Tagged: peer review

What Deserves a Retraction?

The current crisis in scientific publication is much based on improper peer review of an increasing number of often mediocre manuscripts submitted to an ever-increasing number of new scientific journals. Facing university libraries’ limited budgets, the global players among publishers have been advocating “open access” publishing for more than a decade. Once a more than welcome initiative for making research results immediately accessible for everybody, it’s now a business model of Wiley, Elsevier and, in particular, Springer for making more money. All have also announced “manuscript transfer” of rejected, in their hardcore journals, manuscripts (“if not too bad”) to newly established open access journals. They even suggest to reuse previous reviews. I have reported about that before.

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Manuscript Transfer to Open Access Journals

Leading publisher of scientific information John Wiley & Sons promotes its growing open access program by offering scientific societies “manuscript transfer” of rejected papers to affiliated open access journals. From the Wiley Open Access website,

An increasing number of societies and journals are taking advantage of the Wiley Open Access program. Here are two ways to get involved with open access at Wiley.

1. Support a Wiley Open Access Journal

A number of society journals support our open access journals through the Manuscript Transfer Program.

The Manuscript Transfer Program
As well as accepting direct submissions, a number of Wiley Open Access journals also operate a Manuscript Transfer Program, in which the journal is supported by other  journals, including society-owned titles.  The supporter journals refer articles not accepted after peer review and offer authors the option to submit to a Wiley Open Access journal. Authors benefit both from the speed and efficiency of the referral process and by not having to re-enter the peer review process from the beginning.

Once a progressive trend of scientists who strongly believe that in particular medical knowledge must be freely accessible to the public, global players like Springer and Elsevier have long understood the undeniable advantages of charging authors instead of libraries for publication expenses in times of limited university budgets. Since fees only fall due if a manuscript was accepted, open access has challenged the current peer review system since publishers have no interest in a rejected manuscript.

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Just Say “No!”

Every day I am contacted by open-access journals for either to submit a paper, or to review a paper, or to serve on the editorial board of a new scientific journal. Most of them are hosted by Hindawi Publishing Corp., an obscure “growing academic publisher with 567 peer-reviewed, open access journals covering a wide range of academic disciplines”, based in Cairo, Egypt. A couple of years ago, out of idealistic desire to help, I had even agreed to the latter and immediately regretted. I resigned from the job after just four weeks since manuscripts which I received were unrelated to my field, potential reviewers I had contacted declined and, after just one round of reviews, it was the editor-in-chief who made a final decision of acceptance regardless whether authors had actually improved their manuscript (they had not). I was told that one round was sufficient. So, quality standards of peer review were effectively circumvented. Only later I learned that, due to the open-access publishers’ business model, rapid acceptance of a manuscript is crucial since authors had to pay enormous fees for getting their paper “in”. In the meantime I have marked respective publishers’ emails as spam and delete what anyway finds it way into my account.

The News contribution in Science magazine this week by John Bohannon is revealing since it confirms my strong suspicion of improper quality control. Bohannon had submitted more than 300 versions of a faked paper about a wonder drug for cancer therapy to open-access journals in a sting operation, authored by fictional, for instance, Ocorrafoo Cobange at faked Wassee Institute of Medicine. More than half of the journals had accepted the paper, “failing to notice its fatal flaws.”

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