Further Unraveling of Frontiers

Climatologist Roger Jones considers pulling up stakes here.

Ugo Bardi on further consideration reveals an awkward odor around Frontiers, and Eli succinctly provides the Multi-Level Marketing hypothesis, informally the Amway Analogy, to describe the situation.

This is the classic multi-level marketing scheme but with a devious twist, because the “chief editors” (maybe, where the money stops is not clear) the “chief specialty editors” the “associate editors” and the “reviewers” are working for the titles and glory and the contribution that they are making to Frontiers, not the money that the Frontiers journals charge for open publication, which means for all the services, whatever they are, of publication.

Frontiers generates papers and publishing charges by motivating the lower depths of the chain to publish with Frontiers and the upper levels to push their friends to. One of the ways Frontiers does this is by selling itself as the scientists’ journal, their thing, but Frontiers also raises money through the Frontiers Research Foundation which raises substantial funds to “supplement” the publishing charges.

Sweet.

The founders of this scheme would hardly be the first to treat the scientific enterprise as their personal gravy train. (My father made his living selling microscopes to Canadian research facilities, so in a small way I’m a beneficiary myself.) But by stepping in to the open science movement and diverting it to their own commercial ends, Frontiers already puts itself in an ethically delicate position. Their cowardice in the Lewandowsky affair will hopefully get the academic community to sit up and take notice.

We need a reinvented peer review system. But the Frontiers journal system appears to have its heart in the wrong place and is not helping.


If you came in late to this saga you can catch up with Graham Redfearn’s summary.

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