Response by JMIR Publications to Jeffrey Beall’s Blog Post

This blog argues how Jeffery Beall misuse others comments and changes  them in favor of himself. 

Jeffrey Beall has recently published a blog entry with the title “JMIR Publications – a Model for Open Access Publishers” (here). Jeffrey Beall is a librarian who – other than the majority of his colleagues – is highly critical of the open access movement. His claim to fame is the publication of a list of predatory “publishers” – organizations that pretend to be publishers but are really fraudulent individuals or organizations. I actually met JB at the SSP (Society for Scholarly Publishing) meeting in early 2015 in Washington DC, where he assured me that JMIR will never be on that list.

While this hasn’t changed and he doesn’t call JMIR predatory on his blog, he uses strong language such as “fishy” or “amateurish”, which the team at JMIR Publications is shocked and disappointed about.

Beall is not a subject expert in digital health / ehealth (in fact, he has no doctoral degree), and we would like to challenge him to specifically say what exactly the quality concerns he is referring to are (other than that he doesn’t like the cover design of JMIR Public Health & Surveillance, which he labels as “amateurish”) – all our articles are peer-reviewed and carefully copyedited, well cited, and we are not aware of any quality issues or concerns raised previously by others.

He also critisizes “high article processing fees”, but the truth is that JMIR sister journals were created as free or lower cost alternatives to JMIR, have the same APF as for example Plos One ($1500) and are much less expensive than in fact the majority of other OA journals.

He raised a few questions in his blog, to which we respond as follows:

1) “Leading – according to whom?”

The Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) was ranked #1 by Thomson Reuters by impact factor in the Medical Informatics category 5 years in a row until last year (current JCR impact factor 2014: 3.4). The journal has a better impact factor than Plos One, BMJ Open, PeerJ etc.

JMIR is also ranked “leading” on scirev (https://scirev.sc/journal/journal-of-medical-internet-research/) – with a manuscript handling rating of 4.7 (out of 5). JMIR is one of the cofounders of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA), and is committed to top quality and ethical publication practices.

UPDATE Dec 29th, 2015: In a comment, Beall now accuses us of being dishonest. We posted a response documenting some metrics but Beall didn’t publish it. While we don’t like to play the Journal Impact Factor card (we don’t like the JIF especially if it is misused to evaluate individual articles), the Journal Impact Factor is widely accepted to evaluate journal quality.

Here is the SCI/ISI Thomson Reuters ranking by 5-year impact factor within the “Medical Informatics” (aka eHealth) subject category:  

journal citation reports 2015 medical informatics category ranking by impactfactors.

 

Most publishers, librarians,` universities, tenure & promotion committees and funders would agree that a consistent and long-standing top ranking by impact factor within its’ discipline would justify to be called a “leading journal” in that discipline. We are not fans of the IF and journals that are not even ranked in the SCI can be leading in their own ways, but our standing here (and not our “hyperbolic marketing”) is the only reason why we are inundated with submissions and need to expand and re-organize.

Other metrics beyond the IF and beyond the harder to measure intellectual contributions to the field, we could mention:

  • – our 17 year publication history,
  • – over 70.000 readers on our mailing list,
  • – a network of over 20,000 authors, editors and peer-reviewers,
  • – hundreds of paying individual and institutional members (including CDC, Johns Hopkins, NIH, WHO…),
  • – 7.000 twitter followers,
  • – dissemination partnership with over 75 other publishers etc.
  • – being ranked a top journal also in other indices, for example Scimago (see below)

scimago ranking in health informatics

Author satisfactions and turnaround times are also important metrics for us, and we benchmark ourselves using journal review sites such as scirev against other journals such as PLoS ONE:

scirev rating

In another comment, Beall attacks us that marketing with the phrase “leading journal” or “leading publisher” “has no place in science”, is “hyperbolic marketing”, and “a shameful practice for a medical publisher”.

This of course is absurd. Every professional publisher is marketing their flagship journals with terms like “leading”, and there is nothing wrong with that, as long as they can justify their claim (usually done with IFs, sometimes with paid subscribers).

