Business Models, Controversial Topics, Peer Review

Giving Open Access a Bad Name


Last Thursday, Jonathan Eisen, an evolutionary biologist, Open Access advocate, and the first Academic Editor-in-Chief of PLoS Biology, lost his cool.

In a blog post aptly titled, For $&%# sake, Bentham Open Journals, leave me alone, Eisen unleashed his fury on a publisher that has not let up on its “crappy spammy” email campaign to have him contribute to their journals.

Not only is Eisen perturbed by Bentham’s incessant requests, he takes issue with their claims that publishing in open access journals necessarily leads to more readership and citations.

Yes, that is right, the crappiest, most boring, most idiotic article in an OA journal will receive “massive international exposure” and “high citations.”

Eisen doesn’t seem to be alone in his feelings about Bentham.  On Thursday, a  professor of mine received a solicitation to have him serve as Editor-in-Chief of The Open Communication Journal.  For a professor in a department of communication, the first sentence should have been a clue that this publisher should hire a copy-editor.  But if you read on, the financial ties between the new post and the publisher should raise some serious concerns about Bentham’s ability to separate editorial decision-making with their business model:

In recognition of your outstanding reputation and contribution in the field of Biology. We are pleased to propose your name as the Editor-in-Chief of “The Open Communication Journal”. After the selection your role as the journal’s Editor-in-Chief will be to solicit and submit a minimum number of ten manuscripts to the journal each year [...] For all the manuscripts that you submit to the journal, for the first ten that are published, we will pay you an annual royalty of 5% of all fees received on these manuscripts.

The editorial board boasts an astounding 169 names, with the expectation that board members will publish regularly in the journal. And to provide an incentive for their contributions, Bentham promises to waive their article processing fees:

We expect that Editor-in-Chief, Associate Editors, Co-Editors in an Open Access Journal will submit at least one article per year which will be published ABSOLUTELY FREE OF CHARGE. Beside, each and every submission from Editor-in-Chief will be published free of cost.

Earlier this year, the publisher’s acceptance of a completely nonsensical, computer-generated manuscript, with their insistence that it was peer-reviewed, led to the resignation of an Editor-in-Chief and members of several editorial boards.  The publisher’s story went through several revisions, first denying that the journal accepted the paper, then pretending it did in order to track down the perpetrator.

Author-pays open access publishing is still relatively new and uncertain in the minds of many scientists.  With certain publishers possibly giving OA a bad name, it is understandable why advocates like Jonathan Eisen would be prone to lose their cool.


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About Phil Davis

I am an independent researcher and publishing consultant specializing in the statistical analysis of readership and citation data. I am a former postdoctoral researcher in science communication and former science librarian. http://phil-davis.org/

Discussion

2 thoughts on “Giving Open Access a Bad Name

  1. I really wanted to lose my cool more than in that post. They are so slimy in so many ways …

    Posted by Jonathan Eisen | Nov 23, 2009, 4:14 pm
  2. One of the physicists at MPOW just asked about the publisher – thank goodness the question got forwarded to me! He thought it sounded a little off but had not heard of them or your experiment.

    Posted by Christina Pikas | Nov 24, 2009, 10:51 pm

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