Academic Publishing

Frontiers: vanquishers of Beall, publishers of bunk

It is now quasi official: do not mess with Frontiers. My earlier reporting made it a credible possibility that this Swiss publisher was behind the January 2017 shut-down and removal of Jeffrey Beall’s list of “potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers”, and it was now indeed verified by an article in Chronicle of Higher Education. The librarian Beall used to be constantly under attack from Open Access (OA) publishers who were unhappy about his personal opinions and his private decisions to place them on his blog list. With those, his University of Colorado in Denver supported Beall. But the trouble started when he placed in October 2015 the Swiss publisher Frontiers onto his list, thus effectively declaring this Holtzbrinck-owned outlet a predatory publisher, after hearing of scientists’ complaints and reading my reports. To be fair, Frontiers are still defended by a much bigger number of scientists who see the advantage of having a reliable business partner who will publish certain manuscripts which hardly any respectable journal might consider.  Especially certain kinds of psychologists figured out that with the life-science-oriented Frontiers they can easily get merited as proper neuroscientists, or even biomedical polymaths (e.g., here). Regardless of the bunk they place there for $2500 a pop.

Frontiers first tried it nicely with Beall, when the Chief Executive Officer Frederick Fenter and journal manager Mirjam Curno (who is also trustee at Committee for Publication Ethics, COPE, read here) visited the librarian before Christmas 2016 in Denver (see my report here). Since Beall still did not remove Frontiers from his list, Fenter rallied its loyal journal editors and started together with them in August 2016 a campaign against Beall, demanding that his university punishes the librarian or at least forces him to remove Frontiers from his private list (read here). That information on my site served as (utterly uncredited) template for the aforementioned Chronicle of Higher Education article (as its author Paul Basken admitted to me, but his editor Brock Read denied). Basken then contacted Beall, who then also revealed to him that in January 2016 the University of Colorado Denver caved in to Frontiers demands and opened a misconduct case against its librarian. At this point, Beall decided to delete his list and save his job. An academic disagreement was resolved in a honed and cherished academic tradition: with a call to the employer and a threat of sacking.

There was also plenty of trolling of Beall’s list, most likely from the side of Frontiers. I was blocked on Twitter by Frontiers, but this was all they could do: there was no employer of mine for them to pressure.  Different with Beall, where Frontiers eventually succeeded. When Beall’s list disappeared on January 15th 2017, a certain heckler’s site celebrating it has been widely shared. The layout theme of the site was coincidently exactly the same as mine. That article from January 15th 2017 was the last ever posted since, but when the site was set up on March 21st 2016, it immediately started with a whole collection of anti-Beall posts, some of them openly defending Frontiers from the allegedly unjust placing on Beall’s list; a post from next day, March 22, was a copy-paste of a relevant Nature News article from October 2015. The site’s fake owner, “Mark Dini” came into existence 3 days after his WordPress site, and he disappeared right away:

A certain copy of Beall’s list then resurfaced online, described to be operated by an anonymous postdoc. Yet for Frontiers, a note was added, with a link to the Nature News article mentioned above:

“Frontiers (note: it has been pointed out that this publisher is probably not predatory, read here to decide on your own)”.

With Beall’s List gone, Frontiers became a major sponsor and propagandist of open science, or their definition thereof: pay-to-publish open access (OA). Frontiers CEO Kamila Markram was invited to discuss the future of the multi-billion Euro heavy Horizon 2020 funding programme, where she educated the research funders that “open science” can only be achieved by publishing in Gold OA, meaning by transferring vast amounts of public money to her Frontiers as article processing charges (APCs). Thing is, her Frontiers don’t have any data sharing mandates in place, and they never publish peer reviewer reports (which sometimes consist only of an approval-tack, read here). It is worth remembering that Frontiers reviewers and editors are not allowed to reject papers, unless their rejection recommendation is unanimous (read here).

Other publishers, but also many in the OA movement love this new definition of open science, even scientists and their research institutions see the advantage. The laurels of pretend research transparency and open science can be achieved by simply paying Frontiers a lump sum of $2500 per article. German Max Planck Society adores Frontiers, and happily pays their APC. In fact, Max-Planck researchers published in 2016 about just as much in Frontiers as they did in PLOS One. The consortium OpenAire (funded by EU with €13Mn, of which €4Mn “are targeted towards the FP7 post grant gold OA pilot”) organised in September 2017 an Open Science Fair in Greece.  Its only platinum sponsor was Frontiers, and Fenter naturally used the occasion to advertise for his publishing house. OpenAire never bothered to explain to me their decision to team up with Frontiers

I remain blocked on Twitter by Frontiers and nearly all their journals. The decision was made centrally, not by the journal’s individual chief editors, as I learned. I was however unblocked transiently, for half a day or so, after I did this:

To celebrate this new power pose by Frontiers, I bring below some of their most amazing articles which I stumbled upon during last months. The common feature of those articles, some of which seem more like crackpot lunacies than actual science: they all come from wealthy universities, in US, Western Europe, Japan. If it is bunk, it is quality bunk, because it carries a quality institutional affiliation and was certainly not cheap to publish. In the past I already wrote about clairvoyance and mindreading, or mad bread, while Beall wrote about a tinhattery paranoid chemtrails paper in Frontiers. Feel free to add your favourites in comments.

Gut microbiome
This cartoon was custom-made for Elisabeth Bik, who incidentally can’t escape being Frontiers review editor. Her resignation was not accepted.

Frontiers Best Of

  1. The founder and Editor-in-Chief of all Frontiers, Henry Markram, return to publish in his own outlet (which he and his wife Kamila actually originally founded in 2007 also to distribute their own strange autism theories, read here). Now, Markram and his Blue Brain (part of Human Brain Project) discovered a 11-dimensional universe inside a mouse brain, an amazing and earth-shattering discovery (see also this blog post by Neuroskeptic). One wonders if maybe no other journal was interested, hence Markram’s return to publish with his own Frontiers? Quote from Frontiers press release:

“We found a world that we had never imagined,” says neuroscientist Henry Markram, director of Blue Brain Project and professor at the EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland, “there are tens of millions of these objects even in a small speck of the brain, up through seven dimensions. In some networks, we even found structures with up to eleven dimensions.”


Front. Comput. Neurosci., 12 June 2017 |DOI: 10.3389/fncom.2017.00048

Cliques of Neurons Bound into Cavities Provide a Missing Link between Structure and Function

Michael W. Reimann1†, Max Nolte1†, Martina Scolamiero2, Katharine Turner2, Rodrigo Perin3, Giuseppe Chindemi1, Paweł Dłotko4‡, Ran Levi5‡, Kathryn Hess2*‡ and Henry Markram1,3*‡
1Blue Brain Project, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Geneva, Switzerland
2Laboratory for Topology and Neuroscience, Brain Mind Institute, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
3Laboratory of Neural Microcircuitry, Brain Mind Institute, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
4DataShape, INRIA Saclay, Palaiseau, France
5Institute of Mathematics, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, United Kingdom


2. Speaking of outlandish causes of autism, apparently a Frontiers evergreen. Gut microbiome causes autism and schizophrenia, according to some Irish scientists. Obviously Frontiers is not only publisher proposing this far-fetched link, but still. Here, the claims became scientific facts and it is time for a review.


Front. Neurosci., 15 September 2017 | DOI: 10.3389/fnins.2017.00490

Cross Talk: The Microbiota and Neurodevelopmental Disorders

John R. Kelly1,2, Chiara Minuto1,2, John F. Cryan2,3, Gerard Clarke1,2 and Timothy G. Dinan1,2*
1Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioural Science, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland
2APC Microbiome Institute, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland
3Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland

3. Speaking of bacteria. Scientists from University of Bristol claim Alzheimer’s patients have bacteria in their brains. In a normal world, unless you analysed a rotting brain, or your brain samples were contaminated, brain tissue is always totally bacteria-free, thanks to blood-brain barrier and other physiological mechanisms. But in Frontiers, these Bristolean bacteria cause inflammation which leads to Alzheimer’s disease. A Nobel Prize is too minor an award for this discovery. If it made any sense, that is.


Front. Aging Neurosci., 20 June 2017 | DOI: 10.3389/fnagi.2017.00195

16S rRNA Next Generation Sequencing Analysis Shows Bacteria in Alzheimer’s Post-Mortem Brain

David C. Emery1, Deborah K. Shoemark2, Tom E. Batstone3, Christy M. Waterfall3, Jane A. Coghill3, Tanya L. Cerajewska4, Maria Davies4, Nicola X. West4 and Shelley J. Allen1*
1School of Clinical Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom
2School of Biochemistry, University Walk, Bristol, United Kingdom
3School of Biological Sciences, Life Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom
4School of Oral and Dental Sciences, Bristol, United Kingdom

Update 21.09.2017. Speaking of Alzheimer’s and bacteria: a reader alerted me to this 2016 Frontiers paper. “A Randomized, Double-Blind and Controlled Trial” from Iran proved that eating fermented milk can help against cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients (press release here). Sadly, no cure, but maybe if the yoghurt dosage is further increased? Or how about combining it with kefir?


Front. Aging Neurosci., 10 November 2016 | DOI: 10.3389/fnagi.2016.00256
Effect of Probiotic Supplementation on Cognitive Function and Metabolic Status in Alzheimer’s Disease: A Randomized, Double-Blind and Controlled Trial

Elmira Akbari1, Zatollah Asemi2*, Reza Daneshvar Kakhaki3, Fereshteh Bahmani2, Ebrahim Kouchaki3, Omid Reza Tamtaji1, Gholam Ali Hamidi1 and Mahmoud Salami1*
1Physiology Research Center, Kashan University of Medical Sciences, Kashan, Iran
2Research Center for Biochemistry and Nutrition in Metabolic Diseases, Kashan University of Medical Sciences, Kashan, Iran
3Department of Neurology, School of Medicine, Kashan University of Medical Sciences, Kashan, Iran

4. More brain disorders, and we reach the area of conspiracies. The governments, controlled by the Illuminati, don’t want us to know of the dangers of vaccines. Thanks to these US researchers, we can now be on our guard, again. Vaccines namely cause neuropsychiatric disorders in children (namely: “compulsive disorder (OCD), anorexia nervosa (AN), anxiety disorder, chronic tic disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, major depressive disorder, and bipolar disorder”)


Front. Psychiatry, 19 January 2017 | DOI: 10.3389/fpsyt.2017.00003

Temporal Association of Certain Neuropsychiatric Disorders Following Vaccination of Children and Adolescents: A Pilot Case–Control Study

Douglas L. Leslie1*, imageRobert A. Kobre2, imageBrian J. Richmand2, imageSelin Aktan Guloksuz2 and imageJames F. Leckman2*
1Department of Public Health Sciences, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, Hershey, PA, USA
2Yale Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA

That reminds me of a previous attempt by Frontiers to peddle anti-vax conspiracies, where a tweet of mine somehow led to a retraction:

5. Now for some lighter entertainment, but staying in faux-neuroscience. A question many great minds tried to solve for decades, and failed. Why do pictures of clocks often show 10 past 10?


Front. Psychol., 23 August 2017 | DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01410

Why Is 10 Past 10 the Default Setting for Clocks and Watches in Advertisements? A Psychological Experiment

Ahmed A. Karim1,2,3*, Britta Lützenkirchen1, Eman Khedr4 and Radwa Khalil5
1Department of Prevention and Health Psychology, SRH Fernhochschule – The Mobile University, Riedlingen, Germany [not an actual academic affiliation, but likely a customer relation, -LS]
2Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany
3Department of Neuropsychology, Jacobs University, Bremen, Germany
4Department of Neuropsychiatry, Assiut University Hospital, Assiut, Egypt
5Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience, Behavioral and Neural Sciences Graduate Program, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ, United States

6. fMRI is an amazing tool in the hands of attention-seeking psychologists and other neuroscience enthusiasts. Since the method allows to detect cognitive activities in a dead salmon, it can be used to detect anything else. Here, French scientists found the neurophysiological patterns behind the dislike of cheese (see this blog post by Neuroskeptic). Even if this makes no sense scientifically, and is only funny in its barging incompetence, the story made it to 2017 IgNobel Prize for medicine.