 

Examples of other publishers promoting their flagship journals with the phrase “leading journal” – a “shameful practice” according to Beall

Elsevier: “Elsevier’s Current Opinion journals comprise of 17 leading titles in life sciences and adjacent fields.“

Mary-Ann Liebert:

“Human Gene Therapy is the leading peer-reviewed journal focusing on the human aspect of gene therapy”

“Stem Cells and Development is globally recognized as the leading peer-reviewed journal for critical and controversial emerging hypotheses and novel findings in stem cell research.”

“Antioxidants & Redox Signaling (ARS) is the leading journal dedicated to the understanding of redox principles governing health and disease.”

“Journal of Neurotrauma is the leading peer-reviewed journal”

“The leading journal of minimally invasive urology, Journal of Endourologyand the companion videojournal,Videourology™ are the essential publications for practicing surgeons “

Taylor & Francis: “International Journal of Logistics Research and Applications – A leading journal of Supply Chain Management”

Wiley-Backwell: “The Journal of Finance (the ‘Journal’) is the world’s leading journal in financial economics”

University of Chicago Press: “Recognized as the leading international journal in women’s studies, Signs is at the forefront of new directions in feminist scholarship”

McFarland – “a leading independent publisher of academic & non-fiction books”

SAGE: “Journal of Service Research (JSR), peer-reviewed and published quarterly, is widely considered the world’s leading service research journal. “

AAAS: “Science has grown to become the world’s leading outlet for scientific news, commentary, and cutting-edge research, with the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general-science journal.”

Wiley: “Applied Vegetation Science in 2016: the leading journal promoting the application of vegetation science”

and “Strategic Management Journal – The world’s leading mass impact journal for research in strategic management.”

 

On the upside, Beall does not accuse us of being “predatory”, but only debates if we are “leading” or not.

We can live with the debate on whether our branding is justified and invite our readers, editors and peer-reviewers to weigh in, but – with all due respect – prefer to have this conversation with our peers and subject experts.

As made clear by some commentators on Beall’s post, those working in the field already know where to publish their work, and as (perhaps the only?) STM publisher specializing in the area of eHealth (technology in health), we remain committed to our vision to be “the leading ehealth publisher, advancing progress in the health, engineering and social sciences to ultimately help people to live happier and healthier lives using technology”, as spelled out in our Vision and Mission Statement.

Follow-Up/Changes we have made: We reviewed our branding strategy and Vision and Mission Statements. No changes deemed necessary. We invite readers, authors, reviewers and editors to give us feedback on whether our vision is too bold.

 

2) Why do “some of the journals don’t have their own editorial boards”.

Beall cites JMIR Cancer (created in April 2015), which is a brand-new journals less than 12 months old. The original issues were published with articles originally submitted to JMIR, where authors consented to a manuscript transfer. Editorial board members are currently being recruited. Other journals such as i-JMR get the majority of their submissions from JMIR (papers that are out of scope for the original JMIR but are of good enough quality to be published are offered a transfer to i-JMR). For other journals, such as JMIR Research Protocols (which publishes mainly already peer-reviewed protocols or proposals), JMIR Publications is also moving away from static editorial boards, and experiments with novel methods to dynamically assign submissions to ad-hoc editors based on merit points (“karma”).

Beall misleadingly talks about “missing editorial boards”, which is factually wrong. We clearly disclose on the website that the current EB of the 4 journals in question consists of EB members of JMIR. There is nothing unethical or wrong about this. Neither OASPA nor COPE specificy that an editor can only be associated with one journal. As an aside, the task of the “editorial board” varies widely across journals and publishers, and it is a somewhat anachronistic model. JMIR has a database of over 10,000 peer reviewers, and several academic editors handling submissions for submissions across different journals. Each academic editor and peer-reviewers are named at the bottom of each published article.

Follow-Up/Changes we have made: EB’s for JMIR Med Educ and JMIR Mental Health have been updated. We will update other Editorial Boards in 2016. We will also reveal details of our innovative “karma” points based dynamic assignment of editor roles to members of our experts / past reviewers database.

