Monday, May 11, 2009

The evil empire strikes again (II)

Following up on yesterday's post about Elsevier's strange practices, it appears that a firestorm is erupting, and it seems to uncover other not so nice things about the Evil Empire:

  • While I reported about one fake journal, it appears there could be at much as fourteen of them, according to Open Reading Frame. Elsevier so far conceded six, but without naming the corporate sponsors.
  • The particular Elsevier branch that is mainly incriminated, Excerpta Medica, seems to have been very reputable until fairly recently. The sudden selling out on the goodwill seems consistent with other actions of Elsevier. Journal editors reported to me that when they were negotiating terms with Elsevier, they had the impression the Evil Empire was set to extract as much rent as possible over the next few years, and maintaining quality was not first priority. Hence increased pages and issues in various journals. And selling out to the highest bidder.
  • Elsevier is not supervising what its editorial boards are doing and imposing standards. Two other examples: Secret blogging seminar discusses a mathematics journal where the chief-editor published dozens of his own articles, none of scientific merit. Elsevier was OK with it, as the journal had the highest impact factor in Mathematics, thanks to self-citations (some much for Thomson's shenanigans as well). The other is the rift between the Society of Economic Dynamics and Control and Elsevier over the board of its own journal, the Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control. This eventually lead to the creation of the Review of Economic Dynamics at Academic Press (which was then promptly acquired by Elsevier). The European Economic Association also left Elsevier in disgust over issues with the European Economic Review and created the Journal of the European Economic Association. The Journal of Economic Theory is similarly being deserted in favor of the open access Theoretical Economics. This is happening in other fields, too, in particular biology.
  • Elsevier lead the creation of PRISM, a coalition battling the emergence of open access journals. Its main credo is "Government mandates that ignore the need for sufficient and sustainable financial support for peer-reviewed journals -- whether the source of support is from users, authors, or sponsors -- risk undermining the very fabric of the system of independent, formal peer-reviewed publication, a system that is of crucial importance for scholarly communication and the preservation of scientific knowledge." Well, Elsevier just showed this is not possible. Open access is the way to go because it is independent from commercial funding.
  • In 2004, the CEO of Elsevier testified to a British commission making research available for free would hurt researchers and that payments from firms like Merck (explicitly cited!) are necessary for preserving the integrity of the system. Sure.

And what does Elsevier have to say? "It is an isolated case, it was long ago, the people responsible have long left, we are very ethical". We believe you, sure.

No comments: