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Frontiers is a Lausanne, Switzerland-based scholarly open-access publisher. Owned by Nature Publishing Group, the firm publishes 38 journals, chiefly in the life sciences.

Frontiers does not meet the criteria for inclusion as a predatory publisher, but I regularly receive complaints about its spamming and editorial practices.

I realize that there are probably many people that are satisfied with Frontiers, and that it is likely publishing good science. Still, there is value in sharing others’ experiences with this publisher.

Here are three emails. The first two are parts of emails sent to me; the last one was sent to a Frontiers staff person and later forwarded to me by the sender.

1.

Dear Jeffrey,

I have been asked to be a “review editor” for Frontiers in Interdisciplinary Physics, and open access journal which I see charges a high fee to publish papers.  It is part of the “Frontiers” group that is evidently associated with Nature.

It looks like they have “chief specialty editor”, and “associate editor,” and “review editors,” the latter being essentially glorified reviewers.  My guess is that the other two editors are going to be paid, so it looks a bit like a pyramid scheme, a lá Amway.  The review editors are supposed to help improve the papers, so it seems to be a fee-for-publishing (with help) kind of deal.  (I actually know the chief specialty and associate editor for this journal.)

What do you think about these “Frontiers in…” journals?  I didn’t see them on your list…

2.

Hello:

I’m terribly sorry to bother you, but I cannot find any information about this publisher (http://www.frontiersin.org/) other than what is on their website and a brief Wikipedia article. Apparently, Nature Publishing Group has a controlling stake in the company. Do you or does anyone have a list of good, respectable OA publishers? OA publishers with a working peer review process and quality assessment/control?

I was stung by one of the email spam campaigns soliciting invited reviews and finally came across your website. I saw that the email I’d received had be sent to 100’s or 1000’s of people. I’d actually started working on the review and so was pretty dispirited. After that experience, I’ve become quite hesitant about OA publishing, but I still conceptually like the OA idea.

3.

Dear Dr Brandi,

Thank you so much for your detailed reply. Nevertheless, I confirm that I no longer want to be listed as a potential “associate editor”, nor as a referee. As I said, I receive daily requests for reviews from one of the Frontiers journal. Usually the topic is barely if at all related to my own work. I’ve taken the habit of systematically deleting these messages, so you might as well delete my name from your database.

I would like to mention that I do a lot of pro-bono refereeing and editing for Science, PNAS, etc, so this is certainly not laziness on my part. But I find the Frontiers process inacceptable. What kind of quality science do you expect when you give instructions such as “The submitted article type requires only a short review, which means that it is not obligatory to invite reviewers. It is sufficient that you read this manuscript and perform a light review on it yourself. If you have any comments to the authors, please post those directly in the review forum. Otherwise you may take an acceptance decision on this manuscript directly.”

Sorry for being blunt, but I think that this sort of process means that the Frontiers goal is primarily financial.

With apologies and best wishes,

When a scholarly publisher doesn’t have to worry about losing subscriptions, the entire publishing dynamic changes. There’s less accountability. We hope that Frontiers can take these criticisms into account and make improvements in its operations.

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