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Journal of Biosciences

, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 189–199 | Cite as

On toxic effects of scientific journals

  • Antoinette Molinié
  • Geoffrey BodenhausenEmail author
Commentary

Abstract

The advent of online publishing greatly facilitates the dissemination of scientific results. This revolution might have led to the untimely death of many traditional publishing companies, since today’s scientists are perfectly capable of writing, formatting and uploading files to appropriate websites that can be consulted by colleagues and the general public alike. They also have the intellectual resources to criticize each other and organize an anonymous peer review system. The Open Access approach appears promising in this respect, but we cannot ignore that it is fraught with editorial and economic problems. A few powerful publishing companies not only managed to survive, but also rake up considerable profits. Moreover, they succeeded in becoming influential ‘trendsetters’ since they decide which papers deserve to be published. To make money, one must set novel trends, like Christian Dior or Levi’s in fashion, and open new markets, for example in Asia. In doing so, the publishers tend to supplant both national and transnational funding agencies in defining science policy. In many cases, these agencies tend simply to adopt the commercial criteria defined by the journals, forever eager to improve their impact factors. It is not obvious that the publishers of scientific journals, the editorial boards that they appoint, or the people who sift through the vast numbers of papers submitted to a handful of ‘top’ journals are endowed with sufficient insight to set the trends of future science. It seems even less obvious that funding agencies should blindly follow the fashion trends set by the publishers. The perverse relationships between private publishers and public funding agencies may have a toxic effect on science policy.

Keywords

Editorial policy impact factors publishing companies science journals science policy 

Abbreviations used

AAA

American Association of Anthropologists

ACS

American Chemical Society

AERES

Agence pour l’Evaluation de la Recherche Scientifique [France]

AIP

American Institute of Physics

AMS

American Mathematical Society

ANR

Agence Nationale pour la Recherche [France]

APS

American Physical Society

BBSRC

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council [UK]

CNRS

Centre National pour la Recherche Scientifique [France]

CTI

Committee for Technology and Innovation [Switzerland]

DFG

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

DOE

Department of Energy [USA]

ENS

Ecole Normale Supérieure

EPFL

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

EPSRC

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council [UK]

ERC

European Research Council [EU]

FP

Framework Programme [EU]

JACS

Journal of the American Chemical Society

JMR

Journal of Magnetic Resonance

MPI

Max Planck Institute

MRC

Medical Research Council [UK]

NERC

Natural Environment Research Council [UK]

NIH

National Institutes of Health [USA]

NSF

National Science Foundation [USA]

PNAS

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [USA]

SNSF

Swiss National Science Foundation

UPMC

Université Pierre-et-Marie Curie

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors thank Isabelle Kratz, director of the library of the EPFL, formerly associated with the UPMC and CNRS, Caroline Bosia and Alain Borel, also at EPFL, Roland Kunz (Swiss Chemical Society), Jérôme Lacour (Chimia), Peter Goelitz (Angewandte Chemie), Libero Zuppiroli, Jacques Dubochet, Malcolm Levitt, Clare Grey, Martin Quack, Ray Freeman and Richard Ernst for constructive suggestions. This paper was supported neither by the Swiss National Science Foundation, nor by the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, nor by the Swiss Commission for Technology and Innovation, nor by the French CNRS.

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Copyright information

© Indian Academy of Sciences 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Maison de l’Archéologie et de l’Ethnologie (MAE), Université de Paris Ouest Nanterre La DéfenseNanterre CedexFrance
  2. 2.Département de ChimieEcole Normale SupérieureParis Cedex 05France
  3. 3.Institut des Sciences et Ingénierie Chimiques, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), BatochimeLausanneSwitzerland

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