Scientific publishing giant Elsevier put out a total of six publications between 2000 and 2005 that were sponsored by unnamed pharmaceutical companies and looked like peer reviewed medical journals, but did not disclose sponsorship, the company has admitted.
Elsevier is conducting an "internal review" of its publishing practices after allegations came to light that the company produced a pharmaceutical company-funded publication in the early 2000s without disclosing that the "journal" was corporate sponsored.
An Elsevier spokesperson told The Scientist in an email that a total of six titles in a "series of sponsored article publications" were put out by their Australia office and bore the Excerpta Medica imprint from 2000 to 2005. These titles were: the Australasian Journal of General Practice, the Australasian Journal of Neurology, the Australasian Journal of Cardiology, theAustralasian Journal of Clinical Pharmacy, the Australasian Journal of Cardiovascular Medicine, and the Australasian Journal of Bone & Joint [Medicine]. Elsevier declined to provide the names of the sponsors of these titles, according to the company spokesperson.
"It has recently come to my attention that from 2000 to 2005, our Australia office published a series of sponsored article compilation publications, on behalf of pharmaceutical clients, that were made to look like journals and lacked the proper disclosures," said Michael Hansen, CEO of Elsevier's Health Sciences Division, in a statement issued by the company. "This was an unacceptable practice, and we regret that it took place."
When confronted with the questionable publishing practices surrounding the Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine last week, Elsevier indicated that it had no plans of looking into the matter further, but that decision has apparently been reversed.
"We are currently conducting an internal review but believe this was an isolated practice from a past period in time," Hansen continued in the Elsevier statement. "It does not reflect the way we operate today. The individuals involved in the project have long since left the company. I have affirmed our business practices as they relate to what defines a journal and the proper use of disclosure language with our employees to ensure this does not happen again."
"I understand this issue has troubled our communities of authors, editors, customers and employees," Hansen added in the statement. "But I can assure all that the integrity of Elsevier's publications and business practices remains intact."
Correction (May 7): The headline and original version of this story incorrectly indicated that Elsevier had produced seven titles in their "series of sponsored article publications" when in fact the publisher produced only six. The Scientist regrets the error.