Head and Neck Oncology, an open access journal with a closed peer-review system, achieved its first official impact factor on the 2nd of July, 2012. As a result, it achieved the prestigious status of boasting the highest impact factor of any journal in the head and neck discipline in the world.
On the 4th of July, 2012 BioMed Central (the former publisher of the journal) reported serious editorial misconduct following an unannounced internal audit.
On the 6th of July, 2012 BioMed Central asked all four Editors-in-chief to stand down or face serious consequences. BioMed Central also stated that they were looking for replacement Editors.
On the 11th July, 2012 BioMed Central decided to initiate its first investigation, promising the Editors-in-chief a meeting to discuss the upcoming results. BioMed Central also blocked the Editors’ access to the editorial tools, preventing them from looking at the journal’s peer-review history.
On the 1st August, 2012 BioMed Central emailed the Editors-in-chief a list of no less than 80 allegations of wrongdoing. The publishing-house requested a ‘satisfactory’ response within 24 hours or the journal would be closed.
BioMed Central went on to cease publishing Head and Neck Oncology and emailed authors with articles under consideration for the journal and editorial board members to confirm the same. The journal moved to another publisher with its editorial board intact, releasing its first new issue on the 9th September, 2012.
On the 8th of August, 2012 BioMed Central started its second investigation against the journal but this was upgraded on the 15th of August to an article-based investigation.
On 17th of October, 2012 BioMed Central made a formal complaint against the three UK-based Editors-in-chief (Colin Hopper, Waseem Jerjes and Tahwinder Upile) to University College London and cooperated with a joint investigation that was carried out by University College London and University College London Hospitals. The investigation found no case to follow up.
BioMed Central’s senior staff failed to reach a definitive conclusion regarding any of the allegations against the three Editors-in-chief.
From the 26th of November to the 6th of December, 2013 BioMed Central began asking Head and Neck Oncology authors to consider post-publication peer-reviews. The publisher stated that if they did not accept the reviews they would put a note, stating that the piece was ‘badly handled’, next to the authors’ articles.
On the 5th of February, 2014 BioMed Central implemented that and added notes next to many of the articles indexed on PubMed and archived in PubMed Central. The notes alleged that one of the Editors, Waseem Jerjes, self-handled 15 articles that he co-authored. It is confirmed later in this piece, however, that 3 editorial board members actually handled 9 out of the 15 articles in question.
BioMed Central was asked to send a hard and electronic copy of the journal’s peer-review history to the Editors for examination. The publisher refused to do so.
From their combined experience, it is the editor’s belief, that this is the first time that a publisher has behaved in such a manner against its own Editors-in-Chief and the academic community of the head and neck oncology discipline. In a series of communications, I share my experience and scientifically analyse the good and the bad in the hope that it will benefit future generations of academics. The Editors continue to provide support to the editorial board members, authors and readers of Head and Neck Oncology.
In the following paragraphs, I aim to highlight the issues surrounding the journal and BioMed Central and its senior staff (Deborah Kahn, Jigisha Patel and Shreeya Nanda) regarding the internal audit and the subsequent investigations.