Top News

Frontiers acts to defend distributed editorial independence

Frontiers today ended the engagement of several Specialty Chief Editors and the Field Chief Editors of Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine and Frontiers in Medicine. The Chief Editors wanted Frontiers to change its fundamental principle of distributed editorial decision-making during peer-review and the editors refused communication with Frontiers, some even blocking journal operations, until these demands were met.

Frontiers was founded in 2007 by scientists to bring change to scientific publishing by applying a consistent set of fundamental principles, one of which was to provide a model where the publisher cannot shape the direction of research.  The Frontiers model was conceived (1) to provide a clean separation of editorial responsibility, placing the decisions related to content solely in the hands of active scientists and (2) to balance this power across entire editorial boards, so that a broader group of leaders within any research community can shape the direction of science, rather than any single editor. This is the principle of complete editorial independence for our editorial boards, by which no one employed by the publisher has any authority over the content that is published. At Frontiers, the assessment of the soundness of all submissions is entirely in the hands of our external editorial boards, now comprising over 50’000 editors.

The most important principle is to distribute editorial decision-making authority across the entire editorial board. This ensures that many experts, not just a few, shape the direction of science and research for the benefit of society. To achieve this Frontiers reinforced the opinion of the Review Editors by requiring unanimity among all reviewers before the article can proceed to the next step; Frontiers empowered the Associate Editors by enabling them to make the final decision to accept the article, but only after all Review Editors endorsed the paper; and Frontiers empowered the Chief Editor to bring balance and integrity to the entire peer-review process while remaining with the full authority to intervene at any stage.  Frontiers publishing model is based on trusting world-class scientists to judge the soundness of the science that is published. It is a difficult role with major responsibility. Associate and Review Editors are acknowledged for their role and made accountable by publishing their names on the paper. At Frontiers, there are 6400 Associate Editors with the authority to accept papers for publication – a landmark achievement that rebalances authority across the entire editorial boards. The Chief Editors of the two journals concerned were in disagreement with these principles and argued that the Chief Editor should have sole authority over decisions over content.

Moreover, Frontiers guarantees editorial independence with an operational structure that separates the business, logistics and marketing activity, on one side, from any consideration of the soundness of manuscripts, and with a state of the art on-line editorial office where each editor can act independently during peer-review at any time of the day or night.

This decision to end the engagement of the concerned Chief Editors was taken after in-depth consultation with a large ad hoc committee of Frontiers Field Chief and Specialty Chief Editors. Frontiers is reporting this incident to the boards of the three organs that publish ethical guidelines: ICMJE (which lists Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine as a complying title), WAME and COPE (to which Frontiers will join as a member in 2015). In the spirit of transparency, a lengthy written exchange of views with the Chief Editors has been attached to the bottom of this blog post.

This is a setback for our medical publishing program, but Frontiers will defend its vision of distributed editorial power, especially those of Associate and Review Editors in peer-review. We are confident that the model is well suited for modern research in the digital age, and we remain completely committed to continuing development towards the best possible scientific publishing model, one that is shaped by all scientists for all scientists. Over the past 7 years, this model has already greatly benefitted from the direct and mutually respectful feedback of authors and editors, and we invite all members of the research community to continue the dialogue towards improving the model even further for the benefit of all.

End post, May 7, 2015

——————————————————————–

More on Frontiers

Frontiers model places complete control over peer-review into the hands of active researchers. In this system, Authors, Review Editors, Associate Editors, and Chief Editors all conduct their business through our platform, which is in fact an editorial office available to them at any time day or night.  This platform has been designed to protect the editorial independence, as described above, of the external editorial boards. The Frontiers model was conceived not only to provide a clean separation of editorial responsibility, placing the decisions related to content solely in the hands of active scientist, but also to balance this power across entire editorial boards, so that a broader group of leaders within any research community can shape the direction of science, rather than any single editor.

In the Frontiers editorial model, the Chief Editors have full authority to intervene at any stage of the peer-review process, but not as the default option.  The role of the Associate Editor has purposely been elevated to one of key responsibility, in which, in the absence of any intervention by the Chief Editor, he or she is fully authorized to guide a paper through the peer-review process and take the acceptance decision. This decentralization of the power is fundamental to restore the integrity of the peer-review process. In Frontiers, the Chief Editors are also empowered to take on roles and responsibilities that are far broader than just serving as the sole guardian of scientific content.

The model operates on the principle of transparency – in which the names of the handling editor and reviewers of every paper becomes public upon acceptance.  This participates in both (1) engaging the Associate Editors and Review Editors to be accountable for their decision and (2) acknowledging the role they play in validating the manuscript as a contribution worthy of official publication.  This system protects the rights of authors, as well.

The Frontiers model has been designed, tried, tested and improved with the feedback from hundreds of leading scientists over the past 7 years. More than 50’000 experts from the worlds’ leading universities have been appointed to the Frontiers editorial boards and have peer-reviewed and publically certified 30’000 papers across science, technology and medicine.  Here is a short summary of how the various roles at Frontiers are defined:

Field Chief Editor 

The Field Chief Editor leads and supervises the Field Journal with the aim to build the community of researchers in the field, drive publications to fully represent the research activity of the community, and build the quality and reputation of the field. The primary task of the Field Chief Editor is to build, support and maintain a college of Specialty Chief Editors, who together provide comprehensive expertise across the Field and who are recognized and respected authorities in their area of interest. The Field Chief Editor is expected to define the editorial scope and ambition of the Field Journal through the preparation of a Mission Statement and the publication of a Field Challenge article. The Field Chief Editor leads the college of Specialty Chief Editors in the implementation of the Frontiers publishing model and principles, monitoring their tasks, encouraging team spirit, and taking the lead on building the reputation of the journal. 

Specialty Chief Editor

The Specialty Chief Editor has the ultimate responsibility for leading, guiding and supervising the activities related to his or her Section. The Specialty Chief Editor is expected to define the editorial scope and ambition of the Specialty Section and to build a strong board of Associate Editors (who handle the actual review process). The Specialty Chief Editor is fully empowered to act at all levels and at any stage of the peer-review process in a system of editorial “checks and balances.”

Associate Editor

The primary role of the Associate Editor is to directly oversee the interaction between the Review Editors and Authors during the collaborative peer-review process at Frontiers. The role includes ensuring that the review is carried out according to the Frontiers peer-review guidelines, as well as coaching and assisting of the Review Editors to carry out their role.  The Associate Editor makes the final acceptance decision by ensuring all quality, validity and ethical standards have been met and that at least two reviewers agree to the publication. They also can recommend rejection of a manuscript if reviewers judge that an article does not meet the standards required.

Review Editor

The primary role of the Review Editor is to provide an expert review of Frontiers articles in a collaborative, transparent and efficient manner. Frontiers acknowledges the role of the reviewer by naming the person to the editorial board and by publishing the name of the Review Editor on every published paper. Frontiers is a pioneer in reviewer recognition.

Publishing the name of the Review Editor requires Frontiers to have particularly strong processes in place to manage any conflicts of interest, both real and perceived.  These are monitored from the very day of the manuscript submission, right through to a final check in the production stage.  The transparency of our policy to publish the name of the Review Editor is both a call to responsible conduct and an ultimate protection against hidden and undeclared conflicts of interest.

Authors

In Frontiers, authors have the right to a fair, transparent, efficient and constructive peer-review. The novel interactive peer-review forum of Frontiers allows for direct on-line interaction with the Review and Associate Editors. The Authors also have the right to full disclosure of the editors who handled their paper, if the paper is accepted for publication.

Role of the publisher

The Frontiers editorial office is staffed with Program Managers, Journal Managers, and operators, all of whom serve our authors and external academic editors. Employees of Frontiers are not authorized to make editorial decisions. They are responsible for ensuring that the rights of authors and editors respected, that all actors in the editorial process are using the system responsibly, and for promoting the Journal by informing all researchers of the range of services that Frontiers has developed to advance Open Science.


Frontiers Editorial Office, May 7, 2015

The document entitled “Manifesto of Editorial Independence of Editors of Frontiers Medical Journals” was received in the Frontiers office on March 23, 2015. Frontiers replied to all points on April 20, 2015 in a second document. The document below, which Frontiers has made public on May 7, 2015, combines the two for the sake of ease and transparency. The text from the manifesto was generated using character-recognition software (Frontiers was not provided an electronic copy by the Chief Editors of Frontiers in Health and Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine), and so some formatting and footnotes have been lost.

  • Manifesto document text in black
  • Frontiers summary of the points in green italic
  • Frontiers response to each point in Green text

Frontiers executive summary in response

to the claims of the Chief Editors

There are a number of points raised in the letter of March 23, 2015, but the overriding theme is that of “editorial independence.” We hope that the detailed comments below will make is clear that this concept is conceptually rooted in the notion of “content,” and is unrelated to the managerial organization of any given Journal.

When accepting the appointment of Chief Editor, Frontiers hands over complete editorial independence on the content that will be published and also trusts that each Chief Editor has taken the necessary time to fully understand and accept the Frontiers model for publishing. We count on our Chief Editors to champion the model and act as our main ambassadors to the relevant research community. Like any innovative program, we have a philosophy that requires some effort to understand – and with which certain people might not agree. When an editor accepts the appointment, with its Terms and Conditions, we assume of course that this is an informed decision on which we can build our working relationship. With this response document, we are confident you will agree that Frontiers has, from its very first article published, been completely committed to editorial independence.

The Frontiers model was developed by full-time scientists over many years before its launch in 2007. The model was developed because the process of publishing science was not fair and transparent to authors and left scientists without any editorial power. The Frontiers model is rooted in the 21st century needs of researchers, for whom we have built a customized IT platform to implement our model and serve academic communities. The foundation for the model is to guarantee complete editorial independence over the content that is edited and peer-reviewed by researchers appointed to the Frontiers Editorial Boards, currently over 50’000 renowned researchers, most of the from the top 100 universities in the world. The publisher (Frontiers and its staff) never decides over content. We are here to enable external academic editors to make these decisions. Our model is dedicated to ensuring that peer-review is done in an efficient, fair, rigorous, transparent and accountable manner, as fully detailed in the Frontiers Collaborative Peer-Review guidelines. While Editors hold the 100% of the responsibility of the content in their hands, the publisher holds the responsibility of ensuring a sustainable and successful environment for publishing. Mutual respect for these different roles is essential to maintain a clean barrier between publishing as a business and content that shapes our society.

