41 Responses to Frontiers Launches OA Library Science Journal

  1. florne says:

    Jeffrey, this is a very interesting observation! As an economist, let me hypothesize what they are doing: 1. They must have some type of a network from which they can recruit well-known names in the field to contribute–for them, they probably get a discount or don’t have to pay, 2. Others who think they should be just as famous would pay 1900 to publish in this journal. 3. The journal will operates ipso-facto via submission by invitation only.
    They probably want to build this as an exclusive club.
    The concept will fail if they cannot recruit heavy weights to back them up. Personally, I can’t think of names, but that does not mean a circle of that sort does not exist.

    • Harry Hab says:

      Yes – having been caught at the fringes of that network myself, I think you are not far off the mark there.

  2. Ochuko says:

    Dear Jeff,

    The fact that you are a librarian, I expect you to be well aware of some new trends in librarianship. Kindly note that in view of the extra processing and management required to assign ISSN to forthcoming publications, some of which are never published, a decision had been reached from the ISSN international Centre in Paris to suspend the assignment of prepublication ISSN to publishers needing ISSN for their titles. ISSN is now only being assigned after the first complete issue is published (post publication assignment). Even the publication of a single article online does not constitute the publication of the first complete issue. In the United States for instance, the publication of four articles does not meet the first complete issue.

    It is after the publication of the first complete issue of a title that you can now apply for an ISSN. By this I mean I see nothing wrong in what the Frontiers guys did but sincerity and a strong sense of purpose. Unlike some new publishers who will claim what they are not, the Frontiers team told us the status of their new journal as it is. I think good practice like this should be commended.

    Regarding whether there is need for a new Library Science Journal or not, I think the Frontiers management deem it fit to publish the outcome of research findings in this area of knowledge, and as a publisher, I think they have every right to break new grounds. I wish them the best in this new initiative.


    • Your comment is not supported at all by the information provided by the U.S. ISSN Center at the Library of Congress.

      • Jörg says:

        I fear your post wouldn’t make it through a review process, not even at Frontiers. Under “Facts” (!) you write “They launched before they even got an ISSN.”

        This Journal is not launched.

        Frontiers says it plans to launch in 2015, however, there is no set date and they don’t accept submissions. Other journal launches at Frontiers have been pushed back months or even years. How do I know this? Frontiers in Management, which was supposed to be launched in 2014, is still not live. Also has no ISSN. It appears one requirement of a ISSN number is publication within 3 months (only skimmed their application form quickly, I might be wrong). Everything they publish is in PubMed, also nothing fishy there.

        If you leave your post in its current state, you using your credibility with scientists as lever to spread false information mixed with highly speculative arguments. I wholeheartedly agree that the journal will probably not have a user base and be ignored for which it is in turn useless to spam people to become editors.

        But if you want to argue this point, you could have simply done so.

  3. Lynn says:

    Thank you for writing this. I just received a disgusting SPAM from the the Frontiers group yesterday and was appalled. I read the very interesting previous discussions on this group. I always had a good impression of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment and now I find that is because it apparently has nothing to do with all these other Frontiers journals and is published by ESA. It seems in a way Frontiers has done what many fake journals do–taken someone else’s title. They even have one called Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. What is the Nature group thinking?

    • tekija says:

      The Nature Group already distanced itself from Frontiers. They are no longer affiliated in any way.

      • Nils says:

        One of the comments in the above link points to this interesting blog post: http://rabett.blogspot.fr/2014/04/amway-science.html describing how Frontiers uses a multilevel marketing scheme.

        That they use such a scheme appears to be confirmed by this example of the appalling kind of spam emails they send (to many authors, no doubt):

        “Dear Dr​.​ (X),

        Here at Frontiers, we have pioneered the use of article-level metrics, which allows us to keep an eye on the “rising star” articles — even those of other publishers. We noticed that your Article (Article) in (Journal) has already received (N) citations, which underscores the wide-ranging and growing interest for this work.

        From our experience, articles with a strong track record provide excellent concepts for new Frontiers Research Topics. With this message, we invite you to consider whether a Research Topic, which is a collection of peer-reviewed articles around a well-defined theme, might be the way to spotlight the recent advances in your community.


    • Max says:

      I myself work in the field of evolutionary biology. I have yet to publish in Frontiers (since I aim for Science, Nature, PNAS or PLoS Biology whenever I can) but I can tell it’s very common in our field to put the word ecology together with evolution. In this case I’d give Frontiers the benefit of the doubt rather than accusing them of taking up somebody else’s title. Wiley has a journal called Ecology & Evolution, Springer has “Evolutionary Ecology”, Elsevier has “Trends in Ecology & Evolution”, and BES “Methods in Ecology & Evolution”. Are these journals all fake journals taking on each other’s titles? The answer is no. It simply shows the standard of this research community.

  4. Sudesh says:

    hi Jeffrey
    what are your views about indexing services like – Directory of Research Journals Indexing
    are they worth anything?

    • Most of them, including Directory of Research Journals Indexing, are rubbish.
      For recommendations on the best academic indexes to use, I recommend that you schedule a talk with an academic librarian.

  5. Farzad says:

    One main reason why these journals with exorbitant publication fees proliferate so rapidly is that many authors from China, who enjoy having access to unlimited research budgets, submit their work to these sorts of journals.

    Chinese authors who typically seek quick and easy publication of their work tend to dominate journals that offer a speedy review and publication process in exchange for high article-processing fees.

    Take a look at open access arena of Elsevier journals where you can find inordinate number of Chinese researchers who have published numerous articles and appear to be absolutely undeterred by extortionate amounts that they are charged for the publication of their manuscripts.

    The cost associated with publishing an article in some open access journals operated by Elsevier, which may have an average impact factor of 3, can easily exceed 3200 US dollars, especially because many submissions from China fail to meet English language requirements and therefore the authors are usually directed to Elsevier language editing services, which leads them to pay additional fees.

    It is very obvious that the quality of a scientific work is compromised under this publication condition and it is very unfortunate to see that reputed publishers such as Elsevier or Springer with the sole purpose of furthering their profits have opted for these publication methods.

    This has set a bad precedent for many newly established journals which are hungry for revenues and will do whatever it takes to appeal to authors even if it requires them to obtain an impact factor in a relatively short period of time. Journals published with frontiers are epitome of this fact

  6. John Mashey says:

    See Frontiers – The Amway Analogy for discussion of Jeffrey’s Amway allusion.

  7. Brian W. says:


    The “Frontiers” journals in my field, such as Frontiers in Genetics and Frontiers in Plant Biology, publish legitimate research by the same authors that publish in the well-established, traditional journals. Yes, they are expensive, but so are the PLoS and BMC journals. Open Access is expensive in the hybrid journals, too. I am a review editor for a Frontiers journal. We are told that there is an expectation to publish in the journal occasionally, but that is the same for an editor in any journal; they are expected to publish in the journal occasionally.

    In regard to: “Frontiers is known for its strange marketing, recruiting thousands of editors and editorial board members who are charged with drumming up business for the company, much like Amway.” I think this is one way to look at it, although it seems like a misunderstanding of what Frontiers is trying to accomplish. The topic section editors are volunteers who choose a topic and then try to assemble several to dozens of articles about that topic. The authors can be contacted by the editor, or they can voluntarily submit an article. To me, this is no different from putting together a session at a research conference in that the organizer of the session contacts potential speakers. Would you say that the organizer is “charged with drumming up business” for the conference? Much unlike Amway, there is no financial incentive for topic editors, they do not get paid for recruiting authors.

    I really appreciate your service of identifying Open Access predatory publishers and journals. I hope your work does not evolve into putting all Open Access journals into this category.

    • herr doktor bimler says:

      Much unlike Amway, there is no financial incentive for topic editors, they do not get paid for recruiting authors.

      There are indeed financial incentives for Special Topic editors, in the form of a discount for their own publications in Frontiers.

      For one recent Special Topic in Frontiers in Neurology, the editor / instigator / chief reviewer was an anti-vaccine loon, providing a forum for other anti-vaccine loons.

      • Leo says:

        [There are indeed financial incentives for Special Topic editors, in the form of a discount for their own publications in Frontiers.]

        I think “Brian W.” made things clear with his conference analogy. Many reputable academic conferences also offer discounts to professors who help organise, does it mean we should condemn/ban all the academic conferences as well?

      • Who are you? Why do you make such childish arguments?

    • Leo says:

      Dear Mr. Beall, I’m flattered to see that you read my comments. I never meant to offend anybody and I’m sorry if you felt that way. I worked closely with active researchers who serve as unpaid part-time editors in reputable OA journals. Recently my research group also helped organize an international conference. I’ve seen firsthand how people invest much energy and time out of altruism while others rather stick to their own research. Compared to the sacrifices of the unpaid editors even gratis publications in the journals they serve hardly compensates (not to mention many are capable scientists capable of publishing in top tier journals e.g. Science or PNAS so utilizing the discount-perk is often a downgrade for their papers). I don’t know about Frontiers but unlike “herr doktor bimler” it’s clear to me that publication fee discount for editorship in general is a horrendous deal for people who only care for money. It is a good way tho for the publishers to show appreciation for the unpaid work. To the altruistic acts of people in science (e.g. the unpaid editors or Mr. Beall for introducing the useful list) I have nothing but my utmost respect and I strongly despise those who remotely suggest they act on ulterior motives.

  8. Leo says:

    I’m in Lausanne, Switzerland this week for a biological conference with over 1000 participants. Frontiers has its headquarter near University of Lausanne and from what the locals told me they allegedly run a community-based-model, which means if they now open up a new journal in a new field, chances are they already have a few prominent researchers (or heavy weights as somebody pointed out previously) in the said field to back it up before it materialised.

    That PubMed thingy could be a bit of a misunderstanding: all Frontiers journals have to show if they are indexed in PMC or not (which is obvious if you check “ABOUT” under e.g. Frontiers in Built Environment, where it states PMCID: NA) simply because Frontiers caters mostly to biology and medical researchers. The “coming soon” under ISSN or PMCID most likely means the updated website information will “come soon” rather than showing a lack of ISSN or an intent to index the journal in PubMed. The entire website seems half-finished at the moment, I don’t think we need to over-interpret it at this stage. But we’ll see what happens next.

  9. Harry Hab says:

    I have published with them and am glad they are not on your list, but you absolutely hit the nail on the head with that “amway” vibe!

  10. I would be pleased to get some feedback from people over here on the refusal of Frontiers to fulfil the request of Dr Melissa Terras, a professor of Digital Humanities at UCL, to remove her from the list of editors of the journal “Frontiers in Digital Humanities”.

    See http://melissaterras.org/2015/07/21/why-i-do-not-trust-frontiers-journals-especially-not-frontdigitalhum/ for backgrounds.

    • billwilliams says:

      This post (linked in the Terras piece) and its comments are also quite illuminating.

    • Nils says:

      Two salient points of Dr Terras’ story:
      1) The Editor in Chief published an article in his own journal and personally selected the sole reviewer.
      2) Despite the fact that Dr Terras never signed any agreement (and rejected the article’s first version), Frontiers refuse to remove her name from their site, thereby suggesting she endorses the paper.
      Hardly the hallmarks of ethical publishing practices. Once again, it shows that one should think carefully before accepting to be an editor… and now even a reviewer, in cases where your name would be published with the paper.

      • OAguy says:

        What Dr Terras failed to mention in her long blog post is the fact that the paper that she reviewed was not an empirical research article, but merely an extended form of an editorial statement wherein the EIC develops his vision of the field and for the new journal. This is why it only had one reviewer.

      • Max says:

        I second what OAguy said. It’s a bit of a suspicious move to not mention she reviewed an editorial statement rather than original research. Editorial statements of many journals normally don’t even seek reviews at all. The fact that Frontiers went great lengths and spent 7 months trapped in review process is not as discrediting as it may seem.

        Furthermore, Melissa didn’t realise that reviewers do not have as much power over publishing decisions as editors. Reviews are guidelines and if there are disagreements, the editors always have the ultimate say.

        Most journals keep reviewers anonymous. The downside of this is when fields are small, conflicts of interests become prevalent and lead almost always to malicious reviews that purposely delay the publication process for the authors. I can think of a couple of examples from SCIENCE where big shots blocked competitors from publishing there, just so he can submit his own identical study later. Nature Communications for instance is testing the double-blind review, but NPG editors don’t expect it to work since it’s still unfair to the authors as reviewers can easily use the manuscript’s content to ID the authors but the authors can’t ID reviewers. PLoS journals on the other hand is trying similar approach as Frontiers, namely open review where names of both authors and reviewers are made public. People also forget that seldom do all reviewers completely agree with the content of a manuscript, then again in most journals completely agreement is not a requirement for accepting a paper. Showing reviewers’ names is more of a protection for the authors than implying who endorsed the paper. I think in this case when Melissa asked to remove her name as reviewer she didn’t realise it would force them to have another lengthy review process, hence it’s “harmful to the author” as Frontiers promptly replied. They could’ve cheated by starting over with a much friendlier reviewer and get it published in weeks, but didn’t. IMO the review process of Frontiers is already somewhat better than the Direct Submission model of PNAS, where every bogus article can get published as long as the authors are affiliated with NAS.

        I feel sorry for Melissa’s experience, but science could work this way even without malevolent intend from anybody’s side.

      • Nils says:

        “merely an extended form of an editorial statement”:
        I just checked: the piece is called a “Field Grand Challenge Article”, whatever that means. I cannot help wondering: if it’s an editorial statement, why should it be reviewed at all?… Ah, wait a minute, of course: to give the impression the view is endorsed by a member of the community. Perhaps that explains the “To remove it would… cause damage to the author of that article. We look forward to hearing from your lawyers.”

      • Max says:

        Nils, what you said makes no sense.

        If the purpose of having reviewer is to show endorsement from the field then why stop at one? Isn’t it better to have “endorsement” from more reviewers like normal research articles on Frontiers journals? Or perhaps even better, get more co-authors from the editorial board?

        If the Frontiers is really as shady as Melissa believes I’m sure the editor won’t have any problem to find enough friends for that. Instead they went through all the trouble to get her in the play field and she handed them a delayed publication process (7 months) which is obvious for people with scientifically trained eyes. Apparently she didn’t “endorse” as much as “causing trouble”. Following your logic if this shows “endorsement” then those reviewers who helped articles published in weeks must be declaring they themselves took bribes!

        Even tho I believe Melissa had no harmful intentions, what she did was in practice a typical malicious review that delayed the paper for more than half a year, before she (unintentionally) tried to add insult to injury by undoing the months spent for both the author and herself with name removal. In such situations most publishers won’t offer her as much patience as Frontiers central did, as shown in her blogpost. Frontiers had multiple occasions to get rid of her by e.g. not letting her review the 2nd time and comply with her request to opt for favourable reviewers, but they did not go for the easy cut and seemed to adhere to some standard. If more scientists would treat their negative data as Frontiers with Melissa, we’d be dealing with far better science than we have today.

