Science publishers – the beginning of the end?

Rinckside 2016; 27,2: 5-6.

alf a year ago I wrote a column about the sad state of scientific jour­nals [1]. I never expected to see such a rapid decline. Something wor­se than expected happened: Some major science publishers are sleep­ing with the enemy – if you can't beat them, join them. Wiley and Else­vier are turning into vanity or subsidy publishers: they make the authors pay for the pub­li­ca­tion of their articles – an incredible loss of face for old and estab­li­shed pub­lish­ing houses.

During the last twenty years, science publishers created new scientific journals by the dozen, the more, the better. Now they try to get rid of them.

Suddenly, like a bolt out of the blue, long-time editors-in-chief of leading journals are dismissed in a rather derogatory manner.

Suddenly, like a bolt out of the blue, long-time editors-in-chief of leading journals are dismissed in a rather derogatory manner.

Wiley claims to be constantly adapting the journals to changes in the mar­ket, to keep up with new developments and to serve authors in the best way they can. There is no mention of the readers, nor of the work of the journals' editors – nor of the quality of the scientific content.

The journal concerned in this case [2] will be part of a new agreement between Wiley and Hindawi Publishing Corporation [3]. This agreement gives Hin­da­wi all publishing activities, including editorial oversight.

Hindawi apparently will have an Editorial Board, but will not have an Editor-in-Chief, which means that there is no scientific and ethical oversight. All established and trustworthy scientific journals have editors, because quality and credibility of scientific papers can only be guaranteed by a sturdy editorial policy, editorial ethics, and a balanced understanding of what can be accepted and what, after thorough peer reviews, is refused for quality or other reasons.

spaceholder red600   More so, Wiley has difficulties finding the right level of communication, having appalling manners, treating editors and editorial board members as mere underlings, or as one of the renowned scientists on an Editorial Board remarked:

“I was very displeased to see this letter. It reads like one sent by a military commander to his subordinates.”

The former editor of another journal who was removed from his position by Elsevier summarized the general situation of the scientific journal market as follows:

“Quality is out, quantity for money making is in. Although this seems to be the present trend, it cannot survive for long. Science and business must be in equilibrium for long term success; when one dominates, the other will suffer.”

spaceholder red600   If Wiley is truly in financial trouble or just tries to avoid it or wants to improve profits, remains unclear to the outsider. However, reading the annual reviews written for investing shareholders revealed to the trained eye of those who can read between the lines that in-house economic measures were announced – which is always a sign of threatening financial problems.

The failure or inability of the universities, the readers, the scientific editors and editorial boards to invest manpower and money into the future of independent science has come to a point where we, the scientists, are left with a hopelessly unreliable publication system. Science publishers today eschew what doesn't yield the quick payoff.

A class system will or has already developed: outstanding and reliable publications; run-of-the-mill publications; and vanity publications. At the end, there will be a two-class or three-class journal market far worse than it exists today [4].

What's good: there are no more subscription and library fees for these journals. On the other hand, whatever is published in these journals is not physically archived and will be forgotten the next day – because nobody is responsible for archiving.

spaceholder red600   An interesting side effect of the excessive number of scientific articles in an ever increasing number of journals is that they are lost in the data cloud. Until recently, some authors and publishers believed in the helpful power of the “impact factors”, but even they are becoming useless in the selection pro­ces­ses for grants and positions. Whatever is and was published digitally by Wiley, Elsevier and possibly others will be lost. Now the most important publications for scientific authors to be cited in are newspapers, dedicated news magazines and similar publications.

Wiley's and other established publishers' reputation will suffer dra­ma­ti­cal­ly; and they will be considered untrustworthy and irresponsible, not only by the editors, collaborators and reviewers, but also by authors. Even authors who have published in the past are involved: their articles were published in journals that have been downgraded from a top scientific level to a low-level Internet domain.

spaceholder red600   However, beyond the animosity we may feel toward these publishers, they are not enemies of science. Science is the gold they live of. We vo­lun­ta­ri­ly deliver and hand over this gold to them. They are not interested in us, they are interested in our donations.

You get what you give. Let's keep the gold for ourselves. Let's publish our­selves and guarantee quality of science. It's not so difficult, but it requires personal dedication and the commitment from universities and other in­sti­tu­tions.


1. Rinck PA. The calamity of medical and radiological publications. Rinckside 2015; 26,8: 21-22.
2. CMMI – Contrast Media and Molecular Imaging; one of the high-ranking scientific journals in medical imaging and contrast agent and molecular imaging sciences.
3. Hindawi Publishing Corporation is a subsidy publisher of research journals founded in 1997, based in Cairo, Egypt. Its profit margins are higher than those of the established publishers. More information about Hindawi.
4. Butler D. Investigating journals: The dark side of publishing. The explosion in open-access publishing has fuelled the rise of questionable operators. Nature 2013; 495: 433-435.

Citation: Rinck PA. Science publishers – the beginning of the end? Rinckside 2016; 27,2: 5-6.

A digest version of this column was published as:
Rinck PA. Science publishers – the beginning of the end?
Aunt Minnie Europe. Maverinck. 28 April 2016.

TurnPrevPage TurnNextPage

Rinckside • ISSN 2364-3889
is pub­lish­ed both in an elec­tro­nic and in a prin­ted ver­sion. It is listed by the Ger­man Na­tio­nal Lib­rary.


→ Print version (pdf).


The Author

Rinck is my last name, and a rink is an area in which a com­bat or con­test takes place, rink­side means “by the rink”; in a double mean­ing “Rinck­side” means the page by Rinck.

Sometimes I could also imagine “Rinck­sighs”, “Rinck­sights”, or “Rinck­sites” ... More


Bulletin Board