Don't Like Open Journal Publishing?

If you think there is something about the Internet that pollutes the purity of journal publishing, think again.

The relationship between big pharma and publishers is perilous. Any industry with global revenues of $600bn can afford to buy quite a lot of adverts, and pharmaceutical companies also buy glossy expensive "reprints" of the trials it feels flattered by. As we noted in this column two months ago, there is evidence that all this money distorts editorial decisions.

This time Elsevier Australia went the whole hog, giving Merck an entire publication which resembled an academic journal, although in fact it only contained reprinted articles, or summaries, of other articles. In issue 2, for example, nine of the 29 articles concerned Vioxx, and a dozen of the remainder were about another Merck drug, Fosamax. All of these articles presented positive conclusions. Some were bizarre: such as a review article containing just two references.

Things have deteriorated since. It turns out that Elsevier put out six such journals, sponsored by industry. The Elsevier chief executive, Michael Hansen, has now admitted that they were made to look like journals, and lacked proper disclosure. "This was an unacceptable practice and we regret that it took place," he said.
As you see, there is ample reason to suspect that this kind of thing is not rare as hen's teeth but rather a bit more common. In fact it might not be newsworthy if a journal publisher hadn't been the one to print it. Consider that if you will.

It isn't so different from whipping up a think tank is it? You want opinion, you buy it.


Using Ontologies to Change Government

The Knight Commission on the Information needs of Communities has a survey on how you find and use news. Fine and good, but at the end they ask about how government should change delivery to facilitate public engagement.

I suggested they discuss how an ontology could be developed that would give several levels of summary and detail. This sort of data structure would allow most trained data people to mash up and deliver useful information. For instance you could give contributors filtered by standard industry group (SIG) against politicians votes and agenda items filtered by SIG in a Gapminder display.

So far so good.

But this kind of ontology has the potential to replace current bill tracking methods used in house by governmental entities. After a bill passes or a court case is settled, the record would be an adequate way of archiving records for all types issues at law.