科学の門番:科学出版における非倫理的な行為 The Gatekeepers of Science: Unethical Practices in Science Publishing

  • 2017/08/31
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It has been said that the world of science is as brutal as the world of politics. The pressure to publish in high-impact journals is intense, the competition to establish supremacy is cut-throat, the battle for research funding is fierce, and the clash of competing ideas in the public arena of “science” can destroy careers, lives, and even entire research institutions.


As regulators in various industries worldwide focus their attention on anti-competitive practices, the powerful science publishing industry that determines the shape of modern science has come under scrutiny. Through a series of mergers and acquisitions, the five leaders in “big publishing” have steadily cornered the science communications market and now wield unprecedented power as the gatekeepers of science. In 1973, the “big five” owned approximately 20% of all journals; today their share has grown to over 50%. This change in market dynamics has driven a number of small high-quality independent publishers and science communications companies out of the market.


In the quest for even bigger profits, “big publishers” have expanded beyond publishing and now offer rewriting and translation as well as author services such as journal selection. These services are usually provided through the publisher’s business affiliate or subsidiary. In principle, there is nothing wrong with a publisher providing such services and promoting these services on the publisher’s website. However, big publishers are abusing the power of their position as gatekeepers of science when they use the peer review process to promote their own editing and rewriting services. This practice is clearly unethical. During peer review, the journal editor usually provides a review of the manuscript that addresses a range of science-related matters such as research methodology and statistical treatment, as well as relevance to the author’s field of research. However, reviews by journal editors and “contracted reviewers” increasingly include negative comments about the level of English in the author’s manuscript, calling it “poor,” “unsuitable,” or “not concise.” Usually no specific examples are given to support this blanket negative assertion. One of the big publishers even goes so far as to insert a cut-and-paste paragraph into the reviewers’ comment suggesting that the author use a “professional rewriting service” when resubmitting the paper—and then blatantly suggests using the publisher’s affiliated editing company.


This practice of criticizing the English in an author’s manuscript is essentially anti-competitive—especially when a non-native English speaking author has submitted a native check letter certifying that the author has received expert editorial assistance. This certification, which also identifies the publisher’s “competitor,” is required by most publishers nowadays. By disparaging the work of the independent science communications company or specialist editor who assisted an author in preparing a manuscript for submission to the big publisher’s journal, that publisher is attempting to undermine the author’s confidence in the independent company or editor. This has the effect of pressuring the author to use the big publisher’s editing service or the services of its business affiliates when revising the current manuscript and, possibly, when preparing manuscripts for future submissions.


Another ethically dubious practice that occurs at the peer review stage is “citation stacking” whereby the editor or contract reviewer instructs the author to cite additional articles from one of the big publisher’s journals—and even to cite a specific article from one of those journals. Pumping the author’s manuscript with references to papers that have appeared in the publisher’s journals has the effect of increasing the number of times the journal is cited in the corpus of science literature, thus artificially raising the impact factor of the publisher’s journal. Authors who are eager to have their paper accepted for publication can easily be pressured into complying with such instructions—especially when an editor or reviewer suggests that a paper “might” be suitable for publication if the author were to include the citations recommended by the editor or reviewer.


Some academics blame the nature of the peer review process for these abuses. These examples of abuse at the peer review stage are quite familiar to doctors, scientists, researchers, and engineers who hope to publish—as well as to the smaller independent science communications companies who support these authors. Scientists, editors, and independent science communications companies are at a loss as to how the peer review system can be fixed to assure fairness. One possible solution, proposed by F1000Research, advocates open peer review wherein reviewers waive their anonymity. Supporters of open review claim that it promotes good behavior among reviewers, and the transparency provided by the open review system would likely assist in efforts to curtail these abuses. Cooperation between Japan and the European Union in matters of anti-trust may also yield results as Europe is now beginning to cast its gaze on the science publishing industry.


Does the growing abuse of the peer review system warrant an investigation into market practices? Is the “quality” of scientific research being increasingly influenced by the financial interests and socio-political bias of the major shareholders and owners of the big publishers? Do anti-competitive practices exist in the science publishing industry? Just recently, after an in-depth investigation, Google was slapped with a $2.7 billion fine for manipulating search results in order to promote their own services at the expense of their competitors. As the basis of their defense in EU court, Google claimed they were merely helping guide users to the best possible answers based on each user’s search query. Perhaps a similar “defense” would be offered by science publishers when faced with allegations of abuse of power and anti-competitive practices. In any case, as open review models and platforms continue to proliferate and the industry undergoes dramatic changes, the issue of bias and publisher neutrality in the highly lucrative science communications industry will take on even greater importance.


*Forte, Inc. is an independently owned and operated Japan-based provider of rewriting and translation services with a 30-year history in the science communications market.





大手出版社はさらなる収益拡大を狙い、英文校正や翻訳のサービス、投稿先ジャーナルの選定などの著者サービスを手がけるようになりました。こうしたサービスは通常、出版社の系列会社や子会社が提供しています。この種のサービスを出版社が提供し、自社サイトで宣伝すること自体は別に悪いことではありません。しかし、科学の門番という立場を悪用し、査読プロセスの最中に自社の校閲・校正サービスの売り込みを行うことは、どう見ても倫理的に問題があります。査読の際、ジャーナルの編集者は、投稿された論文の研究方法や統計的処理などのさまざまな科学的な側面や、著者の研究分野への関連性などの側面を評価します。残念なことに最近は、ジャーナルの編集者やジャーナルが「委託した査読者」が、具体的な箇所を指摘することもなく、論文の英語のレベルについて「貧弱」「(出版に) ふさわしくない」「簡潔でない」といったネガティブな定型的コメントを付けることが増えました。大手出版社の中には、論文を再投稿する場合は「専門的な英文校正サービス」を利用するように促し、系列会社のサービスを露骨に勧める内容の定型文を査読コメントにカット&ペーストして送り返す会社さえあります。


論文の英語レベルを批判する行為は、その性質上、反競争的なものです。特に、非英語圏出身の著者が専門知識を持つネイティブスピーカーの校正を受けたことを証明する英文校正証明書 (ネイティブチェック証明書) を提出している場合、このような批判は不当です。今日では、こうした証明書の提出を義務付ける出版社がほとんどであり、証明書の記載内容から出版社の「競合相手」が特定できます。証明書があるにもかかわらずネイティブチェックを求める出版社は、自社のジャーナルへの論文投稿を手伝った独立系の科学コミュニケーション会社や専門の校正者の品質を批評することで、その独立系の会社や校正者に対する著者の信頼を失わせようとしているのです。大手出版社によるこうした反競争的行為は、投稿論文を修正するときや将来的に新しい論文を投稿するときに、その出版社が提供する校閲サービスや系列会社のサービスを利用するよう研究者に圧力をかける結果となります。










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  • 2017/09/01

査読はボランティアであるので、ある程度は仕方が無いと思います。 有名な人の場合は、知り合いをreviewerとして推薦して、とんでもないコメントを避けることができますが、普通の人はできません。 私も、reviewer慣れしていない人に当たり困りましたが、Editorが仲裁に入り事なきを得ました。

  • 2017/08/31

確かにその通りですが、非英語圏の著者が投稿した論文の査読をしていると、時に本当にどこをどう指摘すればよいか分からないほど酷い英語に出会うときがあります。文法的に正しくても科学的な英語ではないこともあります。そういった論文の査読は非常に時間がかかり、かつストレスフルなのですが、英語を改善してほしいというと『既にnative checkは受けた』という主張を繰り返されることもあります。実際に英文校正を依頼していたとしても、業者や担当者によって質に大きな差があることは間違いなく、その場合に大手Journalが提供するofficialなサービスの証明書があると、こちらも納得しやすいというのは確かですね。なので、悪い面ばかりではないと思います。