Submitting a paper to a new open access journal can be a risky venture: More and more companies are popping up with an offer to publish a report for a fee but deliver less than expected—sometimes they skip peer review or use editors who do no work—according to critics such as Jeffrey Beall, a University of Colorado, Denver, librarian who keeps a list of so-called predatory publishers. Now, the U.S. government has jumped in as an enforcer, warning one open access publisher to stop misusing the names of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the agency's employees in promotional material ... One large open access outfit, the OMICS Publishing Group of Los Angeles and Hyderabad, India, which publishes approximately 250 journals, has also come under fire for holding conferences that advertise organizers or speakers who did not agree to be involved. (See reports by Beall and The New York Times.) Ken Witwer, an HIV researcher at Johns Hopkins University, says he got burned last August when he presented his work at a nutrition conference sponsored by OMICS. Witwer attended partly in hopes of meeting biochemist Bruce Ames, inventor of the Ames mutagenicity test, identified in OMICS material as a speaker. Ames did not show up. Witwer says he later learned from Ames that he had never agreed to speak. In March, Witwer sent an e-mail to NIH urging it to pursue legal options against the company, which he alleged had also listed some NIH-funded scientists as editors without their knowledge. Because NIH-funded researchers sometimes use their NIH grant money to pay for conference registration and publication fees, the company indirectly receives federal funds, Witwer argued ... Witwer soon got a response. He received a copy of a letter dated 1 April from Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) senior attorney Dean Landis to OMICSonline Managing Editor Venkatesh Yanamadala alleging a trademark violation by the company's website, www.omicsonline.org. Landis writes: "We are aware of multiple instances where the website uses the name of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), its Institutes, PubMed Central, or the names of NIH employees in an erroneous and/or misleading manner." (ScienceInsider obtained the letter through a Freedom of Information Act request.)
Specifically, Landis charges that OMICS's site suggests that the company supplies content to PubMed Central, NIH's full text papers archive, and to PubMed, NIH's abstracts database. Landis references an e-mail sent from an NIH staffer to the OMICS group last September saying that PubMed Central will not accept any OMICS Publishing Group journals because the '[National Library of Medicine's] selection group has raised serious concerns about the publishing practices of your organization' ... Landis's letter demands of OMICS 'that you cease and desist from employing our name or the name of any of our agencies institutes or employees on your website for other than true factual statements.' In a subsequent letter to Witwer, NIH says it has referred the matter to the Federal Trade Commission. OMICS has changed its website, according to a comparison with earlier versions: It has pulled down a PubMed Central logo and removed a mention of PubMed in an FAQ list. As of 9 May, however, the site has an NIH logo and the words 'PubMed Indexed Articles' on the right side of the home pages of many journals (see image) ..."