Although not directly related to
This sounds like a disturbing change.
Science 2 December 2005:
Vol. 310. no. 5753, p. 1407
News of the Week
NIEHS Journal Is on the Block
The new director of the National Institutes of Health's (NIH's) environmental institute has drawn flak by proposing to sell off the institute's well-regarded journal.
In September, David Schwartz requested public comments on privatizing the journal as part of an "ongoing review" of programs. Dozens of scientists and environmental and health groups have reacted in horror, fearing the loss of the journal's mix of research and news, now free online. Some also worry that a commercial owner would be less likely to publish findings unflattering to industry. Last month, a dozen Democratic members of Congress chimed in, writing NIH Director Elias Zerhouni that privatizing the journal "places at risk the integrity and quality" of Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP).
The 33-year-old EHP is published by
the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), a branch of
Since the institute announced its
proposal in the 19 September Federal Register, more than 70 mostly academic
researchers--including members of EHP's editorial board--have signed a letter
voicing "strong opposition" to the move. They fear that nobody else
will want to publish its mix of toxicology, epidemiology, medicine, and risk
analysis, that developing countries would lose free access, and that EHP's
"extras" such as news coverage of "complex science" would
be discontinued. Some scientists also worry about EHP's independence. "A
commercial publisher may be less willing to publish articles that have
implications for powerful interests," suggests epidemiologist David
Some environmentalists worry that
privatizing the journal could be part of what they perceive as a shift away
from examining the risks of pollutants and toward studying clinical disease.
"The E in NIEHS is going silent," claims toxicologist Jennifer Sass
of the Natural Resources Defense Council in
Schwartz declined to be interviewed, but NIEHS noted in a statement that the government publishes few scientific journals. (In 1997, for example, the only other major NIH-published journal, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, was spun off and is now published by Oxford Press.) NIEHS also argues that maintaining EHP as a government publication "may actually limit the journal's independence and potential future growth." The institute expects to make a decision in the next few months.