Academic Publishing Smut Clyde

Frontiers: a danger for public health?

Frontiers is a somewhat unconventional open access publisher, which likes to have it both ways: playing scientific elite while accepting almost anything from paying customers. My regular contributor Smut Clyde will tell you below how some anti-vaccine scare-mongers managed to sneak in some rather dangerous works thanks to Frontiers' unofficial "we don't judge, we just charge" quasi-policy.

Frontiers is a somewhat unconventional open access publisher, which likes to have it both ways: playing scientific elite while accepting almost anything from paying customers. My regular contributor Smut Clyde will tell you below how some anti-vaccine scare-mongers managed to sneak in some rather dangerous works thanks to Frontiers’ unofficial “we don’t judge, we just charge” quasi-policy. To be fair, Frontiers is not the only outlet peddling dangerous quackery, but compared to others, it is the most cult-followed in Open Access, and in Europe at least, most active in lobbying and thus politically most influential one. The antivaxxers get every penny worth from publishing in Frontiers, and then some.

Only this other brain-child of Henry Markram (and his wife Kamila) can pretend to most rigorous peer-review (which now will be apparently run by artificial Frontiers intelligence) while publishing all possible bunk, in particular on the topic of autism. That being Markrams’ scientific eh, eh, not I bring myself to can’t say “expertise”, it was the reason why the couple originally set up Frontiers in 2007: to provide an outlet to fringe autism philosophers like themselves, since their own autism theories proved as too, how to put it, advanced, for established journals. And the offer was sure taken up by paying customers, shady pseudoscientists and quack doctors who earn some serious money selling dangerous autism “cures”. It gets peer reviewed by other quacks, frauds and loonies, which apparently makes these papers under Frontiers doctrine “scientifically correct”.

Screenshot_2018-12-17 Frontiers Peer Reviewed Articles - Open Access Journals

“For scientists by scientists” used to be the Frontiers logo, but at the same time, scientist editors who reject too many bad papers get sacked. Only this Swiss enterprise can simultaneously rage against greedy big publishers robbing the public, while constantly rising own article processing charges (APC, currently up to $3k). That Frontiers tried to become part of Nature Publishing Group after a takeover by the mothership, the German publishing giant Holtzbrinck (and some obscure investors): that does not impair Frontiers in successfully playing rebel underdogs to their cult Open Access audience. Only Frontiers can sign DORA declaration on research assessment and simultaneously parade their journal impact factors, and then use both as quality criteria to become a kind of secret advisors to Plan S.

Frontiers claims to be saving lives with the science they publish, by taking credit for “thanks to advances in science our children survive their first 5 years of life”. Indeed, children used to die in early age because of infectious diseases, and vaccines stopped that. But how does it fit then when Frontiers publishes papers from well-known anti-vax conspirators and warning of dangers of autism and other neurological disorders vaccines allegedly bring?

There are a number of papers at Frontiers which can be interpreted as a danger for public health, most prominently that notorious opinion paper claiming that AIDS is not caused by HI Virus. Others publications, often hypotheses articles or literature reviews, offer milder forms of patient trolling, like suggesting clinical trials for Alzheimer’s prevention with mTOR inhibitors. or with carnivorous diet, for same purpose. Actually, according to Frontiers such diet can also cure anorexia, a disorder which, who knew, is related to hedgehogs’ hibernation. In this regard, as aside: just stay away from Frontiers in Psychology. Just do it, don’t ask why.

Anything goes at Markrams’ Frontiers when it’s about discovering where autism comes from and how to cure it. Some theories are relatively harmless, like the claim of autism being a side-effect of supreme and genetically inherited intelligence.

Other theories strangely discretely tie in if not directly with antivax movement, then at least with that original claim by the godfather of antivaxxers, Andrew Wakefield, that autism is caused by chronic bowel inflammation (which Wakefield in turn connected to vaccines).  In Frontiers, we had bread as autism-causing agent, and in other papers gut microbiome imbalance was authoritatively identified as cause and cure for autism, here and here. Another Frontiers paper proposed to cure autism with the magic substance Resveratol (found in red wine, hence the constant sewage flow of papers suggesting Resveratol or booze as solution for all possible complaints, hinting for funding from wine industry). The autism model in that study were rats crippled by the toxic substance valproic acid, a method Markrams themselves have used to “prove” their Intense World Theory of Autism.

