I've received a review request for a manuscript submitted to Frontiers in Antimicrobials, Resistance and Chemotherapy. The manuscript is in my area so normally I'd just say OK, but there are a lot of weird things about this 'journal'.
I put 'journal' in quotes because this appears to be one of many nascent efforts of the Frontiers online publishing group. Their home page has headings for 'Science' (7 Fields with a total of 117 Specialty journals, including the one that has contacted me for a review), Medicine (3 Fields, 58 Specialty journals) and Technology, Society and Culture, each with no Fields and no Specialty journals. Each Specialty Journal has an Editor and a panel of Associate Editors.
These are the same people who keep spamming us with Frontiers in Neuroscience notifications.
The review process described on the Review Guidelines pages is novel and very open. All submitted manuscripts are sent out for review after a simple filtering by the Editor to eliminate obvious junk. As soon as the reviewers have submitted their reviews the manuscript's Abstract is posted under a 'Paper Pending' heading and the manuscript and the reviews are placed in an Interactive Review Forum, where the (still anonymous) reviewers and the authors are supposed to discuss the manuscript (I think the Editor/Associate Editors can join in here). Eventually an agreement is reached on revisions. The authors then submit the final manuscript which is formatted and published online, along with the names of the reviewers. If no agreement can be reached the Editor may overrule the reviewers, or the paper may be withdrawn by the authors or rejected by the Editors
Most of the specialty journals have published no original research articles and few or no opinion/review articles. Many of the journal web pages look like they may just be place-holders. I chose one Microbiology journal at random - it has an Editor and 19 Associate Editors, but has published only one paper (an Opinion piece by the Editor) and has one original research Paper Pending.
I clicked on what I thought would be another information page about the reviewing process, and instead found myself with a 15-page pdf of instructions for budding journal editors in the Frontiers system. It's like a pyramid scheme, with the instructions explicitly recommending that the editors build their prestige by recruiting Associate Editors and soliciting authors and articles. This is how the Frontiers enterprise makes its money, by charging authors more to publish their papers. Because much of the work on the individual papers is done by unpaid editors and reviewers, the more papers Frontiers publishes the more money they make. No wonder they have so many 'journals'.
Nevertheless I think that, as an advocate of new forms of scientific communication, I should give this a try. I hope it's not too time-consuming.
LATER: Well, the paper was bad. Really really bad. Luckily it was also very short. And did you know that, if your institution subscribes to Turnitin, you can use this service to find evidence of plagiarism in manuscripts as well as in student submissions?
The Science Habit
8 hours ago in Labs