After scandal, Elsevier plans reprint rules

Our bad, Elsevier says. The academic publishing company says it's instituting new full-disclosure policies for all its reprints, article compilations and custom publications. The rules come after an internal investigation of the publisher's Australian unit, which had produced a series of "journals" sponsored by drugmakers. The publications were named and designed just like real peer-reviewed journals, but really were marketing pieces.

Elsevier's announcement took pains to emphasize that the "journals" were strictly products of its Australian operations--the rogues--and that the reprint service-slash-custom publishing arm is entirely separate from its core business of publishing primary research. The company said it's going to review that division's operations worldwide to make sure its products conform to company standards.

You'll recall that the "journals" came to light in an Australian court when several editions were entered as evidence in a Vioxx liability trial. Merck had commissioned a compilation of journal articles supporting the painkiller, which Elsevier styled as the "Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint"--and failed to label as a company-sponsored publication.

"Full disclosure should be the standard at Elsevier, and we need to strive every day to make sure that we enforce consistent global guidelines for sponsorship and disclosure for article reprint products," said Michael Hansen, CEO of Elsevier Health Sciences. "I want to assure our authors, editors, and customers that the integrity of our peer reviewed research journals has not been compromised in any way. These guidelines will help ensure that there is no confusion between these special compilations and our core collection of primary research journals."

- see the Elsevier release