While some antivax Frontiers papers rabidly warn of adjuvant metals like Aluminium causing neuronal disorders, a recent Frontiers study announced that autism is caused by getting not enough metals, in this case Zinc.

Smut Clyde will present you a drama in 3 acts, featuring some notorious antivaxxers, and their dangerous Frontiers papers, like this one from INSERM in France. All of that dangerous garbage passed editorial oversight and “rigorous” peer review. But then again, this post by Smut Clyde is not peer reviewed, rigorously or otherwise. He didn’t even pay me any APC for that.

Plan S now!

Frontiers Masterpiece Theatre: Vaccine Edition; by Smut Clyde


Academic journals are bombarded with bad manuscripts, with contents that are plagiarised or fabricated or simply incompetent. The authors could be inflating their publication statistics, or employed at a ‘paper-mill’ to churn out bespoke papers for the nominal authors, or manufacturing the impression of scientific support for a political / commercial cause they promote. It is inevitable that some of these efforts, which would ideally have remained in a file-drawer oubliette or be consigned to cleansing fire, will slip past the peer-review gate-keepers and into print.

In the author-funded open-access paradigm of scholarly publication, editors and journal management have a conflict of interest, and may feel encouraged to relax their vigilance to maximise the income. This is a special concern for journals from the ‘Frontiers‘ stable, which have a multilevel-marketing aspect: reviewers (and authors) are urged to nominate ‘Research Topics’, with themselves as editors, while soliciting submissions from friends and colleagues. This publisher also follows a model of ‘review iteration’ where it is difficult for peer-reviewers to reject a submission outright, however dire it might be… if a manuscript is not eventually published, it is because the authors’ persistence and patience were exhausted before the reviewers’.

So our host Leonid has had occasion to point and laugh at some of the more egregious products of the Frontiers editorial / review system. On their own, of course, these ‘bread‘ anecdotes do not prove that the publisher is any friendlier to these embarrassments than anyone else in the Open Access world, but they are a necessary counterbalance to the Impact-Factor- and Citation-Rate-brandishing self-congratulations one encounters on the Frontiers website.

Screenshot_2018-12-17 Frontiers Peer Reviewed Articles - Open Access Journals 1

Here I propose to marshal a few more examples, arranged around the themes of ‘autism’ and ‘vaccines’. Frontiers has a special openness to new ideas in this research area (in parallel with Henry Markram’s Manhattan-Project-scale goal of simulating brain function, neuron by neuron, on a supercomputer). Back in 2007, the premiere issue of Frontiers in Neuroscience was a vehicle for the Markrams’ ambitious though not-entirely-mainstream “Intense World” framing, which relied on a valproic-acid rat model of autism, and tied cortical microcolumn organisation together with either hypoactivity or hyperactivity (or maybe both) of the amygdala. See also 2009, 2010, 2015, etc.

For fairness I include some egregious cases from other publishers, and even from outside the OA domain. Some examples have been the subjects of past Riddled posts, so I can make the job easier by resorting to the fine scholarly tradition of self-citation. If some passages are worded awkwardly or incoherently, this just shows that the original phrasing was a model of literary elegance before I reluctantly rearranged the words to avoid self-plagiarism (which would be wrong).

Act 1

My first examples are only peripheral to the central theme. They were solicited by Canadian PhD Lucija Tomljenovic and her mentor Christopher Shaw, within a Research Topic of Aluminum Toxicity and Human Disease where the focus was the putative neurotoxicity of low-level exposure to aluminium compounds (especially as an adjuvant in vaccines). To be scrupulously fair, and “according to the malicious calculations of a certain critic less versed in literature than in arithmetic”, the word ‘autism’ hardly appears. Nevertheless, these papers were intended as ammunition for the vaccines-cause-autism cause, and were weaponised accordingly by a readership of antivaccine activists who understood ‘human disease’ as meaning ‘autism’.

“Aluminum is now well established as a general toxin, including neurotoxin, but its role in human disease has been downplayed in the past. This is largely due to some very incorrect assumptions about the role of aluminum in human disease. […]
None of the above assertions are even remotely true as an abundance of recent studies now attest. The proposed series will review the literature and put aluminum’s role in diseases in humans and animals into perspective.”

