Many scientists have been receiving unsolicited emails from the Swiss publisher Frontiers, with invitations to submit papers or become peer review “editor” with this Open Access (OA) publisher. In fact, the Holtzbrick-owned Frontiers are occasionally criticized for these activities, which were compared to spamming. These “spam” emails however are not written by robots, but by actual human beings, usually interns. Many of them do not seem very happy about their jobs with Frontiers, as one can read at the employer-evaluation portal Glassdoor. Most of the criticism is directed against middle management, who, as I have previously shown, sometimes nonchalantly manage academic topics way outside of their professional competence.

Now, you can learn what goes on inside the Frontiers “spam” factory from a first-hand source.  I was approached by a reader of my website, who turned out to be a former full-time employee at Frontiers. This person told me that the Frontiers interns (who are recruited for a 6 month period, as advertised here) were expected to write 200 emails a day, canvassing academics to submit papers to this for-profit OA publisher:

This threshold was recommended to all interns by the journal managers based on one “exemplary” staff employee, who could actually send these many emails. The messages included canned follow-up responses to potential authors clarifying what Frontiers is [see Q&A list below, -LS], a similar correspondence with editors, and reminders about the papers undergoing peer-review. Since we sent these emails from shared journal email accounts, everyone could see their quality. It was clear to me that the quantity over quality was an approach applied there. The journal managers asked us to use only template responses, word for word. It was more acting like a robot, without support from permanent staff members”.

As the source explained, Frontiers was using massive email campaigns to recruit potential authors. For this,

the email addresses were identified automatically using keywords from Loop [Frontiers’ own social network, where all authors, editors and reviewers are mandatorily recruited, -LS], articles, conferences, or suggestions, and as a result “the invitations” usually ended up with random people”.

Hardly surprisingly, many recipients of such “spam” emails complained. Frontiers employees were instructed how to reply to these annoyed academics (“we believe that your research provides an excellent fit for our journal Frontiers in XXXXXX”, or “you are free to submit an article on any subject for consideration by the Chief Editor of a section of your choice”), and how to counter criticism of Frontiers peculiar peer review model (“We appreciate your feedback […], unfortunately, it is not always possible to satisfy everyone”). The interns were also instructed to lie about the rejection rate at Frontiers, which is not 20% as officially claimed, but 10% (at least, this was what the interns were told). Finally, this is how one was supposed to reply if the email-guessing game led to an utterly unrelated person being pestered:

I am sorry to see that we have mixed up your contact details with that of another researcher. […] Nevertheless, I find your contributions to the area of {SEARCH ABOUT HIS RESEARCH} very impressive, and I would like to ask if you would be interested in collaborating with us?”

The reply templates can be read at the end of this article.

Kubrick Science 1

Sharing this information was a very brave act. First of all, my communications with current and former Frontiers editors suggested a certain culture of fear of publicly criticizing this publisher (unlike on the phone or in confidential emails). This whistleblower here revealed information despite Frontiers’ threat to punish any indiscretion with a fine of at least 100,000 Swiss Francs (CHF, roughly the same in US Dollars).

This is what Frontiers intimidate their interns with, in order to quell any attempt at treason:

For each case of breach of the Employee’s [Frontiers, -LS] obligations as set forth in this section on noncompetition and nonsolicitation, the Employee shall pay a contractual penalty of CHF 100’000. Payment of the contractual penalty shall not relieve the Employee from any of the obligations set out in this section 10. The Employer shall have the right to claim further amounts, in addition to the above contractual penalty, in order to recover its effective damages and/or that of third parties.

The Employer shall be entitled to seek judicial enforcement of such obligations including, but not limited to, specific enforcement by way of an injunction or other means of interim and/or permanent relief”.

Basically, Frontiers threatens the interns, whom they employed for mere 6 month with a salary of CHF 2,000/month (minus taxes and social insurance), to take away everything they have, and destroy their livelihoods and any hopes for a career, for even the most minor breach of their contract. Certainly for sharing this very information here. There is no time limit on secrecy, the interns are expected to take what they saw and experienced at Frontiers for half a year of their lives to their graves:

the Employee agrees, both during the term of the Employment and after its termination or expiry, not to discuss with any external party any aspect of Frontiers’ business, working methods, intentions, plans, strategies or the identity of Frontiers’ current and intended contractors and service providers”.

