Sunday, May 17, 2009

Elsevier published fake journals

These comments are from Peter Suber's Open Access News, Monday May 11, 2009

"Elsevier confirms 6 fake journals; more comments
Bob Grant, Elsevier published 6 fake journals, The Scientist, May 7, 2009.
Scientific publishing giant Elsevier put out a total of six publications between 2000 and 2005 that were sponsored by unnamed pharmaceutical companies and looked like peer reviewed medical journals, but did not disclose sponsorship, the company has admitted."

[Elsevier called these pseudo-journals "sponsored article publications." --MES]

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"When is peer review not peer view? (hint: when Merck pays Elsevier), Small Gray Matters, May 8, 2009.
... The bitter irony is that Elsevier, along with the other major academic publishers, have spent the last few years ceaselessly lobbying against the open access movement, on the grounds that open access journals can’t be trusted to maintain the high quality of peer review that the commercial publishers provide. Any guesses as to whether Elsevier will rethink that stance following this fiasco? ..."

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Peter Murray-Rust, Trust in scientific publishing, A Scientist and the Web , May 9, 2009.
... So – as many have noted – here is a commercial company which has campaigned to rubbish Open Access as “junk science” behaving in a manner which totally destroys any trust in their ethics and practice. I have no option but to say that I now cannot absolutely trust the ethical integrity of every piece of information in Elsevier journals.
The need for Open, trusted, scientific data and discourse is now clear. The scientific societies are well placed to help us make the change from closed paper to open trusted semantic digital. They clearly need a business model that transforms the new qualities into a revenue stream. This will not be easy but it has to be tried – there is no alternative. Some of the modern tools will help – the ability to mashup, aggregate, etc. will lead to new forms of high-quality information that will have monetary value. Certified validated information will lead to productivity gains and may be a valuable commodity. ...

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Archaeology, of course, does not have anywhere near the level of commercial incentives that can generate this kind of unethical practice in journal publication. But what about junk edited volumes? Could commercial incentives trump scientific value for some of these? I remain puzzled at the program of evidently non-peer-reviewed edited books put out by Nova Scientific Publishers, but I have no evidence that commercial factors outweigh scientific factors in these books. And most professionals could tell a story or two about cases where journal peer review went out the window for one reason or another. But then we don't have a venue for discussing such activities. I hear from one or two colleagues each year with complaints about unethical or capricious or bizarre behavior by editors, reviewers, publishers, and others. Other than give personal advice, there is not much I can do because I typically lack both definitive data and some kind of official status that might warrant meddling in other peoples' business.

1 comment:

ArchAsa said...

Yes this was definately a low point in scientific publishing. The fact that medicines can cause actual harm to people (and Vioxx clearly did) should make Elsevier's actions a criminal offence. Should, but probably won't.

As you say the humanities are probably spared the worst, since there is little financial incentive. At the University most high level positions are filled by actually evaluating the quality of publications (though it is a blunt tool of course). Problem is that many other positions in the work place depend more and more upon the number of publications you have. I can well see a near future where some smart publisher offers people the opportunity to publish in a "peer-reviewed" publication for a fee paid by the author himself. The peer-review being made by someone checking for typing errors. Such a publisher would take more advantage of the desperation of researchers, than the would-be readers.

I am a fervent defender of OA, but I am a little bit worried that it will lead to a pay-to-publish routine that people will take advantage of to boost their CV.