There’s something rotten…

So, one of the largest scientific journal publishers, Elsevier, have been caught with their pants down, pushing pharmaceuticals in fake journals. They claim that publishing these “proceedings” do not constitue a journal, but as has been pointed out in the article above:

In a statement to The Scientist magazine, Elsevier at first said the company “does not today consider a compilation of reprinted articles a ‘journal’”. I would like to expand on this statement: It was a collection of academic journal articles, published by the academic journal publisher Elsevier, in an academic journal-shaped package. Perhaps if it wasn’t an academic journal they could have made this clearer in the title which, I should have mentioned, was named: The Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine.

Later it was revealed that they publish several more journals like this. They also publish Homeopathy, which also skirts the border of dihonesty.

So what do we do with these things? I’m not sure about STS journals, but several large journals within the field of energy research are published by Elsevier. Should we stop publishing, reviewing or quoting Elsevier articles? Crooked Timber has this to say:

Most obviously, we shouldn’t publish in Elsevier journals. This is easy for me to say – I am in a field where Elsevier isn’t especially strong – but I hope that I would say it if I were in a field where Elsevier journals dominated. In general, I would prefer my own work not to be used to add cover and credibility to manifestly bogus and unethical publication strategies. Furthermore, I don’t think we should review for Elsevier journals either. There are obviously a lot of honest scholars who edit journals for Elsevier (one would hope that they are in a majority), but they should really be devoting their efforts elsewhere – and polite but firm negative responses to review requests might help generate the necessary norm shift that would encourage them to move. Finally, I am quite attracted to the idea of registering disapproval when one cites to work that has been published in Elsevier journals. Some boilerplate language along the lines of

“Timewaster(2009) finds x to be the case. Although these results were reported in a journal published by Elsevier, the company responsible for deliberately publishing pseudo-journals such as The Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that these particular findings are problematic.”

might usefully serve to communicate to academics that publishing with Elsevier is a net reputational negative.

I don’t know if I would dare to do this, as a young and as-of-yet unpublished researcher (but soon!). Still, there must be some way of punishing this?

On a related note, the US Food and Drug Administration have just announced they will start treating Cheerios as a drug, since General Mills make several very specific health related claims on the packaging. Go conscientous bureaucracy!

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