‘Let authors decide on journals to publish in’

Prof Graham Kendall’s letter to the editor (‘Publishing in journals ministry refuses to fund’, StarEdu, May 12) raises important issues for Malaysian researchers and institutions who want to publish and participate in the global scientific enterprise.

As an open access publisher, Frontiers welcomes this debate about the best use of public resources to support research publishing, offering Malaysian science quality, impact and fairer value propositions.

Prof Kendall is right that open science is predicated on the principle that the public and, importantly, other researchers and businesses should have free access to published scientific research, enabling both scrutiny and application of that research. By eliminating the subscription paywall, the open-access model provides universal and permanent access to the scientific record at a cost per article that we estimate to be 40% lower than the subscription model.

He is also right that Malaysian researchers, institutions, and the government need to make careful choices about how to spend limited funds and avoid low-quality or fraudulent journals. He argues that the reasons behind the current choice of journals to fund or not fund could be concerns about high fees, quality or issues raised in other countries. These are the right factors to consider; but the new policy is a sweeping reaction to recent trends in scientific publishing. We fear that the policy has not been adequately informed, and its implementation holds negative consequences for the Malaysian research community.

The new policy is in effect a blanket ban on commercial publishers that provide exclusively open-access services. In fact, every major subscription publisher today offers a large catalogue of journals that operate under the same principle.

Frontiers’ partnership with the Malaysian research community has been excellent, and a decision concerning support for our continuing collaboration should be based on this reality. For example, in the last five years, the top 30 most cited articles by Malaysian authors published with Frontiers have each been referenced across the world more than 100 times. Rather than assessing publishers on the basis of a shared business model, by association, individual publishers need to be vetted on their track record. Frontiers’ record stands on its own and should be judged as such.

Prof Kendall correctly points out that open-access publishers “have high-quality journals which are indexed in bibliographic databases that are used by ranking mechanisms”. But at the same time, he suggests that delisting from one of these could justify exclusion.

Frontiers has not had a journal delisted in these databases, unlike several of the approved publishers, again underscoring the need for careful publisher-level vetting. Above all, we stand for author choice. Authors are uniquely positioned to understand the journals that will best serve their own interests, as well as those of their communities. We would be pleased to work with the Malaysian research community, offering a tailored agreement that is transparent, fair and cost-effective – and that empowers researchers in their choice of publisher.


Chief executive editor


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