Tuesday, November 21, 2017

How to turn a journal into junk

I am not familiar with this journal, so I don't know what its quality was, but if the changes to its direction under new ownership are as alleged, I'm pretty sure that its quality will take a dive into junk:
For much of its 22-year existence, few outside the corner of science devoted to toxic chemicals paid much attention to the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health.
But now, a feud has erupted over the small academic publication, as its editorial board — the scientists who advise the journal’s direction and handle article submissions — has accused the journal’s new owner of suppressing a paper and promoting “corporate interests over independent science in the public interest.”
More is at stake than just the journal’s direction.
IJOEH is best known for exposing so-called “product defense science” — industry-linked studies that defend the safety of products made by their funders. At a time when the Trump administration is advancing policies and nominees sympathetic to the chemical industry, the journal seems to be veering in the same direction.
“There are many scientists who work for corporations who are honest scientists,” said David Michaels, the former head of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration under President Obama. “What we’re concerned about here is the ‘mercenary science’ … that’s published purely to influence regulation or litigation, and doesn’t contribute to public health.”
“I think the IJOEH articles were threatening to that whole industry,” said Michaels, now an environmental and occupational health professor at George Washington University. While Michaels has never served on the journal’s editorial board, he has published an article in the journal and peer-reviewed others.
The journal was one of the relatively few places that provided an outlet for “scientists whose work is independent of the corporations that manufacture chemicals,” he said. “The silencing of that voice would be a real loss to the field.”
Last Thursday, the journal’s 22-member editorial board, along with eight former board members and the journal’s founding editor-in-chief, wrote a letter to the National Library of Medicine requesting disciplinary action against the academic journal’s new publisher, Taylor & Francis Group. In particular, they asked the Library of Medicine to rescind the journal’s listing in the Medline index, which could drastically reduce its scientific influence.
In other words, the editorial board is alleging that under Taylor and Francis control, the journal is no longer to be considered reputable. Specifically, they claim:
Taylor & Francis has done the following since taking over:
  • Selected a new editor-in-chief, Andrew Maier, without consulting the editorial board. Board members said it’s “highly unlikely” that they would have approved of Maier. Their letter said he had a tendency to reach scientific conclusions “highly sympathetic to parties with an economic interest in favorable outcomes,” which is at odds with the journal’s mission.
  • Withdrew a peer-reviewed article by the journal’s former editor-in-chief David Egilman that criticized Union Carbide Corporation’s efforts to oppose workers’ claims of asbestos exposure. “Suppression of an accepted paper is a direct assault on academic freedom,” the board members wrote to the Library of Medicine.
  • Flagged three additional studies approved for publication under Egilman as “raising potential concerns,” according to a May 8 email the publisher sent to the board.
Not all that is junk starts out that way; rapacious publishers can take something of value and spin it into junk.
Read the whole article here. 

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