20 Aug 2008

Scientific Journals International on the attack

The message below was sent to the SPARC Open Access Forum by Scientific Journals International, who Richard Poynder has been investigating.


Someone has posted false rumors and misinformation about SJI on your forum. We contacted Dr. Suber and he advised us to send our response to you. We would truly appreciate it if you kindly post the attached response on your forum. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions.

Best regards.

Zinath A. Rehana (Zinia)
Co-founder of SJI

Lies, fear and smear campaigns against SJI and other OA journals

It has come to our attention that a couple of individuals and organizations are propagating libelous, deceptive, misleading and false information and rumors about SJI (as well as other open-access journals) via emails and blogs. We are taking legal actions against such fraudulent and libelous activities.

The email campaign is being carried out by an individual by the name of Megan Voss. We need your help in identifying any other individuals or
organizations who may be involved in such fraudulent and libelous activities. If you receive any fraudulent and suspicious emails or reports,
please forward them to us so that we can collect additional evidence for our legal actions.

We are also collecting evidence of libelous propaganda carried out by Richard Poynder. He has posted false and distorted information about SJI and other open-access publishers on several blogs. He is not affiliated with any reputable news media. We could not find any information about his academic background or professional media experience other than a few "freelance stories" he has written.

This individual has been harassing our staff and Board members with ridiculous and pointless questions, intimidation, and "bullying" tactics.
He scared away one of our new Board members from Yale University by posing false rumors and misleading questions to him. Consequently, he has withdrawn from our Advisory Board.

When Mr. Poynder contacted us for the first time, our founder had asked him about his affiliation. He said he was not affiliated with any news media. His approach came out to be arrogant, ignorant, disrespectful, and hostile.

Our founder Dr. Niaz is a very busy man. He is a Senior Fulbright Scholar who now serves as the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Mass Communications at Saint Cloud State University. He is currently working on several book projects simultaneously. His university Web site is located at http://web.stcloudstate.edu/nahmed/. He does not have time to deal with such an arrogant individual. Moreover, when Mr. Poynder called him from U.K. the connection was not very clear and Dr. Niaz was about to go to an important meeting. So, he asked him to send his questions via email and later referred him to SJI Web site and his university Web site as many of the questions have already been answered there.

Dr. Niaz is accustomed to dealing with polite, respectful and legitimate journalists. In connection to his other online initiative (Idea Trade
Network www.newideatrade.com), Dr. Niaz had been interviewed by CNN, CBS, MarketWatch, Washington Post, Star Tribune and other leading news media from around the world (www.newideatrade.com/mediacoverage.htm). SJI is still in its initial phase and we have not had the time to carry out any publicity campaigns. We are only beginning to get coverage in the news media about SJI.

Dr. Niaz is also well aware of the realities of prejudice and racism, and knows how to deal with them with legal actions. As a US citizen, he knows
his rights and has the courage to fight for his rights. Nonetheless, when Mr. Poynder approached him with an arrogant and disrespectful manner, he just did not have the time to put up with such unprofessional conduct and asked the staff to respond to his questions.

Mr. Poynder then asked a number of idiotic questions that made it clear to us that he was neither knowledgeable nor had a deeper understanding of the innovative ideas and approaches that are being developed in the open-access publishing world. In fact, he did not seem to be interested in anything other than a few false rumors that have been circulated on the Internet. At one point, he demanded that we give him the names of three authors whose papers had been rejected. Our staff found this to be very childish and ludicrous. They told him that hundreds of papers are being accepted or rejected on a regular basis. If he wants to write a story based on false rumors that open-access journals do not conduct peer-reviews then he can ask the sources of these rumors (or anyone else) to verify this by submitting their own papers to see if they go through a peer-review process. One can also become a reviewer for an open-access journal to see if he or she is asked to review any manuscripts. Our staff also told him that he can contact hundreds of authors whose papers have been published to see if they were peer-reviewed. Each article that is published on SJI includes the author's email address. We have records of all email exchanges between SJI and Mr. Poynder and will produce the same in the Court of Law if needed. In his blog postings, Mr. Poynder has misrepresented the facts and suppressed the truth. He conveniently omitted the fact that our staff had told him to contact hundreds of SJI authors who have had peer-reviewed articles published. He also distorted the facts about his email exchange with some of the Advisory Board members. It is clearly stated on our Web site, that the Advisory Board members are responsible for providing advice and guidance for the ongoing development of SJI, and that it is the Review Board members (more than 3,000 and growing) who are asked to serve as peer reviewers. Surprisingly Mr. Poynder disregarded this fact and began to harass our Advisory Board members with misleading emails, and then posted false and distorted information on several blogs.

