No bottom to worse at Elsevier?

Like Dorothea, I haven’t said anything about the slimy Merck/Elsevier fake publication deal, because I thought the blogosphere had plenty of coverage. Anyone who reads me would know all about the scandal.
The latest development, though, strikes me as something that should be shouted from every available rooftop: Elsevier simply must answer the questions raised.
Via Dorothea: Jonathan Rochkind has done a little “forensic librarianship” and raised astonishing questions about the entire imprint, Excerpta Medica, which published the fake journal that started all of this.
Go read Jonathan, but the bottom line is this: Excerpta Medica does not provide a straightforward list of its own publications or make clear which are, ahem, “industry-sponsored“.
Jonathan says “WorldCat lists 50 publications by Excerpta Medica Communications”; I just tried a simple author search for that phrase and got only 21 results, including the recently-exposed-as-fake Australasian journal of bone & joint medicine; how many others are fake? How about the other fourteen thirteen “Australasian Journal of” titles in the same list:

  • Australasian journal of asthma
  • Australasian journal of bone & joint medicine
  • Australasian journal of dentistry
  • Australasian journal of depression
  • Australasian journal of gastroenterology
  • Australasian journal of hospital pharmacy
  • Australasian journal of infectious diseases
  • Australasian journal of musculoskeletal medicine
  • Australasian journal of obstetrics & gynaecology
  • Australasian journal of paediatrics
  • Australasian journal of pain management
  • Australasian journal of psychiatry
  • Australasian journal of respiratory medicine
  • Australasian journal of sexual health

Why, for one thing, are none of them indexed by Science Direct? The PubMed journal limit field contains only Australasian journals of dermatology, pharmacy and optometry; the latter two seem to be defunct and the first is published by Wiley.
Futher obvious questions arising:

  • What exactly were the 11 “publications” mentioned in this case study, and where were they published?

    Excerpta Medica published more than 11 scientific publications, all offering medical education credits, and targeting medical specialties from the clinical pharmacist to the physician specialist and emergency nurse. Over 700,000 of these publications have been sent to medical professionals to build awareness…

  • Someone should take a close look at the publications (and faculty) mentioned in this case study:

    Excerpta Medica summarized the issues and recommendations from these [“faculty-led regional advisory board”] meetings and communicated them in a funneled approach, beginning with broad reach and comprehensive content, to more regionally focused publications.
    Excerpta Medica first created a full issue and subsequent supplement of Clinical Cornerstone™, the company’s proprietary, peer-reviewed, indexed, continuing medical education (CME) journal distributed to 75,000 physicians. As a result, the data gained significant credibility within the larger physician community.
    The final published product from these regional meetings was a series of regional newsletters. The newsletters referenced the indexed Clinical Cornerstone publications and also highlighted the leading regional attendees on the cover to establish credibility and regional buy-in with the recipients. Approximately 2000 copies of each newsletter were sent to physicians in each region.

  • What exactly is the “company-sponsored journal” created in this case study? We’re told that

    The quarterly publication was created to build awareness of the disease [targeted by the client’s product] and prepare the specialist and primary markets for future indications. It was also designed to establish this client as one of the industry’s authorities on cardiovascular disease.

    and that

    The clinical content was complemented with high-quality photographic images, giving each issue a very professional and attractive appearance.
    […]
    The publication was launched in December 2004 and continues to run today. Circulation has increased from 10,000 at launch to 17,000 currently and includes such specialties as cardiology, diabetology, nephrology, internal medicine, and general practice.

    but not the name of the journal. Wanna bet it starts with “Australasian journal of…”?

3 thoughts on “No bottom to worse at Elsevier?

  1. The online free worldcat.org does not let you search by ‘publisher’.
    But if your institution has access to FirstSearch WorldCat interface, you can search a ‘publisher’ index, and that’s where I searched for ‘excerpta medica’ and got my hits. I suppose I can probably do that again and copy and paste…
    The phrase “excerpta medica” seems to be used by Elsevier in all sorts of contexts that I’m not confident are a medical PR firm. (That’s what the “EM” in EMBase stand for).
    So this is a phrase search for “excerpta medica communications” in publisher field.
    I’m currently only seeing 22 hits, mostly all journals. i could swear that yesterday I saw 50, some of which were conference proceedings (from real or fake conferences? I dunno), but maybe I did a slightly different search then.
    These are of course just titles that happen to have wound up in WorldCat somehow, it’s not necessarily an exhaustive list. Most of these titles have no holdings in WorldCat. Not sure how they ended up in WorldCat, but most records have a note “ISSN prepublication record.” Sounds like someone did get them from the ISSN authority? Still wonder why they don’t show in Ulrichs.
    I think all of these records were specifically published in Australia: “Chatswood, N.S.W. : Excerpta Medica Communications.” Excerpta Medica Communications itself is not specifically an Australian operation, but then, the fake Merck journal wasn’t targetted only at Australian doctors. Maybe they use their NSW subsidiary for journal publishing? I dunno.
    Australasian journal of general practice 1444-5255
    Australasian journal of cardiology.
    1446-3652
    Een nieuwe heup
    Cognition & schizophrenia
    Australasian journal of bone & joint medicine
    1447-5529
    Australasian journal of cardiovascular medicine
    1444-044X
    Australasian journal of paediatrics
    1446-4004
    Australasian journal of obstetrics & gynaecology
    1446-4012
    Australasian journal of dentistry.
    1446-4055
    Australasian journal of infectious diseases
    1446-4063
    Australasian journal of pain management.
    1446-4071
    Australasian journal of respiratory medicine.
    1446-408X
    Australasian journal of sexual health.
    1446-4101
    Australasian journal of psychiatry.
    1446-3768
    Australasian journal of asthma.
    1446-411X
    Australasian journal of gastroenterology.
    1446-4136
    Australasian journal of hospital pharmacy.
    1446-4144
    Reviews in clinical neurology.
    1447-7491
    Australasian journal of depression.
    1446-4152
    Core journals in oncology.
    1447-7521
    Oncology update.
    SSN: 1447-753X; Other format’s ISSN: 1447-7548

  2. For the record, I could not find any of the titles in Bill’s original list in Scopus. I started through Jonathan’s additions, though. There were no direct hits for “Oncology update”, but there were 180 references in articles in Scopus pointing to that journal. Likewise, there were 14 references to articles in “Reviews in clinical neurology” but no direct hits from that journal title in Scopus. 112 hits in references to “Cognition & schizophrenia” — again, no direct hits in Scopus by title.
    I’m not quite sure what to make of these findings…

  3. You may wish to read the report in The Scientist at the following link. It has a list of the “six titles in a “series of sponsored article publications” … put out by their Australia office and bore the Excerpta Medica imprint from 2000 to 2005..” There is also a link in the article to a statement by Michael Hansen, CEO of Elsevier’s Health Sciences Division, regarding the six journals.
    http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55679/#comments
    As an academic medical librarian for over 30 years, I am very familiar with Excerpta Medica and Elsevier.
    For many years Excerpta Medica Foundation published the
    International Congress Series
    which began with no. 1 in 1952 and ceased with no. 1304 in 2007. These were the proceedings of international meetings, and many academic medical libraries subscribed to the series and cataloged them in what is now WorldCat. I cannot say for sure, but I believe these were legitimate conference proceedings that would not have been published without Excepta Medica.
    Excerpta Medica Foundation also published an abstract journal that was international in scope and attempted to cover the world’s biomedical literature very broadly. It was published in many subject sections and most academic medical libraries tried to subscribe to it for as long as they could afford it. The online version of this is what is now called EMBase. Excerpta Medica was invaluable in its coverage of regional and small national biomedical journals, and by the fact that it included abstracts of articles that might take weeks or months to obtain, if at all.
    Through these very respected publishing and abstracting services, Excerpta Medica developed a reputation that was recognized and highly regarded.
    But it is clear to me that scientific journal publishing has morphed over the past 10 years, publishing houses continue to consolidate, and many are now being run by the marketing division, not by the editorial division of the publishing houses. Some of these publishers with gold standard brands are trading on their reputations to generate more sales and income with not much regard for the quality of what is being published.
    Elsevier has morphed, and so has Nature.
    I think that now is the time for scientists and their scientific societies to take back the role of reviewing and publishing science. It is too important to be farmed out to commercial publishers.

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