Also, after their brief internship period ends, the former employees are expected not to work or be otherwise involved anywhere near science publishing, for at least one year. Same goes for academic social networking, because of Frontiers’ other key business Loop (for which they “recently partnered with the Nature Publishing Group”).  Otherwise, yes, Frontiers will destroy you financially:

The Employee shall not […] for a period of one year following the termination of this Agreement, in any way, directly or indirectly, and whether alone or together with others, initiate, promote, participate in, be engaged in or provide any advice, support or assistance to any company, entity, business, association or undertaking of any kind, whether as employee, consultant, director, agent, distributor, editor, advisor, shareholder, owner or partowner or in any other capacity, whether fulltime or parttime, in any activities within the field of publication of academic articles and/or researcher networking”.

Generously, Frontiers does not issue a ban on all academia-related employment. The Swiss publisher still allows its former interns to work as postdocs or PhD students, despite that this may require publishing-related activities such as writing papers or peer reviewing. They are however NOT allowed to make decisions on where to submit their papers, or, yes, Frontiers lawyers will come for you:

The preceding sentence shall not prevent the Employee from engaging […] in purely editorial activities such as science writing or article review, provided such activities do not involve the Employee in any management or strategyrelated activities”.

Is this all? No, because Frontiers’ current and former interns are prohibited from discouraging anyone from publishing or working with Frontiers, even privately:

The Employee shall not, during the term of employment by the Employer and for a period of one year following the termination of such employment […]

  1. solicit any person who is or was a customer of the Employer or any of its Affiliates, or any author who had published or sought to publish any article in any Frontiers journal, with a view to diverting such customer away from Frontiers or its Affiliates or such author away from publishing articles in Frontiers journals; or

  2. induce, encourage or assist in inducing or encouraging any employee to leave employment with the Employer or any of its Affiliates or the Frontiers Research Foundation”.

The entire contract is available for download here.

It does sound tough and scary, except that it is a toothless threat, driven by paranoia and bullying arrogance. I forwarded this internship contract to a Swiss academic, who in turn showed it to a Swiss law specialist.  The confidentiality agreement as it is written, including its threat of CHF 100,000 fine, is not applicable as such [though not actually illegal, as I previously wrote] under Swiss law and should not have been allowed into an internship contract. This was what I learned:

– A typical internship contract in Switzerland is no longer than 2 pages. The Frontiers one is 6 pages long, which is not appropriate

– The internship contract point 10 concerning confidentiality and non-competing interests seems to be a copy-paste of an Anglo-Saxon executive employee contract. The banking and industry executives however enjoy proper rights and work law protection, also their salaries are not really comparable with those of interns. Also in Switzerland, such a clause is indeed used only for executive employees and not for interns. A non-competing clause for executives must also carry a geographical region limitation, which Frontiers internship contract does not.

– Interns are actually not supposed to be made to observe confidentiality, simply because it is the responsibility of the employer not to expose them to confidential material.

– Otherwise, any confidential documents should be clearly and specifically named and identified in a contract. With Frontiers, nothing at all is specified in the internship contract. In any case, the internship contract I publish here is not a confidential document per definition.

– Even if Frontiers were able to drag their former interns to court: Frontiers would have to prove the exact monetary damage they suffered just because that former intern now works at a different publisher’s.  However, Frontiers lawyers can spare themselves this difficult calculation, because their internship contract clauses are void anyway. The act of signing something does not make it legal, in fact Frontiers lawyers themselves wrote into the internship contract: “This agreement shall be exclusively governed by Swiss law”.

And indeed, this story here is the evidence that some people are quite unafraid of Frontiers and their legal bullying. Thus, enjoy below the Q&A templates which Frontiers employees were given to face the criticisms from the academia.



Frontiers mandatory templates for communicating with potential customers and reviewers.

The questions (Q) are what scientists generally ask or complain about. The answers (A) are text blocks which Frontiers employees were instructed to use for their replies. Provided verbatim and in this order by a former Frontiers employee.

Q: [I do not agree with your peer-review policies]

A: We regret that you do not agree with Frontiers’ policies on the peer-review process. We feel that Frontiers offers more than just the open-access solution to the problem of hiding research results behind a pay wall. Frontiers also aims to solve some frequently cited problems in the peer-review process, by revising the principles to preserve and improve its efficiency and rigor. To do this, we take care of the rights of authors, referees and editors, generally aiming to return the responsibility for publishing from the publisher to authors. Novel features of the Frontiers peer-review process include an initial anonymous peer-review stage followed by an interactive online review stage where the identities of referees are automatically disclosed. We appreciate your feedback, and we strive to accommodate all suggestions by users; unfortunately, it is not always possible to satisfy everyone.

Q: (the email reaches a wrong person)

A: Please excuse me for the email confusion. I am sorry to see that we have mixed up your contact details with that of another researcher. I can assure you that this is not going to happen again, as I have corrected this error in your contact details. Nevertheless, I find your contributions to the area of {SEARCH ABOUT HIS RESEARCH} very impressive, and I would like to ask if you would be interested in collaborating with us? We have recently partnered with the Nature Publishing Group to expand our researcher-driven open-science platform Loop, and we would like for you to consider the opportunity to participate in developing a collection of the latest research and perspectives from your field in a Frontiers journal.

Q: (someone is not an expert in the area pasted in the primary email, but Frontiers is interested):

A: Thank you for your reply. Please note that our offer to submit an article for peer-review at Frontiers does not exclusively extend to the subject proposed in the original email, which was merely a suggestion that we considered timely. Naturally, you are better aware of the needs of your research field than us. You are free to submit an article on any subject for consideration by the Chief Editor of a section of your choice assuming that it fits within the scope of one of our journals. Moreover, we would be grateful for any suggestions about colleagues who might possibly be interested in doing so; or if you prefer, ask them to contact us.

Q: (someone is interested to publish with Frontiers, but Frontiers is not interested)

A: Thank you for your reply, and for your interest in Frontiers. Frontiers is a community oriented open-access scholarly publishing and social networking platform for researchers, established in 2007 by scientists in Switzerland. Frontiers’ vision is to empower all academic communities to steer the advancement of science communication into the 21st century. Our research network allows academics to communicate quickly, effectively, and freely with their colleagues from around the world. Thank you for registering with our research network, and we hope you will find it useful. We will re-contact you, should we have a subject in the future that fits your area of research. I wish you every success in your career.

Q: (rejection rate)

[Internal note: Try not to disclose this unless they specifically ask. At Frontiers the rejection rate is around 10%]

A: Our rejection is around 20%. This low number is explained by our rejection criteria. All articles are peer-reviewed based on quality of the research.

Q: [Stop spamming. I don’t want to publish with you]

A: Thank you for your message. Please allow me to clarify that we give researchers the opportunity to effectively organize an online discussion and to intensify collaborations by bringing together the academic community around their particular research area. Frontiers conceived this new concept and developed a special IT platform to help you manage it. We are opening a window for all researchers to work together bringing awareness and give significant input to each other’s research. We believe that your research provides an excellent fit for our journal Frontiers in XXXXXX. Because Frontiers uses the same email template to invite those scientists with whom we would like to collaborate, our email may come across as spam. However, we never send broadcast emails to mailing lists, but exclusively contact selected scientists like you. I hope this information was helpful and gives you a clear idea of what Frontiers is trying to bring to the scientific community.

Q: [Why do you charge fees?]

A: Thank you for your reply. While no one likes paying a fee to publish, it is an expensive process and unless authors are willing to cover the costs, then the reader has to as in the old model of subscriptions. The goal of Frontiers is to hand control of research publishing back to working researchers – not to make money from authors. Publishing fees are an essential part of the enormous transition underway in peer-reviewed academic publishing: as researchers move toward open-access, fees help offset the cost of the transition, the development of new tools like Frontiers’ editorial platform and the cost of support and typesetting, among other services. Traditional publishers derive most of their revenues by charging millions in subscription fees to university libraries (which is paid from overheads deducted from your grants), whereas open-access publishers rely only on article publishing fees for all of our operations. We are always open to working toward solutions that prevent fees from becoming a barrier to publication. The benefits of open-access, though, are enormous! Scientists from everywhere in the world can access the research at no charge and with no expensive subscription or download fee. Researchers and Medical doctors in developing countries can get the latest research anywhere there is an Internet connection. All medical doctors in the world can see the latest peer-reviewed evidence – not just those doctors with an academic affiliation and library access. For authors publishing in open-access, the benefits are equally important. You could publish in a traditional subscription journal, but then only other researchers and university-based physicians in the developed world will see your work; if you publish open-access, everyone can. You’ll get more citations. Frontiers also complies with all open-access and archiving mandates required for research grants by all major funding councils and institutions.

Q: (about Beall’s posts)

A: We are indeed aware of the negative press resulting from the post by Jeffrey Beall. If I may, I would like to point out that very positive responses were also posted as replies by users and editors of Frontiers. We feel certain that all the concerns pointed out in the post could have been resolved with some discussion with the editorial office. We truly strive to listen to the feedback from our users to improve our publishing platform. You may have also heard of the Science ‘Sting Operation’ in which a reporter submitted a fake manuscript to over 300 open access Journals? I am delighted to say that Frontiers in Pharmacology rejected the fake paper only a few hours after it was submitted, supporting the quality of our review model.

 

Update 23.04.2016. Frontiers apparently took notice of this article and replied with a blog post advertising Frontiers internship, with testimony of happy, yet unnamed interns:


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29 thoughts on “Fear and Loathing at Frontiers

  1. Scary stuff. I wonder if Elsevier, Springer-Nature, Wiley and Taylor & Francis have similar agreements with interns and employees? Also, how about their NDA (non-disclosure agreements)? And what about contracts with editors? I wonder if there are any courageous whistle-blowers who could leak documents so that the scientific community can get a better perception of how things are being run in the background, what limitations, what duress and what pressures employees and scientists are facing.How about other OA publishers like Hindawi? These documents revealed by Dr. Schneider are important because they expose one more dark and ugly (but real) facet of science publishing. Makes one think about how misleading fancy, snazzy web-sites can be and how many scientists get suckered by such web-sites and manipulated emails.

    Like

    1. I presume that traditional publishers do not have such contracts, because they do not have to drum up business directly from authors in order to make payroll (plus bonuses for directors) each month. Yes, traditional editors sometimes accept overhyped papers to keep up their impact factor, but most traditional journals also pride themselves to some extent on their rejection rate. And bringing in the money is the job of the people who sell the bundles to the institutions; all the editors have to do is turn out a product that isn’t too embarrassingly bad, and keep the IF at reasonable levels. That has plenty of problems of its own, of course, but on a day-to-day basis, those journals typically do a reasonable job of filtering out most of the dreck. (There is a substantial problem of survivorship bias involved when pointing at any given terrible article that makes it through the process; we don’t see all the articles that the same journal correctly rejected. Or rather, we do, they just get published in journals from borderline OA publishers like Dove or, apparently, Frontiers.)

      I suspect that in a few years time, we are going to look back on the rush to OA — at least, to pay-to-publish OA — as one of the worst things ever to happen in academic publishing. In theory it ought to help fix publication bias; in practice it risks drowning any given field in noise. A few behavioural economists are probably chuckling to themselves.

      Like

      1. Nick, good argument. Without any solid proof of course, I get the sense that you may be right when it comes to the “traditional class” of publishers. However, watch carefully this expected full transition to OA by 2020, at least in the EU, and how these traditional publishers are transitioning their models to OA. One need only look at the rapidly increasing fleets of gold OA journals in the big four (Elsevier, Springer-Nature, Wiley and Taylor & Francis). One question that everyone is asking is who will pay for this mega-transition? It is evident that it will be the scientists and their research institutes, who will continue to follow this corrupted incentivization / rewards system based on the IF, Altemtrics or some other useless metric. So, as I see it, I simply see the main players evolving their game to adjust to the flavor of the day.

        Now, as for Frontiers contracts, there is one issue that was not discussed or mentioned by Dr. Schneider, and one which is well worth exploring: the ethics of editors who sign up to this scheme. Knowing now what we know about the work model at Frontiers, at least at the editorial level, one has to ask, why would any leading scientist join a Frontiers journal editor board? Is it possible that something is in fact so much better at Frontiers than at any of the “big four”? I don’t get it, to be honest. For example, in psychology, neurosciences, plant science, and physiology, the Frontiers journals are currently ranked #1 in citations. Does that mean that the hundreds and thousands of editors on these boards are being suckered en masse, does it mean that these editors are unethical for aligning with this publisher, or does it mean that perhaps, this is the best choice currently available?

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    2. My current opinion is tremendously different from my experience in 2010-11 when I co-organized a research topic and authored a paper in it. In 2014-15, I organized my own research topic and still enjoyed the process. Since that, I tried to suggest two more topics and realized that the rules sharply changed – less incentives, less support and more work for the academics volunteering as editors and reviewers. The tech team now even don’t bother replying, let alone taking care of very serious tech issues (e.g. disappearance of my entire database of prospective contributors of 500 potential authors). Essentially, the Frontiers parasitizes on enthusiasm of academics including very high-caliber ones while gradually lowering their administrative and tech support qualities and quantities. As an author, I recently experienced very low quality of reviewers and editors making me cancel my two submissions whatsoever.

      Like

  2. I was collecting such requests, as a resource for a post, but my e-mail box got too full – I should have filed them and I think I may do so from today! How Frontiers behaves is an excellent example of why we should restrict our submissions to journals that actually serve the community and that are answerable to it.
    If we support publishers that consider scientists and science to be a commodity then that is what we will be come. If we don’t, we won’t:
    https://ferniglab.wordpress.com/2014/09/14/a-resolution-growing-firmer-by-the-day-dont-be-a-commodity/
    In the end, we vote with our ‘wallets’ and the most valuable thing in our wallets is not the APC but the younger scientists we train, our time and the data. ‘Spend’ these carefully, with reputable and transparent organisations that are not trying to poison science to enhance their profits.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Symptoms Of The Universe and commented:

    I’m reblogging this important post by Leonid Schneider on the atrocious behaviour of the Swiss publisher Frontiers. Instead of binning the next e-mail I receive from them, I’ll respond with a link to Schneider’s post…

    Like

  4. Reblogged this on In the Dark and commented:

    Here’s a truly scary inside story about the behaviour of one of the, sadly many, predatory open access journals out there.

    Like

  5. Surprised to see Michael Blatt on the editor board of Frontiers in Plant Science:
    http://journal.frontiersin.org/journal/plant-science#editorial-board

    Twice, as Associate Editor, and Review Editor.

    The FiPS editor board lists 3990 editors, a population enough to be a small town, or a very large factory. Close examination of that list will reveal some great leaders and experts, but also some suspect characters. Although numbers shouldn’t be a judgmental factor, to be listed as an editor of a so-called “academic” journal with only 1 or 2 publications is of concern. And there are plenty of such “editors” on this editor board.

    I would be really curious to see their response to this blog.

    Like

  6. There is an entire blog devoted to predatory journals. What puzzles me are the comments: people asking the blogger if a certain journal is predatory, has a good reputation, etc. It seems to me that if one doesn’t even know which are the good journals in one’s own field, then one might as well leave research entirely. These journals exist because people pay money to publish there, but they do so, at least in some cases, because publishing low-quality and/or plagiarized papers actually gets them a job somewhere. Obviously, people who publish such papers shouldn’t be taken seriously as researchers at all, but it is not they who are asking in the comments—it’s people concerned about quality, apparently, but don’t even know what the good journals are in their own field.

    Like

  7. https://blog.frontiersin.org/2016/04/22/frontiers-internships-provide-a-stepping-stone-for-career-success/

    “Frontiers interns get dedicated training in small groups and learn the skills needed to excel in the academic publishing industry with young, vibrant people who share a vision to unlock science communication. It’s also a chance to work in a truly international environment with teammates from 40 countries who came from companies including World Economic Forum, World Health Organization, New York Times, eBay, Thomson, Price Waterhouse Coopers, Siemens, as well as publishing houses including, Springer Nature, Cambridge University Press, Royal Society of Chemistry, Elsevier and Wiley. In addition, the Frontiers Paid Internship monthly salary is in line with the Swiss standard for internships and higher than major institutions in the area. Frontiers also helps newly arrived interns to find a home in the area.

    And of course you can’t forget the perks. We have an open kitchen with healthy food and snacks, happy hours, BBQs, parties and team organised hiking tours, skiing, bowling and other activities that give newcomers plenty of opportunity to easily integrate and get to know your colleagues.”

    Like

  8. Plagiarism report: FCT Project at ISR, UC (www.isr.uc.pt)

    Project name: Dinâmica Facial 4D para Reconhecimento de Identidade
    PI: Jorge Manuel M. C. Pereira Batista (http://www.deec.uc.pt/)
    Reference: PTDC/EIA-CCO/108791/2008
    Fundind entity: FCT- Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (https://www.fct.pt/)
    Duration of the action: 2010-03-25 – 2012-09-28

    Plagiarism Report:
    https://www.dropbox.com/sh/k8pj1nl0htmj3ow/AAAVodmzJZLf8DNlh2tfKKk6a?dl=0

    Official Project website – also with plagiarism from “Facial Dynamics for Identity Recognition – PhD Thesis Proposal 2006 – Toby Collins”:
    http://dynface4d.isr.uc.pt/index.php

    Contact person, plagiarism report at Facebook:


    Additional infomations:

    Juy:
    https://www.fct.pt/apoios/projectos/consulta/aavaliar?iep=4377&idconcurso=88

    Original source – “Facial Dynamics for Identity Recognition – PhD Thesis Proposal 2006 – Toby Collins” PDF:
    http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.102.9255&rep=rep1&type=pdf

    Original source – “Simultaneous Facial Action Tracking and Expression Recognition in the Presence of Head Motion : IJCV2008 – Fadi Dornaika” PDF: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/e09e/4c42deb5dd2b2b416942e9a78e6f7050617b.pdf

    Original source – “Investigating the Dynamics of Facial Expression : 2006 – Jane Reilly” PDF:
    http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F11919629_35
    http://libgen.io/get.php?md5=84531C8976AE7165377A17D8FFE0F7BA&key=IZLRF4CFNJ8QCSJ0

    Original source – “Facial Dynamics in Biometric Identification : BMVC 2008 – L. Benedikt” PDF:
    http://www.cs.bath.ac.uk/~dpc/papers/BMVC_2008.pdf

    Original source – “Modelling the Manifold of Facial Expression using Texture : IMVIP 2008 – Jane Reilly” PDF:
    http://www.cs.nuim.ie/~jreilly/JReilly_IMVIP2008_final.pdf

    Original source – “Non-rigid registration using free-form deformations for recognition of facial actions and their temporal dynamics : FG2008 – Sander Koelstra” PDF:
    http://ibug.doc.ic.ac.uk/media/uploads/documents/FG2008-KoelstraPantic-CAMERA.pdf

    Original source – “Person Recognition using Human Head Motion Information : 2006 – Federico Matta” PDF:
    http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F11789239_34#page-1
    http://libgen.io/get.php?md5=D3C47EFE0892D2CA047AFFC0D61044A8&key=JGSL62MUUPCOBXMF

    Original source – “Combining Motion and Appearance for Gender Classification from Video Sequences : 2008 – Abdenour Hadid”:
    http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/articleDetails.jsp?arnumber=4760995
    http://sci-hub.io/10.1109/ICPR.2008.4760995

    TY

    Like

  9. “Leonid on Twitter: Melissa, as you noted, @FrontiersIn EiC are often male. I calculated that of 65 EiCs 56 have a penis”

    Maybe women are smarter not to get involved with Frontiers (as opposed to the sexism argument)?

    Like

    1. From https://blog.frontiersin.org/2015/12/21/4782/

      Frontiers (Dec 21, 2015):
      “As you can see, Figure 1 shows there is absolutely no correlation between rejection rates and impact factor (r2 = 0.0023; we assume the sample of 570 journals is sufficiently random to represent the full dataset, given that it spans across fields and publishers).”

      Christoph Bartneck (February 16, 2016):
      “I run the analysis on the data provided in SPSS and my results differ considerably. I get an R Square value of 0.021 and a p value (two tailed) of 0.001. I then ran the test in Excel since the original graph seems to be done with that software. Same results. What my analysis shows is that there is a weak but significant correlation. Maybe the author could provide more information on how the R Square value of 0.0023 was obtained?”

      Frontiers (February 16, 2016 to June 1, 2016):
      No response.

      I did notice that there are two journals on the graph with 100% acceptance rate. Therefore, Greta, a more interesting question is: which journals are accepting 80-100% of all papers submitted, and why? The peer review of those journals needs to be examined, unless, in fact, 80-100% of all papers are truly excellent and publishable. I am referring to entries 552-571 in the Excel sheet.

      For example, two plausible questions could arise from seeing this zone of 19 journals:
      a) Were manuscripts being accepted to pump up numbers without being carefully or sufficiently vetted (i.e., peer reviewed)?
      b) In the two journals that had 100% acceptance rates, this implies that everything submitted was accepted. This suggests no peer review, or instant acceptance? Is this one of the criteria, perhaps, that led Jeffrey Beall to list Frontiers as a predatory open access journal?

      What also makes me very concerned about this data, graph and Excel sheet, which are pure marketing ploys to try and show pseudo-transparency, is how opaque it is. The public is expected to just trust these numbers, but in the Excel sheet, the exact Frontiers journals that correspond to entries 1-570 are not indicated.

      Maybe we should request Frontiers to release the details of the exact journals that correspond to journals 1-570?

      Like

    1. Hi Janos, this seems to be a new practice of some OA publishers, to aggregate 3rd party papers. I have no idea what their business interests are, unless they seriously intend to dethrone PubMed or Google Scholar. Or maybe, this is really to create the appearance of having published many papers.

      Like

  10. It’s also interesting to note that the hybrid open access Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE) has a number of employee complaints on its Glassdoor page (although there also seem to be plenty of glowing reviews to counterbalance these- the distribution of ratings is curiously bimodal; see http://bit.ly/2bgnn3C). This publication also apparently has issues in dispelling widespread beliefs that it is spammy and possibly predatory (https://scholarlyoa.com/2016/06/30/is-jove-just-another-spammer/).

    Like

  11. As a former Frontiers intern, I can attest to this. They employ a culture of fear and bullying to get what they want. When I first arrived and underwent ‘training’ I was told to basically copy and paste all these ‘canned responses’ but didn’t quite ‘get’ it. I think I was confused because I thought I was there to use my brain rather than be a robot. I must also have been quite tired having slept in a hostel for a week due to not being able to find accommodation (having emailed them before I got there to ask for help and their just sending me a room for rent website – not useful in a country notorious for its lack of housing and high rents.)
    Each intern would be assigned a ‘journal manager’. Most of the ‘journal managers’ bitch to each other over Skype messenger about their interns or indeed other journal managers, and they make no secret of it. The culture works on cliques and bullying – I’ve never experienced anything like it before or since. It attracts narcissists and frankly nasty people.
    The HR manager would frequently arrange meetings with me and a few other interns as she knew we weren’t coping with the culture. I would come home crying most days.
    One journal manager used to very publicly and loudly berate his/her intern, literally shouting at them for something they’d done wrong in a painfully open plan office. Over half of the office are interns – it’s about cheap labour rather than opportunity for anyone other than the leaders.
    At the end of my contract, I queried the clause about not being involved with a publisher after leaving. The lawyer added a further clause saying I could specifically be involved with (enter institution I was applying for) with no recourse from them. Gee, thanks.
    The interns are young, early career, and naive. I had no idea how to handle myself at that time and was scared – why? because I didn’t know my rights, and had absolutely no power. The internship programme is a means to an end for them, not about developing new talent. Each intern is utterly disposable as there are many recently graduated people looking to get into the industry and desperate for an opportunity to do so.
    On the subject of pay – mine was 1500CHF per month. The minimum wage in Switzerland is over 3000CHF per month. I couldn’t afford to eat most days – THAT is why they have a big kitchen and occasionally gave us food and alcohol. Switzerland is bloody expensive.
    On another note (I keep trying to wrap this comment up, but then I think of something else to add)
    unlike most journals who actually employ people to edit, this is all free labour. They ‘invite’ people to become editors and journal leaders (making it sound like they, specifically have been essentially headhunted, all very flattering, when it’s in fact spamming hundreds of people and hoping one sticks), and then charge authors for the privilege of publishing with them, despite the fact that all the work done is done for free. The ONLY financial contribution the Dear Leaders of Frontiers make is half-paying a load of interns to send robotic spam emails to half the world’s academic population.
    Frontiers are, frankly, a vile vanity project. There’s no other way to put this.

    Like

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