      • Nils says:

        Max, I’m sorry, but I am not able to follow you here.
        If an EiC publishes in his own journal, and the paper is not to be considered as an editorial or an opinion piece, the normal thing to do would have been to ask one of the other editorial board members to handle the review process. This is an elementary step to avoid practices as those used by El Naschie and consorts, who published hundreds of paper in their own journal.
        You make a harsh accusation by qualifying Dr Terras’ “delay” as a typical malicious review (btw, it strikes me as disrespectful to call a third party by their first name in a conversation when you are not personally acquainted with them, do you hold a personal grudge against Dr Terras?). In my field, waiting at least half a year for a review is considered to be the norm. I don’t even bother to contact the editorial office earlier than six months after I have submitted a paper. Perhaps habits are different in digital humanities, but even though, stigmatising a few month’s delay as malicious seems far-fetched to me.
        You seem to resent “malicious reviewers”. In my field, we have a very simple and effective way of preventing its worst consequences: whenever we submit a paper, we deposit it on the arXiv and/or similar repositories. This will not prevent a reviewer of delaying the review process, but at least it will prevent them from scooping you. Also, the harm of a few month’s delay in publication is much reduced, because your work is already available as a preprint.
        Finally, please don’t forget that there is another side to the coin: if the review process is not properly handled, it can happen that reviewers lack impartiality by giving positive advice on a low-quality paper. There even have been a number of cases of fake reviewers, who managed to review their own or their friend’s works under forged identities.

        (Disclaimer: I do not know Dr Melissa Terras, I never met her,
        nor have I had any correspondence with her before writing this reply).

      • Max says:

        Nils, I agree that my accusation of malicious review was way too harsh and I leave my sincerest apologies here for Dr. Terras should she read our comments.

        First of all I’m from a Scandinavian country where the cultural norm is to address even the most respected persons in firstname. Calling someone Dr X is considered alienating and bizarre. Now we both learned our respective way isn’t always the norm elsewhere.

        You have no proof for your point 1 since the paper in question was not edited by the author himself but Dr. Ganascia. Dr. Terras even said she “dealt with the editorial team, not Frederic”. Readers got the perception that Fred handpicked his own reviewer simply because he initially asked her if she can be a reviewer for the journal, which is different from asking her to review a specific paper. Again she was later contacted by the editorial team and not Fred. As a founder of DH he probably recruited multiple reviewers personally so whenever he publishes something chances are the paper gets reviewed by someone he enlisted. As much as Dr Terras deserves an apology from me Dr Kaplan may use an apology from you.

        Dr Terras then said after the 2nd review she only pointed out minor errors and agreed the manuscript can be published after correcting the typos. Her concerns were 1) after her initial rejection the modified manuscript went back to her rather than to another reviewer; and 2) she was the sole reviewer; she didn’t ask for name removal because she strongly opposed the paper’s content.

        Now your 2nd point, what if they did remove her name? If Frontiers follow a certain standard, removing her name means the paper becomes un-reviewed and must go along with her name. She is technically asking for a retraction. Right there it’s a grey zone: on one hand Frontiers could’ve asked for more reviewers while on the other hand Dr. Terras helped ensure the paper was technically sound so why should it become collateral damage? The decision eventually went to some editor (still not Frederic) who kept her name and the paper. Frontiers reasoning, altho somewhat ambiguous, is not completely unjust given the circumstances.

        Now to your other points: in our field we usually don’t deposit data on arXiv. Even if we do malicious reviews should still be despised since it prevents people from citing your work when publishing is delayed and/or lowers your aggregate IF, which sadly remains the standard for performance evaluation. Regarding the issue of fake reviewers I believe the direct submission model of PNAS is where a fix is most necessary due to the journal’s high reputation.

        (Disclaimer: I’m a complete bystander and not in any way associated with the journals or persons I mentioned in this discussion)

  11. […] bibliotecari accademici perché pubblichino, al costo di $1.900 per articolo, su una nuova testata, scrive Jeffrey Beall che non l'ha ancora messo fra i predoni dell'open access. Ci manca poco, credo, anche […]

  12. herr doktor bimler says:

    I nearly forgot that Frontiers journals have become the main outlets for papers on ‘telocytes’, a wholly new cell class discovered by Popescu of Romania and generally indistinguishable from electron-microscopy artefacts.