 

3) “The publisher appears to be in a belabored process of re-organizing and expanding, aiming to maximize profits.”

– yes, JMIR Publications is re-organizing and expanding, because our reputation in the field (and frankly, obsession with the Impact Factor) attracts more submissions than what JMIR can handle with the original minimal staff. Sister journals were created to recruit additional editors. “Profits” (or more accurately, revenue from Article Processing Fees) are re-invested into people and infrastructure.

Follow-Up/Changes we have made: No changes deemed necessary. We stand behind our reorganization strategy and innovation in publishing.

 

4) “JMIR publishes sixteen open-access medical journals, most of them broad in scope, a strategy designed to optimize revenue by making most health sciences articles fall into the coverage of at least one of the journals.”

– it should be noted that all journals have a focus on technology in health, so the focus is not as broad as Beall makes it sound like. JMIR is a niche publisher and it is actually more likely that an article falls into the scope of the 300 journals published by Elsevier.

Follow-Up/Changes we have made: No changes deemed necessary. We stand behind our expansion strategy, which is ultimately intended to distribute the submission load among more academic edtors.

 

5) “JMIR charges an optional fast-track fee”

Like other leading publishers (eg. Nature Publishing Group), JMIR experiments with an optional fast-track fee, where we guarantee a rapid decision within 3 weeks, by tightly monitoring reviewer responsiveness. JMIR invented this model – we were the first publisher experimenting with it (long before Nature did), developed the code and contributed it to the OJS platform (see more information on fast-track data here). If this is used by what Beall calls “predatory” publishers, then this is unfortunate, but it is nothing we have control over. The fast-track option is much appreciated and heavily used by some of our authors who have a specific deadline for a rapid decision, eg. a grant proposal, deadline for tenure & promotion, or PhD defense date. Pointing out the additional costs is a bit like criticizing that some researchers prefer to take the plane rather than a Greyhound bus to a conference. And, Mr Beall, don’t worry, these costs don’t come out of library budgets (which, as librarian, seems to be his primary concern).

To phrase his critique about the fast-track fee in the way he did (‘like many predatory journals, some (or all) of the JMIR journals offer a fast-track fee”) is misleading and borders on slander, as it is suggestive of JMIR being a predatory journal (without saying it). It is not just “predatory journals” experimenting with fast-track.

It may be worth mentioning that in the Bohannon / Science “sting operation”, where a fake low-quality paper was sent to OA journals to identify “predatory” publishers who bypass peer-review, JMIR – of course – did not accept or even consider the paper.  It didn’t even enter the peer-review stage because it was deemed out of scope. To bring JMIR in connection with “predatory” pubishers who bypass peer-review is absurd. Our peer-reviewers are listed at the end of each article.

Follow-Up/Changes we have made: No changes deemed necessary. Our author survey shows that the majority of authors appreciate the FT option and we will keep it, unless authors tell us otherwise. All authors receive a post-submission and post-publication questionnaire where they can give us feedback. While some authors find it “unfair” that money can buy a faster turnaround, it is also “unfair” that people travelling in business class have more legroom. The alternative would be to sell only economy class seats with higher ticket prices for everybody. Our authors don’t want this.

6) “The website is hard to navigate and poorly organized.”:

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and our users certainly have different opinions – some of the tweets and quotes we have collected include:

  • “Just noticed your new website. Beautiful! Best journal website I’ve seen so far.”
  • “Simple, responsive and friendly!.. @JMedInternetRes new website is above Excellent..i am returning each day to my account!.”
  • “I really love the new look at the Journal for Medical Internet Research! Great work, ”  (http://www.jmir.org/announcement/view/83)

We will continue working on our goal to “make JMIR the most cutting-edge, beautiful, and advanced academic journal site on the web” (Josh Flowers, Lead Designer and Director of User Experience at JMIR Publications). We welcome constructive feedback if there are specific issues you had with the site. 7) Regarding Google map picture of a “dwelling”, JMIR is a virtual organization, with staff and freelancers in different places and often working from home. The editorial office (where the permanent staff is hosted) is actually located in an administrative wing at the Toronto General Hospital, and a picture of that office building can be found at http://jmirpublications.com.

 

Finally, it is somewhat flattering (but inaccurate) to frame JMIR Publications as a “large” publisher that is morphing into “the type of publisher the open-access movement was organized to take down.”. JMIR Publications is still a far cry away from being a Elsevier or even PLoS. JMIR is a scientist-owned publisher that was created in 1998 out of passion for technology in health, long before the open-access movement became fashionable. While we are proud of having become one of the leading journals in our field with a journal that is on par or better (according to impact factor) than journals published by publishing giants, it was certainly not created to “take down” anything or anybody. We are open access because we think it helps to disseminate knowledge.

To answer Beall’s last question — is JMIR the future of medical publishing? — we certainly think so and we will continue to be innovative and disruptive in many aspects.

We look forward entering a constructive dialogue with Mr Beall, but would appreciate to continue the debate on a scholarly and non-polemic level. Those working in the field of Digital Health, ehealth/mhealth and public health informatics are perhaps in the best position to judge our reputation and the quality of the material we publish, and we invite our authors, readers, peer-reviewers and editors to leave a comment on Mr Beall’s blog.

In a another comment, Beall calls us a “idiosyncratic publisher”, and if this means that we are not like other publishers, then we can agree to and are proud of that. Innovators and successful businesses are often initially accused of being “idiosyncratic”, because if they would simply imitate what everybody else does they would not be successful or innovative. We take it as a compliment.

 

Prof. Gunther Eysenbach,

Publisher

Co-Founder, Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association

—–

Addendum: What is behind JB’s mission to discredit gold-OA?

While Beall stopped short of accusing JMIR Publications to be predatory, it may be worth citing Phil Davies from the Scholarly Kitchen regarding Beall:

Beall is falsely accusing nearly one in five as being a “potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open access publisher” on appearances alone.

(…) it means that librarian, Jeffrey Beall, should reconsider listing publishers on his “predatory” list until he has evidence of wrongdoing. Being mislabeled as a “potential, possible, or probable predatory publisher” by circumstantial evidence alone is like the sheriff of a Wild West town throwing a cowboy into jail just ‘cuz he’s a little funny lookin.’

Civility requires due process.

Beall has been quoted as saying “The only truly successful model that I have seen is the traditional publishing model.” and “open access publishing is an anti-corporatist movement” whose advocates pursue the goal of “kill[ing] off the for-profit publishers and mak[ing] scholarly publishing a cooperative and socialistic enterprise“. ( Beall, Jeffrey (2013). “The Open-Access Movement is Not Really about Open Access”. tripleC 11 (2): 589–597. )

It is this political view and his general criticism of gold-OA against which readers should and will see JB’s assault against JMIR Publications, which threatens his belief system – we can see how confusing and irritating it must be to come across a non-traditional, yet succesful gold-Open Access publisher, which is not a “socialistic enterprise”, and intelligent readers will be smart enough to draw their own conclusions.

To quote Joseph Esposito on the Scholarly Kitchen in an article aptly entitled “Parting Company with Jeffrey Beall”: “His outrage clouds his judgment and expression and undermines his best arguments.” (http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2013/12/16/parting-company-with-jeffrey-beall/).

Outrage against succesful gold-OA models or not, JMIR Publications is disappointed about the abusive tone and personal attacks against our employees, authors, peer-reviewers, and invite readers to judge Mr Beall based on his own language and actions. We have maintained a civil tone throughout the debate, which cannot be said about Mr Beall.

We are also now learning that Mr Beall systematically suppresses comments on his blog that defend JMIR, which we find unprofessional at best. (if anybody has left a comment that is critical of his analysis, please send a screenshot to us).

Community Reactions

Some of the twitter responses to Beall’s attempt to discredit JMIR:

 

Email by Brennan

email by Callegaro

(asked if he had posted a response, it becomes clear that Beall has censored it) Beall censors

(Beall also censored some of our comments, which  “awaited moderation” for several days and then mysteriously disappeared) Beall censors commentsBeall censors

Source:http://www.jmir.org/content/beall

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