The odd thing is that at some point between 2016 and now, the Research Topic was dissolved, leaving the papers still published but stripped of their unifying rubric. I do not recall that this management intervention was ever explained.


One paper is a Review, sent to educate us from the Université Paris Est-Créteil and INSERM U955 institute in Paris. It contains little new material, existing mainly to promote the authors’ earlier reports, devoid of new results or new interpretations; and to promote an otherwise-unknown medical condition, “macrophagic myofasciitis”… this is fine in blogging and science journalism, but were I reviewing the manuscript, I might have asked for some novel content.

Romain Kroum Gherardi, Housam Eidi, Guillemette Crépeaux, François Jerome Authier and Josette Cadusseau
Biopersistence and brain translocation of aluminum adjuvants of vaccines
Front. Neurol., 05 February 2015 |

But rather than me, in an unusual editorial selection of reviewers it was peer-reviewed by the soliciting editor (another reviewer and expert for brain concussions, Mark Burns, moonlights as “Specialty Topic Editor for Neurodegeneration“). Another reviewer, Samir Kumar-Singh is a professor in an actual Vaccine and Infectuous Disease Institute at University of Anwerp.

Edited by:

Lucija Tomljenovic, University of British Columbia, Canada

Reviewed by:

Samir Kumar-Singh, Antwerp University, Belgium

Mark P. Burns, Georgetown University Medical Center, USA

Lucija Tomljenovic, University of British Columbia, Canada

In a further erosion of content novelty, Tomljenovic was editing the same manuscript — at the same time — to become Chapter 27 in a 37-chapter compilation of “Different ways vaccines will make you sick” published by WileyOnline. This was an unexpected plot twist!

The two versions have different Introduction paragraphs, and the WileyOnline chapter has only three authors. But otherwise…

One reason to characterise the compilation (and the Frontiers paper) as ‘antivax’ is that in parallel with their publication, the group CMSRI circulated a Summary document containing the main points of each chapter in bullet-point form, for the convenience of activists eager to use those claims as ammunition without actually buying the book. It is natural to wonder whether CMSRI subsidised the production of “Vaccines and Autoimmunity” (Shoenfeld, Agmon-Levin & Tomljenovic, eds.; 2015).

Anyway, more about CMSRI below. Coming back to this contentious “macrophagic myofasciitis” (MMF) syndrome: the same INSERM research team provided the Special Topic with a second paper (“Clinical features in patients with long-lasting macrophagic myofasciitis“), presenting their evidence to support its clinical reality as a sequela of vaccination.

Muriel Rigolet, Jessie Aouizerate, Maryline Couette, Nilusha Ragunathan-Thangarajah, Mehdi Aoun-Sebaiti, Romain Kroum Gherardi, Josette Cadusseau and François Jérôme Authier

Clinical features in patients with long-lasting macrophagic myofasciitis

Front. Neurol., 28 November 2014 |

Inquiring minds in PubPeer comment-threads questioned the quality of that evidence, and compared it with the same evidence as already published in 2014 (in French) and in 2012. There was puzzlement how a collection of cases could grow from 457 to 583 with only one change in the sample’s demographics and incidence of various symptoms.

This was interesting, too:

Edited by:

Christopher Ariel Shaw, University of British Columbia, Canada

Reviewed by:

Harish Pant, National Institutes of Health, USA

Lucija Tomljenovic, University of British Columbia, Canada

Françoise Noële Chapon, Université de Caen Basse Normandie, France

Next to Tomljenovic, the paper’s idological soundness was valdiated by molecular biologist Harish Pant from NIH, and clinical neurologist Françoise Chapon of Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Caen.A third paper in the Special Topic, authored by a Keele University professor of chemistry, is worth checking for the title alone. It would be more at home on a conspiracy / Truther site like InfoWars or AboveTopSecret, or cyclostyled and stapled to power-poles.

Christopher Exley

Why industry propaganda and political interference cannot disguise the inevitable role played by human exposure to aluminum in neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease
Front. Neurol., 27 October 2014 |

It may be that Tomljenovic could only find one peer-reviewer willing to sign off on it: the Sao Paolo psychologist and AIDS enthuisiast Nelson Silva Filho who specialises on “psychotherapetic treatment of HIV”. Tomljenovic ended up recruiting herself for the second review.

Edited by:

Christopher Ariel Shaw, University of British Columbia, Canada

Reviewed by:

Nelson Silva Filho, Universidade Estadual Paulista, Brazil

Lucija Tomljenovic, University of British Columbia, Canada

I will not go into the other papers of the Special Topic, except to say that the rigor of their peer-review process should come as little surprise:

Edited by:

Christopher Ariel Shaw, University of British Columbia, Canada

Reviewed by:

Lucija Tomljenovic, University of British Columbia, Canada

Act 2

Now without delving too deeply into the politics of autism and antivax advocacy, a little bit of background is helpful at this point. Readers of the “Rise and Fall” post may dimly recall the Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute (CMSRI) as funders of a quickly-retracted study on aluminium, vaccines and autism (in mice). Doctors Exley, Shaw and Gherardi (and the Israeli immunologist Yehuda Shoenfeld) are prominent on the Institute’s Scientific Advisory Board, enjoy its hospitality at Caribbean get-togethers, and benefit from its financial generosity. The CMSRI is essentially the operational branch of the ‘Dwoskin Family Foundation‘, an antivax lobby-group… here the “Medical Safety” part of the name is code for “banning vaccines”. For reasons unknown, foundation head Claire Dwoskin had become convinced that there are no neuroatypical or challenged children, only “vaccine damage”; also, that the appropriate response to some families’ plight is a worldwide ban on disease-prevention programs. As Mme Dwoshkin educated a journalist once:

“Vaccines are a holocaust of poison on our children’s brains and immune systems.”

6a00d83451b6fc69e201b8d284d402970c-800wi dwoshkin
Source: CNN report

Other families share the same opinion: convinced that (a) autism has a simple, single cause (which mainstream science is keeping secret), and (b) by the same token there is a single, simple cure for autism (similarly suppressed for Big Science’s financial gain). Naturally, a ecosystem of con-men sprouted up, offering that cure… or more accurately, a series of cures (if the first five cures don’t work, never despair, there is always a sixth in the scammocopoeia). Around the world, a range of regular scamborees allow desperate yet optimistic parents to hear the latest etiologies and treatments directly from the grifters… the largest of these being AutismOne, a kind of fraudster trade fair or medical-malpractice Woodstock.

We should stipulate in the interests of fairness that regular attendees at AutismOne are not all mercenary mountebanks. Some are fervently committed to helping parents and normalising autistic children, and convinced by the strength of that fervour that whatever treatment they’re currently administering must bring some improvement, at least until next year. But still…
Bleach enemas!

Esoteric parasitology!

Yes, the Dwoskin Foundation does help bankroll these charlatan charivaris. A certain Jeffrey Bradstreet epitomises this whole milieu. When life gives you lemons, make silver linings; and there is a silk purse within every dark cloud; and when life gave Bradstreet an autistic son, he turned that challenge into a career of serial fraud. From treating autism with exorcism, he pimped secretin prescriptions until that bubble burst, progressing to mercury chelation and intravenous immunoglobulin and hyperbaric oxygen tanks and transcranial magnetic stimulation and (inevitably) Ukrainian stem-cell quackery. Bradstreet was an AutismOne rockstar and anyone collaborating on any of his short-term scams comes under suspicion as well.¹ ² ³Finally he gravitated to the GcMAF grift, before killing himself after the FBI turned up on his doorstep with difficult questions.

This all brings us to another Frontiers Masterpiece, authored by Bradstreet together with the notorious character Marco Ruggiero, former oncologist at University of Florence, and Ruggiero’s wife Stefania Pacini. My earlier critique of it drew upon comments from a PubPeer thread. It is a tour-de-farce of fractal stupidity and incompetence in every detail of cranial and cortical anatomy, notable for the authors’ failure to read even the sources they cited.

James Jeffrey Bradstreet, Stefania Pacini and Marco Ruggiero

A new methodology of viewing extra-axial fluid and cortical abnormalities in children with autism via transcranial ultrasonography

Front. Hum. Neurosci., 15 January 2014 |

The novelty of the method was to dispense with a dedicated transcranial scanner (high-powered enough to send ultrasound pulses through the skull and return a signal from the cerebral interior) and use instead a standard LA523 soft-tissue scanner that was on hand, manipulating scans in Photoshop to achieve the desired appearance. Suffice to say that the technique did not catch on, with no subsequent applications…. though there were precedents, in the form of other papers by main author Ruggiero’s team. What inspires me to touch on one of these (not in Frontiers, but an Italian embryology journal) is the extent of its plagiarism.

The authors of these papers were under the impression that tissue density is what reflects ultrasound, rather than abrupt changes in density, causing them to misread the outside surface of each subject’s temporal bone (smeared out by the instrument’s poor resolution) as the thickness of the bone. Naturally the rest of the Maps-of-Mars of meningeal and sub-arachnoidal and cortical layers are equally meaningless artefact pareidolia, wildly variant from the accepted ranges (and probably incompatible with life), but for the authors and reviewers, this was a discovery. It may be that the reviewers lacked knowledge of the field and accepted Ruggiero’s claim of expertise in radiography.

Reviewed by:
Hanoch Cassuto, Leumit/Clalit HMO, Israel
Dario Siniscalco, Second University of Naples, Italy James Brewster Adams, Arizona State University, USA

If true, the result reported here would be a major breakthrough: a simple, non-invasive physical marker for diagnosing autism. Thus the second reviewer (Dario Siniscalco of University of Campania in Naples), concerned that it might go unrecognised, contributed a Commentary paper to Frontiers and praised it beyond moderation. For unknown reasons that brief Commentary required four reviewers.

Reviewed by:
Anna Sapone, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Harvard Medical School, USA
Lorene Eve Aurelie Amet, Autism Treatment Plus, UK
Nicola Antonucci, Biomedical Centre for Autism Research and Treatment, Italy

Alessandra Cirillo, Alfa Intes, Italy

Three of them shared Siniscalco’s and Bradstreet’s noble goal of subsidising other journals which are definetely never predatory in any way.

In the Frontiers Commentary’s Conflict of Interest section, “The reviewer Dr. Sapone declares that, despite having collaborated with the authors, the review process was handled objectively”… leaving us to reach our own conclusions about the objectivity of the reviewers who did not volunteer any such disclaimer.

However, “The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest”. Siniscalco’s construal skills may need work, as his collaborations with Marco Ruggiero (and with his reviewer Antonucci) in commercial GcMAF-related autism-curing activities are well-documented: for instance, in a presentation at the 2nd Noakes / Ruggiero GcMAF-fest (Dubai 2013), and another at the 2017 Fulda Integrative Medicine Scamference:

I mention Dottori Siniscalco and Antonucci not only to question the rigor of Frontiers peer-reviewing, but also because they pimp for stem-cell fraudsters, referring desperate families to clinics in Ukraine. This gives me an opportunity to mention this egregious bolus of quackery:

Dario Siniscalco, James Jeffrey Bradstreet and Nicola Antonucci
Therapeutic role of hematopoietic stem cells in autism spectrum disorder-related inflammation
Front. Immunol., 10 June 2013 |

The final entry in the Bradstreet Files is a posthumous Commentary, congratulating the authors of a recent rediscovery of cerebral lymphatic drainage, while trying to claim precedence for it.

James J. Bradstreet1,2, Marco Ruggiero3* and Stefania Pacini
Commentary: Structural and functional features of central nervous system lymphatic vessels
Front. Neurosci., 22 December 2015 |

While not actually wrong in any obvious way, new content is absent, blurring the boundary between a science journal and a paid-press-release advertising service like PRWeb.


These authors explicitly ruled out searching for a link between vaccines and autism (although the third author does believe that they’re linked). Antivaxxers don’t care and heralded the paper anyway as smoking-gun proof of the link’s existence.

Douglas L. Leslie, Robert A. Kobre, Brian J. Richman2, Selin Aktan Guloksuz and James F. Leckman

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

Front. Psychiatry, 19 January 2017 |

[H/t Orac]
Sadly, the paper‘s only value is as a demonstration of the importance of multiple-comparison correction after a statistical fishing expedition. The authors compare the diagnosis of seven neurological conditions (and two physical-injury controls) against six vaccines, and total, with three different time delays. They found about as many significant associations (p < 0.05) as they could expect from random chance. Perhaps none of the reviewers were cognizant of statistics. They seem to have been recruited from the Editor’s circle of fellow-psychiatrists.

Act 3

We close with another non-Frontiers paper. Dr Anthony Mawson conducted an on-line opinion poll on the link between vaccination and childhood ill-health. It was billed as a ‘survey’, with home-schooling parents invited to report on the health and vaccination status of their children or imaginary friends (here’s a copy), but no evidence for these reports or proof of existence was needed. Perhaps more crucially, antivaccine True Believers were selectively targeted to participate, by the choice of a home-school target group (also by the circulation around a true-believer website of news of and a link to the anonymous poll). In effect it was an invitation to submit health reports in line with one’s belief system, and in consequence there is not a single datum of value.

Anthony R Mawson, Brian D Ray, Azad R Bhuiyan and Binu Jacob

Pilot comparative study on the health of vaccinated and unvaccinated 6- to 12- year old U.S. children

J Translational Science DOI: 10.15761/JTS.1000186

The paper — in a trash ‘journal’ from the parasitical publisher OAText, who are several sub-barrels down beneath the bottom of the barrel — is relevant partly because the Dwoskin Foundation funded Mawson’s research. The entirely predictable results (vaccine denialists report that unvaccinated kids are healthier!!) were to be released at AutismOne in May 2017, with fanfare and ballyhoo, as the main draw-card and flagship Scientific Finding. In case you were wondering, no, “Ballyhoo” is not a small town in Ireland.

It appears, though, that the lovable rogues running OAText found out about this, realised that the paper was worth more to the author than the quotidian resume-fluffing piffle they usually charge for, and increased the publication fee — depublishing the valuable hostage until the ransom was paid. Note that this is my own reconstruction of events, while the Believers have their own interpretation, involving sabotage and campaigns of slander.

The Mawson Manuscript is also relevant because it was originally accepted for publication in Frontiers, progressing as far as the Abstract going on line. In this case, the Editors-in-Chief recognised that peer-review had failed, overruled the editors, and retracted it (though “retraction” is an ugly word and some prefer “withdrew”). And you know how that story finished… with a mad scramble at CMSRI to rehome the manuscript in time for AutismOne… hindered by the little problem that by then, helpful antivaxxers had obtained a complete copy and placed it on-line, putting the manuscript in the public domain, so that only a fraudulent parasite would pretend to publish it. Hence the OAText debacle.

And there was a wailing and a mighty gnashing of teeth across the land, blaming the retraction (or withdrawal if you prefer) on the machinations and coordinated bullying of a vast troll conspiracy. Just saying, if pretend-independent-journalist Celeste McGovern ever tires of being the CMSRI staff writer, there is a job waiting for her in the White House as the next press secretary. The “coordinated bullying” narrative does not survive contact with the time-line, in which just two tweets pointing and laughing at Frontiers — one from Leonid, one from Tara Smith (@aetiology) — were enough to alert the Editors-in-Chief to their blunder.

The situation is complicated by a second Mawson discovery, that developmental disorders in premature babies are not caused by prematurity per se, but rather by vaccinations (based on 49 reports of prematurity within the 666 survey responses, 12 of them showing developmental delay, I am not making this up). This enjoyed the same drawcard status at AutismOne, then the same roller-coaster ride at OAText, but it was never accepted by Frontiers. Am I alone, by the way, in thinking that “The Mawson Manuscript” would be a good title for a spy thriller, in the “Quiller Memorandum” / “Eiger Sanction” / “Bourne Identity” genre?

So kudos to the Frontiers management! The organisation is capable of doing the right thing and expunging blunders from the literature. It only remains to continue cleaning shop, and address the papers identified above. It may be that one of the goals when the Frontiers fleet of journals was launched to bring progress in research in autism… instead, Henry and Karmila Markram created a tool that vaccine denialists and con-men are using to divert research funding into thoroughly-beaten dead-horse avenues.

Just trying to finish on a positive note here.

Curtain Calls

1. Bradstreet (at right), three since-convicted felons, and others at the 1st GcMAF Scamfest (Frankfurt, 2013).

[H/t Psiram]
2. Let’s give a big hand to regular AutismOne speakers Dottori Dario Siniscalco and Nicola Antonucci, the man runs a “Biomedical Autism Treatment Center” in Bari.

Siniscalco, Bradstreet, Cirillo & Antonucci

The in vitro GcMAF effects on endocannabinoid system transcriptionomics, receptor formation, and cell activity of autism-derived macrophages

J Neuroinflammation 2014

Siniscalco & Antonucci

Possible use of Trichuris suis ova in autism spectrum disorders therapy [meaning: Autism is caused by lack of tapeworms, SC]

Medical Hypotheses 2013

Dario Siniscalco

The impact of neuroimmune alterations in autism spectrum disorder

Frontiers in Psychiatry 2015.

3. Let’s give a big hand to Doctors Dan Rossignol and Richard Frye!

Daniel A Rossignol, James J Bradstreet, […] Richard E Frye

Hyperbaric oxygen treatment in autism spectrum disorders

Medical Gas Research, 2012

Rossignol and Frye
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may improve symptoms in autistic children

Medical Hypotheses 2006

Rossignol and Frye

The Use of Medications Approved for Alzheimer’s Disease in Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review

Frontiers in Pediatrics, 2014.

Rossignol and Frye

Treatments for Biomedical Abnormalities Associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Frontiers in Pediatrics, 2014.

Freye, Casanova […] Adams

Neuropathological Mechanisms of Seizures in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Frontiers in Neurosciences 2016


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21 comments on “Frontiers: a danger for public health?

  1. I continue insisting if original data was available and peer-review was public at least we would know better what we are reading


  2. Smut Clyde

    “this post by Smut Clyde is not peer reviewed, rigorously or otherwise. He didn’t even pay me any APC for that.”

    I have steeled myself for the possibiity of post-publication peer review.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I have had review assignments for Frontiers in Plant Biology and not one single article that I have accepted to review has been worthy of publication. I had to recommend rejection for every article because the science is poor quality and the writing is unintelligible. It is remarkable to me that the quality of the journal isn’t improving because when a paper is accepted for publication the names of the reviewers are revealed! I know I wouldn’t want my name sullied with garbage science, and I can’t imagine most other people would accept this for their good names. I hope things will improve.


    • Were the papers you rejected accepted?


      • Fortunately not. In this subsection of Frontiers, at least from what I have observed, the peer review process has been functional, and the editors have been performing their job to reject manuscripts that aren’t up to par. Perhaps there are major qualitative differences between the various topical foci offered by Frontiers. I definitely feel an obligation to make a careful review for those manuscripts I accept to read. But then that is the point, right?


      • Thanks! Frontiers used to have a policy that a paper, once in peer review, can only be rejected by unanimous reviewer vote. Even then, handling editor had to ask chief editor’s permission to reject. Basically, as long as one reviewer was endorsing paper, peer review cycles continued ad nauseam. Either authors gave up, or negative reviewers conceded, or withdrew and were replaced.
        But you say the papers were rejected after peer review. How does it work nowadays then?


      • can you please be ethically consistent and follow-up on your tweet ( indicating that those papers were rejected? your tweet hints at a different truth

        (feel free to moderate this comment of course)


    • I think that is good the names of the reviewers are revealed. I think they should also reveal their names also when the manuscript is rejected along with their comments and allow for public to post comments including post-publication review
      Obviously the original data should be available as I mentioned before
      Other well-known iconic journals published the same type of dangerous garbage and we never get to know which were the amazing reviewers who approved those wonderful often cheated manuscripts


  4. We may submit a manuscript to frontiers next year and if it goes ahead we will let you know how it works nowadays


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  11. Lilas Bass

    Many thanks for your article. I might confess that I am not a doctor nor a researcher in medicine (just a PhD student in sociology). But the thing is I know a little bit the way revues are working, and I admit that I don’t understand the critics addressed to Frontiers. I’ve checked all international indicators (which are very good to get to know if a review is valuable scientifically speaking), and it appears that Frontiers is ranked at the top level in its field:
    Could you explain better? Why these attacks? And, above all, why is it so well ranked?
    Many thanks!


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