Front. Hum. Neurosci., 17 October 2016 | DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00511

The Neural Bases of Disgust for Cheese: An fMRI Study

Jean-Pierre Royet1*, David Meunier1, Nicolas Torquet2, Anne-Marie Mouly1 and Tao Jiang1
1Olfaction: From Coding to Memory Team, Lyon Neuroscience Research Center, CNRS UMR 5292 – INSERM U1028 – Université de Lyon 1, Lyon, France
2Sorbonne Universités, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Institut de Biologie Paris Seine, UM 119, CNRS, UMR 8246, Neuroscience Paris Seine, Paris, France

7. Frontiers in Psychology do publish strange stuff regularly, as per their namesake scope, but this paper is utter lunacy, even for most psychologists. The text makes no sense outside its author’s mind, but probably not even there. It is a reminder of the infamous Janecka nonsense paper, also in Frontiers (read here).


Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01593

The psychoanalytic concept of jouissance and the kindling hypothesis

Yorgos Dimitriadis1*
1UFR d’études psychanalytique, Paris-Diderot university, France


A related earlier masterpiece, on similar topic, according to the words used:


Front. Hum. Neurosci., 06 November 2013 | DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00709

On the physiology of jouissance: interpreting the mesolimbic dopaminergic reward functions from a psychoanalytic perspective

Ariane Bazan1,2* and Sandrine Detandt3
1Service de Psychologie Clinique et Différentielle, Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Bruxelles, Belgium
2Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study, Wallenberg Research Centre at Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
3Research fellow Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique FNRS-FRESH, Service de Psychologie Clinique et Différentielle, Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Belgium

8. If you liked the above challenge, have a look at the following Frontiers article from USA. If you understand what it is supposed to say, please tell me. The individual words make sense, but not their combination.


Front. Psychol., 14 July 2017 | DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01149

Wild Bodies Don’t Need to Perceive, Detect, Capture, or Create Meaning: They ARE Meaning

J. Scott Jordan*, Vincent T. Cialdella, Alex Dayer, Matthew D. Langley and Zachery Stillman
Department of Psychology, Institute for Prospective Cognition, Illinois State University, Normal, IL, United States

9. Enough of loony psychology, now for some hardcore applied neuroscience. Here German authors propose to usher elderly citizens into dancing lessons, even if they are reluctant to. Apparently it is the mandated physical act dancing which makes seniors mentally agile, unconfounded by their interest to actually go dancing (or do any other activity they enjoy). Dancing it is then. I see lots misery unfold in assisted care homes, with dance step orders barked in German at defenceless grandparents by sadistic nurses, when this paper becomes official therapy guideline in Germany.


Front. Hum. Neurosci., 15 June 2017 | DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2017.00305

Dancing or Fitness Sport? The Effects of Two Training Programs on Hippocampal Plasticity and Balance Abilities in Healthy Seniors

Kathrin Rehfeld1,2*†, Patrick Müller1,3†, Norman Aye1,2, Marlen Schmicker1, Milos Dordevic1,2, Jörn Kaufmann4, Anita Hökelmann2 and Notger G. Müller1,3,5
1German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, Germany
2Institute for Sport Science, Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg, Magdeburg, Germany
3Medical Faculty, Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg, Magdeburg, Germany
4Department of Neurology, Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg, Magdeburg, Germany
5Center for Behavioral Brain Sciences, Magdeburg, Germany

10. More interesting stuff from Germany. Soon, self-driving cars will start making moral decisions, just like human drivers do. Presumably, the car will decide autonomously if it should self-drive home drunk  (then drive, but slowly), or what to do if it ran over a cat (drive away, quickly, or try to find the owner and apologise?). From the press release:

“Prof. Gordon Pipa, a senior author of the study, says that since it now seems to be possible that machines can be programmed to make human like moral decisions it is crucial that society engages in an urgent and serious debate, “we need to ask whether autonomous systems should adopt moral judgements, if yes, should they imitate moral behavior by imitating human decisions, should they behave along ethical theories and if so, which ones and critically, if things go wrong who or what is at fault?””


