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The Tabloid Science Journals Attack Open Acess

Over at Science, John Bohannon writes of an experiment.  He submitted a phony paper to a large number of open access journals.  “157 of the journals had accepted the paper and 98 …rejected it. Of the remaining 49 journals, 29 seem to be derelict: websites abandoned by their creators. Editors from the other 20 had e-mailed the fictitious corresponding authors   stating that the paper was still under review; those, too, are excluded from this analysis. Acceptance took 40 days on average,   compared to 24 days to elicit a rejection.”

My issue with this is the assertion by Sceince that the fault lies with open access.   There is no reason to believe that the openb access approach would be more prove to this sort of failure than Science’s own profit making model.   In biology and medicine we have brand name journals that are devoted to the same sort of media attention given to a newspaper.   Journals branded Nature, Sceince and the New England Journal get great impact factors in part because they do emphasize attention in the media.  My saracastic tile for these journals is “The Tabloids.”

Prestige and profit of the publisher , even according to Bohannaon, doe not seem to effect the lousy quality of review.  “Journals published by Elsevier, Wolters Kluwer, and Sage all accepted my bogus paper. Wolters Kluwer Health, the division                responsible for the Medknow journals, “is committed to rigorous adherence to the peer-review processes and policies that comply     with the latest recommendations of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors and the World Association of Medical    Editors,” a Wolters Kluwer representative states in an e-mail. “We have taken immediate action and closed down the Journal of Natural Pharmaceuticals.”

If Mr. Bohannon were being honest he would have subjected his own essay in Science  to peer review.  I would have failed it for lacking the obvious control of reviewing the same paper in closed access journals.  Rather than seeing this as an insightful exposure of a defect in open access, I see this as a bald defense of the tabloid business model.  Science, Nature and The New England Journal make a huge amount of money by selling subscriptions, ads and reprints.  Their sales depend on their reputation.  In contrast, open access journals live on a meager cash flow, typically by charging for submission and review.   It is hard to imagine that the tabloids are not affected by their need for publicity.

I also think Mr. Bohannon is shilling for  a profit making entity.  Tabloid journals,  .. whether published by  Elsevier or the American Heart Association, are not an assurance of good quality science.   .  Speaking for myself, this is one reason I am very proud to be a member of the Faculty of 1000.  This is a commercial entity that vets ALL the worlds publications by providing the Faculty with software tools that can skim every thing in PubMed. When these tools, I call mine the Reader Robot, finds a paper, it recommends it to my attention and if I think it is good I write a brief recommendation.  The other Faculty do the same thing and the results are published on the site as a told for scientists to find good papers … irrespective if the publisher is profit making or not, online or on dread trees.

Readmore at:  http://www.sciencemag.org/content/342/6154/60.full


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  1. 1

    Climate change dnaiel doesn’t take the form of real science. It mostly consists of vague statements which seem wise but don’t really explain anything. For e.g “Climate change is natural”,”it’s all part of a cycle”, or”the climate has always change”. The all time classic is:”There’s no proof that CO2 is affecting global temperatures!”(This ignores the fact there’s no proof that smoking causes cancer either, just loads and loads of evidence. It’s a similar case with anthropogenic climate change.)There’s another, large branch of climate dnaiel that takes the form of lampooning Al Gore.That’s about all there is to it.



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