We take great care to appoint only leading experts to the Editorial boards. This is partially because, unlike many other medical journals, Frontiers does not channel its publications through a single editor (either as a paid external Chief Editor or a professional in-house editor employed by the publisher) assigned with the authority to make sole decisions on content. At Frontiers, editorial power is distributed across the Editors, especially the Associate Editors. These experts can accept papers (or recommend rejection), but only with the provision they have established unanimous consent with the reviewers that the contribution is scientifically sound, and that they are prepared to have their names published on the article. Chief Editors retain authority with their options to supervise, instruct, and intervene at any stage in the process. The success of Frontiers, already one of the largest open-access publishers, grows largely from this balanced empowerment of the entire Editorial Board. This is fully compliant with the word and spirit of all ethical guidelines for medical publishing.

Frontiers is a recognized leader in publishing. We are invited dozens of times each year to talk about our processes and insights in front of a variety of audiences. Our publishing model has won major awards (http://www.alpsp.org/Ebusiness/AboutALPSP/ALPSPAwards/ALPSPAwards2014.aspx). Frontiers brought open access to new fields of research; developed a fully digital independent editorial office that is open 24/7, 365 days of the year; introduced article-level metrics to the publishing world in 2008; designed and implemented a peer-review forum that makes the review process fair, transparent, collaborative, efficient and highly rigorous; pioneered the concept of reviewer recognition by creating the Review Editor role and publishing their names on each paper; built the first open research network to make researchers and their work more discoverable (Loop); and even innovated in outreach by launching and supporting a not-for-profit journal for kids that makes science understandable to the entire world (kids.frontiersin.org). Over the next three years, Frontiers will be a partner in a European Horizon 2020 research project (OpenMinTed) that will explore the use of text and data mining through datasets of scientific publications. We are continually exploring ways to make our content understandable, discoverable and interpretable.

There is much in modern medical publishing that will benefit from our award-winning technology and publishing model. Frontiers has made a break with certain modalities of traditional scientific publishing, so with this document we explain in some detail the principles and operations of our Community Journals, and how these are not only consistent with all ethical guidelines of medical publishing, but actually take these to a new level, especially regarding editorial independence.


MANIFESTO OF EDITORIAL INDEPENDENCE OF

EDITORS OF FRONTIERS MEDICAL JOURNALS

submitted on March 23rd, 2015 and

with the responses of Frontiers made on April 20th, 2015

Section A

CLAIM BY CHIEF EDITORS OF FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE & FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE:

Unacceptable Editorial and Publishing Practices with Frontiers Medical Journals

We, academic physicians who have accepted positions as Chief Editor or Editor-in-Chief in one of the Frontiers medical journals Frontiers in Medicine, Frontiers in Surgery, or Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine launched between March 2014 and July 2014, are increasingly concerned about ongoing, unacceptable procedures related to manuscript peer review, the inappropriate handling of issues of infractions of code of conduct, and that editorial responsibilities and power of decision continue to be withheld from Chief Editors and Editors-in-Chief (henceforth referred to as Editors).

By accepting their appointment, the Editors have agreed to assume their position with the understanding that Frontiers Media SA (a private for-profit company, owner, and publisher of the medical journals, henceforth referred to as the Publisher), would accept the Editors’ editorial freedom and the editorial independence of medical journal editors set by the WAME1, by the ICMJE 2, and by the COPE3. These established international guidelines and regulations are binding for publishers of medical journals.

Frontiers summary of points made: [The signatories understood when agreeing to the role of editors that their editorial freedom and editorial independence would correspond to guidelines set out by WAME, ICMJE and COPE.] 

RESPONSE FROM FRONTIERS: Frontiers practices abide by these guidelines. We are now formalizing this by officially registering our journals with these associations. Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine, for example, is listed by ICMJE as a journal that complies to their guidelines.

We have no hesitation doing this, because the Frontiers publishing model, through its technology-backed workflows, guarantees complete editorial independence, fairness, transparency and accountability, a design driven by feedback from full-time active scientists over many years. Confusion concerning this point may have arisen because, at Frontiers, the concept of editorial independence is one that applies to the entire editorial board, and is not solely in the remit of the Chief Editors. Frontiers puts particular emphasis on empowering Associate Editors, whom we consider the representative leaders of the research community.

We know the ethical guidelines of medical publishing as described in WAME, ICMJE, and COPE very well. Not only is Frontiers compliant, but compared to the vast majority of medical journals today, Frontiers has perhaps the cleanest division between the decision makers of the content (the external academic editors) and the drivers of the publishing business (Frontiers staff) among modern medical journals. Not a single paid employee of Frontiers is authorized to make decisions on content. No matter how hard Frontiers staff pushes to develop the journals and promote our services and products, and despite the amount of time and money we spend on taking our offer to the community, the decision to accept any content that comes from all that effort is entirely entrusted to external academic editors. We have carefully constructed our editorial procedures to make certain that these external editors are not financially incentivized to accept a single article.

We see the urgent need to better communicate our principles and practices to the editorial boards of our medical journals, so that the editorial independence that you have is clear. Furthermore, we will set up webinars to demonstrate how to use the IT platform that allows you to fully exercise the editorial independence that Frontiers entrusts to you. And, most critically, we encourage each Specialty Chief Editor to maintain a strong working relationship with his or her Journal Manager, whose role is to assist you in every aspect of your role.

CLAIM BY CHIEF EDITORS OF FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE & FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE:

The present manifesto is submitted by the Editors listed below who again bring to the attention of the Publisher to address the following unacceptable issues and transgressions:

Medical journals are without an Editorial Office as required by medical publishing standards

Personal interactions of the Editors with the Publisher’s staff indicate that Publisher obviously wishes to “re-invent” the modalities of medical publishing, the editor designations of medical journals (“Section Chiefs”, “Review Editors”), and their respective roles in the peer review of manuscripts submitted to the above Frontiers medical journals. Perhaps most disturbing and worrisome is the fact that, unlike the Editors were told when accepting their appointment, none of the above journals ever had a designated Editorial Office run by independent staff, including a Managing Editor. Instead, the Publisher refers to their office space at the EPFL as “Frontiers Editorial Office”. It is also unacceptable that staff paid for and instructed to act on behalf of Publisher’s interests (so-called “Frontiers Journal Managers”, “Frontiers Editorial Project Managers”, “Frontiers Team Leads”, “Frontiers Journal Operations Specialists”, “Frontiers Journal Operations Assistants” etc.) actively involve themselves in the process of “growing the journal” following the instructions of the Publisher and not those of the Editors. The above job descriptions are unheard of in medical publishing and have never been officially defined or explained to any of the Editors. The Editors have also learned that the Publisher considers the Editors to be “their (the Publisher’s) Editors” and part of “their editorial boards”, and not Editors of a journal for which the Editors have agreed to take over editorial responsibility. The Editors strongly object to this kind of unacceptable practice, both as medical Editors and as academic physicians of the medical field that they represent in these journals.

Frontiers summary of points made: [Frontiers wishes to “re-invent” the modalities of medical publishing, including the titles of editors and their role in peer review. Editors were not clearly made aware that the Frontiers Editorial Office was staff paid by Frontiers located at Frontiers offices and that they would be involved in journal growth. The job descriptions of the staff have not been clarified and Frontiers refers to editors as Frontiers editors.]

RESPONSE FROM FRONTIERS: The Frontiers IT platform – to which you have continuous, unabridged access – is the designated Editorial Office for every journal, a powerful solution consistent with our digital age. The Frontiers platform offers everything that a physically centralized Editorial Office provided in the past, and much more. The Journal Manager who is assigned to each Journal is responsible for supporting our internationally-distributed editorial boards in the accomplishment of their tasks and the operation of the platform.

Specifically, Journal Managers oversee the submission, refereeing and production processes, ensuring that the logistics of the Frontiers’ peer-review system operates as intended, for example by assisting and reminding editors about the most problematic cases. Without them the rights of authors to an efficient handling of their papers would be seriously compromised. They have no role or authority to decide over content. They are the expert operator of the Frontiers platform and they provide the editors the necessary support to take efficient decisions on articles and run their virtual Editorial Office in general. The role also involves the promotion of our services and products, for example by representation at conferences, that is intended to lead to an increase in submissions. In this sense they participate in the growth of the Journal. But an investment in promotion does not impinge on editorial independence. The decision to accept any content arising from these efforts is entirely entrusted to our board of external academic editors. It is for this reason that they are called Journal Managers and not editors. The role and responsibilities of the Frontiers Journal Manager is perfectly consistent with WAME, COPE and ICMJE guidelines, because only the Editors can make decisions on content.

Only two people in the Frontiers Office have the title of Editor – the Executive Editor and the Frontiers Editor-in-Chief. The Executive Editor ensures that the Journal Managers understand their responsibilities and addresses any issue that goes beyond normal operations. He has no mandate to decide on content. The Frontiers Editor-in-Chief oversees the Frontiers principles and publishing model and appoints Chief Editors suggested after extensive discussions and research and after assurances that the Chief Editors understand the Frontiers model. He has no mandate over content.

These points concerning the use of the on-line Editorial Office and how you can best benefit from the support of your Journal Manager will be described in a Webinar, to be set up as part of a series by the Journal Managers for our medical editors over the next weeks and months.

Some additional context on this issue can be gained by looking at how Medical journals apply a variety of models in terms of editorial-office organization. A comparison with the our model will underscore the exceptional efforts Frontiers takes to implement procedures that are ethical and supportive of editorial independence:

      1. At Nature Medicine, all final accept/reject decisions are made by employees of the publisher, with no external, scientifically-active editorial staff at all. These employees work with specific page budgets, and their decisions are directly related to financial targets. At Nature’s website, we read that “all submitted manuscripts are read by the editorial staff. To save time for authors and peer- reviewers, only those papers that seem most likely to meet our editorial criteria are sent for formal review. Those papers judged by the editors [Nature employees] to be of insufficient general interest or otherwise inappropriate are rejected promptly without external review […].”
      2. PLoS Medicine has a hybrid process, but with a publisher employee sharing responsibility in the review process: “Submitted manuscripts will be assigned to one of the PLOS Medicine editors. If the paper is deemed to be within the scope of the journal with regard to content and of a minimum quality an academic editor with expertise in the relevant area, usually one of our editorial board, is then also assigned to the paper. The editor and editorial board member will promptly assess the manuscript and will decide if it is likely to meet the requirement of providing a major advance in a particular field and describing a sufficient body of work to support that claim; if so, it will be sent out for peer review. The professional and academic editors then together make a decision based on the reviewers’ comments.”
      3. BMC Medicine has an open peer-review system, in which the identities of the reviewers and authors are revealed to each other at the start of the process. They note that “submitted manuscripts will be sent to peer reviewers, unless they are either out of scope or below threshold for the journal […]”, and that the appropriateness of the contribution will be “determined by a member of the Editorial Board or someone of equivalent standing.” They have an in-house team of 8 editorial staff to participate in these decisions.