We are also appalled by the level of his disrespect, arrogance, and hostility toward our founder Dr. Niaz. In several blogs he stated that Dr. Niaz "described himself as the director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Mass Communications at Saint Cloud State University." Any respectable professional whether he or she is a journalist, a scholar or anyone else can easily verify this fact by contacting the university or by
checking the university Web site. In fact, even though he was referred to the university Web site, he never mentioned any of the facts about Dr. Niaz that can be verified in five minutes. He never mentioned that Dr. Niaz is a Senior Fulbright Scholar, and a tenured full professor at a major state university in Minnesota where he has served for the past 17 years. Instead, he states that Dr. Niaz "described himself as the director of Graduate Studies.."

Mr. Poynder calls himself a "freelance journalist." Sadly, it is not journalism he is practicing. It is trash, it is distortion, it is fear-mongering, it is smear campaign. It is a disgrace to the profession of journalism.

One can only wonder about the motivations for such distrust, hatred and disrespect toward someone (he has never seen or met). Why is there such hostility toward an Asian American immigrant of 25 years who has made only positive contributions to this country like millions of other immigrants whose creativity and innovations have made this nation great?

Anyone with an average level of intelligence and knowledge about the history of this country knows the fact that this is a land of immigrants. In terms of innovations, just look around and see what is happening in the world of new media and Web commerce. Google, Amazon.com, YouTube.com, Hotmail.com and hundreds of other new technologies, products and services have been developed by recent immigrants who came to this country for some of the same reasons the early immigrants came-for better opportunities where they could utilize their creativity and inventiveness. It is this great diversity of people and their innovations that have made this country great. Unfortunately, out of millions of good hearted and open minded people, there are a few who do not know their own history, nor do they allow their prejudiced minds to open up to the true realities that could alter their misperceptions. In the end, they harm a lot of well-intentioned law-abiding hard-working citizens whose creativity and innovations could benefit not only the institution or corporation they work for but also all citizens including the prejudiced and the fear-mongers.

Aside from prejudice and hatred, we are also aware of the professional jealousy and hostility that exist in every domain of human endeavors. The scholarly publishing world is no different.

Opposition to open access

Opposition to open access has largely been from traditional subscription-based journal publishers, whose business model depends upon
providing access to research only to those who will pay for journal subscriptions. Many conventional publishers actively oppose open access,
because it will cut into their profitability.

Some organizations representing subscription-based traditional publishers in the United States are currently lobbying the government against open-access publishing. These organizations include, The Association of American Publishers and its lobbying organization PRISM. In fact, soon after the launch of the European petition for open access, the well-known traditional journal Nature reported that subscription-based publishers were preparing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to counter open-access support.

According to news reports, some traditional publishers and a few of their misguided allies in the academia as well as a few spin-doctors in the media are engaged in misinformation campaigns against open access journals. Disinformation and distortions are also being propagated by a few bloggers who have no journalistic background and have no knowledge about the ethics or social responsibility of the media in contemporary society. These individuals have never worked for a reputable media outlet, nor do they have any academic training in journalism. Nonetheless, they are engaged in deceptive campaigns of fear and smear. Some traditional publishers are also actively trying to thwart the open access movement and are lobbying to delay or dilute government policies regarding open access.

The Association of Research Libraries has responded recently by stating, "This effort is clearly aimed at preserving established publishing
conventions and the revenues of established publishers" (source http://www.ala.org/ala/acrl/acrlpubs/crlnews/backissues2008/may08/librarybud
getsscholcomm.cfm). These lobbyists and their spin-doctors try to capitalize on the fact that some people will accept spin or misinformation without checking to see if there is any factual information to back it up. For example, some of these organizations and their spin doctors are
spreading misinformation that open access journals do not conduct peer-reviews of articles. One of the leading advocates of open access
publishing Peter Suber states ".they are using.the 'sky is falling on peer review' as a fear tactic....this is like Microsoft campaigning to make
Google go away...(source http://www.earlham.edu/%7Epeters/fos/2007_09_30_fosblogarchive.html).

Many top university presses such as MIT Press, Columbia University Press, and Oxford University Press are now dissociating themselves with these
lobbying organizations of the traditional publishers. Cambridge University Press and Rockefeller University Press have recently publicly criticized
PRISM and its activities (source http://www.earlham.edu/%7Epeters/fos/2007/10/mit-press-dissociates-itself-from-prism.html).

Legal action

SJI is now collecting evidence for its legal action against individuals and organizations who are propagating libelous, deceptive, misleading and false information and rumors about SJI (as well as other open-access journals). We are also issuing a "fraud alert" to more than 3,000 scholars who are involved with SJI to monitor and report to SJI of any libelous and misinformation campaigns against SJI and other open-access publishers. We urge other open-access publishers to do the same. Since some of the traditional journal publishers, their spin doctors, bloggers, and a few misguided allies in the academia, are carrying out organized campaigns of lies, distortions, fear and smear, the open-access publishers must organize themselves to expose these activities and take legal actions using libel laws to stop such campaigns of lies and distortions.

As with Mr. Poynder's misinformation campaigns, we would like to give him one opportunity to issue an apology and a retraction on the blogs where he posted his libelous statements. If he complies, we would not pursue legal actions against him and we will be glad to talk to him about SJI. Had Mr. Poynder approached us with an open mind and in a collegial manner, we could have shared a lot of information about our experience in developing SJI into a sustainable open-access publisher that is profitable and at the same time affordable for authors and their funding agencies. Such information could be valuable to other open-access publishers that are struggling to sustain their operation.

Unsolved issues in the open-access publishing model

Many open-access publishers have been unable to come up with economically sustainable business models. They have not been able to use a business model that is efficient and profitable for the publisher and at the same time affordable for the authors and their funding sources. Most of the open-access journals are sustained by grants and endowments as well as subsidies from universities, foundations, government agencies, and
professional societies or associations. A handful of large open-access publishers have sustained their operation without reaching profitability by
continuing to raise the article processing fee which is their primary source of revenues. For example, Biomed Central now charges $1,700-$1,900 per article while PLoS charges $2,100-$2,750 per article (source http://pln.palinet.org/wiki/index.php/Open_access_controversies).

Critics have argued that the escalating processing fees of these open-access journals are becoming a barrier that may destroy what it originally wanted to foster. In very few disciplines (other than medical and life sciences) do scholars have sufficient funds from grants and other sources to pay such high article processing fees. In many fields, funding at the university, foundation, or government agency level is scattered, uncommon or rare. Even in medical and life sciences, many researchers and scholars in less funded institutions as well as independent researchers are unable to pay such high article processing fees. In fields such as Social Sciences and Humanities, many authors are engaged in significant research without grants, and therefore, may not have the funds to pay for the prohibitive article processing fees.

One of the reasons why the major open-access journals have experienced difficulty in reaching profitability is that they maintain a very high cost
structure of operation which carries extremely high overhead and administrative costs. These include a plethora of big-expense offices and a
stable of high salaried professional editors, executives, programmers, and database administrators.

For a major traditional journal, the average cost of producing an article is approximately $2750. For open-access publishing, the cost is in the range of $500-$2500 per article (source http://library.queensu.ca/webir/planning/e-journal_publishing_support.htm). These expenses are split among editorial costs, electronic composition and production, journal information system, manuscript management system, electronic archiving, overhead expenses, and administrative costs. The publication fee or article processing fee must cover the costs of publishing the accepted article plus the cost of reviewing the number of articles the journal rejects for each accepted article. Since costs per accepted paper rise with the rejection rate of papers, the fee usually rises as the rejection rate goes up and acceptance rate goes down.

Such high cost structure demands sizeable revenue streams to offset it. However, the major open-access journals have not explored all possible
streams of revenues. Instead, they have relied heavily on article processing fees and institutional memberships that pay the processing fees
for university faculty and researchers. However, as they continued to raise their fees, it has become unaffordable for many authors and institutions.

There is also a serious problem with the fee structure of major open-access journals. Their article processing fee or institutional membership fee is not scalable. They charge a flat article processing fee for publishing each article no matter how many authors collaborate in writing the article. If an article is written by one author, he or she pays the same high processing fee as an article that has five authors (Biomed Central charges $1,700-$1,900 per article while PLoS charges $2,100-$2,750 per article). This fee structure is not fair or affordable for an individual author whose research may not have been supported by a grant and therefore, he or she has to pay the processing fee out of pocket.

The major open-access journals also charge a flat fee for their institutional membership. Such membership fees have also been rising at a
rapid pace. For example, in 2005, BioMed Central charged libraries up to $4,658 per year. The cost then jumped to $31,625 in 2006. These charges have continued to soar in 2007 and 2008. Many institutions have begun to cancel their memberships. The scientific and medical library at Yale University recently announced that it would cease its BioMed Central institutional membership (source http://www2.library.yale.edu/movabletype/scilib/archive/2007/08/library_drops_b_1.html). The Yale library noted that it paid $31,625 to cover the cost of publication in BioMed Central's journals by their authors in 2006.

The major open-access publishers expected academic institutions to support author fees with massive reallocations from library acquisitions budgets. However, relying too heavily on article processing fees puts open-access journals at a disadvantage compared to traditional journals, which are supported centrally through library budgets. Many universities have pointed out that libraries cannot simply transfer their acquisitions budget from subscriptions to open access overnight, since access to the subscription-only journals is important for their researchers.

What can other open-access journals learn from the experience of SJI? SJI combines the open-access model with innovative approaches to address the problems in the current scholarly publishing system at the worldwide level. SJI is still in its development phase. We are learning and trying new ideas and approaches on an ongoing basis. That is the key to achieving success in any online venture. As we provide high quality services at lesser cost, SJI continues to thrive and our base of support grows stronger every day, while other open-access journals struggle to merely sustain their operations with the help of grants and institutional subsidies.

SJI operates using a lean publishing model. While other major open-access publishers spend millions in big-expense offices and high salaried
professional editors, executives, and programmers, SJI gets by, operating from a tiny 150 sq ft office with several part-time staff. Instead of
hiring high salaried professional editors, executives, and programmers, SJI has built a devoted community of more than 3,000 scholars, researchers, programmers, management and marketing faculty and professionals who serve SJI as volunteer advisors, reviewers, editors, and technical experts. The fee structure of SJI is scalable and fair to the authors. For newer journals, SJI charges $99 per article with $99 for each additional author. For the older journals, the fee is $199 per article with $99 for each additional author. The experience of SJI clearly indicates that researchers and their host institutions and funding agencies are willing to pay reasonable and affordable article processing fees for the sake of faster and fairer access and greater exposure of their work.

SJI is also able to reduce costs of publishing by requiring the authors to perform the final formatting of their articles for publication. The authors
are also asked to seek professional editing services if SJI reviewers and editors have recommended such revisions.

SJI is in the process of employing open-source software to automate many tasks including early assessment of papers to identify possible duplicate submissions or repurposing material from other papers. This automation will further reduce our administrative costs.

SJI has developed several alternative models of sustainability and profitability and is using innovative ways to generate revenues that are missing from other journals. We have found numerous creative ways and a wide range of revenue streams that allow us to share and distribute the costs of open-access publishing across all interested stakeholders-not just article processing fees from authors. Such alternative streams of revenues help us keep our article processing fees low enough to attract thousands of authors and researchers who do not have sponsors or grants, and consequently, cannot afford to pay the high processing fees of other major publishers.

SJI has also realized that every kind of digital content can be made available through open access publishing--from texts and data to audio,
video and multi-media contents. SJI is probably the only open-access publisher that publishes peer-reviewed creative work (poetry, paintings,
music, films, novels, video and multimedia) on its Journal of Creative Work. Moreover, our standard scientific journals are complemented by several unique and innovative journals such as Journal of Dissertations, Journal of Patents & Trademarks, Journal of Reviews, Journal of Electronic Books, Journal of Biography & Autobiography, Journal of Current Events & Issues, Journal of Interdisciplinary and Multidisciplinary Research, Journal of Research Data, Journal of Bibliographies, Journal of Monographs, and Journal of Research Abstracts.

Any scholar or any organization planning to launch an open-access journal can feel free to contact us for helpful advice and suggestions. Existing open-access journals that are struggling to survive can also contact us for more information on how to become sustainable and profitable, and affordable at the same time. We never stop learning. But, one has to start somewhere.

1 comment:

Bill Hooker said...

We are also collecting evidence of libelous propaganda carried out by Richard Poynder.


Thanks for posting that -- I needed a good laugh.