11/04/2014 11:22 EST | Updated 01/04/2015 05:59 EST

Journal inspired by crisis at Canadian Medical Association Journal closes

TORONTO - Open Medicine, an open-access journal started after a crisis at the Canadian Medical Association Journal, has closed.

The editors say that after seven years, they are ceasing their struggle to keep the journal afloat.

They say the challenges of running a medical journal with a volunteer board of editors and very limited funding have been daunting.

Open Medicine was created by a number of editors who left the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 2006 over a fight with the journal's owners, the Canadian Medical Association.

The CMAJ's then editor, Dr. John Hoey, was fired by the journal's publisher, CMA Media Inc., in what editors insisted was a fight over editorial independence.

Shortly before the firing, the publisher had quashed a portion of a news story the journal was to publish on how some pharmacists were limiting access to Plan B, the so-called morning after pill.

Hoey agreed to the demand to cut the section of story to which the publisher had objected. But then he wrote an editorial accusing the journal's owners of editorial interference.

Editors of some of the world's most esteemed medical journals — the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association — came to Hoey's defence. But CMA Media refused to rehire him and many of the editors and editorial board members who had worked with Hoey left the CMAJ as a result.

"Open Medicine was born from our refusal to stand behind blatant interference with editorial independence in biomedical publishing," editors Claire Kendall, James Maskalyk and Anita Palepu wrote in an article announcing the journal's shuttering.

The journal made all its articles available for free — not common in the world of biomedical publishing, where much science is sequestered behind paywalls.

The editors say their approach forced other journal editors to change, placing more material in front of paywalls. But the team behind the journal was small and the struggle to find funding was ongoing. Many of the key positions at the journal carried no salary.

"While inspiring, the process was also chronically frustrating. Despite everyone’s best intentions, it was challenging for a small team to keep stoking the interest and engagement of the general academic community, and it was difficult to recruit members to our editorial board and board of directors who could provide the kind of hands-on involvement that our small but ambitious operation required," the editors say.

The articles published by Open Medicine will be archived on the journal's website, and on PubMed Central and MEDLINE. PubMed Central is a free digital repository operated by the U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information. MEDLINE is a database maintained by the U.S. National Library of Medicine.