Front. Behav. Neurosci., 05 July 2017 |
Using Virtual Reality to Assess Ethical Decisions in Road Traffic Scenarios: Applicability of Value-of-Life-Based Models and Influences of Time Pressure

Leon R. Sütfeld*, Richard Gast, Peter König and Gordon Pipa
Neuroinformatics, Institute of Cognitive Science, Osnabrück University, Osnabrück, Germany

11. Secrets of intelligence, courtesy of some very clever Japanese scientists: Horse-riding improves children’s cognitive capacities. No, come back, it’s not about boring explanations like exciting experiences and activities etc. It’s because horses’ bodies send mysterious waves towards children’s brains. From press release, quoting paper’s author.

““One important characteristic of the horse steps is that they produce three-dimensional accelerations. The movement of the horse’s pelvis may provide motor and sensory inputs to the human body and in this study, I believe some of the differences among the rider’s performances might be due to these accelerations”

Ohta explains that results may be due to the vibrations produced from the horse’s motion activating parts of the sympathetic nervous system, leading to improved behavioral test results”.


Front. Public Health, 06 February 2017 |DOI: 10.3389/fpubh.2017.00008

Horseback Riding Improves the Ability to Cause the Appropriate Action (Go Reaction) and the Appropriate Self-control (No-Go Reaction) in Children

Nobuyo Ohtani1, Kenji Kitagawa1, Kinuyo Mikami1, Kasumi Kitawaki1, Junko Akiyama1,2, Maho Fuchikami3, Hidehiko Uchiyama3 and Mitsuaki Ohta1,3*
1Laboratory of Effective Animals for Human Health, Azabu University School of Veterinary Medicine, Chuo-ku, Kanagawa, Japan
2Faculty of Animal Health Technology, Yamazaki Gakuen University, Hachioji, Tokyo, Japan
3Laboratory of Animal Facilitated Therapy, Faculty of Agriculture, Tokyo University of Agriculture, Atsugi, Kanagawa, Japan

12. Another way to improve cognitive abilities, from Finland: if you shine bright light into athletes’ ears, especially during the dark Nordic winter, you will increase their brain function, especially their psychomotoric performance. Give it a try!


Front. Physiol., 12 May 2014 | DOI: 10.3389/fphys.2014.00184

Effects of bright light treatment on psychomotor speed in athletes

Mikko P. Tulppo1*, Heidi Jurvelin2, Eka Roivainen1, Juuso Nissilä3, Arto J. Hautala1, Antti M. Kiviniemi1, Vesa J. Kiviniemi4 and Timo Takala5
1Department of Exercise and Medical Physiology, Verve, Oulu, Finland
2Department of General Practice, Institute of Health Sciences, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
3Department of Biology, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
4Department of Diagnostic Radiology, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
5Department of Sports and Exercise Medicine, Oulu Deaconess Institute, Oulu, Finland

13. Not convinced of horse riding or lights into your ears? Get drunk to get smart! Drinking wine is good for your brain (so just disregard the hangover and other effects of alcohol toxicity). These scientists claim certain metabolites produced in your body after wine drinking have a neuroprotective effect. They studied a brain tumour cell line in a dish, and were funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness. Wine drinkers know that Spain is one of world’s major wine exporters.


Front. Nutr., 14 March 2017 | DOI: 10.3389/fnut.2017.00003

Neuroprotective Effects of Selected Microbial-Derived Phenolic Metabolites and Aroma Compounds from Wine in Human SH-SY5Y Neuroblastoma Cells and Their Putative Mechanisms of Action

A. Esteban-Fernández1,2, C. Rendeiro3, J. P. E. Spencer2, D. Gigorro del Coso1, M. D. González de Llano1, B. Bartolomé1 and M. V. Moreno-Arribas1*
1Instituto de Investigación en Ciencias de la Alimentación (CIAL), CSIC-UAM, Madrid, Spain
2Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences, School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy, University of Reading, Reading, UK
3Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign, Champaign, IL, USA

14. Now for some bunk-science debunking of science bunk which hardly anyone knew it was ever proposed: Is the vision of artistically talented people biologically fundamentally different from the rest of humans? Do they see their retinas? These French researchers found out, that surprisingly, no!


Front. Hum. Neurosci., 30 December 2011 | DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2011.00171

Do artists see their retinas?

Florian Perdreau* and Patrick Cavanagh
Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception, Centre Attention Vision, CNRS UMR 8158, Université Paris Descartes, Paris, France


Front. Neurosci., 31 January 2013 | DOI: 10.3389/fnins.2013.00006

Is artists’ perception more veridical?

Florian Perdreau* and Patrick Cavanagh
Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception, Université Paris Descartes, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Paris, France

15. And now or something completely different: bunk medicine. Good thing Fenter once mass-sacked 31 Frontiers medical chief editors who asked for some editorial standards. A paying customer, even if it is a clinician with questionable therapy ideas, is king! A certain doctor from Finland, whose private practice was raided by health authorities, proposed to treat patients affected by domestic dampness and mold with the thyroid hormone tri-iodothyronine. Medically, this makes very little sense, but can certainly have severe side effects on patients whose thyroid gland is fully functional. The Finnish editor of that Frontiers paper came on PubPeer to the rescue of the author (both are also friendly with a Finnish society promoting homoeopathy, massage therapy and other “alternative medicine”). See PubPeer debates here.


Front. Immunol., 07 August 2017 | DOI: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.00919

Non-Thyroidal Illness Syndrome in Patients Exposed to Indoor Air Dampness Microbiota Treated Successfully with Triiodothyronine

Taija Liisa Somppi*
Amplia Clinic, Medical Center, Tampere, Finland

A related paper, also from Finland, which proposed that dampness affected people can develop a “electromagnetic field sensitivity”, discussed on PubPeer here:


Front. Immunol., 10 August 2017 | DOI: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.00951

Clinical Diagnosis of the Dampness and Mold Hypersensitivity Syndrome: Review of the Literature and Suggested Diagnostic Criteria

Ville Valtonen*
Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki, Finland

16. This paper is actually not funny at all. It is looks like monkeys were abused for some scientifically very shaky research. Did anyone at Frontiers noticed, or cared? Pregnant macaque monkeys were fed high-fat food for the purpose to sacrifice their children and analyse their brains for evidence of mental problems such as anxiety allegedly caused by their mothers’ high-fat diet. Aside of the question of ethics (not very likely this US experiment could be ever approved by authorities in Western Europe), were the authors intending to scare people into avoiding fat and thus divert attention from the much more real dangers of high-sugar diet, like the food industry desperately tries to?


Front. Endocrinol., 21 July 2017 | DOI: 10.3389/fendo.2017.00164

Exposure to a High-Fat Diet during Early Development Programs Behavior and Impairs the Central Serotonergic System in Juvenile Non-Human Primates

Jacqueline R. Thompson1,2, Jeanette C. Valleau1,2, Ashley N. Barling3, Juliana G. Franco1,2, Madison DeCapo1,2, Jennifer L. Bagley1,2 and Elinor L. Sullivan1,2,3*
1Division of Neuroscience, Oregon National Primate Research Center, Beaverton, OR, United States
2Division of Cardiometabolic Health, Oregon National Primate Research Center, Beaverton, OR, United States
3Department of Biology, University of Portland, Portland, OR, United States


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32 comments on “Frontiers: vanquishers of Beall, publishers of bunk

  1. Dear Leonid
    Thanks for all the amazing work you do.
    First, WTF did the University of Denver even listen to those [xxx] from Frontiers? They, UD, are just spineless in my opinion!
    Second, is there really no way to grab those [xxx] from Frontiers by their balls, crush them mercilessly, and then destroy that whole ‘enterprise’ once and for all?
    What about those things, they call a petition? etc…?

    Cheers, oliver


  2. Frontiers are not much worse than many other free access journals. Consider for example that Scientific Reports now publish something like 30 000 papers per year and propose additional fee for faster reviewing. Isn’t it a good sign of predatory journal? Isn’t it amazing that several thousands of professors work with no pay for this journal as editors while Sci.Rep. takes 1500 dollars for saving someones manuscript as pdf file and publishing it online? Why these 30 000 authors per year pay for this service is a good question but what is absolutely clear that the only purpose of this enterprise is income. They trade the name of “Nature journal” to generate huge money and so far succeded very well with that. So, why Frontiers are so much worse? The whole system is insane.


    • Very good point, the system is insane. But it is Frontiers who are now tasked with reforming this system, see Horizon2020 Future, or just Open Science conferences.


      • It’s disappointing that the legal tactics used by Frontiers make it difficult for scientists to write objectively about predatory publishing. I am only a grad student, but it appears to me that the muting of criticism against Frontiers has caused other publishers to feel free to create their own lines of predatory journals, such as the Cogent Open Access series, made infamous by the bungled “gender studies hoax” published in Skeptic. Cogent OA is run by the Taylor & Francis Group, and T&F has apparently stuck an ad for Cogent OA on rejection letters from other journals.


  3. Very Good Post. That´s journalism on its prime. Exposing big corruption practices that very few can do.


    • These type of publications can be (or are) nocive to people….as an example, children and adolescents already died because they weren’t vaccinated


  4. Well, I can also think of some positive aspects about rubbish being published:

    It exposes waste of tax-payers money. The ones really responsible for the existence of rubbish research are the researchers themselves (and to a certain extent also the reviewers of the grant proposal), not the publishers. Compared to the costs of conducting the rubbish research, the 1’000-2’000 $ for publishing/exposing it are peanuts.

    On the long run, it may force the community to actually have a look at the publications of an applicant instead of just checking a silly metric.


  5. Jukka Sundvall

    Wow. I really hope people will believe me in the future when I tell them I had no idea of the nature of Frontiers when we decided to publish there. Yikes.

    One thing that confused me a bit here: can you explain what’s so funny or dumb about the paper on the ethics of self-driving cars? This is an actual debated issue especially since some manufacturers of self-driving cars have stated that the way the car acts in a crisis situation where lives are at stake is an industry secret. It seems to me that you might be just grabbing articles that are not necessarily dumb but that just sound weird enough to bolster your case of lax ethics in Frontiers.


    • Hi Jukka, thanks for your feedback. I am not an expert, but I was unconvinced by the methodology of that paper on morality decisions by self-driving cars and the big claims the authors made in the press release. I also fail to see the “behavioral neuroscience” scope where that paper got slotted into, but this is the usual Frontiers for you.


  6. Hi Leonid,

    Why do keep repeating that editors cannot reject manuscripts at F? I have followed your reporting on F and I am convinced that you should know by now that this is not the case. Associate editors can (and sometimes do – if there are good reasons) recommend rejection even if it has be endorsed by two reviewers.


  7. [The IP address for this comment was registered to netname: FRONTIERSMEDIA-NET descr: Frontiers Media SA. -LS]

    Thanks for the info

    they don’t answer or mumble of forwarding to chief editor […] Those are grown up PIs and professors in faculty positions

    The second link you give provides one or two anecdotes. You said “whenever I tried to get Frontiers editors”, are there more examples you can provide?

    their Chief Editor […] gets paid according to a quota of published papers

    I guess this might not be the unreasonable, as a journal has high costs to operate.
    Some comments in your thread from the first link you posted actually highlight how this might be reasonable. Aren’t most Editors-in-Chief actually paid by the publishers? I’m unaware of this to be honest and very curious about it.

    their Chief Editor […] can be sacked by Frontiers anytime for failing to reach this quota.

    Which of the two links proves these? Not sure I found it.


    • Hi Luca, I am afraid I will not convince you with my anecdotes. I had seceral Twitter debates, but I see you will dismiss those, so no ppint of digging them out. Maybe a proper scientist would like to run a questionnaire among sufficiently powered number of Frontiers editors, extract the general publisher policy on rejections therefrom, and publish it in Scientometrics, peer reviewed? Otherwise, I invite you to read the chief editor contracts I provided for download. Frontiers even admitted their authenticity.


    • [This comment came from IP address located to Lausanne area. Frontiers are based at EPFL Campus in Lausanne. -LS]

      Hi Luca,

      That’s the point. Leonid Schneider is running his own crusade against Frontiers without any “scientific” proof. You can argue that their business model is not the best way to disseminate science, but you cannot argue on the quality of their journals. In two comments you debunked his conclusions. That’s all.

      Frontiers has a good scientific level content, bad articles are rejected or retracted (the rejection rate is around 25% and it’s growing a lot). On the other hand, as all Journals, not all the publications are relevant.


      • Do you really think anyone is located in Switzerland is related to Frontiers or you are just flaming the post?


  8. Pingback: Human Brain Project interview with Thomas Lippert: Simulating brain in computer is like simulating weather – For Better Science

  9. Pingback: Editor sacked over rejection rate: “not inline with Frontiers core principles” – For Better Science

  10. Another piece of pseudoscience in Frontiers: Das Ranajit, Wexler Paul, Pirooznia Mehdi, Elhaik Eran. 2017. The Origins of Ashkenaz, Ashkenazic Jews, and Yiddish. Frontiers in Genetics 8,

    A multidisciplinary study, both the genetic and linguistic parts have crucial shortcomings (+ conflict of interests since at least one of the author is affiliated with commercial companies which use the GPS method promoted in the article). The paper claims that genetically the Ashekanazi Jews have a mixed Irano-Turko-Slavic nature. As for Yiddish, it’s allegedly a Slavic language influenced on the part of neighboring German.

    Actually the GPS method is not able to predict an origin of proto-population. The Ashkenazi gene pool is well studied by other scholars with help of more appropriate methods, the Ashkenazi have nothing to do with a historically meaningless concept ‘Irano-Turko-Slavic origin’. Yiddish is clearly a lect of the Germanic group dominated by neighboring Slavic languages (Ukrainian etc.).

    Elhaik’s Frontiers in Genetics paper had 4 reviewers including me (for unknown reasons my name is not listed at the paper web-page). At least two of them (a geneticist and a linguist) strongly suggested to reject the ms – unfortunately without results.

    The odd ideas of Elhaik (a Dan Graur’s protégé) and Waxler have no disciples among modern scholars, although predictably they have been enthusiastically welcomed by some leftists.

    Most recent criticism of Elhaik & Wexler’s conception is: Flegontov P. , Kassian A., Thomas M. G., Fedchenko V., Changmai P. , Starostin G. 2016. Pitfalls of the geographic population structure (GPS) approach applied to human genetic history: A case study of Ashkenazi Jews. Genome Biology and Evolution 8 [see the main text for the genetic portion and the Supplement for the linguistic overview]

    Elhaik’s Frontiers in Genetics paper is a response to our criticism. AFAIK Elhaik’s was rejected from several journals and then Frontiers in Genetics was used as an outlet.


  11. My neuroscience paper was reviewed by Frontiers, and I assure you it was thorough. My first experience of peer review.

    You also offer the bacteria/Alzheimer’s paper as a sample of poor quality however just saying the blood brain barrier prevents bacteria getting into the brain is hardly hard science either.

    The brains of AD subjects are incredibly degraded. The blood brain barrier may be compromised. There is simply too much we don’t know on this point to simply dismiss it.

    I do not think this deserves to be placed alongside papers related to chem trails and other such nonsense.

    Thanks though, it was an interesting read all the same.


  12. If we are still collecting examples of Flaky Science published through Frontiers, there’s this: Yawning evolved as the body’s way of cooling the brain.

    I remembered that Andrew Gallup had published some evo-psych wibble there, about hand-shaking masculinity displays as a result of evolution and mating success, and wondered what other hilarity he had provided.


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  14. Pingback: Preprinters of the World Unite – For Better Science

  15. Pingback: What is Beall's List? | Why was it shut down? - Predatory Journals and Conferences

  16. Pingback: Dottore ma è vero che la lattoferrina protegge dal SARS-CoV-2? – Messina Medica 2.0

  17. Pingback: MDPI and racism – For Better Science

  18. Hi Great stating of facts. however please do not include topics concerning microbiota’s association with neuropathology, as its is still being widely researched and there are very good publications supporting gut brain axis.


  19. Pingback: Michael Mann: The rise and fall of "The Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation" | Red, Green, and Blue

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