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News from the open access movement

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Richard Poynder interviews the publisher of Dove Medical Press

Richard Poynder, The Open Access Interviews: Dove Medical Press, Open and Shut?  November 6, 2008.  An interview with Tim Hill, Publisher of Dove Medical Press, an OA publisher based in Auckland, New Zealand.  The lengthy introduction is a good primer on the suspicions that some OA publishers are cutting corners and giving OA journals a bad name.  Poynder interviewed Hill in part to get his responses to some of those suspicions about Dove.  Note his conclusion:  "While it does appear that there are a number of unscrupulous OA publishers operating, I could find no reason to conclude that Dove is one of them...."  Excerpt:

...[I]t is no surprise that we are seeing a flood of small new OA publishers entering the scholarly communication market, most of whom appear to have set themselves the ambitious task of creating a large portfolio of new journals very rapidly.

The arrival of these new publishers has been warmly received by OA advocates, most of whom view the rapid growth in the number of OA journals as evidence that a tipping point has been reached, and the OA movement has therefore finally won the argument. Today the Directory of Open Access Journals lists nearly 4,000 OA journals, and some expect to see a 50% growth in 2008.

But as the excitement has grown, so have the questions. Who are these new publishers? How are they recruiting their editorial boards, and attracting article submissions? How many of their journals actually have papers in them? And how are they evaluating papers before publishing them?

Information Today columnist Robin Peek, for instance, points out that, on closer inspection, many of the new journals appear to have very little (if any) content in them....

But the most frequently voiced concern is that these companies have been bombarding researchers with unsolicited e-mails inviting them to join editorial boards and to submit papers to journals an approach presumably adopted because of the need to sign up thousands of scholars in a very short space of time.

Dr Gunther Eysenbach, an associate professor at the University of Toronto, and founder and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Medical Internet Research, has been especially critical of these email campaigns, and penned several angry posts on his blog accusing the perpetrators of spamming researchers....One of the companies Eysenbach accused of spamming is Dove Medical Press....Eysenbach also implied that the publisher of Dove, Tim Hill, uses the alias Tom Hill to run a second publisher Libertas Academica both of which companies, said Eysenbach, publish "vanity journals which come in the disguise of serious open access journals."

Intrigued by these claims, I contacted Tim Hill, and invited him to do an email interview with me. Hill agreed readily, and answered my questions promptly. And, for the most part, he answered them directly. In the process, he explained that the only connection between Dove and Libertas Academica is that his son Thomas owns and operates the latter company....

When asked about his background, Hill said that he has 35 years experience in scholarly publishing, including 19 years as managing director of the New Zealand division of the well-regarded publishing company ALDIS International (acquired by Wolters Kluwer in 1997).

Hill added that while Dove was originally conceived as a traditional subscription-based publisher, the company is currently in the throes of being transformed into an OA publisher. And from Hill's description it would appear that Dove operates a perfectly respectable peer-review system. Indeed, speaking to me Hill emphasised high editorial standards, and said: "I believe that there is a real need for the traditional editorial standards to be applied to the growing number of Open Access publishers."

What about Eysenbach's claim that Dove has been spamming researchers? Hill denied that the company has done anything improper, saying he had been advised that Dove's emailing activities were not in breach of New Zealand's anti-spam laws. In any case, he added, the email campaigns have now been discontinued....

While it does appear that there are a number of unscrupulous OA publishers operating, I could find no reason to conclude that Dove is one of them....

RP: Can you say who the other [five] owners are [apart from yourself]?

TH: No....

RP: ...[M]any of [your journals] appear still to have no content. How many journals could be said to be "up and running" (with content)?

TH: There are some 60 journals with content that is currently progressing through our manuscript management system.

RP: How many papers have you published so far?

TH: To date we have published 2,200 papers....

RP: What opportunities does OA offer for small publishers? Does it perhaps level the playing field, and so make it easier for them to compete with large publishers?

TH: I think that there are opportunities for small publishers but only if they start from the premise of "how do I have to build my business in order to prosper in the OA world?" The old very high-margin business that the conventional controlled-access publishers enjoyed can't last, and they will struggle to adapt to the new reality of OA in their business....