Nobelist and Editor of Open-Access Journal Boycotts Top Science Journals

Randy W. Schekman, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley who was one of three winners of this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, has declared a boycott of top science journals such as Cell, Nature, and Science, The Guardian reported.

Mr. Schekman, who is editor in chief of a competing publication, an open-access journal called eLife, wrote a commentary in The Guardian criticizing the three prominent journals.

He accused the three journals of artificially limiting the number of papers they accept, which he said stokes demand “like fashion designers who create limited-edition handbags or suits.” He also called the impact factor, a measure reflecting the average number of times a journal’s articles are cited by subsequent research, a “gimmick,” arguing that the score has become an end in itself and has damaged science.

Top officials with the three journals defended their publications’ practices in responses to The Guardian. Those responses, as quoted by The Guardian, are below.

Philip Campbell, editor-in-chief at Nature, said the journal had worked with the scientific community for more than 140 years and the support it had from authors and reviewers was validation that it served their needs.

“We select research for publication in Nature on the basis of scientific significance. That in turn may lead to citation impact and media coverage, but Nature editors aren’t driven by those considerations, and couldn’t predict them even if they wished to do so,” he said.

“The research community tends towards an over-reliance in assessing research by the journal in which it appears, or the impact factor of that journal. In a survey Nature Publishing Group conducted this year of over 20,000 scientists, the three most important factors in choosing a journal to submit to were: the reputation of the journal; the relevance of the journal content to their discipline; and the journal’s impact factor. My colleagues and I have expressed concerns about over-reliance on impact factors many times over the years, both in the pages of Nature and elsewhere.”

Monica Bradford, executive editor at Science, said: “We have a large circulation and printing additional papers has a real economic cost … Our editorial staff is dedicated to ensuring a thorough and professional peer review upon which they determine which papers to select for inclusion in our journal. There is nothing artificial about the acceptance rate. It reflects the scope and mission of our journal.”

Emilie Marcus, editor of Cell, said: “Since its launch nearly 40 years ago, Cell has focused on providing strong editorial vision, best-in-class author service with informed and responsive professional editors, rapid and rigorous peer-review from leading academic researchers, and sophisticated production quality. Cell’s raison d’etre is to serve science and scientists and if we fail to offer value for both our authors and readers, the journal will not flourish; for us doing so is a founding principle, not a luxury.”

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