    • Leo says:

      I’m not familiar with the specific topic but the kind of problem you mentioned isn’t isolated to Frontiers alone. The big journal Nature published a paper by Martin Nowak from Harvard in 2010 claiming a long-proven biological concept was wrong and their conclusion could only be reached by manipulating parameters to their favor. This led to a few response letters in NPG journals with over 100 authors wanting to get a piece of Nowak. Early this year another group in Uni of Washington published a proper response proving how and why Nowak was wrong. To date Nature has remained staunch in refusing to retract or post addendum/erratum to Nowak’s deeply flawed paper. While smaller journals might become outlets for flawed results of relatively unknown researchers, Nature could also become outlets for flawed results of untouchable big shots. I believe this kind of problems in scientific publishing must be corrected somehow altho I’m more keen on prioritizing the most influential subscription-journals over small fishes.

    • Amos says:

      Dear Herr Doktor Bimler,

      thanks for raising attention to this topic. But what prompted this assessment of yours? I searched for “telocytes OR telocyte” on PubMed. There are 157 articles, 86 of which appeared in J.Cell.Mol.Med., a Wiley journal with impact factor 4.0 that is “edited by L.M.Popescu”, according to its homepage. Three articles were published in PLOS ONE, three in a frontiersin.org journal.

      This publication landscape is really curious. But I don’t think it shows that Frontiers journals “have become the main outlets” of such papers.

  13. Melissa Terras says:

    Hi! interesting discussion. Just a few points of fact – I was asked to review a paper, not an editorial discussion (it may have been published as such, but I was asked to review a paper). Secondly, I didn’t sit on this review for 7 months – I was sent it in October 2014, and submitted it mid November 2014, so I took less than a month to review it. That is hardly malicious, is it? They then took months to rewrite it, and sent it to me in March 2015, upon which I turned it around within a week. So its not me that has caused delays. The first version of the paper (which I have a copy of, should you like to see it) was of such poor quality that it was unpublishable. Tell me, is it malicious of reviewers to highlight when papers don’t meet very basic academic standards? (ie, sweeping statements that have no citations, no examples, ignoring most of the work in the field, lacking references to key works in the field that have addressed this topic before, etc). The fact I am being called malicious for carrying out a refereeing task in good time, in good faith, and giving my honest opinion, then having no control over where my academic name is published, just shows how broken the Frontiers model of publishing is.

    • LeiaSunesson says:

      Hello Dr. Terras! It was indeed an interesting discussion thread in here and your arrival certainly put the cherry on top! Having read your original blogpost I’m under the impression that both commentators Max and Nils got way over their heads. I think neither of them thoroughly read through your story and calling your review “malicious” is totally out of place.

      How was the manuscript at the 2nd review? Was it much improved or still bad enough for a 3rd round of review? I’m also curious as whether Dr. Frederic Kaplan did personally oversee the review of his own paper. Nils accused Dr. Kaplan of meddling in the review process by personally selecting you to review the specific paper and overseeing the publishing process himself. Altho from your version of story it sounded like you dealt mostly with the editorial team while Dr. Kaplan didn’t do much aside from authoring the paper and asking to become a general reviewer for the Frontiers early on. I feel a bit confused.

  14. Readers of this blog post might be interested to know that Jeffrey Beall announced on 18 October 2015 on Twitter that publisher Frontiers was added to his “list of potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers. This is at the moment still the case (see https://scholarlyoa.com/publishers/ ). See also http://www.nature.com/news/backlash-after-frontiers-journals-added-to-list-of-questionable-publishers-1.18639

Leave a Reply -- All comments are subject to moderation, including removal.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: