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Journal of NIH Research, RIP

The hard hand of capitalism has struck down the struggling Journal of NIH (National Institutes of Health) Research, a monthly news and features magazine for biomedical researchers. Started in 1989, it ceases publication with the December issue.

Officials at Medical Economics Company of Montvale, New Jersey, the publication's owner, say they closed the unprofitable venture after attempts to find a buyer proved unsuccessful. "We just didn't have enough advertising revenue to support continued publication. It's as simple as that," says company vice president Thomas Rice. The magazine's former editor Deborah Barnes, however, blames the company for not understanding the product it was putting out.

Despite its bureaucratic title, the Journal of NIH Research was never a government publication. Two former employees of the AAAS (publisher of ScienceNOW), William Miller and Tod Herbers, started it with backing from a group of venture capitalists including theNew Republic's chair Martin Peretz. They hired Barnes away from the Science news staff to be editor. The magazine was sent at no cost to about 35,000 researchers with NIH grants, and the idea was to rely entirely on advertising for income.

But profits never materialized, and the magazine was sold to Medical Economics in 1994. The new owner tried to cut costs by ordering Barnes to pare her six-person staff. She resigned in February 1996 instead. "I don't think [Medical Economics] ever understood what we did, our readers, or how to sell ads in our market," she says.

But if the advertising never made the grade, the editorial product received several journalism awards and good reviews from scientists. An assistant to Rep. John Porter (R-Ill.), chair of a House Appropriations Subcommittee that sets funding levels for NIH, says "It was widely read and respected by many policy makers. I'm sorry to see it go."