Publisher’s intervention on journal sparks ‘grave concerns’

Taylor and Francis move to replace editor and withdraw his paper threatens ‘scientific integrity’, critics claim

May 15, 2017
trying to take the wheel
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Backseat driver? the editorial board accuse Taylor and Francis of compromising the ‘scientific integrity’ of the journal

A major publisher’s decision to replace a journal’s editor and withdraw one of his papers has sparked claims of interference in the publication’s editorial direction.

Following Taylor and Francis’ decision to replace the editor of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health (IJOEH), the publisher has been accused of undermining the independence and credibility of the journal.

In a letter to Taylor and Francis, David G. Kern, a former associate professor at Brown University’s School of Medicine, who has been published in the journal, criticised the publisher for its “reprehensible actions”.

“I am moved to suggest a general boycott of your company’s other journals,” he wrote.

“Towards that end, I will be asking American and Canadian bioethicist colleagues, members of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities, to consider what actions they deem appropriate with respect to Taylor and Francis’s The American Journal of Bioethics.”

Michael F. Jacobson, president of the Centre for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group, wrote in a statement that the moves “undermine the credibility and independence” of the IJOEH.

A series of letters to Taylor and Francis from current and past members of the IJOEH’s editorial board express “grave concerns” about the decision to remove David Egilman, clinical associate professor in the department of family medicine at Brown University, as editor-in-chief and replace him with Andrew Maier, associate professor in the department of environmental health at the University of Cincinnati.

The letters question the decision to withdraw one of Dr Egilman’s papers on 16 April, despite it having been published for over a year.

The editorial board claim they were not consulted over the new editor appointment, that they were not consulted or informed about the paper’s withdrawal, and accuse Taylor and Francis of compromising the “scientific integrity” of a journal, which historically “publishes independent research free of corporate influence”.

A Taylor and Francis spokeswoman said responsibility for “selecting and appointing an editor-in-chief” lay with them as “owner of the journal”.

International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health was acquired by Taylor & Francis in 2015,” she added. “Following a review of the journal we decided not to renew Dr Egilman’s contract as editor-in-chief when it came to an end in December 2016.”

Dr Egilman told THE he “wasn’t contacted…at all” by Taylor and Francis about who was to be his replacement, nor was he given satisfactory reason for the withdrawal of his paper.

Taylor and Francis’ spokeswoman said the article was “withdrawn because it was published inadvertently before the review process had been completed”.

“On completing that review, it was decided the article was unsuitable for publication in the journal,” she added.

In their most recent letter, the editorial board asked for authorisation to choose Dr Egilman’s successor, ensure all already accepted papers are to be published promptly, and recognise that the board shares full responsibility with the journal editor and therefore “must be party to any decision to retract published papers”.

Taylor and Francis’ spokeswoman said: “There was nothing unusual about the process we followed in reviewing the options and ultimately in appointing Dr Maier…We are keen to offer ongoing support to him and the journal’s editorial board to allow them to reflect the many perspectives of this area with an impartial and evidence-based approach.”

john.elmes@timeshighereducation.com

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