BishopBlog: My collapse of confidence in Frontiers journals
"Frontiers journals have become a conspicuous presence in academic publishing since they started in 2007 with the advent of Frontiers in Neuroscience. When they were first launched, I, like many people, was suspicious. This was an Open Access (OA) online journal where authors paid to publish, raising questions about the academic rigour of the process. However, it was clear that the publishers had a number of innovative ideas that were attractive to authors, with a nice online interface and a collaborative review process that made engagement with reviewers more of a discussion than a battle with anonymous critics. Like many other online OA journals, the editorial decision to publish was based purely on an objective appraisal of the soundness of the study, not on a subjective evaluation of importance, novelty or interest. As word got round that respectable scientists were acting as editors, reviewers and authors of paper in Frontiers, people started to view it as a good way of achieving fast and relatively painless publication, with all the benefits of having the work openly available and accessible to all. The publishing model has been highly successful. In 2007, there were 45 papers published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, whereas in 2014 it was 3,012 (data from Scopus search for source title Frontiers in Neuroscience, which includes Frontiers journals in Human Neuroscience, Cellular Neuroscience, Molecular Neuroscience, Behavioral Neuroscience, Systems Neuroscience, Integrative Neuroscience, Synaptic Neuroscience, Aging Neuroscience, Evolutionary Neuroscience and Computational Neuroscience). If all papers attracted the author fee of US$1900 (£1243) for a regular article, this would bring in £3.7 million pounds in 2014: the actual income would be less than this because some articles are cheaper, but it's clear that the income is any in case substantial, especially since the journal is online and there are no print costs. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Frontiers has expanded massively since 2007 to include a wide range of disciplines. A Scopus search for articles with journal title that includes 'Frontiers in' found over 54,000 articles since 2006, with 10,555 published in 2014. With success, however, have come growing rumbles of discontent. Questions are being raised about the quality of editing and reviewing in Frontiers. My first inkling of this was a colleague told me he would not review for Frontiers because his name was published with the article. This wasn't because he wanted confidentiality; rather he was concerned that it would appear he had given approval for the article, when in fact he had major reservations .."