The Decline of Medicine, a Wolters Kluwer Health Megajournal

Medicine, a journal published by Wolters Kluwer Health

In need of a cure.

Medicine, a journal published by Wolters Kluwer Health, switched from a subscription model to gold (author pays) open access in late 2014. Since the journal transitioned the pay-to-publish mega-journal model, Medicine has declined in quality and published at least one questionable article.

The journal’s current impact factor is 5.723, which is a leftover from its years as a high-quality subscription journal publishing only 6 issues each year. The impact factor will certainly decrease in the near future now that 52 issues per year are being published under the new open-access model.

But the current impact factor means that, for this year, researchers who need to publish a paper in a journal with high impact factor can buy the prestige associated with the inflated metrics of Medicine. And the journal is — for the most part — accommodating the hordes.

In 2013, the journal published six issues. In mid-2014, when the switch to mandating an author fee was implemented, the journal began publishing weekly issues. Each issue has 20 to 40 articles, and the author fee is $1,400. If about 30 articles are published per issue, that translates into $2,184,000 in income for the year (30 articles x 52 issues x $1,400), an amazing amount for a single journal.

The subscription version of Medicine had a 24-member editorial board composed of researchers from leading medical institutions, including an editor-in-chief from Johns Hopkins. The editorial boards (the plural is not a typo –- separate boards for Medicine, Medicine: Breast Cancer, and Medicine: HIV/AIDS are listed on the Medicine website) of the relaunched Medicine have more than 750 members — and the Medicine website lists no editor-in-chief or lead section editors for the 43 specialty areas that Medicine covers.

The only people named as senior editors are a few Wolters Kluwer staff who oversee the hundreds of editorial board members. This lack of oversight by independent editors not tasked with revenue generation may be why this article made it through the review process and was published in the journal:

The Effectiveness and Safety of Acupuncture for Patients with Alzheimer Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials

Is this article evidence of the journal’s low peer-review standards?

The paper is entitled “The Effectiveness and Safety of Acupuncture for Patients with Alzheimer Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” It was published in Medicine in volume 94, issue 22 in June, 2015.

The paper makes bold and perhaps unwarranted conclusions about Alzheimer’s disease treatment:

In conclusion, the results of the meta-analysis indicate that acupuncture may be more effective than drugs, and may also enhance the effect of donepezil in improving the cognitive function of patients with AD (p. 8).

The paper has been criticized on PubPeer, with the commenter saying,

The primary claim of the article is corrupt in the sense that it is proffering a causal relationship between acupuncture and improvement in certain indices of awareness and cognitive ability without attempting to control for variation or the strong placebo effect that we know exists for acupuncture.

An earlier blog post inspired by the article led the blogger to conclude, “IT IS HIGH TIME THAT RESEARCHERS START THINKING CRITICALLY, PEER-REVIEWERS DO THEIR JOB PROPERLY, AND JOURNAL EDITORS STOP PUBLISHING SUCH MISLEADING ARTICLES” [upper case from the original author].

It is unfortunate that the journal Medicine and its publisher, Wolters Kluwer Health, are effectively taking the low road, lowering standards and apparently accepting most articles submitted, even poor-quality articles like the one described here.

This is the danger of the open-access mega-journal model with no independent oversight: the default will be for the editorial staff — all of whom are employees tasked with making money for their employers — to accept almost every article, regardless of quality or even validity, because each accepted submission generates substantial profit for the publisher.

Hat tips: Dr. Kathryn H Jacobsen, Dr. Joshua Tan


19 Responses to The Decline of Medicine, a Wolters Kluwer Health Megajournal

  1. A few weeks ago I had a MS rejected by a W-K owned surgery journal and was offered the opportunity of having it transferred to Medicine. I declined the offer.

  2. celvesta says:

    I was in Editorial Board of this Medicine Journal. They have fired me from the Editorial Board, because I was not agree with the publication of an article. To the article in question, a review was for, and another reviewer was against. And I said no. To this journal, the person from Editorial Boarrd does not have the final decision in publication of an article, but rather those of their stuff.

  3. J.J. says:

    Another example of the detrimental effect of the conflict of interest present when journals receive money when they accept papers.

    It baffles me how many scientists can be overly zealous in their scrutiny when research is funded by private companies (“unconscious bias” and whatnot) and yet be perfectly OK with monetary incentive to accept papers.

    Let’s bring editorial rejection back into fashion, or good science will drown in an ocean of crap.

  4. Edoardo Villani says:

    I am in the Editorial Board of Medicine and, at present, my acceptance rate is 40%. However I realize that there are some problems in this transition to OA (i.e. the lack of a well-recognized lead section editor) and I am trying to discuss these problems with the journal.

  5. Mello-Yello says:

    Wolters Kluwer is quite a heavy weight:
    This is not good news.

  6. From Morocco says:

    I’ve just seen @Neuroskeptic (
    “OMICS Publishing Group is a predatory publisher” – according to their own website! Oh dear, @OMICSGroup.”

    Amazing! They didn’t even mention the source wikipedia.

  7. Dr. A. Joseph says:

    Hi Beall
    i would like to know your opinion on SCIENCE PUBLISHING GROUP, does it qualifies as PREDATORY PUBLISHER ??
    Its website is
    Dr. A. Joseph

  8. Dear Mr Beall
    I would like to know your opinion on “international journal of green pharmacy” by Wolters Kluwer
    Here’s the link


  9. Anaivko says:

    Dear Mr Beall,
    I am librarian at Instiute for Oncology and Radiology in Serbia, Belgrade. I am following this blog for 2 years. Almost everyday, our docs are receiving the offer for sending a manuscript to some of predatory journas such as omics group, hyndawi…etc.) Recently one proffessor received an email with an offer from Benthamscience, from editorial from Current Drug Metabolism, current Impact Factor is *2.976* Is that journal from the predatory publisher? ?


    • Hello, Ana,
      There are two publishers here:
      Bentham Science
      Bentham Open
      Note that Bentham Science is a subscription publisher. To access the content, one has to subscribe to its journals. I think not very many libraries in the west subscribe to its journals, and content published there is hidden from many.
      Bentham Open is an open-access publisher, but I find it to have many problems. It is included on my list. Many of its journals have only authors from China in recent volumes, making some suspect the publisher is working with article brokers. I think all honest researchers should avoid Bentham Open. Good luck.

  10. Ilan says:

    MEDICINE’s impact factor has indeed declined dramatically, it is now about 1.2. I wonder what is your predictions as to the journal’s future. Will it further decline? Is there a chance for reconsideration of the editorial’s policy?

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