Supplementary written evidence submitted
by Elsevier (PR 81a)|
I am writing to you following my appearance before
the Science and Technology Committee on 11 May as part of their
ongoing inquiry into Peer Review. I am grateful for being given
the opportunity to provide oral evidence as part of this important
The purpose of this letter is to provide additional
information regarding three specific points requested by the Committee
subsequent to my appearance on 11 May: (1) clarification of the
£2 billion investment made by publishing companies which
I cited during my oral evidence; (2) nature of the procedures
put in place by Elsevier to prevent the repeat of an isolated
case involving the Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine
where sponsored article compilation publications had been published
by a division of Elsevier on behalf of pharmaceutical clients
and were made to look like journals, but without proper disclosure
of their sponsorship; and (3) detail of editorial training provided
In the oral evidence provided to the Committee I
made reference when responding to a question posed by Mr Barwell
(Q103 in the Uncorrected Transcript of Oral Evidence) to the estimated
£2 billion of technology investment that has been made by
This industry estimate was based on a detailed review
of Elsevier's own technology investments, which were then extrapolated
to the entire industry. Elsevier investments in the period 2000-10
were around £600 million. Elsevier has a share of published
journal articles of around 20%. Extrapolating this to the industry
(600/0.2) gives a total of £3 billion. A lower estimate of
"in the order of £2 billion of investment" was
communicated in my oral evidence in order to allow for differences
in starting points for different publishers. This £2 billion
estimate was shared with trade bodies (The Publishers Association,
The International Association of STM Publishers and Association
of Learned and Professional Society Publishers) who endorsed the
estimate after consultation with a selection of their member publishers.
This estimate was incorporated into a broader presentation issued
by the three trade bodies which I have summarised in the table
below for ease of reference.
|Technology investment areas (2000-10)
||Industry estimate |
|Author submission & editorial systems
|e-journals and reference works back files
|Production Tracking Systems||>£50m
|Electronic Publishing Platforms, incl. search and discovery platforms
|Other related back-office and cross-industry systems. eg digital preservation, Crossref for linking, CrossCheck for plagiarism detection, creation of special font sets, development of technical standards
This estimate is for technology investments only and does not
include the cost of establishing journals, setting up and maintaining
Editorial Boards and marketing-related costs.
2. AUSTRALASIAN JOURNAL
During my oral evidence I committed to providing further information
regarding procedures which have been put in place by Elsevier
to ensure there is no repeat of an isolated case in Australia
where a series of sponsored article compilation publications had
been published in the Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint
Medicine by a division of Elsevier on behalf of pharmaceutical
clients and were made to look like journals, but without proper
disclosure of their sponsorship. This was an issue raised by Mr
Metcalfe during the oral evidence session (Q110-Q113 in the Uncorrected
Transcript of Oral Evidence).
This episode occurred when an Elsevier publicationthe Australasian
Journal of Bone and Joint Medicinepublished reprinted
original, peer-reviewed research articles, plus other summarised
articles, conference reviews and news clips and was single-sponsored
by a global pharmaceutical company. The employees responsible
for publishing this publication did not make the sponsorship sufficiently
clear to readers. I would like to state again that although isolated,
this incident was unacceptable and did not meet the high standards
of transparency and disclosure that Elsevier seeks to maintain.
An additional eight "Journal of" titles were published
with ads from multiple advertisers and therefore did not call
for additional disclosure. None of these titles were primary research
journals and should not have been called journals. Single issues
were typically distributed to between 2,000 and 10,000 general
practitioners (GP) in Australia, and the company is aware of one
issue that went to 20,000 (the estimated total number of GPs in
Australia). Customised and reprinted compilation publicationsincluding
the "Australasian Journal of" seriesare not posted
on Science Direct, Elsevier's electronic journal platform for
its peer reviewed STM journals. Also, they are not required to
be archived or retained.
When this practice was brought to the attention of senior Elsevier
management in 2009, a public statement was issued by Michael Hansen,
CEO of Elsevier's Health Sciences Division on 7 May 2009, making
clear that: "This was an unacceptable practice, and we regret
that it took place".
At the same time Elsevier also announced that an internal review
related to this episode had been launched.
2.2 Action taken by Elsevier
On 4 June 2009 a further public statement was issued by Elsevier
announcing that following the internal review, the company had
moved to provide consistent internal guidelines for its pharmaceutical
services divisions when producing reprints, article compilations
or custom publications on behalf of pharmaceutical companies.
While pharmaceutical services divisions often reprint peer reviewed
articles from Elsevier, they are managed separately from the division
that publishes the company's core collection of primary peer-reviewed
Elsevier also initiated a review of practices related to all article
reprint, compilation or custom publications and set out guidelines
on content, permission, use of imprint and repackaging to ensure
that such publications were not confused with Elsevier's core
peer review journals and that the sponsorship of any publication
is clearly disclosed.
On 16 February 2010 Elsevier announced that it was publicly sharing
its internal custom publication guidelines for producing custom
and sponsored publications.
These guidelines are publicly available and cover the necessity
for full disclosure of funding and the origin of content and provide
guidance on obtaining permission for the use of content.
The guidelines also point employees to best practices for medical
publications from the International Committee of Medical Journal
Editors (ICMJE), the Committee on Publications Ethics (COPE) and
the Institute of Medicine. Elsevier publishing units will consider
in their approval processes whether a custom publication is consistent
with Elsevier's historical standard for world-class content and
whether appropriate disclosures are made. They also need to follow
the established record retention policy to ensure the company
maintains an archive of all custom products produced.
Following the issuing of these new guidelines, affected employees
attended presentations on implementation. Elsevier management
continue to monitor and assess adherence to the guidelines and
standards by its business units globally.
3. TRAINING PROVIDED
At the request of the Committee, I would also like to detail the
training which is provided by Elsevier to the Editors of our journals.
Editors who are appointed are not usually new to journal publishing
and peer review. They are invariably experienced researchers who
have a track record of publishing in and refereeing for several
journals. Some have been Editorial Board members or associates
or Section Editors of journals before being appointed as Editors.
The support and training of journal Editors is a mixture of training
on specific tasks, sharing knowledge and providing guidance on
broader issues. The training which is detailed below applies mainly
to Editors who are external to Elsevier (the majority) and not
full-time employees as in the case for some top-end journals such
as The Lancet and Cell. However, the guiding principles
and policies that apply are the same. Editorial matters for some
learned society-owned journals, which are published by Elsevier
on a contractual basis, are wholly or partially managed by the
society. Elsevier advise and provide training and support as required
by the society.
3.2 Support and training provided
It is probably most useful to outline the support and training
provided by Elsevier to the Editors of our journals into three
areas: (1) that provided prior to appointment as an Editor; (2)
on appointment as a new Editor; and (3) on-going support and training.
3.2.1 Prior to appointment as Editor (or Editor-in-Chief)
Newly appointed Editors will usually have had the benefit of being
members of an Editorial Board or served as Associate Editors,
Regional Editors or Section Editors prior to their appointment.
Elsevier's public website
for Editors provides guidance and related reading to all Editors
and potential Editorsnot just those for Elsevier journalson
a range of issues including impact factors, peer review, ethical
issues, support for authors and reviewers, as well as links to
matters related to scientific publishing broadly. The site also
includes a guide to "Being an Editor-in-Chief on a primary
research journal" which Elsevier has produced with the help
of long-standing Editors and feedback received from existing Editors.
3.2.2 Appointment of new Editors
On appointment, new Editors are given an outline of responsibilities
in their contractual agreement and provided with a Welcome Pack
which, in some 50 pages, introduces new Editors to Elsevier, its
policies, procedures, the editorial and publishing teams which
support the journal, the peer review process including tools to
find reviewers, ethical guidelines, as well as support tools (please
see Appendix I for full contents list of the Welcome Pack. The
pack was last revised in March 2011 and updated twice a year).
In addition, new Editors are introduced to key publishing contact(s)
at Elsevier to discuss their needs and requirements, including
task areas and core responsibilities in a "how to be a successful
Editor" presentation and invited to one of two new editor
workshops/conferences held annually where they can discuss broader
topics in scientific publishing such as peer review, ethics, citation
metrics as well as get practical advice on day-to-day management
of journals such as working with electronic submission systems
or finding reviewers.
3.2.3 Ongoing support and training
Elsevier view as a priority the ongoing support and training provided
to our journal Editors. This is an understandably broad range
of activity and I have sought to summarise below the key constituents
of ongoing assistance provided to journal Editors:
liaison with publishing contacts on all matters related to the
journal. This is a core task of all publishing staff.
board meetingsperiodic meetings with the Editorial Board
of the journal, typically one such meeting is held each year per
website on Elsevier's public site that guides editors to resources
at their disposal, including policies and ethical guidelines.
(Editors' Update) which is a quarterly forum for sharing a broad
range of issues of relevance to journals Editors. Now in its 31st
issue, topics have included peer review, journal performance,
ethical issues related to research publishing, as well as tips
from experienced Editors
webinar series for Editors which so far has addressed women in
science, journal strategies, and peer review. When fully operational
we aim to run four to six such webinars ach year
conferences where Editors are invited to attend over a day and
a half to discuss longer-term and day-to-day issues. Together
with the new Editor conferences mentioned previously, we now have
five events each year and over 2,500 Editors (from across the
world) have attended the 40 conferences so far to discuss, share
and learn about new technologies, peer review approaches and processes,
ethical issues, strategies to address needs of the research community,
as well as practical matters on how to manage their roles and
how best to use the electronic systems provided to manage submissions,
identifying suitable referees, or deal with ethical problems.
The agenda from a recent conference is shown in Appendix II for
the reference of the Committee.
dedicated to providing training and support for the Elsevier Editorial
System (EES) for managing the submission and peer review process.
This team provides training via live online webinars, pre-recorded
tutorials, personal one-on-one contact, as well as online FAQs.
A team of 10 EES trainers in five countries provide training to
over 1200 Editors annually. The training desk site for EES (http://trainingdesk.elsevier.com/ees)
currently provides 26 recordings on specific functionality in
EES which receive approximately 7,000 unique visits from Editors
each month. The on-line support site for EES provides 45 interactive
tutorials for Editors covering the full spectrum of features available
in EES (http://support.elsevier.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/701).
These tutorials receive almost 8,000 unique hits per month. The
EES user guide for Editors explains the use of EES in greater
detail and is particularly useful for new Editors (http://support.elsevier.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/164).
on dealing with ethical issues is further supported through a
dedicated Publishing Ethics Resource Kit (PERK), which is an online
set of guidelines and decision trees to help editors navigate
specific issues. We work directly with editors in resolving ethical
issues. Editors can also refer matters to the Committee on Publication
Ethics (COPE) of which all Elsevier journals are paid up members.
of bibliometric (a set of methods used to study or measure texts
and information, most notably citation metrics) experts are on
hand to provide journal Editors with a range of analyses and advice
on the performance of their journals including presenting findings
at Editorial Board meetings.
feedback (from authors and reviewers) obtained and analysed every
quarter is shared with journal Editors periodically via publishing
contacts and at editorial board meetings.
I hope this letter has served to provide the level
of detail required by the Committee. Please do not hesitate to
contact me should you require anything further in this regard.
Senior Vice President
Research & Academic Relations
1 June 2011
CONTENTS OF ELSEVIER'S EDITOR WELCOME PACK
AGENDA FROM RECENT ELSEVIER EDITORS' CONFERENCE
SATURDAY 14 MAY
|08:40||Helping to Solve the Puzzles of Scholarly research by Making Content SmarterYS Chi
|09:30||The Changing Journal LandscapeMartin Tanke
|10:40||A Look at Trends in Journal PublishingMayur Amin
|11:30||Journal Measures and ReportingCarl Schwarz
|12:15||Lunch & iPad Demo Session
|13:15||Parallel Breakout SessionsGroup A
Ethical Dilemmas DiscussedJan Bij de Weg
Solving the Challenge of Finding ReviewersGraham Brumfield
|14:00||Parallel Breakout SessionsGroup B
|15:00||Parallel Breakout SessionsGroup A|
Impact Factor and Other Bibliometrics: What Every Editor Should KnowAndrew Plume
EES: Today and TomorrowJohn O'Brien/ Adrian Tedford
|15:45||Parallel Breakout SessionsGroup B
|16:30||Elsevier Managers Respond to your Questions
|17:30||Your EES Questions Answered
SUNDAY 15 MAY
|09:00||A Discussion on Open AccessMichiel Kolman
|09:45||Making Global Editorial BoardsLucia Franco
|10:30||Open Q&AA Discussion with Publishing Staff
"Access to research outputs-a UK success story", presentation
produced by The Publishers Association, The International Association
of STM Publishers, and Association of Learned and Professional
Society Publishers, 2010:
"Statement From Michael Hansen, CEO Of Elsevier's Health
Sciences Division, Regarding Australia Based Sponsored Journal
Practices Between 2000 and 2005" on 7 May 2009:
"Elsevier To Create New Guidelines For Pharmaceutical Article
Reprint, Compilation and Custom Publications" on 4 June 2009:
"Elsevier's New Custom Publication Guidelines Set New Standards
For Publishing Pharma-Sponsored Content" on 16 February 2010:
Elsevier Health Sciences Guidelines for Custom Publications: http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/intro.cws_home/HS_guidelines Back
Elsevier "Supporting Editors" website: http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/editorshome.editors/supported Back