So Long but Not Farewell: The Medscape Journal of Medicine (1999-2009)

Michele Romaine; Steven Zatz, MD; Kaytie Brown; George D. Lundberg, MD


Medscape J Med. 2009;11(1):33 

Dear Readers,

After nearly 10 years and thousands of published articles, we regret that the company has decided to cease publication of any new articles in The Medscape Journal of Medicine after January 30, 2009. Please be assured that all previously published articles will remain published and available on the Medscape platform, indexed in MEDLINE/PubMed, and -- for the next several years -- in full text at as well.

What began as an experiment in open-access publishing, meaning free to the readers and free to the authors, has become one of the most successful, purely electronic, peer-reviewed, primary source general medical journals in the world.

MedGenMed Launch History

Medscape General Medicine, aka MedGenMed and, was launched on April 9, 1999.[1]MedGenMed followed the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) guidelines[2]; recruited an outstanding international editorial board; and began soliciting, receiving, and publishing papers. MedGenMed successfully became MEDLINE-indexed.[3]

MedGenMed reviewers were of the same rank of all the great journals. Only top experts in specialty-specific fields were invited to serve as objective reviewers. The authors and reviewers worked directly with our managing editor and section editors. The person-to-person email communication, compared with an automated submission system, may have seemed labor-intensive by some. However, we at the journal -- to this day -- found the human component to be of great value while developing relationships with our readers and authors who often have specific questions about submitting, the review process, and publication.

MedGenMed was not annual, quarterly, monthly, or weekly. We published when the article was ready. This has produced timely and fresh content on a daily basis -- 5 days a week (minus holidays). Soon, open-access publishing had a pulse.[4]

MedGenMed published peer-reviewed original articles, clinical research and trials, critical reviews, commentaries, public health controversies, policy papers, consensus reports, special articles, government reports, hypotheses, editorials, and others. Often, new categories of content were created.

On October 31, 2002, as part of its ongoing development, we integrated selected content from Medscape's other electronic journals into new eSections of MedGenMed, each with its own experienced Section editor. This merger allowed the addition of more than 250 articles, nearly doubling its collection of clinically relevant content.[5]

From a strategic standpoint, the need to have provided a credible source on the Internet was critical, because more than 95% of US physicians use the Internet daily. Most medical and biological science journals have Web versions in addition to their paper ones, sometimes variations in content, form, and timing. Whereas most journals are funded by paid subscriptions, advertising, sponsorship, member dues, recycled member dues, licensing fees, government, grants from foundations, author fees, sale of reprints, "unrestricted educational grants" from industry, externally funded supplements, CME fees, the owner/publisher for altruism, R & D, or as a "loss leader" for marketing purposes, MedGenMed remained -- and has until its last published article -- free .

Halfway through its life cycle, MedGenMed had published more than 1100 articles, all free of charge to the reader and the author, with a median turnaround time from receipt to publication of about 42 days, including all necessary steps of peer review and revision. The number of readers was increasing, as were the number and quality of manuscripts received.[6]

A few years into the "experiment," the journal was going strong celebrating its 5-year mark in open-access publishing. MedGenMed was truly pioneering. The advances continued from there as the plans to implement new features and expand the reach of the journal were under way:

  • "The Launch of eJIAS - The Electronic Journal of the International AIDS Society"

    • July 2004 - In partnership with the International AIDS Society (IAS), MedGenMed contained a new specialized section focusing on publications from workers in developing countries.[7]

  • Book Excerpts, April 2004[8]

  • "Webcasting Concurrent Text-Audio-Video Messages"; June 2004 - the "Webcast Video Editorial" (WVE) and the "Webcast Video Commentary" (WVC) became alive[9,10,11]

  • November 2005 - The first monthly MedGenMed newsletter was emailed out to registered readers. The mailing provided readers with an Editor's Note along with a list of the month's published content -- all with active links for streamlined access. (By the end of 2008, over 500,000 MDs had subscribed to receive the monthly newsletter.)

  • April 2007 - "MedGenMed Announces a New Service of Its Letters Column to Help Clean up the Messes Made by Any Medical Journals.[12]"

We offered a neutral place for letters relating to unresolved publication issues in other medical journals, especially those involving the prior publication of conflicted results and interpretations not yet resolved by either retraction, correction, or clarification[12]:

  • The first Webcast Video Interview (WVI) was published in April 2007[13]; and

  • "Let the Readers Rule: Two New Ways to Hear Multiple Voices.[14]"

In September 2007, 2 new MedGenMed offerings were added -- "Letters From the Global Literature[14]" and Comments Boards. The Comments Boards were initiated, parallel to our unaltered Letters process, to allow readers the opportunity to weigh in immediately on hot topics to encourage direct correspondence between reader and author. The discussion boards allowed physicians, and people unknown to us, to post instant comments in reaction to published content.

Posting WVEs, WVCs, and WVIs on YouTube. In September 2007, the WVEs and WVCs posted on YouTube also appear on Google video with the YouTube URL. The transfer from YouTube to Google was automatic because Google owned YouTube.

Medscape General Medicine: April 9, 1999-December 31, 2007. This Epilogue Is Not an Epitaph." In December 2007, this editorial marked the end of the active publication of MedGenMed, although it will be archived "forever." MedGenMed graduated to become The Medscape Journal of Medicine -- same journal, different name.[15]

Announcing The Medscape Journal of Medicine. In January 2007, in order to differentiate the Journal from a "Website," we changed the name to The Medscape Journal of Medicine,[16]

"Fifteen Reasons Why You Should Submit Your Best Work to The Medscape Journal of Medicine." In January 2008, an editorial was included to remind the readers and potential authors of the incentives to submitting their work to The Medscape Journal.[17]

Because Medscape has always required registration, we know that we have readers in almost every country in the world -- 237 at last count. Several hundred thousand are physicians, and more than 2 million work in the health professions. Large numbers of consumers/patients also choose to visit and use Medscape and its eJournals, which highlights the public health mission of WebMD and Medscape.

Today, The Medscape Journal contains 15 departmental categories (Book Reviews, Case Reports, Clinical Cases, Clinical Reviews, Editorials, Geographic Diseases, Hypotheses, Letters, Letters From the Global Literature, The Medscape Medical Minute, Original Articles, Review Articles, Special Articles, WVIs, WVCs, and WVEs) and 13 Specialty Sections (Supplement Issues, TLC: The Learning Curve [for students and residents], American Healthcare Reform, Bioethics, Clinical Nutrition & Obesity, Gastroenterology, Hematology-Oncology, Neurology & Neurosurgery, Ob/Gyn & Women's Health, Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Psychiatry, and Pulmonary Medicine).

The Medscape Journal is one element of the Website. Moving forward, we believe that we can provide the most value to our members by focusing on our role as an aggregator and interpreter of medical information and not as the primary source for original scientific articles, although The Medscape Journal broke new ground and has paved the way for others. The problem is not a lack of medical journals: In 2008, Medscape published over 4000 full-text articles from leading journals through its innovative Publishers' Circle program, and we will continue to bring our readers the best articles from the ever-expanding list of journals that participate in Publishers' Circle. However, we believe that the greatest contribution that we can make to the medical community is by providing expert commentary and synthesis of information that relies on more than just the latest published study on a given topic. Medscape will continue to expand upon its role in bringing together the best information and experts with the largest community of physicians and health professionals on the Web to improve the care and outcomes of patients.

It is with credit to this historic and social backdrop, and by the explosive growth of the Internet as a communications tool, that The Medscape Journal has evolved. Since its launch, MedGenMed/The Medscape Journal has proved that a fully electronic journal could attract high-quality papers of value and interest to thousands of readers and remained viable for almost 10 years.

That's our opinion. We are Michele Romaine, Dr. Steve Zatz, Kaytie Brown, and Dr. George Lundberg signing off for The Medscape Journal of Medicine.

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