Frontiers editorial organization is based on a centralized digital platform and decentralized editorial power. The review process is, by default, handled by Associate Editors – active researchers – but under the supervision of the Specialty Chief Editors. The peer-review in Frontiers is impact-neutral; our policy is that all our editors apply the objective requirement for soundness, thus correcting the perturbation of research by the “cherry picking” selective process that has traditionally been used and that has been distorted by bias and politics in academic publishing.

In the Frontiers model, the accept/reject decision is never made by a publisher employee at any time, and it is also not the sole responsibility of a single, centralized Editor-in-Chief. Rather, the responsibility is deeply imbedded into the community of active researchers themselves who, in the role of Associate Editor, have the full authority to accept papers based on a collaborative and transparent review process – provided the reviewers are unanimous in the decisions and they agree to full disclosure of their role after publication. This does not take away from the full authority of the Specialty Chief Editor who can, at any time, intervene in the process if they feel that it is being conducted inappropriately. The Specialty Chief Editor therefore has complete authority via all the mechanisms built into the platform to safeguard the standards of the process and the content. He or she is independently authorized to act in the platform at any time – day or night – without any consultation with any Frontiers staff. This structure provides the strongest possible guarantee of editorial independence.

Nowhere in the ethical guidelines do we find editorial independence defined in terms of a specific editorial-office organization or the need for the decisional power to be centralized in the person of the Chief Editor. The Chief Editor does have full authority, but does not have sole authority. The ethical guidelines do not prohibit Associate Editors from making accept decisions. In the guideline documents, editorial independence is clearly a concept centered on content. The specific editorial structure of Frontiers, whereby all editorial decisions are entrusted to Associate and Specialty Chief Editors, is therefore fully compatible with all guidelines for medical publishing.

Frontiers will hold webinars to help medical editors understand how to use their digital editorial offices and exercise their full authority and independence. Any specific concern can be addressed without delay to your Journal Manager, who will be pleased to help.

CLAIM BY CHIEF EDITORS OF FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE & FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE:

• Continued Infractions of the Editorial Independence of the Editors
The Publisher excludes Editors from the handling of code of conduct and COI violations

The Editors have received information that the Publisher consider themselves legitimate to handle conflict of interest (COI) as well as violation of conduct issues – editorial responsibilities strictly primarily handled by the journal Editors1-2. The Editors also perceived that recent violations of code of conduct brought to the attention of the Publisher were not or not sufficiently resolved. This also infringes on the above publishing regulations and with the editorial independence of medical journal editors in particular1-3.

Frontiers summary of points made: [Frontiers handle COI and other ethical issues, several issues were not satisfactorily resolved.]

RESPONSE FROM FRONTIERS: The Frontiers policy is that COI, ethical and retraction cases are problems intrinsic to the specific research community and must be handled and solved by that community. Our role is to help the community solve the problem, not solve the problem as the publisher.

For cases concerning violation of conduct by authors, Frontiers follows the procedure defined by the COPE flowcharts. The actual correspondence regarding any COI issues is conducted by the Frontiers Editorial office only as a mediator of the wishes and decisions of the Chief Editors. This is precisely how we have handled the very few cases that have arisen so far in Frontiers.

Furthermore, Chief Editors can intervene at any stage of the submission-to-accept process and have the full authority (and mechanisms in the platform) to stop the review, change the reviewers, add as many reviewers as they find necessary or take any other action required to ensure what they feel is consistent with an ethical process. As is incumbent on medical publishers, Frontiers requires that all authors and editors declare conflicts of interest. These include any financial, personal, or professional relationships that could be perceived as interfering in the objective evaluation of the soundness of the contribution. The actual mechanism or procedure for securing these declarations in the most effective manner can be discussed, but the principle will always be upheld. In addition, with our policy of publicly acknowledging the reviewers and handling editors on the published articles, Frontiers takes particular care internally to monitor for potential conflicts of interest during the submission, review and publication processes. Any such concerns are reported to the Chief Editor – again this is a service to editors as most editors have recognized, not in anyway a decisional role. Moreover, having Associate Editors and Reviewers stand with their name on published articles also encourages even higher responsibility, and if conflicts of interest do arise in exceptional cases, they are actually visible to the entire community – and can be pointed out. We believe this is transparency and accountability at its highest level in publishing.

CLAIM BY CHIEF EDITORS OF FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE & FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE:

• The Publisher interferes with the editorial procedures of scientific peer review

When accepting the appointment as Editor, the Editors were not informed by the Publisher’s staff that the “interactive peer review” will prevent the Editor from selecting the most suitable and qualified handling editor for a submitted manuscript. Instead, it became known to the Editors afterwards that the submitting author is supposed to “select” their “preferred” associate editor to serve as handling editor of their manuscript. An electronic system then automatically assigns the manuscript to this associate editor as handling editor and sends the following automated message to the Editor: “What do I need to do now? At this point: nothing. The preferred Associate Editor has been invited to edit this manuscript. In case of a delay in his/her response, invitations will be extended to the entire associate editorial board. The first one to accept will edit this manuscript”. This is totally unacceptable, as is the fact that none of the Editors was informed beforehand about this practice since the Editors would have never accepted such a “editor-by-request peer-review”. Such “peer-review” is neither “rigorous” nor independent as the Publisher claims on their website and, importantly, infringes upon the editorial responsibilities of the journals’ Editors-in-Chiefs1-3.

Frontiers summary of points made: [Editors were not aware that authors can choose a preferred handling editor during submission and are concerned that these may not be the most suitable to take on the manuscript. This process infringes on the responsibilities of the chief editors.]

RESPONSE FROM FRONTIERS:This has been a practice for many years, for reasons we describe below. When an author submits a paper to Frontiers, he or she selects the Associate Editor that might be apt to handle the review. The reason is simply to make use of information in the Author’s possession; this person might know which Associate Editor would be most suitable for his or her paper. Having this suggestion at the start of the process is essential because, as Journals become successful, it contributes to reducing the workloads of the Associate Editors, who receive many requests, and of the Specialty Chief Editor, who can fully benefit from this recommendation for Associate Editor. The Specialty Chief Editor is alerted by e-mail to every submission and has a window during which he/she can change the selected Associate Editor before the review process even starts, thus preserving the editor’s authority in the context of the author’s selection. In fact, several of our Chief Editors use this functionality systematically as they prefer to assign Associate Editors manually. The selected Associate Editor is not obliged to accept the assignment and often does not. If the medical editors are not aware of this, we will make sure to arrange a short demo with the Journal Managers.

Having the author select a handling editor does not lead to any issues of conflict of interest – if the author selects an adequate editor, it is likely that this same editor would have been assigned in any case. If not, the Associate Editor will typically have the integrity to refuse the assignment, or the Specialty Chief Editor can easily change the assignment through his access to the Review Forum. Trust first and correct if necessary – that is what we strive for.

Finally, if the paper is accepted and published, the name and affiliation of the Associate Editor, as well as those of the reviewers, are provided on the title page of the article, in the spirit of transparency and in recognition for a job well done. Transparency is the best mechanism of preventing abuse. Nearly 100’000 Frontiers authors have gone through this process and consistently score their satisfaction in surveys in the 90 -95% range.

CLAIM BY CHIEF EDITORS OF FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE & FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE:
The Publisher acts on behalf of Editors without their consent and deliberately overrides Editors’ decisions

The Editors have received information from their Associate Editors that the Publisher’s staff has deliberately transferred manuscripts under review from the handling editors to a “new” editor without the handling editor’s consent or informing the Editor, resulting in and “accelerated acceptance” of manuscripts. The Editors have also learned that the Publisher’s staff have invited authors in the name of Editors to prepare an editorial commentary on an article published in a Frontiers medical journal – without the Editor ever having issued such an invitation nor having been officially informed that such an invitation had already been sent out to authors. Moreover, staff of the Publisher have been taking actions and decisions in the editorial process of submitted manuscripts that are strictly confined to the Editors, often without their knowledge, or approval and in several cases deliberately overriding editorial decisions and directives of the Editors.

Frontiers summary of points made: [Unspecified incidences where Associate Editors have reported that manuscripts were transferred to new editors without being informed or giving consent and that this allowed for “accelerated acceptance” of manuscripts. A commentary was invited on an article on behalf of the editor. Staff have acted on manuscripts without the editors’ approval and overriding decisions.]

RESPONSE FROM FRONTIERS: Frontiers would be pleased to look into any case, showing any interested editor the full historical step-by-step handling of any paper. Peer review is central to our concerns, and Frontiers has published over 30’000 papers and we are not aware of any case where the Frontiers staff have made an editorial decision to publish a paper. Journal Managers can act on the instruction of the Chief Editor, but never make a decision on their own. For those interested, we can send a detailed workflow of our peer- review process, which would make this clear.

Frontiers in no way “accelerates acceptance” of articles. Every article requires the unanimous and public validation by the reviewers and the handling editor, as decided following an open discussion with the authors through our review forum. This fundamental process cannot be accelerated. We are, however, committed to our authors to provide the timely, competent handling of their contribution. When a handling editor has taken unreasonable delay in the handling of a contribution, the Specialty Chief Editor is notified. He or she may use the revoke / assign functionality of the review forum to reassign the contribution to the responsibility of another handling editor or simply instruct the Journal Manager to make the change. This is the expected course of action. If there is no reaction from the Specialty Chief Editor, then the board of Associate Editors will receive an invitation to consider the handling of the delayed manuscript. If one of the Associate Editors accepts, the system is of course updated with this information, and in the absence of any additional action by the Specialty Chief Editor the review process gets back on track (but in no way does it push acceptance or impinge on editorial independence). Until now we have only received thanks from our Chief Editors for this time-saving service. As with all our processes, we would be pleased to discuss how this workflow might be modified, in particular for those in our community of medical Specialty Chief Editors who would like to be more deeply involved in the day- to-day management of the review process.

The second claim concerning invited commentary may be built out of a single incident we know of when a Journal Manager acted on a telephone request from a Medical Chief Editor, a request which was later denied by the Chief Editor. Frontiers apologized for the misunderstanding and now Journal Managers only act on behalf of an editor after receiving written instructions to do so.

CLAIM BY CHIEF EDITORS OF FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE & FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE:
The Publisher modifies article content and inappropriately influences manuscript peer review

The Publisher’s staff has dictated terms to Editors about medical article content and the number of reviewers needed for a particular article type. The Publisher has removed article content requirements in the author instructions that were installed by Editors-in-Chief as safeguards to guarantee quality control of the medical content of manuscripts and thus ensure patient safety, again overriding Editors’ decisions.

Frontiers summary of points made: [Frontiers has set terms for article content and number of reviewers needed for particular article types. Frontiers has removed requirements in author instructions that were meant to guarantee quality control.]

RESPONSE FROM FRONTIERS: These points arise from a misunderstanding of Frontiers’ mission.

Setting policy for article content: Frontiers is open to working with Editors to define new article types that have (1) demonstrated a strong potential utility in their field; and (2) fit with the principles of Frontiers in terms of meeting our criteria for the soundness and correctness of contributions (see point (c) below). Just within the last year, on the proposal of our Chief Editors, we have established a full range of new article types for the medical journals, which are listed here.

Influencing the peer-review by setting the number of reviewers for an article type: Frontiers provides a cutting-edge digital platform, for which operations require default settings to allow efficient 24/7 operations. That does not mean that a policy is imposed. The default setting of the number of reviewers is the minimum number of reviewers required depends on the article type. This number is taken from common practices and particular expert requirements of some article types. For logistical reasons, Frontiers provides a consistent minimum across a range of Journals. We say minimum because the Associate Editor (and also the Chief Editor) can assign as many reviewers as they feel necessary with a few clicks of a button, independently at any time of the day or night. It is not unusual to have papers reviewed by many reviewers when the topic calls for diverse expertise or is controversial. We regularly make adjustments to the platform configurations based on the advice of the Chief Editors, but Frontiers reserves the right to establish policy and to apply it to the entire program as it sees best fit to the interests of all involved. Again these default settings do not infringe on any responsibilities – they can be extended by the editors at a click of a button.

One of the core principles of Frontiers is that the role of the review process is to assess the soundness and correctness of contributions. The editorial policy that arises from this is an “impact neutral” and fair assessment of all articles submitted; we also do not allow editors to attach conditions to certain article types that infringes this fairness (for example, by only considering review articles that have been personally invited by the Chief Editor). Frontiers publishes the full spectrum of academic contributions, and editors and reviewers are expected to accept any publication they are prepared to publicly validate with their name as a sound scientific report that is without scientific error. Application of this objective threshold for acceptance provides the best service to authors and the scientific process and acknowledges the service of the editors and reviewers to their communities.

CLAIM BY CHIEF EDITORS OF FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE & FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE:
• The Publisher inappropriately influences the publication of “Frontiers Research Topics”

Jeffrey Beall, a scholarly publishing expert at the University of Denver, has previously criticized the practice of Gold Open Access publishers such as Frontiers Media SA for publishing so-called “special issues” (“Big Money for Gold OA Publishers”)4. Beall has identified this publishing practice as “affinity marketing” and as “an effective way to increase article submissions and revenue.”6 When accepting the appointment as a medical journal editor, the Editors were neither officially informed about so-called “Frontiers Research Topics” nor that the Editors would be expected to publish “Frontiers Research Topics” in their medical journal. This has never been discussed, and the Editors have never been asked whether they agree with publishing “Frontiers Research Topics” as part of the medical journals that they have assumed editorial responsibility for. Since late summer of 2014 Editors have repeatedly brought to the attention of the Publisher that medical journals do not primarily publish “research” but that published content represents mainly (medical) “knowledge”. The Publisher so far has not addressed this issue. Editors were also informed that authors invited to submit a review article for a “Frontiers Research Topic” receive no compensation but instead are required to pay (considerable) fees for their work to be published. At the same time, the Publisher describes Frontiers Research Topics to Editors as “cost-effective, high impact vehicles”4 (albeit most of Frontiers journals do not have an 151 “impact factor”). On top of that, the Publisher has informed Editors Frontiers medical journals that once their section publishes “more than 120 articles per year” they will receive a “compensation” of 5000 EUR from the Publisher (for whom 120 published articles will generate up to 228’000 USD in revenues). This is consistent with a financial incentive for medical journal Editors.

Beall noted previously: “-I regularly receive complaints about [Frontiers’] editorial practices […]. There is value in sharing others’ experiences with this publisher”4,5 and has been questioning the peer-review and publishing practice in the Publisher’s journals.4,5 His concerns are further supported by the documented incidents, infractions, and practices reported in this manifesto. The Editors have learned that inappropriate peer review practices and the Publisher taking part in the editorial process4-11 have recently resulted in the resignation of several Editors of Frontiers journals8-11, some of whom concluded that “Frontiers has shown no respect for authors nor for their own appointed referees and editors”.8

Frontiers summary of points made: [Editors were not informed about Research Topics nor that they would be expected to publish them in their journals. According to the editors medical journals publish mainly knowledge not research. Participants in Research Topics are required to pay a fee to publish their work. Frontiers pays chief editors of sections that publishes more than 120 articles per year a compensation of 5000 EUR, which generated 228’000 USD in revenue, creating financial incentives for editors. Beall is quoted in relation to these points.]

RESPONSE FROM FRONTIERS: Frontiers is a “Gold” open-access publisher, and applies article publishing charges (APCs) to pay its staff and to support its state-of-the-art IT platform, as is the case with all other prestigious open- access publishers (PLoS, BioMedCentral, Copernicus, Nature Communications). APCs for all article types have always been transparent and can be found on our website: http://www.frontiersin.org/about/PublishingFees

At Frontiers, a number of article types are free of charge.

Research Topics provide a unique package of services that have been refined by many rounds of functionality requests from authors and editors. They are not to be confused with traditional “special issues.” Special issues are areas of priority decided by publishers (example of the publisher deciding on the content) and its editors, whereas Research Topics are defined and driven from deep within the community of researchers. The content is thus not defined by Frontiers, the publisher. They are opportunities for scientists to showcase new emerging or exciting developments. They are grass-roots initiatives and allow for organic and dynamic emergence from within the research community. Research Topics are important ways for new ideas to break through old paradigms. That is what we believe publishing must serve. Frontiers Research Topics also provide opportunities for researchers to develop new multidisciplinary research areas, allowing them to define the context of their own research. As the research landscape quickly evolves, it is becoming ever more important to offer this level of specialization, as the bigger “bins” of a traditional subject areas are no longer adequate. It is an unavoidable and powerful trend of the 21st century.

Research Topics are organized and operated very much in the spirit of Frontiers, whereby we provide the technology to empower active researchers to shape the direction of science. The Frontiers web environment provides a beautiful showcase for all Research Topics, for their participants and their articles, with article-level metrics and the possibility to download the content as an e-book; it also provides direct links to the researchers Loop profile. The product has been remarkably well received, with several thousand already organized since 2009.

Research Topics provide real value to authors and editors, and we actively promote this and all our services to the international community of active researchers – ideally, we would like every scientist to know about Frontiers and its services, including Research Topics. The role of the Journal Managers here is to act as liaison between the community, who sends proposals for Research Topics, and the Specialty Chief Editor, who always decides on whether these are acceptable, both in terms of proposed editorial team and content, for the Specialty Section. Our clear line of editorial independence, fully in the hands of editors, eliminates risks of potential conflict of interest, financial or content-based. Special Issues, as operated by other publishers, are a vehicle for content as selected and promoted by the publisher. This is not the case at Frontiers, where proposals come from the community and Chief Editors alone decide on whether to accept these proposals. For most of our editors, this is one of the most fulfilling ways to serve their community through their Frontiers editorship.

APCs for long article types published in Research Topics are currently discounted by 25%. This is one way that Frontiers contributes to the success and dynamic of these collections.

Research Topics are often hosted by Guest Associate Editors, referred to as Topic Editors, for whom this will be a first editorial project in Frontiers. In order to ensure that Topic Editors have the best chances of being accepted by the Specialty Chief Editor, we help them prepare their proposals that they will submit to you – again a service that many Chief Editors appreciate:

• Every potential Topic Editor is required to submit a CV and publication list, along with a detailed project description, which is made available to the Specialty Chief Editor.
• This material, once submitted, allows the Specialty Chief Editor to judge whether the proposed content is original and within the scope of the Section, and whether and Topic Editors are adequate for the role.
• Specialty Chief Editors can assign an Associate Editor from the board to access the review forum and follow the entire process to ensure that the standards for peer review are being upheld.
• As with all submissions to the section, the Specialty Chief Editor can follow each and every paper on a daily basis, communicate advice or concerns to the Topic Editor, and even leave comments in the Review Forum to the attention of the authors and reviewers.

As always, if you have any questions about these functionalities, your Journal Manager will be happy to provide instructions or a demonstration. 
Finally, when any Editor accepts a role at Frontiers, he or she accepts the Terms and Conditions of the role. These Terms and Conditions can be consulted at any time on the Frontiers website (please read them again carefully). In acknowledgement for their service to their community, Frontiers awards an honorarium of €15’000 per annum to each of its Field Chief Editors. Specialty Chief Editors are currently awarded an honorarium of €5’000 when their section receives 120 or more submissions per year; and €15’000 when the number of submissions reaches 180. There is no financial incentive to accept papers at Frontiers, because (1) the honorarium is a function of the number of submissions and not acceptances; and (2) the Associate Editors, and not Chief Editors, take the decisions on article acceptances.

CLAIM BY CHIEF EDITORS OF FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE & FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE:
No information to the Editors that the Publisher is no longer part of NPG

Before accepting their appointment the Publisher confirmed to the Editors that Nature Publishing Group (NPG) had bought into Frontiers and that Frontiers is part of NPG. This was also stated in press releases of NPG and the Publisher’s website. The Publisher also told Editors that the Frontiers medical journals will become the “new Open Access medical journals” of NPG and that the content of published articles will be listed and searchable on the Nature.com website. As early as October 2014, Editors of Frontiers medical journal were told by Frontiers Journal Managers that (unlike done weeks before) they would no longer be allowed to use the NPG logo on any communication related to Frontiers medical journals. The Editor asked whether Frontiers was still part of NPG. The Publisher did not provide a sufficient answer that question. In the same year, scientists made public the approaches of “Frontiers Editorial Project Manager” contacting potential Guest Editors resemble a “mining-like practice on Part of Frontiers [who] seem to be trying to milk their link to the Nature Publishing Group, with bold text to emphasize” (the invitation e-mail sent out by the Publisher is available on Beall’s blog4).

Meanwhile, information has become available indicating that Frontiers is no longer part of NPG. Instead, at the beginning of 2015, Macmillan/ NPG announced it had entered into a joint venture on Open Access publishing with a expected f 1.5 billion annual turnover with Springer Publishers.12 It also became known that NPG recently launched its own Open Access medical journals (thus NPG medical journals now competing with the Frontiers medical journals that the Editors have assumed responsibility for), and that NPG – unlike they did until August 2014 – no longer publish any press releases about newly launched Frontiers journals on the Nature.com website.

Coinciding with the announcement of the NPG-Springer joint venture in January 2015, the Publisher published a small blog entry on their website now for the first time admitting that “Nature Publishing Group and Frontiers are independent businesses” and that Frontiers “is excited to announce that our first partner is Nature Publishing Group, with whom we share the same principles”. The Publisher now also openly states that it is no longer part of NPG, but “cooperates with NPG” and that “NPG and Frontiers Media SA operate independently”.13,14 The Publisher now instead defines NPG as an “affiliated company”14. It is of major concern to Editors that none of them ever received any official information from the Publisher about these highly relevant changes.

Frontiers summary of points made: [Frontiers stated that it is part of NPG and that the medical journals will become the “new Open Access medical journals” of NPG. Frontiers content was supposed to be listed on the Nature website. Editors were informed in October 2014 that they could no longer use the NPG logo on their communications. Frontiers did not provide a sufficient answer to the question whether Frontiers is still part of NPG. This was also mentioned in Research Topic invitations sent out by Frontiers. Macmillan announced their joint venture with Springer on open access publishing and NPG launched their own open access journals in competition with Frontiers. Nature does not issue press releases about newly launched Frontiers journals. No official announcements were made by Frontiers to the editors regarding these changes.]

RESPONSE FROM FRONTIERS: Frontiers Media SA is a commercial academic publisher. Frontiers Research Foundation is its philanthropic, not-for-profit arm (that supports, for example, the outreach program Frontiers for Young Minds). In 2013, the Holtzbrinck Group, owner of Macmillan Science and Education, who in turn is owner of Nature Publishing Group (NPG), acquired an interest in Frontiers Media, SA. Generally operating as an independent business and publisher, Frontiers cooperates with Holtzbrinck businesses including NPG on key initiatives to advance the cause of Open Science for the benefit of both the research community and the broader public. Initially Frontiers and NPG collaborated on promoting open access together, and Frontiers in particular, but this led to some confusion in the market, in part because of NPG’s expansion of its own Nature-branded open-access journals (operated according to their own publishing model). Today the focus of NPG’s collaboration with Frontiers is with Loop, Frontiers’ research network initiative. Nature authors of over 30 NPG journals are invited to create Loop profiles, and these become attached to published Nature articles (for an example, see here: http://www.nature.com/nmeth/journal/v11/n6/full/nmeth.2929.html )

Frontiers also collaborates with other NPG affiliates, such as Digital Science, which offers Altmetric and Readcube – both products that are already integrated into the Frontiers and Loop platforms. Another example is the collaboration between Frontiers for Young Minds, our outreach program, with Scientific American, where we jointly host a blog for kids. Frontiers has always maintained its independence and never intended to convert its Frontiers publishing model to the publishing models used by NPG. The Holtzbrinck Group today maintains a share in Frontiers Media SA with the goal of advancing open science together.

Section B

CLAIM BY CHIEF EDITORS OF FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE & FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE:

Editors’ Demands for Editorial Independence, including Peer Review Procedures

Prior to April 2014, the Publisher did not publish any medical journals. In additions to the incidents and transgressions reported in Section A, the Publisher also has not installed the appropriate safeguards required to ensure content quality of the medical information published in the above journals which are necessary to provide patient safety and to prevent any potential harm of patients (cf. 1.10, Section C). This demonstrates that not only that communication between the Publisher and the Editors of the medical journals is far below the required standards, but also that despite repeated attempts of several Editors informing the Publisher the required changes were not implemented. Because of this absolutely unacceptable situation, which potentially might endanger medical diagnoses, patient treatment and ultimately lives of patients, the Editors demand that the Publisher immediately and strictly adheres to and complies with the international regulations and guidelines for medical publishing set and issued by the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME)1, the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE)2, and the Committee of Publication Ethics (COPE)3 (cf. Section C).

The Editors also demand the Publisher to grant and guarantee them – without any restrictions and unconditionally – to execute their full editorial duties as Editors for the medical and academic community. The Publisher must also immediately prevent any staff on the payroll of the Publisher from taking any actions (currently done without the Editors’ knowledge or approval) in the peer-review process, or taking actions and decisions regarding the content of the above Frontiers medical journals (including article type content). The Editors also demand the Publisher to provide solutions for independent editorial offices of to above medical journals that support the Editors in their editorial work without any influence from the Publisher or its staff. The Editors also demand that the Publisher allows Editors-in-Chiefs to take full editorial responsibility, oversee and decide on content, peer review modalities and handling of code of conduct violations concerning the journals (cf. Section C1-3).

Specifically, and in view of the above most worrisome incidents and infractions, the Editors demand that the Publisher address and satisfactorily resolve the following relevant issues according to international regulations for medical publishing, set an issued by the WAME1, by the ICMJE2, and by the COPE3. (re-numbered for Section C). The Publisher need to express to the Editors in a point-by-point response and in clear terms what specific steps will be taken for each of the points listed below (in italics below) to meet these regulations. Once the Editors have received this information the Editors will discuss about whether and what further steps need to be taken (cf. editors’ obligations in the regulations of the WAME under 1.7 and the ICMJE under 2.7 in Section C).

Frontiers summary of points made: [Prior to 2014 Frontiers did not publish any medical journals. Frontiers has not established sufficient safeguards to ensure content quality. Communication between Frontiers and the editors is below the required standards and required changes were not implemented despite repeated reminders. Frontiers needs to comply and adhere to international guidelines by WAME, ICMJE and COPE. The signatories seek guarantees that the editors can execute their full editorial duties, that staff do not take actions in the review process without the knowledge or approval of the editors, and that Frontiers does not interfere in article content. The signatories ask for independent editorial offices to support the editors without influence from the publisher and its staff, as well as that editors have full editorial responsibility, oversee and decide on content, peer review modalities and handling of ethical misconduct. The signatories ask for a point-by-point reply on how the points from the WAME, ICMJE, COPE guidelines listed are being assured.]

RESPONSE FROM FRONTIERS: A simple check of the facts would have sufficed here. Frontiers has published medical journals since 2010, with the launch of Frontiers in Endocrinology, Frontiers in Neurology, and Frontiers in Immunology. Frontiers in Oncology followed in 2011, Frontiers in Pediatrics in 2012, and Frontiers in Public Health in 2013. Frontiers already had a strong track record in medical publishing, with many thousands of articles published before the 2014 launch of the titles in Cardiovascular Medicine, Surgery, and Medicine.

Chief Editors, Associate Editors and Review Editors can act freely, with no need to consult with the staff of Frontiers Offices, at any time – that is the nature of a digital-age publishing platform that guarantees your complete independence.

In terms of communications, the dedicated day-to-day contact person for every Specialty Chief Editor is his or her Journal Manager, as described above in a previous response. A working relationship of trust and mutual respect is the cornerstone to efficient Specialty Section operations.

Frontiers is fully compliant with WAME, ICMJE and COPE guidelines, as extensively explained in this document. Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine is an example Frontiers Medical Journal registered at the ICMJE as a compliant journal. All our medical journals operate with the same principles. Our Editorial Office Manager, Dr. Mirjam Curno, is a COPE Council Member.

Frontiers was founded by scientists to specifically implement complete editorial independence. Frontiers staff, as discussed above, are never involved in the review process without the knowledge, approval or instruction of Editors. Specialty Chief Editors build a board of Associate Editors of distinguished colleagues, with whom they entrust the power to accept papers on behalf of the Specialty Section and Journal. They may also recommend rejection of articles to the Specialty Chief Editor, who solely has the authority to reject papers. A Specialty Chief Editor may also reject a paper without initiating the review process at the start of submission. Frontiers believes that the entire editorial board must be empowered and the model is based on specific default roles and responsibilities, but we stress that the Specialty Chief Editor has always had the power to intervene at any stage of the peer-review process.

As mentioned above, editorial independence is a concept focused on content, not office organization, and one that extends to the entire editorial board, including Associate and Review Editors. Frontiers reserves the right however to provide and improve upon certain basic aspects of the publishing model related to editorial policy – the very reason for developing Frontiers. These include decisions concerning new journals or sections, the article types, the number of minimum reviewers for each article type, the job description of the Frontiers employees, and the article processing charges. These prerogatives in no way undermine the complete editorial independence of our external editorial boards over article content.

Section C

CLAIM BY CHIEF EDITORS OF FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE & FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE:

Regulations Issued by the WAME, ICMJE & COPE to be Addressed by the Publisher

• WORLD ASSOCIATION OF MEDICAL EDITORS (WAME)1
• The Publisher states on their websites of the journals Frontiers in Medicine, Frontiers in Surgery, and Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine that the regulations published by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE)2 apply. The ICMJE adopts the definition of editorial freedom as defined by the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME)2, which holds that editors-in-chief have full authority over the entire editorial content of their journal and the timing of publication of that content. Journal owners should not interfere in the evaluation, selection, scheduling, or editing of individual articles either directly or by creating an environment that strongly influences decisions (cf. 2.1 below). As reported under Section A, several relevant infractions of the Editors’ editorial independence by the Publisher’s staff are documented. The Editors of the Frontiers medical journals thus demand that the Publisher expresses in writing and in clear terms on how the following requirements of the WAME regulations will be met:

The Relationship Between Journal Editors-in-Chief and Owners (WAME)1 (formerly titled Editorial Independence)

1.1 Editors-in-Chief and the owners (publishers) of their journals both want the journals to succeed but they have different roles. The editors-in-chiefs primary responsibilities are to inform and educate readers, with attention to the accuracy and importance of journal articles, and to protect and strengthen the integrity and quality of the journal and its processes. Owners (whether professional associations or for-profit companies) support the core values and policies of their organization and are ultimately responsible for all aspects of publishing the journal, including its staff, budget, and business policies. The relationship between owners and editors-in-chief should be based on mutual respect and trust, and recognition of each other’s authority and responsibilities. Conflicts can both the intellectual integrity and reputation of the journal and its financial success.

What specific steps will be taken by the Publisher to meet the WAME requirements under 1.1?

RESPONSE FROM FRONTIERS: Frontiers agrees that the owners have a responsibility to provide both the best possible service to the community and a financially solid publishing environment. Chief Editors have the opportunity to use these services to serve their communities. Editorial Independence would be compromised if Editors became involved in business decisions.

It is an enormous responsibility to publish and to guarantee the permanence of the public record of scientists, and the owners of publishing companies must safeguard for financial sustainability. Without that, the entire endeavor is at risk. In fact, Frontiers started as a Foundation, but without perpetual philanthropic support, we could not guarantee the ongoing activity of our journal series. In its second phase, Frontiers became a commercial publisher, providing both a much more sustainable structure and opening the possibility to establish well-defined financial relationships with other organizations.

DEMAND BY CHIEF EDITORS OF FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE & FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE:

The following are guidelines for protecting the responsibility and authority of both editors-in-chief and owners:

1.2 The conditions of the editors-in-chiefs employment, including authority, responsibilities, term of appointment, reporting relationships, and mechanisms for resolving conflict, should be explicitly stated in writing and approved by both editor and owner before the editor is appointed. Those conditions bearing on editorial freedom should be shared with readers by publication in the journal or on its website.

What specific steps will be taken by the Publisher to meet the WAME requirements under 1.2?

RESPONSE FROM FRONTIERS: Each Frontiers editor has agreed upon their appointment to the Terms and Conditions, which can be consulted at any time in the personal account on the Frontiers website. Here we restate the roles and responsibilities of the Field Chief Editor, Specialty Chief Editor, Associate Editor and Review Editor. We begin with an overview of the Frontiers Mission and Journal structure, which will provide the adequate context for the discussion.

Frontiers mission

Frontiers mission is to put our publishing platform into the hands of competent representatives of the scientific community in the objective to publish articles that are scientifically sound.

We take great care to appoint only leading experts in their fields and specialties according to strict criteria of excellence. Once appointed, scientists are empowered to take editorial decisions to accept or reject articles. Editorial power is distributed across the Associate Editors. We trust that these experts, selected according to strict criteria of excellence, can take acceptance decision and together with the reviewers can certify the scientific soundness of articles with their names. Hence the distributed power in Frontiers comes with responsibility, accountability and recognition of services to the community.

Frontiers operates its programs based on a commitment to science conducted in a collaborative spirit, openly shared, and assessed exclusively for its scientific merit. These commitments guide us in defining our editorial policy and processes, which aim to be fair and constructive to authors, effective and efficient. Frontiers seeks technological solutions for many of the routine aspects of publishing process, for which our workflows have been defined – and continue to be revised and improved – with careful consideration of our open-access principles. Gaining efficiency through technology is a central part of the business strategy of Frontiers because it allows us to provide a cost-effective and high-quality service to many authors.

Our editors are free to accept for publication research papers, opinion and perspective articles, and the other article types that they see sound for the Journal, in the spirit of “community-based editorial independence.”

Journal structure

The basic editorial unit at Frontiers is the Specialty Section. The Specialty Chief Editor is the editorial authority for the Section. He or she is responsible for establishing the Mission Statement for the Section, as well as for the nomination of a board of Associate Editors. As such, the Specialty Chief Editor is free to define the scope of content to be published in the specialty section, in consultation with the Field Chief Editor and the Frontiers Editorial Office, the latter who manages questions of coordination with other Journals of our program. The nomination of adequate Associate Editors is of particular importance, because the former handle the review process and have the power to accept manuscripts or recommend their rejection. Frontiers as the publisher considers, accepts and appoints the Chief Editors nominated. Frontiers editorial office staff research leading experts in the respective specialties continuously and routinely suggest Associate Editors, but they are appointed together with the Specialty Chief Editor. Specialty Chief Editors, Associate Editors and Editorial Office staff can appoint Review Editors. Specialty Chief Editors and Associate Editors are required to be among the international leaders in their field, and the boards should provide balanced representation across the field in terms of demographics, gender and expertise. Review Editors should be established or emerging leaders in their field. All editorial board members – Chief Editors, Associate Editors and Review Editors – are vetted according to strict excellence criteria. This puts into action the principle of Frontiers that the evaluation and handling of manuscripts is carried out by active leading researchers.

A Field Journal is a collection of core communities defined by the Specialty Sections; this tiered structure provides the basis for our journals program and, notably, allows for bridging across the limits of traditional discipline boundaries. The role of the Field Chief Editor is to lead the college of Specialty Chief Editors by assuring a balanced and comprehensive coverage of the Field, in a collaborative and productive spirit. The Field Chief Editor is the primary consultant to the Frontiers Editorial Office for matters related to the entire Field. The Specialty Chief Editors are the primary consultants to the Frontiers Editorial Office, i.e. the Journal Manager, for matters related to the Specialty, in particular, help and support with selection of Associate and Review Editors, support with the platform and peer-review (decisions to accept or reject are taken by the external editorial board, but staff at Frontiers supports monitoring quality, possible conflicts of interests and delays in the process). Our Editorial Boards determine the suitability and quality of scientific content within each discipline, while Frontiers policies ensure that the consistency of Frontiers model is maintained across all of our publications.

The Review Editor

The primary role of the Review Editor is to provide an expert review of Frontiers articles in a collaborative, transparent and efficient manner. Frontiers acknowledges the role of the reviewer by naming the person to the editorial board and by publishing the name of the Review Editor on every published paper. Frontiers is a pioneer in reviewer recognition.

Publishing the name of the Review Editor requires Frontiers to have particularly strong processes in place to manage any conflicts of interest, both real and perceived. These are monitored from the very day of the manuscript submission, right through to a final check in the production stage. The transparency of our policy to publish the name of the Review Editor is both a call to responsible conduct and an ultimate protection against hidden and undeclared conflicts of interest.

The Associate Editor

The primary role of the Associate Editor is to directly oversee the interaction between the Review Editors and Authors during the peer-review process at Frontiers. The role is fully defined in the Terms and Conditions and includes the following responsibilities:

• Contribute to the building of a Review Editorial Board, by appointing at least 20 expert researchers;

• submission an inaugural article to the Specialty Section, which is free of charge; this sets an example for the newly formed journal and ensures a successful kick-off.

• guiding of the peer-review of articles and ensuring that the review is carried out according to the Frontiers peer-review guidelines;

• coaching and assisting of the review editorial board to carry out their role in refereeing articles;

• making the final decision whether or not a paper is acceptable for publication by ensuring all quality, validity and ethical standards have been met and that all Review Editors agree to the publication;

• recommending rejection of a paper if Review Editors unanimously agree that an article is not acceptable for publication.

The name and institutional affiliation of the Associate Editor, along with those of the Review Editors, is published on every Frontiers paper, thereby acknowledging their service to the entire community and also as a call to responsible conduct.

The Specialty Chief Editor

The Specialty Chief Editor has the ultimate responsibility for leading, guiding and supervising the activities related to his or her Section, as described above in this document. The Specialty Chief Editor is expected to define the editorial scope and ambition of the Specialty Section through the preparation of a Mission Statement and the publication of a Specialty Grand Challenge article. In addition, the Specialty Chief Editor helps build a strong board of Associate Editors, to whom the responsibility for the peer- review process is delegated. The board should be as balanced as possible, in terms of expertise, demographic and gender. The Specialty Chief Editor is responsible for building a community and for raising the integrity of the science and that of the scientists in their community, but the primary role of the Chief Editor is that of an enabler and arbiter, overseeing that the editors and reviewers act appropriately and get the best out of the Frontiers peer-review system and engaging them to guide where needed. Nevertheless, the Specialty Chief Editor is fully empowered to act at all levels and at any stage of the peer-review process. The role is fully described in the Terms and Conditions. On the operational level, the Specialty Chief Editor establishes and oversees the evaluation of manuscripts through the following mechanisms:

• The Specialty Chief Editor appoints trusted Associate Editors, who will handle the review process for the manuscripts submitted to the section.

• The Specialty Chief Editor receives an e-mail upon every submission to the Section, with information about the author and the preferred AE.

• The system provides full selective control of the AE, for example by providing time so that the Specialty Chief Editor can reassign AEs before any invitations are sent.

• The Specialty Chief Editor has full and continuous access to the Review Forum, where she/he can change the Associate Editor assignment at any stage in the process

• The Specialty Chief Editor can follow the progress of all papers in the review process on the Frontiers platform.

For high throughput journals, each Specialty Chief Editor receives a weekly digest of articles under review and of required actions

SCEs will receive a final notification when an article is provisionally accepted, allowing for a quick check that the Associate Editor and Review Editors have accomplished their tasks adequately (available in June 2015).

Some of our Specialty Chief Editors are not aware of the full potential of the platform technology. If you have any questions, please contact your Journal Manager for a demo, or request access to the next Frontiers webinar, which will focus on Specialty Chief Editor productivity (April 2015).

The Field Chief Editor

The Field Chief Editor leads and supervises the Field Journal with the aim to build the community of researchers in the field, drive publications to fully represent the research activity of the community, and build the quality and reputation of the field. Frontiers Field Journals are expected to become leading journals in their domains, both in terms of volume of articles published and of article citations. The primary task of the Field Chief Editor is to build, support and maintain a college of Specialty Chief Editors, who together provide comprehensive expertise across the Field and who are recognized and respected authorities in their domain of interest. The Field Chief Editor is expected to define the editorial scope and ambition of the Field Journal through the preparation of a Mission Statement and the publication of a Field Challenge article. She or he works with the editorial office to divide the Field into appropriate Specialty Sections, taking into account consistency with existing Fields, and the Field Chief Editor recruits renowned experts to lead these Sections. The Field Chief Editor leads the college of Specialty Chief Editors in the implementation of the Frontiers publishing model and principles, monitoring their tasks, encouraging team spirit, and taking the lead on building the reputation of the Journal. The role is fully defined in the Terms and Conditions.

