the last 2 years: 1/31=3% FFT.

Comment: The journal IRB has a focus on ethical issues in human research. Unfortunately, at present, access to the free full text via PubMed is only available for less than 10% of the articles published within the last two years.

11. Public Health Ethics (Oxford University Press): ISSN 1072-7928
SJR (2007): not available (new journal)
Subscription price per citation: not available (new journal)
Author Self-Archiving Policy: 12-month embargo on postprints uploaded to institutional and/or centrally organized repositories (including PubMed Central). Paid OA option available via Oxford Open.

Comment: The new journal Public Health Ethics has a focus on “the systematic analysis of the moral problems that arise in public health and preventive medicine“. It’s publisher, Oxford University Press, has the exemplary policy, stated in its Overview of Optional Oxford Open, that:

The amount of Open Access versus non-Open Access content in each journal is regularly analyzed, and this will impact the future online subscription prices – generally speaking, the more Open Access content published in a journal, the lower the future online subscription prices will be.

See also: Oxford Open Update.

There are also ethics-oriented articles that have been published in journals which do not have a primary focus on ethics-related topics. To obtain some information about a wide range of ethics-oriented articles, a PubMed search was done using the MeSH descriptor Ethics. The results:
Access to the free full text (FFT):

    Of NIH-supported articles published in the last 2 years: 112/523=21% FFT;
    Of total articles published in the last 2 years: 1787/12552=14% FFT.

Concluding Comments:

1) This analysis reveals that researchers and scholars working on the application of ethics-oriented approaches to health-related issues are not being well-served at present, from an Open Access perspective, by some of the best-established journals in medical ethics, bioethics, clinical ethics and nursing ethics. These particular journals, and their publishers, are mostly not at the forefront of the OA movement.

2) Some journals and publishers that provide exceptions to the previous comment include Journal of Medical Ethics (BMJ Publishing Group), the OA journals BMC Medical Ethics and Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine (BioMed Central), and the paid-OA policies of Oxford University Press, see: Overview of Optional Oxford Open.

3) It is also apparent that a rather small number of NIH-supported articles are currently being published by these particular ethics-oriented journals. Even a very successful implementation of the revised NIH OA policy may not have a substantial impact on the accessibility of articles in these particular journals.

4) It should be noted that the great majority of ethics-oriented articles (and NIH-supported ethics-oriented articles) that have been indexed by PubMed have published in journals other than #1 to #11 considered above. The free full text is available via PubMed for about 20% of NIH-supported, ethics-oriented articles published within the past 2 years. This proportion can be expected to increase when the NIH access policy is implemented successfully.

Added June 26, 2008: Cite as: Till J. Assessing medical ethics journals. Be Openly Accessible or Be Obscure blog. Self-Archived at WebCite® 2008-Jun-26 [http://www.webcitation.org/5YrHYSPTX]

About these ads

4 Comments »

  1. Jere said

    Great post! Regarding: “researchers and scholars working on the application of ethics-oriented approaches to health-related issues are not being well-served at present, from an Open Access perspective, by some of the best-established journals in medical ethics, bioethics, clinical ethics and nursing ethics”. I agree. Also, you’re right that the NIH policy will have very little impact, unless, perhaps … the NIH increases funding for ethics research. Finally, I’d be interested to see how these journals compare to similar titles in the social sciences and the humanities. Perhaps the reluctance to provide OA reflects the field’s cultural ties with Philosophy, Sociology, and Law.

  2. Kelly said

    Thanks for the information on medical ethics. These articles will come in handy next time I have to write an ethics related article!

    We recently wrote an article on ethics at Brain Blogger. What if a patient did not tell a doctor all the information they could about their condition/s? Would that be ethically wrong, or should the patients have the right to keep that information to themselves?

    We would like to read your comments on our article. Thank you.

    Sincerely,
    Kelly

    From the blog editor: Comments can be added to the article at Brain Blogger.

  3. tillje said

    Jere, who submitted the first comment (see above), has posted another comment at: Bioethics Journals: 88% Obscure, One Person Bioethics Librarian, June 28, 2008.

  4. […] recently sent me a link to a post on the openness of ethics journals. Jim Till, of Be openly accessible or be obscure, examines the open access policies and the frequency of “free full text” (FFT) […]

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: