Sunday, 26 February 2012

Fun, Fun , FUN for All of Us Philosophy Geeks: Fauxphilnews

Philosophy humour is, I think, about the most geeky and esoteric there is in the world of academic comedy. But for all of us who are on the inside, it is a sheer pleasure when someone pulls it off well. For, as you would expect, philosophers are no less ready to unleash their entire battery of critical scrutiny in cases where the subject is used for other purposes than, well..., the subject, than they are in those seminar rooms where the subject is in fact the subject and not something else - like having fun. Anyway, this new site, Fauxphilnews, does it better than most, I would say. And judging by the very happy and frequent sharing of every post on Twitter and Facebook by my colleagues – as well as prestigious mention by The Splintered Mind, I'm not alone in my appreciation.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

David Magnus Defends the New Managerial Solution for AJOB as Udo Schuklenk Resigns from the Editorial Board

At last, there is word directly from the bench of the accused in the recent controversy regarding the new managerial solution for the American Journal of Bioethics after the Glenn McGee resigned as editor in chief to join a rather dodgy private stem cell company [since Slate retracted the article linked to here, apparently following threats of lawsuits from McGee, this link is now broken. Thanks to Nature, the background on the murky business of CellTex is still around, however] as full-time adviser/lobbyist/expert. My former posts on this matter are here: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. Today, I learned that another heavy resignation from the board of editors following these events has occurred: Udo Schuklenk has announced that he steps down from this position, preferring to keep his exact reasons confidential with reference to being being part of the editorial management of a competing journal, Bioethics.

David Magnus, one of the two newly appointed editors in chief – the other being Summer Johnson McGee, whose appointment I have criticised – addresses the rather rich variety of critical reactions to the new AJOB order, as well as its background, in a post at AJOB's adjunct blog. Given the amount of criticism that I have been mounting, I think it is only fair to cross post what David writes in its entirety (my comments can be found below, after the post):

David Magnus Corrects the Record Regarding AJOB

Over the past couple of weeks, a great deal of drama has played out regarding changes at the American Journal of Bioethics. While we appreciate all of the support we have received from our Editorial Board and much of the leadership in the field, a number of misleading or false claims have been made about which I feel obligated to respond.
  1. It has been claimed that the Editorial offices of AJOB were relocated to Celltex. This is false. It is a matter of public record that the offices of the journal have been and continue to be based at 3030 Post Oak Blvd. #805 in Houston, Texas. These are not the offices of Celltex and Celltex housed no AJOB editorial office or AJOB activity on their premises.
  2. It has been claimed that Glenn McGee took the job at Celltex and planned to continue to serve as both EIC of AJOB while working at Celltex until bloggers and twitter revelations forced a hasty change in plans.  In fact, when Glenn first decided that he was likely to move to the private sector, he decided it would be best to resign from AJOB. Transition plans began then—and this can be attested to by a number of leaders within the field of bioethics, since a number of them were aware of the transition plans.
  3. Most of the attacks fail to acknowledge that Glenn had already been working to transition out of his role at AJOB as soon as he accepted his new position. During the transition he had no role in the oversight or acceptance of manuscripts for the journal. Failure to acknowledge that he was in the process of transitioning out of AJOB and that conflict of interest provisions had been put in place is a misleading rendition of events.
  4. Charges of nepotism have been raised against the appointment of Summer Johnson McGee as the co-EIC of AJOB. This charge is false. It was my idea (not Glenn’s) for Summer to be proposed as co-EIC. It was up to Taylor and Francis (not Glenn and not me) to make the final decision to sign her to a long-term contract as co-EIC.  This is one of the more offensive charges, since it fails to acknowledge the reality that Summer is a scholar in her own right and that she is in fact the backbone of the journal. Anyone familiar with the workings of the journal knows that Summer has taken on more and more responsibility for the journal over the past several years—unfortunately while getting little recognition for her contributions.
  5. There has also been a charge that Summer is too conflicted to serve as co-EIC or that her COI cannot be managed or mitigated. This issue has already been addressed, but to reiterate: conflicts of interest are ubiquitous among journal editors. What is unusual in this case is that one of the sources of spousal COI is actually known. In contrast, most of us know very little about what, if any, COI issues exist regarding spouses or other family members of most bioethics journals (for the record, my wife is a public librarian). As we have already stated, Summer will have to recuse herself from any possible COI, including those that may arise out of the fact that her husband works for a stem cell company.  I do not believe that this will be hard and knowing the range of manuscripts that we typically review, it will be a minority of submissions. I will personally review all manuscript submissions (as will Summer) and no editor will be involved in manuscripts for which they have a COI. Since we have two co-EIC’s and two new Associate Editors, we believe that it should be relatively easy to divide any labor. To improve our management of COI issues and to update our now 10 year old COI policy, we are shortly going to be looking for volunteers among the three Editorial Boards to create a standing COI committee and charge them with helping to create guidelines and processes for better managing COI’s. We have actually been successfully managing conflicts of interest among ourselves for a long time (for example, an article was recently accepted that was written by one of my faculty) and there is no reason to believe that recusing Summer from reviewing the manuscripts where a COI exists can not be accomplished.
Going forward, Summer and I have a lot of exciting plans for AJOB. We plan on creating several committees (not just a COI committee) to explore ways of improving and expanding the journal and bioethics publishing generally. We also look forward to instating a business meeting for our Editorial Board at ASBH each year, a working meeting where we will update our board members on the state of AJOB, solicit their opinions, and hear reports from the committees we have created. These are but two ideas among many that we plan to institute. We have two new Associate Editors who have agreed to join us (we will send an announcement about this shortly). And we are excited about the opportunity to lead AJOB—the most cited journal in the field.
 David Magnus, PhD
Now, of these sorts of criticism, I have wielded only one, the fifth and last one, although I did point out in my initial post that the handling of the publication of the transition, its procedural steps and its background has been far from as open, professional and clear-cut as one would have expected from the leading journal of a flourishing field of research. Apart from not appreciating the impact on trust of the many serious mistakes that has been made in this process (by the former and/or the new management, by Taylor & Francis, and so on), David, I think, addresses several of the points of criticism fairly well. However, I do think that his take on the fifth still leaves much to ask for. What he says in so many words is this:

1. Yes, through Summer Johnson McGee's marriage to Glenn McGee, AJOB does have a clear-cut conflict of (vested) interest built into its editorial management, but that may very well be the case with other journals too!  

This hardly needs comment, does it? Imagine a prosecutor arguing thus: I have clear evidence to prosecute person P for the crime C, but since there are possible other individuals that might have been possible to prosecute for other crimes, had I only had the evidence, prosecuting P for C is out of the question. Case closed.

2. AJOB will be beefing up its organisation for handling the actualisation of the COI of Summer Johnson McGee (and other COI's that may appear) in particular cases, so that it does not wholly depend on the subjective judgement of the person attached to the COI, or other people of the editorial management, alone, but another three people recruited from the editorial boards of all AJOB journals.

This seems like a necessary minimal step given 1, but is it sufficient? Well, in the end this comes down to trust, doesn't it? My position here is rather like the one voiced by John Lantos: In the face of a journal that prefers to house and attempt to "manage" a serious COI in the midst of its highest management when it is quite possible to avoid it in the first place, I do not feel a tingling buzz of increased confidence and trust, rather the other way around. I, as I suspect most of my colleagues do, ask myself the obvious question: why does David Magnus make this far from necessary choice that seriously threatens the credibility of the journal? Why, for instance, does he not start with a clean editorial slate and manage the practicalities of the transition by engaging both McGee and Johnson McGee in temporary advisory capacities to this effect – naturally, rewarded to the extent that their high qualifications and competence require? The point here is not that there may be answers to these questions and that the string of follow-up questions and subsequent answers may go on for a long time. The point is that, from the point of view of the best interest of the journal, there are obvious strategies to avoid having these questions being actualised in the first place. Not choosing these from  the start undermines trust, and trust is what David Magnus above asks of all of us who care for the integrity of AJOB and the field of bioethics research. It doesn't add up, simple as that.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Mike King on My Take on the Sexism Accusation re. Criticism of New AJOB Management.

Mike King of the Bioethics Centre at the University of Otago, New Zealand, has provided an interesting comment to my latest post on the issue of a severe conflicts of interest within the new management of the American Journal of Biotehics.

Mike points out that, apparently, some of the leaning on AJOB and the McGee's around the net may have been read as a slanderous rant about Summer Johnson McGee not being qualified for the job of editor in chief, but getting it only because of her marriage to Glenn McGee, the resigning editor in chief, or – alternatively – that Johnson McGee, as a woman, would be unable to think for herself in relation to her husband.

I agree wholeheartedly with Mike King that if this was all there was to the criticism against AJOB, this criticism would indeed be nothing more than a dirty piece of sexist garbage. However, arguments of the sort alluded to have certainly not been what I have been set forth as the basis of my criticism (see my former posts, starting with last one linked to above). Neither is it to be found in the critical messages of Howard Brody or John Lantos. And, frankly, I cannot see how anyone could read that into either of our critical contributions on this matter.

So, just to be crystal. crystal clear: my claim is based on the fact that the link of marriage between the old and the new editor in chief preserves the vested conflicts of interest created by the former signing on as full time consultant for a dodgy, private stem cell therapy company. This since marriage by default makes the financial interests of spouse intertwined.

That's all there is to it.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The Conflict of Interest Claim Towards New AJOB Editorial Arrangement is not Sexist

The controversy surrounding the new editorial arrangement for the American Journal of Bioethics after Glenn McGee decided to step down in order to work full time as consultant for stem cell company CellTex (covered in former posts here, here and here) continues, now in the landscape of big science, in this news article in Nature.

In the article, new editor in chief, Summer Johnson McGee defends the decision of publisher Taylor & Francis to appoint her editor in chief against the criticism that this cements rather than resolves the conflict of interest created by Glenn McGee's move to industry:
Responding to questions from Nature, Summer Johnson McGee says that the journal has a conflict-of-interest policy that requires editors to withdraw from reviewing a manuscript if they perceive a conflict. She calls allegations that her appointment results from her relationship with her husband “baseless and sexist”.

Now, the firtst line of defense here has already been addressed by the critics, in particular by John Lantos, who resigned from the AJOB editorial board over this matter. And I happen to agree with John about how much of a wife-of-Ceasar-principle has to be applied in the case of defending the credibility of bioethics journals. Simply put: one of the well-known logics of conflicts of interests is that they tend to make you bad at spotting where the conflict is actualised in particular cases. Thus, the report c-o-i based on subjective perception principle is not by itself good enough. A broader margin of safety against suspicion is required to uphold the credibility of a leading ethics journal.

More interesting is Johnson McGee's second line of defense. The claim of "baselessness" is, of course a complete misnomer and question-begger. It is a fact that she and Glenn McGee are married and that, in virtue of that arrangement, vested interests of Glenn McGee are by default also such interests of Summer Johnson McGee. Therefore, I have argued, the conflict of interest is not resolved but rather sustained by switching from one to the other in the leading editorial management role of AJOB.

Now, this way of arguing is, Johnson McGee seems to hold, sexist. Well, Summer, allow me to retort that it is in fact this very line of defense of yours that is a case of sexism. The argument based on default economic relations between spouse holds regardless of the sex or gender of the people involved in this relationship. That is, my argument would have stuck just as much had the roles between you and Glenn been reversed (you being the one leaving the e-i-c position for industry, and Glenn taking up your managerial torch). What you seem to claim is that you should be let off the hook because you happen to be a woman. That, if anything, is a sexist line of argument.

If this is all there to say in defense of the new AJOB editorial arrangements, I would say that the state of things in the management of this journal appear to be even worse than what they appeared to be before. For I cannot convince myself that even Johnson McGee herself seriously believes in what she tries to sell through Nature. This, I would say is not the voice of conviction, but of desperation.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Call for papers: Ethical considerations in the use of anti-retrovirals for HIV prevention

My favourite journal in my field of specialisation, Bioethics, on whose editorial board I also serve, has a spinn-off journal called Developing World Bioethics, that announces a coming special issue of potential interest to many people. This is a cross-post from Udo Schuklenk's (editor of Bioethics as well as Developing World Bioethics) Ethx Blog:

Ethical considerations in the use of anti-retrovirals for HIV prevention

Call for Papers
Evidence-based approaches to reducing sexual transmission of HIV has remained a major challenge in responding to the HIV pandemic.  The past 18 months has witnessed a substantial shift in this landscape.  Controlled trials have demonstrated that the treatment of individuals with HIV infection reduces the risk of viral transmission to uninfected sexual partners (treatment as prevention).  Additional evidence suggests the possibility of providing anti-retroviral medications to uninfected individuals may reduce the risk of acquiring HIV infection from sexual partners (PrEP— Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis).
In view of scarce resources, there will inevitably be a need to prioritize who will get anti-retroviral drugs; those who are sick, those who can transmit HIV, those at risk for acquiring HIV. Research that focuses on the balance between efficiency and equity will be involved.  Ethical frameworks for guiding decision-making at the clinical level as well as the macro social policy level will be essential.
Among the questions that will need to be discussed are:  
i.                    What rights claims can uninfected persons make for access to ARVs for prophylactic purposes when millions across the globe are dying from AIDS because they cannot access ARV treatment? 
ii.                   What moral claims can justify the provision of ARV therapy to those who do not yet clinically require treatment as a way of reducing the risks of HIV transmission?
iii.                  What normative issues are raised in making the determination that there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of either PrEP or Treatment for Prevention? 
iv.                 How should the social and biological vulnerability of women to HIV infection inform discussion about the allocations of resources for either PrEP or treatment as prevention? 
v.                  If there is a risk that PrEP will increase the risk of drug resistance and compromise treatment options for those already infected, what ethical questions must be confronted? 
vi.                 What conceptions of procedural fairness and inclusiveness should shape decision making processes about these allocation decisions?
vii.                How should current research findings inform the ethics of trial design?
viii.               Given current evidence what moral issues involving the protection of research subjects should be considered in determining the extent of ancillary services and care that should be provided in prevention trials? 
This issue of Developing World Bioethics will be guest edited by Ronald Bayer (email: and Quarraisha Abdool Karim (email:, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY  10032  USA.
Deadline for submissions: 31 July 2012

Friday, 17 February 2012

Press release from Taylor & Francis on the New AJOB Management

Relating to my two posts yesterday on the controversy surrounding this (here and here): Today, via Twitter and Facebook, a press release from the publisher of the American Journal of Bioethics, scientific publishing giant Taylor & Francis, on the journal's new managerial arrangements has been distributed. Anyone can get it from here.

In short, T & F simply announces the new arrangement: Summer Johnson McGee and David Magnus as the new editor in chief team and states that Glenn McGee is "retiring", while advising the transfer to the new arrangements over a 2 months period (which is perfectly in order). Unsurprisingly, there is no comment whatsoever of the criticism that the new arrangement has attracted. There is, however, an attempt at an explanation of why Summer Johnson McGee is to be EiC in spite of her sharing the conflict of interest that explains Glenn McGee's resignation (due to their marriage): David Magnus demanded this arrangement for accepting himself stepping in as EiC. This explanation was commented on by John Lantos in yesterday's post. In short: if this is indeed the reason for the new arrangements it is, in extension, a worrying sign of poor judgement and undue focus on practicalities over integrity of both Magnus and Taylor & Francis.

Now, I can see the reason for wanting Summer Johnson McGee to go on with AJOB: she has been working with the journal (and it's sibling website and blog) in an executive capacity for a long time and probably know all the ropes better than most others. However, such practical reasons weigh lightly when balanced against the credibility, integrity and reputation of AJOB and it's spin-off journals. Not to belittle the competence and experience of either Glenn McGee or Summer Johnson McGee or David Magnus (should his condition for accepting to be EiC be as firm as it sounds), but these are things that can be passed on to other people where no embarrassing conflict of interest ties staining the reputation of AJOB will exist.

So I land once again in the conlusion I announced yesterday: AJOB is a fantastic achievement. But in light of the carreer choice made by Glenn McGee, to remain fantatstic it needs to completely severe all ties (except, of course, the recognition as founder and former management) - direct as well as indirect - to him – which, as things stand, includes also Summer Johnson McGee. As indicated by John Lantos, it is both surprising and rather disturbing that this is not obvious to David Magnus and the representatives of Taylor & Francis.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

John Lantos resigns from the AJOB editorial board

As a direct result of the affair with regard to the American Journal of Bioethics that I discussed in my former post, John Lantos, Director of the Children's Mercy Bioethics Center and Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine, as well as Fellow of Clinical Medical Ethics at the University of Chicago, to which he belonged for over 20 years, just announced his resignation from the editorial board of AJOB via a post in the closed Facebook group Bioethics International. I've contacted John and he has given me permission to quote this post here, which I will do without further comment:

After thinking about AJOB since the story broke, here's where I stand:

As a long time supporter and admirer of the American Journal of Bioethics, a former member of the Editorial Board, and a friend of both current and former editors, it pains me to see what has happened. AJOB has been a great journal and I have been, until now, proud to be on its Editorial Board. But recent events make it clear that the journal has lost credibility in ways that tarnish not just the names of people associated with it but also the reputation of the entire field of bioethics.

To me, the key issues are not the ones of procedure that have gotten so much attention. Instead, they are issues of substance. They raise questions about the judgment of the editors and, more importantly, about the goals of the publisher. If, as we’ve been told, Taylor and Francis really asked Glenn McGee to stay on as Editor once he’d taken a job at Celltex, and if they really believed that the resulting conflicts-of-interest were manageable, one must wonder about both their judgment and their mission. Imagine that the Editor of the New England Journal took a job as Vice President at Merck, and the Mass Medical Society asked him to stay on as Editor, opining that the conflicts of interest would be manageable. One might rightly wonder, “What are these people smoking?”

An academic journal in any field, and especially in a field as value-laden as bioethics, must earn the trust of readers and writers alike. Authors need to know that reviews will be fair. Readers need to know that suggested revisions are not politically or financially motivated. The current arrangements offer no such assurance. We want to know what is really going on – and what will go on – and who will be making decisions -- when the journal decides what to publish on issues ranging from research ethics, stem cell controversies, conflicts of interest, relationships between industry and academia, innovative therapy, FDA regulation, patient deaths in clinical trials, research standards in other countries, cozy relationships between biotech companies and state governments, and a host of other issues that have direct financial implications for the new editor-in-chief and the ongoing “founding editor.” AJOB’s current policy for dealing with such conflicts is that editors “…will recuse themselves from any involvement in decisions where they have a financial or other conflicting interest.” In other words, “Shut up and trust us.” I am afraid I have lost trust.

I have, sadly, resigned from the AJOB Editorial Board. As long as the current leadership structure is in place, I will no longer submit papers to AJOB. I have withdrawn a paper that was in press and due out in March. I will discourage my colleagues from submitting papers to AJOB. I will not cite papers published in AJOB. In my opinion, the editors have failed to establish the degree of transparency that should be minimally acceptable for any journal and certainly for one charged to host a forum in which ethical evaluations are right at the center.

Confidence Lost: The McGee's, Celltex and the American Journal of Bioethics

The past week or so, a new controversy related to the vastly successful journal The American Journal of Bioethics and its management has been a growing buzz in my field of research speciality. I have reported before about such a controversy (here, here and here), which in that case rather quickly deteriorated into a storm of more and more personal accusations between what at the time looked to me as a bunch of rather overinflated egos, of less and less interest from a bioethics point of view. There was also a very strange former questioning of AJOB's fine impact factor, which I will not even link to here, since it was obviously based on lies about it being based on high degree of internal citations. In fact, AJOB has less degrees of internal citations than most other ethics journals tracked by Thomson Reuter. The journal AJOB is a success, and it is a real success especially in terms of making bioethics publication have a real impact on medicine and medical science – hence the fine citation record, which anyone can use their university's Web of Science subscription to check. 'Nuff said on that.

This latest scandal, however, seems to me to be more of a real deal. This since there are a number of principal matters of publication ethics and bioethics implied, rather than just controversy over singular editorial policy decisions and insubstantiated slander. The matters are:

1. Glenn McGee's handling of his shift from editor in chief of AJOB to President of Ethics and Strategic Initiatives of the private stem cell business CellTex. The verdict has to be: not very nicely done at all. See: Leigh Turner's blog for more.

2. The attempt to resolve the obvious conflict of interest created by that shift by appointing McGee's wife, Summer Johnson McGee as the new EIC and for Glenn McGee to keep some managerial (rather than just ceremonial in terms of founder, full stop) ties to AJOB. See the previous link and this one for more. The vested interests of Glenn McGee in terms of his financial ties to CellTex cannot, in my view, be separated from those of Summer Johnson McGee for the very reason that they are married and thereby under default arrangement share private economic interests and resources.

3. The issue of the ethics of a bioethics scholar to assist a firm that offers non-FDA approved stem cell therapies in a manner that very much resembles the activities of the Burzynski clinic that I have been posting about. Read more about this here.

4. The implied result of having Glenn McGee more or less indirectly in a position of power in relation to an FDA-connected editor of a journal in the AJOB family, where publications may influence whether or not CellTex products will eventually receive FDA clearance. (see previous links).

I personally like AJOB and its special editorial idea very much and I also have the highest regard for its contribution to the positioning of bioethics as a research speciality, but the combination of the above four matters  taken together cannot but leave an ugly stain on its record of credibility. By themselves, they also each stain the credibility of both Glenn McGee and Summer Johnson McGee as bioethics scholars. By implication, this taints also other people involved in the managerial and editorial operation around AJOB. But the root of all this is the ruined credibility of Glenn McGee as bioethics scholar.

Simply put, Glenn: how can I from this day know what master you speak for when you make decisions, assessments, arguments, and so on? As a bioethics colleague: why isn't your first action re. CellTex the obvious one of refusing to be affiliated with it before they either close down their questionable operations or obtain proper approval for their activities?? None of the answers to the latter question that I can imagine inspire confidence, I'm afraid. In light of this, how could you ever imagine that the moves made regarding the management of AJOB would get the journal off the hook in terms of conflicts of interests and reduced credibility. AJOB is your child, I can see that, and I can also see that you care very much for this child of yours to do well in your absense. However, the path entered by the decisions made in recent times is not promoting that end, quite the opposite. 

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Review of The Ethics of Screening in Health Care and Medicine

My and Niklas Juth's new book The Ethics of Screening in Health Care and Medicine: Serving Society or Serving the Patient? is reviewed by Pekka Louhiala in very favourable terms in an essay now published  online by Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy. Alas, it is behind a paywall (unless you or your library has a Springerlink subscription), although you may sample the first page for free. Here, however is the conclusion of it all:
In summary, The Ethics of Screening in Health Care and Medicine is practical philosophy at its best: scientifically well informed, balanced, carefully argued and highly relevant for the practice of medicine and health care.
Reference: Louhiala, P (2012). To screen or not to screen: that is the ethical question. Niklas Juth and Christian Munthe: The ethics of screening in health care and medicine—serving society or serving the patient? International library of ethics, law, and the new medicine, Volume 51. Springer, Berlin, 2012, 175 p, €99.95, ISBN 978-94-007-2044-2. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy, 15, Online first: DOI: 10.1007/s11019-012-9396-6.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

How to Avoid Shaming Yourself and Your Field in the Academic Online Open Access Publishing Jungle

This is a post that follows up on two former ones (here and here) about how the new possibilities for easily setting up online open access academic journals create not only exciting opportunities for publishing and spreading important research results, but also a murky layer of sub-standard and outright scam operations. This has become an important issue for two reasons: First, these operations threatens the hole credibility of academic research, not least by providing incompetent, second-rate wannabe academics, or people who want to use the academic insignia as a cloak, e.g., for political opinion work, with a surface impression of respectability. This, in turn, connects to the next point, that for most people – also experienced academics – it is very difficult to keep track of and identify these operations – witnessed, for instance, by the fact that a fair share of them agree to be on bogus editorial boards for journals that do not even have an operationally responsible managing editor. This second problem becomes particularly acute, however, for young, aspiring academics and researchers, who try to navigate their early careers in an environment where the pressure to be published in peer-reviewed, international (= English language) journals is ever growing, and where most national funding bodies now demand publications coming out of projects they fund to be open access.

So, this post is meant as a help primarily for this latter group, but also for supervisors who are asked questions about this by students, PhD candidates, post docs and so on, but may not have been as busy keeping themselves up to date on this matter as they nowadays need to be. I'll do two things here, mainly. First, I'll list a few indicators, each of which providing sufficient reason to avoid an online open access journal at all cost, or at least be very, very wary of publishing there or lending it your services in other ways. In effect, several of these apply also to opportunities for being awarded a position on an editorial board, perform peer review work, and so on. Second, I'll cross-post some things from other blogs and provide some useful links that I was made aware of thanks to the response on my last post on this matter from bioethics prof. colleague Leigh Turner on Twitter.

1. Indicators for avoiding an online open access publishing opportunity
  •  The journal has no ISSN number.
  • You receive a generic email asking you to submit an article to the journal (Note: editors working on special issues may sometimes solicit submissions, but in those cases the emails are personal).
  • Colleagues you trust receive said sort of emails
  • The journal has no information about indexing on its website
  • The journal lists Google Scholar as one of the indexes that track it (Google scholar is a useful tool for analysing online impact and availability in a wide sense, but it is not an academic quality indicator for journals – Google Scholar lists just about anything academic-ish to be found online)
  • The journal is not indexed by either any of the discipline-specific indexes you know of (such as "Philosopher's Index" in my case), or by general quality indexes, such as the Web of Knowledge citation indexes (ISI, SSCI, AHCI). Note that a very new journal may not yet be indexed, but still be OK, check the other points for assessment in that case!
  • The journal displays statements or signs giving an impression that it is "considered for", "tracked for" or "unofficially" tracked by some index of the type mentioned above.
  • The journal has no actual person as acting or managing editor, or editor-in-chief.
  • The journal promises very fast (1-4 days) peer review and publication process
  • None or very few people on the editorial board are people known to you as respected people in your branch of specialisation and don't appear to be obviously worthy of such respect after an internet search of their publication record
  • You may also perform searches to check how articles published in the journal are being cited outside of this journal and this and other similar publishers. The less external citation, the less credibility.
2. List of Online  Open Access Publishers to Avoid, plus some further facts
So, Leigh sent me a link to this rather amusing post describing how far it may go with the sort of operations we are talking about here: editorial board members on these journals may not even be real people! Perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised, then, that journals such as these have no problem accepting and publishing bogus computer generated gibberish papers (as long as the OA fee is paid) – eventually leading to the resignation of the editor! (thanks Leigh, again!) And here's a blog post on two online open access publishers notorious for spamming. But the pure gold that Leigh sent me was this list, originally posted at the Metadata Blog – here cross-posted in its entirety:

Beall's List of Predatory, Open-Access Publishers
by Jeffrey Beall
2012 Edition

Predatory, open-access publishers are those that unprofessionally exploit the author-pays model of open-access publishing (Gold OA) for their own profit. Typically, these publishers spam professional email lists, broadly soliciting article submissions for the clear purpose of gaining additional income. Operating essentially as vanity presses, these publishers typically have a low article acceptance threshold, with a false-front or non-existent peer review process. Unlike professional publishing operations, whether subscription-based or ethically-sound open access, these predatory publishers add little value to scholarship, pay little attention to digital preservation, and operate using fly-by-night, unsustainable business models.

An asterisk (*) indicates that the publisher is appearing on this list for the first time.

          This bogus, Nigeria-based publisher has been around for years, and continues to increase its journal fleet of over one hundred titles from all areas of study. Seeking legitimacy, it falsely associates itself with authentic organizations and conferences.

          One of several Faisalabad, Pakistan-based publishers (likely one outfit with several brands), this publisher claims to be headquartered in New York. Its tag line is "Converting research into knowledge," but it ought to say, "Converting research into cash" (for the publisher).

          This publisher, caught here in its formative stage, only has two titles. The main page invites proposals for new journal titles. Full of contradictions, this site is confusing. Its content appears to be open access, but it lists a subscription fee of $400 per year. On one of its editorial board pages it says, "Elite panel members have a decision weight equivalent of two referees," so if you know one of these elite members, you're in luck. 

          Another of the Faisalabad, Pakistan-based brands of open-access journals, this one ironically describes itself saying "Asian Network for Scientific Information is a leading scientific publisher and pinior [sic] in electronic publication in Asia." I think they mean "pioneer." This typo is but one example of the errors and unprofessionalism this publisher presents to the world with each page view.

          Among the first, large-scale gold OA publishers, Bentham Open continues to expand its fleet of journals, now numbering over 230. Bentham essentially operates as a scholarly vanity press.

          A new publisher with a ridiculous name, this operation is known to list scholars on its journals' editorial boards without their knowledge or permission.

          Although this publisher purports to be headquartered in Libertyville, Illinois, United States, it actually appears to operate out of China. The home page shows a view of the Libertyville Industrial Park, the supposed home of the operation, as if to prove it operates in the U.S.

          This New Zealand-based medical publisher boasts high-quality appearing journals and articles, yet it demands a very high author fee for publishing articles. Its fleet of journals is large, bringing into question how it can properly fulfill its promise to quickly deliver an acceptance decision on submitted articles.

          Late to the party, this publisher currently has nine titles, but I fully expect it to expand its fleet. The site says that all of its journals will publish their inaugural issues in July, 2011, but as of this writing (late November, 2011) all remain devoid of content. 
          This publisher purports to be headquartered in the U.K. with offices in North America and Singapore, but it really is a storefront type operation based out of Faisalabad, Pakistan.

          This bogus publisher of 12 journal titles says it's headquartered in Irvine, California. Its fleet of journal titles all begin with "Journal of Advanced Research in ..." The domain name registration does show an Irvine address, but at an apartment. Only a few of the titles have any content, but to view what little content there is, one must register with the site and agree to its terms and conditions, which I refused to do. Is a publication still considered open access when the hosting site requires registration? An organization that self-identifies as an institute when it is really just a money-making scheme is fraudulent.

          The subject of much recent debate, this Croatia-based publisher looks and acts like an innovative, scholarly publisher. However, looking under the clever disguise reveals only a sophisticated vanity press, an enterprise where anybody can, for a price, get their work published in a journal or as a monograph.

          I only recently was alerted to this open-access publisher. Its fleet has 82 journal titles, including -- perhaps appropriately -- the "International Journal of Nuts and Related Sciences." Based apparently in Dubai, the "instructions for authors" page warns, "After Acceptance authors have to pay the processing handling charges," but the charges aren't listed.  More information may be available from an unnamed editor at

          Another Nigeria-based operation, this publisher is notable (in a negative way) for its interesting journal issue covers (most are created from pirated photographs), and for the Gmail addresses its employees all use. The absurd banner on its main page shows a picture of part of a duckling swimming in a lake.

          If you love advertising, you'll love this site, for its main purpose is to make money from click-through ads. A one-man operation based out of Texas, its journal titles all begin with the phrase, "The Internet Journal of ..." It claims to be the largest independent, online medical publisher, but that claim conveniently ignores article quality, which is quite low.

Knowledgia Scientific (formerly Knowledgia Review)
          Another Pakistan-based publisher (with some possible ties to Malaysia), this firm has around a dozen titles, but some have very little content. Also, some of its journals lack editors and list only a few people on their editorial boards. Currently, this publisher's website claims the firm is waiving all author fees, but I remain suspicious. Are there hidden charges? The lack of content, skipped volume numbers, and the waiving of author fees are indicators of a publisher that is failing.

          The tag line under the name on this publisher's page is "Freedom to research." It might better say "Freedom to be ripped off." Based in New Zealand, this medical and scientific publisher boasts about the number of page views and downloads the articles in its eighty journals have had. Its author fees are high.

          Another Pakistan-based outfit, this one makes its 34 journals open access but also offers print subscriptions, if you desire to pay for them. A slick operation with an online manuscript submission system, this publisher has been successful at attracting submissions. It's "contact us" page only yields a form, and no contact or geographical information is given. Always be wary of open-access publishers that give less than full contact information, including location, telephone numbers, email addresses, etc. At the same time, be aware that many publishers misrepresent their true business locations.

          This publisher's name plays off the terms "genomics" and "proteomics." It hosts about 200 journal titles, many lacking any articles. As a side business, the publisher also organizes and hosts conferences. The contact page lists offices in the United States, Australia, and India. Its pages have Facebook "LIKE" buttons and its home page falsely claims an association with EBSCO Publishing and with other publishers and organizations.          

          This new publisher of five journals purports to be from "P.O. Box 3423, CT, 06460, United States of America" and cleverly uses the Greek letter β (beta) to indicate the English letter b in its title. A check of the domain name registration does indicate a Milford, Connecticut address. Still, the unidiomatic use of English throughout the site points to a non-U.S. operation: "Call for the papers," "Instructions for the authors," etc. Many of the papers deal with Nigeria, so it's likely this publisher is yet another Nigeria scam.  

          This publisher has a fleet of 28 journals, and most of their titles begin with the phrase, "American Journal of ..." Its "contact us" page is merely a web form, and no contact or geographical information is given. The journal titles lead one to believe the publisher is North America-based, but it could be from almost anywhere, and in fact is likely not from North America.

This publisher's fleet of 18 journals all try to show legitimacy by having titles that begin with "American" or "British" or "International." Any journal that begins with these terms must be respected, right? The "contact us" page is chiefly a web form, but the site does list three offices, one in the U.K., one in the U.S., and one in India. The site uses the "pool reviewers" method of peer review. Although the journals do have nominal editorial boards, there is really just one big editorial board for all the publisher's journals and reviewers are supposedly selected from that big list to review each submission. Looking at individual articles, I notice that the period between submission and acceptance is generally two weeks, an indication of bogus or nonexistent peer review.
          This Saint Cloud, Minnesota-based publisher is essentially a one-man operation that employs many non-standard publishing practices. For example, the entire site has an ISSN number, and the large editorial boards are organized not by journal but by broad discipline. Also, individual journals lack editors in chief. It was reported earlier this year that the entire operation is up for sale.

          This publisher, like the Institute of Advanced Scientific Research, claims to be based in Irvine, California (it lists a PO box number and an email address, but no telephone number). It has over one hundred journal titles, most having started publication in 2009, and has managed to attract numerous article submissions. This high number may be because of the publisher's relatively low author fees: $300 for the first ten pages, and $50 for each additional page, a policy that also encourages shorter papers. The journals each list large editorial boards, with members from all over the world, especially China. Indeed, the pricelist (for those desiring hardcopies of the journals), lists the prices in both U.S. and Chinese currency. This publisher also publishes books and conference proceedings. I found its servers to suffer from a slow response time.

Recommendation: Do not do business with the above publishers, including submitting article manuscripts, serving on editorial boards, buying advertising, etc. There are numerous traditional, legitimate journals that will publish your quality work for free, including many legitimate, open-access publishers.

If you are involved in any form of scholarly evaluation such as, hiring, tenure / promotion review, or grant funding, be skeptical of articles published by any of these publishers listed above. Reading a list of publications or a vita, it is very difficult to distinguish legitimate journals from the illegitimate ones. One of the tricks the sham publishers use is to assign authentic-sounding and appearing titles to their journals. The presence of these bogus publishers has changed the task of scholarly evaluation, which now needs a keener eye to discern articles published in fraudulent journals.

Watchlist: We do not consider the following publishers to be predatory, open-access publishers, but they may show some characteristics of them, and we are closely monitoring them.

          Based in Cairo, Egypt, this publisher is now on its own after its collaboration with the publisher Sage ended in 2011. This publisher has way too many journals than can be properly handled by one publisher, I think, yet supporters like ITHAKA boast that the prevailing low wages in Egypt, as well as the country's large college-educated, underemployed workforce, allow the company to hire sufficient staff to get the job done. Still, this publisher continues to release new fleet startups of journals, each group having titles with phrases in common: Advances in ... (31 titles) and Case Reports in ... (32 titles). It appears that Hindawi wants to strategically dominate the open-access market by having the largest open-access journal portfolio.

          This publisher was on the main list last year. It is the publisher for many well-respected Indian professional societies and is disseminating abundant, high-quality research. However, its business model is vague and unproven: it provides free HTML versions of articles but charges for the PDF version. Also, it needs to improve its web presence. Many of its journal websites referred to the publisher as a publisher of "Sports, technology, and medicine" (STM) journals, instead of "Science, technology, and medicine," the correct term.

          This Italian publisher has some of the qualities of a legitimate publisher and some of a predatory one. It has about fifty journal titles, some with intriguing names like Wine Studies and Antiqua. On the other hand, visitors to the publisher's website will encounter sloppy housekeeping in the form of dead links, and a prominent link to PayPal on every journal's home page, supposedly for the author fees but giving the publisher's real motive away. The publisher claims its content is "indexed" in SherpaRomeo, but that isn't an indexing service. PAGEPress needs to clean up its act.

          Based in Poland (with a contact address in London, U.K.), this publisher claims to be the second-largest open-access publisher in the world, with over 200 open-access journals in its fleet. Versita Open publishes some of its titles on behalf of learned societies in Central and Western Europe. The frightening thing about an operation this large is the amount of time and resources it takes to edit a single peer-reviewed journal is multiplied in this case by 200. Versita also has for-profit publishing operations, but it appears to be slowly flipping its model to gold open-access for journals. Moreover, Versita Open also sells its open-access titles in print form, by paid subscription. Versita Open claims that there are no author fees for most of its open-access journals, so its business model is unclear. Are its for-profit titles subsidizing its open-access ones? Do the societies pay all the cost of publishing the society journals on the Versita Open platform? We think few in the U.S. have even heard of this firm, so it will be interesting to see how it progresses, and we hope it evolves into a respected open-access publisher.