DEMAND BY CHIEF EDITORS OF FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE & FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE:

1.3 Editors-in-chief should have full authority over the editorial content of the journal, generally referred to as “editorial independence.” Editorial content includes original research, opinion articles and news reports, both in print or electronic format, and how and when information is published. Owners should not interfere in the evaluation, selection or editing of individual articles, either directly or by creating an environment in which editorial decisions are strongly influenced.1

What specific steps will be taken by the Publisher to meet the WAME requirements under 1.3?

RESPONSE FROM FRONTIERS: The evaluation, selection and editing of individual articles has always been and always will be entirely to the discretion of the Editorial Boards. Associate Editors together cover the expertise needed to direct science for the community. They are all world leaders and should be trusted. Chief Editors have full authority, but not sole authority. Journal Managers provide only a support function to these ends.

1.4 Editorial decisions should be based mainly on the validity of the work and its importance to readers, not the policies or commercial success of the owner. Editors should be free to publish critical but responsible views about all aspects of medicine without fear of retribution, even if these views might conflict with the policies or commercial goals of the owner. To maintain this position, editors should seek input from a broad array of advisors such as reviewers, editorial staff, an editorial board, and readers.1

What specific steps will be taken by the Publisher to meet the WAME requirements under 1.4?

RESPONSE FROM FRONTIERS: At Frontiers, the separation of the roles of the Editors and the Frontiers Editorial Office is crystal clear. All editorial assessments are made exclusively by Review, Associate and Chief Editors based on the soundness of the research, not the potential impact or importance of the reader. Frontiers as a publisher has never had any wish to have influence over the content that is published. As a publisher, Frontiers has the full prerogative to promote the journals, the Frontiers model and the services we take enormous time and expense to develop for the community.

DEMAND BY CHIEF EDITORS OF FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE & FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE:

1.5 Editors-in-chief should establish procedures that guard against the influence of commercial, organizational, and personal self-interest on editorial decisions and should make these procedures clear and transparent to all interested parties. They should be compensated for their work on the journal in a manner that does not create a conflict of interest for the manuscripts they consider (see Conflict of Interest Policy Statement).1

What specific steps will be taken by the Publisher to meet the WAME requirements under 1.5?

RESPONSE FROM FRONTIERS: Frontiers has a scientifically designed model for publishing that has carefully considers every conceivable issue of conflict of interest and has developed mechanisms to address them. Compensation for Field Chief Editors is a flat honorarium of €15’000 per annum, regardless of volume of submissions. The schedule for the honoraria for Specialty Chief Editors is based on the volume of submissions, but not on acceptances. Associate Editors, who are in charge of article acceptances, and Review Editors are not awarded honoraria. There is no financial award that can lead to a conflict of interest.

DEMAND BY CHIEF EDITORS OF FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE & FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE:

1.6 Editors-in-chief should report to the highest governing body of the owning organization, not its administrative officers. Major decisions regarding the editor’s employment should be made by this body with open discussion and time to hear from all interested parties. Some organizations have found it useful to establish an independent oversight committee to advise them on major decisions regarding their editor and journal. Both owners and editors should have a meaningful role in appointment of members, since both are stake-holders in the committee’s effectiveness. The work of such committees should be transparent and publicly available.1

What specific steps will be taken by the Publisher to meet the WAME requirements under 1.6?

RESPONSE FROM FRONTIERS: We apologize if it was ever felt that you do not have access to the highest levels of governance of Frontiers. Frontiers has a very flat governance structure and all editors have direct access to the highest governing body of Frontiers (Frontiers Executive Editor and Frontiers Editor-in-Chief as well as the Chief Executive Officer if necessary). To the best of our knowledge any communication with any of these individuals has been immediately reciprocated. Program Coordinators and Journal Managers work with Chief Editors and Associate Editors on a day-to-day basis to ensure the smooth running of the journals. Frontiers has a board of select Field Chief Editors for consultation when deemed necessary. Frontiers brings its college of Field Chief Editors together occasionally for a meeting, the next which will be held in Switzerland in June 2015.

DEMAND BY CHIEF EDITORS OF FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE & FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE:

1.7 Editors should resist any actions that might compromise these principles in their journals, even if it places their own position at risk. If major transgressions do occur, all editors should participate in drawing them to the attention of the international medical, academic, and lay communities.

WAME Regulations for Handling of Responses to Possible Misconduct1

1.8. Journals should have an explicit policy describing the process by which they will respond to allegations of misconduct. In drafting such a policy, the guidance provided to editors by a publication of the US Office of Research Integrity may be useful (www.http://ori.hhs.gov/ori-responses-issues).

What specific steps will be taken by the Publisher to meet the WAME requirements under 1.8?

RESPONSE FROM FRONTIERS: Frontiers uses the COPE flowcharts to guide it in cases of misconduct: (http://publicationethics.org/resources/flowcharts). In addition to registering our Journals with the ICMJE, Frontiers plans to become a member of COPE in 2015. You will find ample information at this website for most imaginable scenarios of scientific misconduct. We are fully aware of all recommendations related to the COPE guidelines (Dr. Mirjam Curno, our Editorial Office Manager, is a COPE Council Member).

DEMAND BY CHIEF EDITORS OF FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE & FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE:

1.9 The process described in the following paragraphs is an example of a policy for an individual journal1:

All allegations of misconduct will be referred to the Editor-In-Chief, who will review the circumstances in consultation with the deputy editors. Initial fact-finding will usually include a request to all the involved parties to state their case, and explain the circumstances, in writing. In questions of research misconduct centering on methods or technical issues, the Editor-In- Chief may confidentially consult experts who are blinded to the identity of the individuals, or if the allegation is against an editor, an outside editor expert. The Editor-In-Chief and deputy editors will arrive at a conclusion as to whether there is enough evidence to lead a reasonable person to believe there is a possibility of misconduct. Their goal is not to determine if actual misconduct occurred, or the precise details of that misconduct.1

What specific steps will be taken by the Publisher to meet the WAME requirements under 1.9?

RESPONSE FROM FRONTIERS: This is an “example of a policy for an existing journal,” which follows closely our own policy, which is based on the COPE flowcharts. We recognize the need to publish our policy explicitly on our website, and this will be done within a few months of the date of this writing. (April 2015).

DEMAND BY CHIEF EDITORS OF FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE & FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE:

1.10 When allegations concern authors, the peer review and publication process for the manuscript in question will be halted while the process above is carried out. The investigation described above will be completed even if the authors withdraw their paper, and the responses below will still be considered. In the case of allegations against reviewers or editors, they will be replaced in the review process while the matter is investigated.1

What specific steps will be taken by the Publisher to meet the WAME requirements under 1.10?

RESPONSE FROM FRONTIERS: This is consistent with the COPE flowcharts Frontiers uses to guide it in cases of misconduct.

DEMAND BY CHIEF EDITORS OF FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE & FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE:

1.11 All such allegations should be kept confidential; the number of inquiries and those involved should be kept to the minimum necessary to achieve this end. Whenever possible, references to the case in writing should be kept anonymous. Journals have an obligation to readers and patients to ensure that their published research is both accurate and adheres to the highest ethical standard. Therefore, if the inquiry concludes there is a reasonable possibility of misconduct, responses should be undertaken, chosen in accordance with the apparent magnitude of the misconduct. Responses may be applied separately or combined, and their implementation should depend on the circumstances of the case as well as the responses of the participating parties and institutions.1

What specific steps will be taken by the Publisher to meet the WAME requirements under 1.11?

RESPONSE FROM FRONTIERS: This is consistent with the COPE flowcharts Frontiers uses to guide it in cases of misconduct.

DEMAND BY CHIEF EDITORS OF FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE & FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE:

WAME recommendations on Publication Ethics Policies for Medical Publishing1

The purpose of a policy on ethical principles

1.12 Medical journals aspire to select, through peer review, the highest quality science. To achieve this, the entire peer review and publication process must be thorough, objective, and fair. Almost every aspect of this process involves important ethical principles and decisions, which are seldom explicitly stated and even less often shared with the readership. Journals’ reputations depend on the trust of readers, authors, researchers, reviewers, editors, patients, research subjects, funding agencies, and administrators of public health policy. This trust is enhanced by describing as explicitly as possible the journal’s policies to ensure the ethical treatment of all participants in the publication process.1

What specific steps will be taken by the Publisher to meet the WAME requirements under 1.12?

RESPONSE FROM FRONTIERS: Frontiers review process is at the core of its concerns.

At Frontiers, peer review is purposefully interactive, transparent and accountable, enabling discussion between all members of a review to collaboratively work towards the best possible publication and acknowledging reviewers as well as the editor for their contribution. All assessments are made exclusively based on the soundness of the research, not the potential impact or importance of the results. Editors and reviewers interact through the Frontiers Review Forum, which translates our principles into an efficient workflow that benefits editors, reviewers and authors. This tool is fundamental in our ability to serve large numbers of authors in an efficient manner, thus gaining efficiency required for the success of our journals program.

Frontiers publishes the full spectrum of academic contributions. The review mandate is “impact neutral” and focused on the scientific correctness of articles; editors and reviewers are expected to accept any publication they are prepared to publicly validate as a sound scientific report that is without scientific errors. Application of this objective threshold for acceptance provides the best service to authors, acknowledges the role of the editors and reviewers, and protects the reputation of Frontiers.

DEMAND BY CHIEF EDITORS OF FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE & FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE:

• INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF MEDICAL JOURNAL EDITORS (ICMJE)2

• The Publisher states on their websites of the journals Frontiers in Medicine, Frontiers in Surgery, and Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine that the regulations published by the International Committee of Medical journal Editors (ICMJE)2 apply. These regulations include guaranteeing editorial freedom of the journal editors. As reported under Section A, several relevant infractions of the Editors’ editorial independence by the Publisher’s staff are documented. The Editors of the Frontiers medical journals thus demand that the Publisher expresses in writing and in clear terms on how the following requirements of the ICMJE regulations will be met:

Editorial Freedom2

2.1 The ICMJE adopts the World Association of Medical Editors’ (WAME) definition of editorial freedom1, which holds that editors-in-chief have full authority over the entire editorial content of their journal and the timing of publication of that content. Journal owners should not interfere in the evaluation, selection, scheduling, or editing of individual articles either directly or by creating an environment that strongly influences decisions.2

What specific steps will be taken by the Publisher to meet the ICMJE requirements under 2.1?

RESPONSE FROM FRONTIERS: Frontiers in full agreement that the notion of editorial independence is one based on content. Frontiers is perhaps the most extreme example of this – editors can act freely and at any time without consulting the editorial office, should they deem necessary. Frontiers insists, however, that the entire editorial board, including the Associate Editors, is integral to this policy. It is a reinforcement of the ethical standards that the decisional power is decentralized throughout the editorial board and not held by a single person, no matter how expert this person is. The boards of Associate Editors (and also Review Editors) are of highest caliber and, once appointed, they can be trusted to act responsibly and to the best of their capability. In addition, each Associate and Review Editor stands with their name for the scientific soundness of papers published in Frontiers. The Associate Editors are therefore also enormously empowered in the Frontiers model and recognized for the service they perform to the entire community.

DEMAND BY CHIEF EDITORS OF FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE & FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE:

2.2. Editors should base editorial decisions on the validity of the work and its importance to the journal’s readers, not on the commercial implications for the journal, and editors should be free to express critical but responsible views about all aspects of medicine without fear of retribution, even if these views conflict with the commercial goals of the publisher.2

What specific steps will be taken by the Publisher to meet the ICMJE requirements under 2.2?

RESPONSE FROM FRONTIERS: The evaluation, selection and editing of individual articles has always been and always will be entirely to the discretion of the Editorial Boards. Journal Managers provide a support function to these ends.

DEMAND BY CHIEF EDITORS OF FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE & FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE:

2.3 Editors-in-chief should also have the final say in decisions about which advertisements or sponsored content, including supplements, the journal will and will not carry, and they should have final say in use of the journal brand and in overall policy regarding commercial use of journal content.2

What specific steps will be taken by the Publisher to meet the ICMJE requirements under 2.3?

RESPONSE FROM FRONTIERS: In the general sense of the full collection of Frontiers products and services, this is the prerogative of the publisher, and this right is exercised by virtually all publishers. Having said that, Frontiers currently does not carry advertising, and specifically does not carry advertising on the website pages of its individual Journals, which is the crux of this point. In the same way that Frontiers respects the Editorial Independence, the editors should respect Frontiers’ prerogative to ensure a successful publishing environment and business. The barrier for editorial independence goes both ways. Involving editors in the business of publishing could damage the integrity of publishing.

DEMAND BY CHIEF EDITORS OF FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE & FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE:

2.4 Journals are encouraged to establish an independent editorial advisory board to help the editor establish and maintain editorial policy. Editors should seek input as needed from a broad array of advisers, such as reviewers, editorial staff, an editorial board, and readers, to support editorial decisions and potentially controversial expressions of opinion, and owners should ensure that appropriate insurance is obtained in the event of legal action against the editors, and should ensure that legal advice is available when necessary.2

What specific steps will be taken by the Publisher to meet the ICMJE requirements under 2.4?

RESPONSE FROM FRONTIERS: Field Chief Editors and Specialty Chief Editors are free to seek advice, either within or outside the established editorial boards, concerning the publication of potentially controversial expressions of opinion. Such expressions are entirely in the control of the Chief Editors, and Frontiers will not prevent such publication. The principle of editorial independence may expose Frontiers to potential risks, for example if Associate or Chief Editors accept papers that become the object of legal action. Frontiers vigorously defends its editors in such cases with its own professional legal counsel.

DEMAND BY CHIEF EDITORS OF FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE & FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE:

2.5 If legal problems arise, the editor should inform their legal adviser and their owner and/or publisher as soon as possible. Editors should defend the confidentiality of authors and peer-reviewers (names and reviewer comments) in accordance with ICMJE policy2 (see Section II C.2.a). Editors should take all reasonable steps to check the facts in journal commentary, including that in news sections and social media postings, and should ensure that staff working for the journal adhere to best journalistic practices including contemporaneous note-taking and seeking a response from all parties when possible before publication. Such practices in support of truth and public interest may be particularly relevant in defense against legal allegations of libel.2

What specific steps will be taken by the Publisher to meet the ICMJE requirements under 2.5?

RESPONSE FROM FRONTIERS: Frontiers agrees that Editors should inform us immediately if and when legal problems arise. Frontiers maintains a complete and unabridged record of all written communications, should these become needed to support a defense in cases of allegations of libel. Frontiers vigorously defends its editors in such cases with its own professional legal counsel, who are experienced in the matters of intellectual property.

DEMAND BY CHIEF EDITORS OF FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE & FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE:

2.6 To secure editorial freedom in practice, the editor should have direct access to the highest level of ownership, not to a delegated manager or administrative officer.2

What specific steps will be taken by the Publisher to meet the ICMJE requirements under 2.6?

RESPONSE FROM FRONTIERS: See Response 1.6. Both Field Chief Editors and Specialty Chief Editors report and can escalate issues to the highest governing body of Frontiers (Frontiers Executive Editor and Frontiers Editor-in- Chief as well as the Chief Executive Officer if necessary). Program Coordinators and Journal Managers work with Chief Editors and Associate Editors on a day-to-day basis to ensure the smooth running of the journals. Frontiers has a board of select Field Chief Editors for consultation when deemed necessary. Frontiers brings its college of Field Chief Editors together occasionally for a meeting, the next which will be held in Switzerland in June 2015.

DEMAND BY CHIEF EDITORS OF FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE & FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE:

2.7 Editors and editors’ organizations are obliged to support the concept of editorial freedom and to draw major transgressions of such freedom to the attention of the international medical, academic, and lay communities.2

III. COMMITTEE ON PUBLICATION ETHICS (COPE)

— PROMOTING INTEGRITY IN RESEARCH PUBLICATION3

The Publisher states on their websites of the journals Frontiers in Medicine, Frontiers in Surgery, and Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine that the regulations published by the Committee of Publication Ethics (COPE) apply. These regulations include guaranteeing editorial freedom of the journal editors, particularly the Editors-in-Chief and their Editors. As reported under Section A, several relevant infractions of the Editors’ editorial independence by the Publisher’s staff are documented. The Editors of the Frontiers medical journals thus demand that The Publisher expresses in writing and in clear terms how the following points issued in the COPE regulations will be met.

COPE – Code of Conduct for Publishers3

3.1 Publishers who are Committee on Publication Ethics members and who support COPE membership for journal editors should:3

• Follow this code, and encourage the editors they work with to follow the COPE Code of Conduct for Journal Editors (http://publicationethics.org/files/u2/New Code.pdf )
• Ensure the editors and journals they work with are aware of what their membership of COPE provides and entails
• Provide reasonable practical support to editors so that they can follow the COPE Code of Conduct for Journal Editors (http://publicationethics.oro/files/u21New Code.pdf )

What specific steps will be taken by the Publisher to meet the COPE requirements under 3.1?

RESPONSE FROM FRONTIERS: Frontiers agrees to these points.

DEMAND BY CHIEF EDITORS OF FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE & FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE:

3.2 Publishers should:

• Define the relationship between publisher, editor and other parties in a contract
• Respect privacy (for example, for research participants, for authors, for peer reviewers)
• Protect intellectual property and copyright
• Foster editorial independence

What specific steps will be taken by the Publisher to meet the COPE requirements under 3.2?

RESPONSE FROM FRONTIERS: Frontiers agrees to these points (except to note that the names of our peer reviewers is made public on each published paper, and our copyright policy is to allow all authors to retain copyright for their contributions).

DEMAND BY CHIEF EDITORS OF FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE & FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE:

3.3 Publishers should work with journal editors to:

Set journal policies appropriately and aim to meet those policies, particularly with respect to:

• Editorial independence
• Research ethics, including confidentiality, consent, and the special requirements for human and animal research
• Authorship

Transparency and integrity (for example, conflicts of interest, research funding, reporting standards Peer review and the role of the editorial team beyond that of the journal editor

What specific steps will be taken by the Publisher to meet the COPE requirements under 3.3?

RESPONSE FROM FRONTIERS: Frontiers agrees to these points, as discussed in rather extensive detail above. Our specific definition of authorship, as published on our website, explains that “when determining authorship the following criteria should be observed: Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND Final approval of the version to be published; AND Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved. Contributors who meet fewer than all four of the above criteria for authorship should not be listed as authors, but they should be acknowledged.”

Section D

DEMAND BY CHIEF EDITORS OF FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE & FRONTIERS IN CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE:

Summary and Demands to Reinstate the Editorial Independence of the Editors

In the present manifesto, the Editors have summarized the interference with their editorial independence/editorial freedom and the international medical publishing regulations. Specifically, the documented actions of Publisher’s staff not only represent infractions of editorial independence but also violate the existing publishing regulations1-3. The Editors therefore demand the Publisher to

• Provide full information whether and how the WAME, the ICMJE, and the COPE requirements will be met
• Provide full information about the reported incidents violating the Editors’ editorial independence, how incidents were resolved and future recurrences prevented
• Ensure that the full editorial independence of Editors and Editors-in-Chief is established and warranted
• Install independent editorial offices for the Frontiers medical journals and prevent any staff of the Publisher from handling or interfering with the peer review process and code of conduct violations.
• Provide full information about publication charges decisions for Frontiers medical journal articles

The Publisher is required to respond to the Editors within four weeks of receipt of this manifesto and to address in full items 1.1-1.6, 1.8-1.12, 2.1-2.6, and 3.1-3.3 of the regulations (Section C) in writing. The response should be sent to the attention of the Editors-in-Chiefs of the above journals. The regulations of the WAME and the ICMJE require medical journal editors to inform editors’ organizations, the international medical, academic, and lay communities about transgressions of editorial independence (1.7 and 2.7, Section C). The Editors hope that the Publisher will swiftly respond and implement changes that comply with the above international medical publishing requirements and ensure that the Editors’ full editorial independence is established and warranted.


Footnotes

Frontiers Medical Journal Editors’ Manifesto of Editorial Independence – March 23, 2015 (13 pages)

About Michelle Ponto (57 Articles)
Michelle Ponto is the Media and Communications Manager at Frontiers. MEDIA REQUESTS: To set up an interview with Frontiers' CEO Kamila Markram or any one of our journal managers, please email Michelle at Michelle.Ponto@frontiersin.org.

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. Open Science and scholarly publishing roundup – May 22, 2015 | Frontiers Blog

Comments are closed.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 116 other followers

%d bloggers like this: