Jonathan Eisen last week blogged about a "strange email" he received. I received it too, as did many other academics:
Dear X, You are invited to join the Publication Integrity and Ethics (herein referred to as PIE) as one of its founding members. PIE, a not-for profit organisation, offers free membership to all interested individuals... Please join us and become part of this exciting new movement in the world of publishing ethics...
PIE provides various guidelines, codes of conduct and other materials about issues such as plagiarism, duplicate publication, retraction and peer review. Some of their material seems truly inspired. But inspired by what? It's interesting to contrast their page on "Article Withdrawal" with publisher Elsevier's page on "Article Withdrawal"
The PIE Guidelines for Peer Reviewers are also interesting reading - especially when read alongside the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE's) Peer review guidelines. For example, here's the end of both documents:
The General PIE Guidelines on the other hand seem somewhat out of place on a site dedicated to scientific publishing. They say, for example, that "any information that has been obtained by unfair means or by breach of confidence should not be released to the public." That seems more like newspaper territory. Hmm. Well, newspapers are the domain of the General Principles of the Australian Press Council and these make interesting reading alongside PIE's:
What about the PIE Guidelines for Publishers? Much of this (e.g. Part 5.1-6.3) is, again, interesting alongside the Australian Press Council's text. Other sections made me think of the COPE guideline for publishers.
I was unable to find any attribution to COPE in these guidelines (or, for that matter, to the Elsevier or the Australian Press Council). COPE are an organization who, like PIE, provides various guidelines, codes of conduct and other materials about issues such as plagiarism, duplicate publication, retraction and peer review. COPE is rather older however, being formed in 1997, while PIE came online two weeks ago. I asked COPE for comment on this. This morning, Ginny Barbour, stated:
We became aware of this organisation [PIE] just last week... We are not associated with it in any way and although we encourage anyone interested in publication ethics to use our resources, we do expect that they will attribute them, or any derivative works from them, as appropriate to COPE.
But who's in the PIE? The PIE Council features 30 names, the chairman being Tim Reeves (also listed as first contributor on most of their materials). One Waseem K Jerjes is a vice chair. His profile says he's a medical doctor and lists various academic accomplishments. Interestingly, a Waseem Jerjes is listed as a director of the company PIE (UK) Ltd. However the company PIE Ltd (without the "UK") has Walid Khalid Wadie Jerjes listed as Managing Director. Both W and WKW Jerjes are listed as having the same address. Walid Khalid Wadee Jerjes is a director of four other UK companies, including Open Access Publishing London (UK) Ltd (OAPL). OAPL is on Beall's List of 'predatory' open access publishers. They are also the only publisher yet to sign up to the PIE "Code of Conduct". One of OAPL's journals is Head and Neck Oncology, one of the Editors-in-Chief of which is none other than Waseem Jerjes. He has published 37 papers in the journal. This publication has an interesting history, as detailed on Retraction Watch. It was formerly run by a different publisher, BioMed Central (BMC), but:
While conducting an internal audit of publications between January and June 2012, BMC discovered a number of apparent major irregularities in the content and editorial handling of the journal Head & Neck Oncology... In order to maintain the integrity of the BMC portfolio of journals, we decided to cease publication of the journal with effect from 9th August 2012.
Before BMC dr0pped it, the Editors-in-Chief included Colin Hopper (who was, BMC say, later cleared of wrongdoing by his university, UCL), and Waseem Jerjes. So it's still unclear what exactly happened, but Head and Neck Oncology's website reassures readers that "We will tell the story soon" On their website, OAPL list their office as 10-12 Maclise Road, London. Interestingly, a local government document says that, as of 18th June 2011, 10-12 Maclise Road was a vacant building owned by one Skwwa Estates Company. The directors of Skwwa Estates (since 2005) include Khalid Jerjes, along with (formerly) Walid Khalid Wadie Jerjes , and a Mrs Sahera Jamil Yousif. The latter is also a director of OAPL Ltd., and ofHalbert Education and Training Ltd. Which brings us back around to PIE. Halbert offer a variety of online courses, on topics such as "Medical Law" and "Research Integrity and Publication Ethics". These are described as being PIE-approved:
The Publication Integrity & Ethics (P.I.E.) Certification is world-renowned as the standard of achievement for those who have special interest in the disciplines of integrity, ethics, governance, management and leadership.
So if you're wondering whether you should pay £1000 for a Halbert "Advanced Diploma", you can be assured that
Full accreditation has been granted, including: professional certificate sealed by the Publication Integrity & Ethics as well as 320 continuous professional development (CPD) points... These advanced diplomas are independent of Publication Integrity & Ethics and their day-to day management is handled by the Halbert Education & Training team.
Update (27th Nov 2013 15:20 GMT): PIE's website now contains a statement:
The Director of this not-for-profit company is Waseem Jerjes. Waseem Jerjes has declared that he is a director of no other companies but have 2 family members who are practicing within the publishing sector (Open Access Publishing London UK) and online training programmes (Halbert Education and Training).
This statement is new: it's not present in the Google Cache of the same page taken Monday 23:53:11 GMT. I think, although I may be misremembering, that it wasn't there until after this post went up... in which case, it would be quite a coincidence.