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Where’s my open access amniotomy trial?

October 28, 2014

Disappearing OA journals

In the early 1990s a group of obstetricians in six UK hospitals (The UK Amniotomy Group) conducted a randomised trial comparing routine immediate amniotomy, with selective and delayed amniotomy for women in first labour.  Policies about amniotomy were hotly debated at the time. Partly funded by a grant from the European Union, our trial remains the world’s largest.

In 1994 it fell to me, as corresponding author, to choose where to submit it. Young and keen, and wanting to be up to date, I sent it to a new online open access journal The Online Journal of Current Clinical Trials and it was accepted and published.  Click here for the PubMed abstract, but don’t try finding the full article; the journal folded in 1996 and our paper has vanished without trace.

Fortunately, I had also been able to persuade the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (BJOG), a conventional subscription  journal, to publish a shortened version in parallel (click here), now the only one available. I’ve learnt my lesson. Beware online only open access journals; they may melt away.

And the effect of routine amniotomy? It shortens labour by about an hour on average, but doesn’t alter any substantive adverse outcomes one way or the other. Obstetricians and midwives have sensibly stopped arguing about it, and follow parents’ wishes.

Remember “free” is not always best. Sometimes it’s better to pay.

Jim Thornton

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