Megajournal mismanagement: Manuscript decision bias and anomalous editor activity at PLOS ONE
22 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2017 Last revised: 17 Jun 2018
Date Written: June 9, 2018
Since their emergence just a decade ago, nearly 2% of scientific research is now published by megajournals, representing a major industrial shift in the production of knowledge. Such high-throughput production stresses several aspects of the publication process, including the editorial oversight of peer-review. As the largest mega- journal, PLOS ONE relies on a single-tier editorial board comprised of nearly 7,000 active academics who have assumed extremely skewed activity levels over the journal’s inaugural decade (2006-2015). We leverage this variation to model how editorial bias in the manuscript decision process relates to social factors, in particular peer assessment and editor citation remuneration (an analogue to self-citation), which we find to be strongest among the extremely-active editors. These anomalous activity patterns are theoretically grounded in the “slippery-slope” evolution of apathy and misconduct in power-driven environments. By applying quantitative evaluation to the gatekeepers of scientific knowledge, we shed light on various ethics issues crucial to science policy – in particular, calling for more transparent and structured management of editor activity in megajournals relying on active academics, who may become susceptible to conflicts of interest relating to their dual roles.
Keywords: Mega-journal, Power inequality, Review process, Editorial service, Science of science, Journal management
JEL Classification: C23, C54, C55, D63, M14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation