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Frontiers vs. Traditional Publishing Policies

Frontiers vs. Traditional Publishing Policies

Why should I send my manuscript to Frontiers vs. an established journal with a high Impact Factor (IF)?

In my discussions with many people regarding Frontiers, I have often been asked this question;


First, the IF is a construct of the traditional journals that ranks a journal (not an individual article) as to the frequency of citations all of their articles receive, calculated from one year of publications and followed over two subsequent years time. Thus, we will not have an IF for at least another two years. In addition, those journals that focus on review articles have the highest IFs, because these types of articles receive the most citations. Thus in immunology, Annual Reviews in Immunology, Immunological Reviews, Nature Reviews Immunology etc., have the highest IFs.


Instead of an IF, Frontiers publishes Impact Statistics for each article, and they are continuously updated in real time. Thus, one can find out how many views of abstracts, full texts, and downloads occur, as well as the demographics of the individuals who have viewed and downloaded their article. As a group, we need to educate our authors, as well as our institutions, to view these Impact Stats as a much better measure of an individual's contributions than the IF of where a paper was published.


Several people have told me that it seems unfair to ask a student or postdoc to submit their work to a new journal, one without an IF. One person even told me that it was "immoral"! Therefore, for students and postdocs already in your group, there should be a grandfather clause. For example, one way is to make an agreement with the student/postdoc that if they want the paper submitted to a non-Frontiers journal first, that it is OK, but if the MS has not been accepted within a reasonable period of time, say 3-6 months, that you will withdraw the MS and submit it to Frontiers. Then, going forward, student and postdoc applicants to your lab should be told of the publishing problems with the traditional journals and of the reasons for your commitment to Frontiers.


Traditional publishers require that authors state that their submitted work has not been submitted elsewhere. In effect, this policy places all of the power with the journal and no power with the authors. Once a MS has been submitted, authors are prevented from submitting their work for consideration elsewhere by agreeing to abide by this policy. Consequently, the journals are not in a hurry to accept the MS. Often, reviewers ask for more data, and in the most egregious cases, the reviewers essentially re-write the article. It is not uncommon to have a MS in review for several months, and even as long as a year. More often than not, an editor, who is a journalist and not a practicing scientist, makes the final decision on a MS, and they often reject a MS when even one of 3-4 reviews is mildly critical.


The Frontiers system relies on a rapid review, and one by recognized experts in each area. Moreover, Frontiers opens the review to the interactive review process, so that any issues uncovered by the reviewers can be dealt with by the authors in real time. Once a MS is accepted, the article appears immediately on-line, and the reviewers of the article are listed. It is extremely important that everyone familiarize themselves thoroughly with the Frontiers review process and spread the word about the Frontiers review system to as many people as possible. Only if we are proactive will we begin to change the system!