Another day, another microbiome journal … alas not as "open access" as claimed

Just got this email

Dear Doctor Jonathan Eisen,

I would like to invite you to consider submitting a paper to our recently launched Open Access journal Microbiome Science and Medicine (
As can be seen from the titles of articles published in our first volume, MICSM reflects the full breadth of research in the diverse areas of microbiome-related science, from molecules to ecosystems:
Newton ILG, Sheehan KB, Lee FJ, Horton MA, Hicks RD “Invertebrate systems for hypothesis-driven microbiome research”
Amato KR “Co-evolution in context: The importance of studying gut microbiomes in wild animals”
Nelson DR, Tu ZJ, Lefebvre PA “Heterococcus sp. DN1 draft genome: focus on cold tolerance and lipid production”
Rudlaff RM, Waters CM “What is the role of cyclic di-GMP signaling within the human gut microbiome?”
Fang Y, Chia N, Mazur M, Pettigrew J, Schook LB, White BA “Genetically identical co-housed pigs as models for dietary studies of gut microbiomes”
MICSM is a broad-spectrum platform for the rapid publication of works of broad significance, originality and relevance in all areas related to the study of microbiomes, their components, and their roles in health and disease. We solicit research and review articles, as well as communications and vision papers. The manuscripts submitted in response to this invitation will be processed with the highest priority and all accepted papers will be immediately available on-line.

Authors are offered a variety of benefits:
– transparent, comprehensive and fast peer review;
– language assistance for authors from non-English speaking regions;
– convenient, web-based manuscript submission and tracking system;
– efficient route to fast-track publication and full advantage of De Gruyter Open’s e-technology;
– no publication charge in the first two annual volumes.

I look forward to your manuscript!
Please forward this invitation to any interested colleagues and associates.

Seemed right up my alley – an open access microbiome journal.  Alas, when I clicked on the journal link and then browsed around I found out that articles will be published using some pretty restrictive conditions. Some key parts of the text from this page is below:

1. License
The non-commercial use of the article will be governed by the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license as currently displayed on, except that sections 2 through 8 below will apply in this respect and prevail over all conflicting provisions of such license model. Without prejudice to the foregoing, the author hereby grants the Journal Owner the exclusive license for commercial use of the article (for U.S. government employees: to the extent transferable) according to section 2 below, and sections 4 through 9 below, throughout the world, in any form, in any language, for the full term of copyright, effective upon acceptance for publication.

Other than being, well, painfully legalesy, this is just too restrictive for me and does not really seem like “open access”.  The no derivatives part drives me batty.  Also they write:

9. Scope of the Commercial License
The exclusive right and license granted under this agreement to the Journal Owner for commercial use is as follows:
 to prepare, reproduce, manufacture, publish, distribute, exhibit, advertise, promote, license and sub-license printed and electronic copies of the article, through the Internet and other means of data transmission now known or later to be developed; the foregoing will include abstracts, bibliographic information, illustrations, pictures, indexes and subject headings and other proprietary materials contained in the article,
 to exercise, license, and sub-license others to exercise subsidiary and other rights in the article, including the right to photocopy, scan or reproduce copies thereof, to reproduce excerpts from the article in other works, and to reproduce copies of the article as part of compilations with other works, including collections of materials made for use in classes for instructional purposes, customized works, electronic databases, document delivery, and other information services, and publish, distribute, exhibit and license the same.
Where this agreement refers to a license granted to Journal Owner in this agreement as exclusive, the author commits not only to refrain from granting such license to a third party but also to refrain from exercising the right that is the subject of such license otherwise than by performing this agreement.

Well, no thanks.  Too many restrictions and not open access in my view.  If I had to choose a “microbiome” journal to publish in, I would choose “Microbiome” an actually open access journal, where papers have the following info on them:

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Go Microbiome …

About Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. (see my lab site here). My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis
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One Response to Another day, another microbiome journal … alas not as "open access" as claimed

  1. Although Microbiome Science and Medicine uses the CC-BY-NC-ND license, it is fully compliant with the Wellcome Trust, RCUK and other funders' mandates, and it provides authors with the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license when required by these institutions.

    Dr Magdalena Wierzchowiecka, Managing Editor, Microbiome Science and Medicine, De Gruyter Open


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