Not surprisingly, the editorial board members of the journal Childhood Obesity whom I contacted for comment yesterday declined to do so. Some might not have been aware of the Kellogg's connection, others may not see the connection as a problem. Off the record, I heard more than one spirited defense of the work the foundation does, and at no point have I suggested differently.
My point, which I think still pertains, is that the foundation's financial well-being, and therefore its survival, is directly tied the corporation's stock price. If someone's research shows that highly sugared cereals such as Frosted Flakes are unhealthy for children — and does anyone think otherwise?! — that paper seems pretty unlikely to find receptive editors at Childhood Obesity.
I did get a reply from Vicki Cohn, Liebert Publishing's executive vice president and managing editor, directing me to run it only in its entirety. Though when I was in daily newspapering, we would not have countenanced such a condition, I'm going to accede to it here. But I'm going to comment on it first:
Cohn's most pressing rejoinder is that the foundation vice president, Gail Christopher, who sits on the editorial board, does not participate in the peer-review process. That's worth mentioning, certainly, but not persuasive. The obvious concern is not whether she's involved in peer review, but whether the foundation can influence editorial decisions. Take note of the obvious: Whether to publish an article is an editorial decision.
Cohn asserts expressly that "the foundation has no control over editorial content," but how does that strike you? The foundation requested, and was granted, a seat on the journal's editorial board. The editorial board would presumably have some voice in editorial content; why else have an editorial board? And why put up with the obvious questions about editorial influence that would follow the foundation's having a seat on the board, if a foundation leader was going to sit on the board but not have influence?
As I said yesterday, if I was funding a journal, I'd want a voice on its editorial board, too, so it's to be expected. But once you take that step, you'd have to expect the obvious questions about editorial integrity. My assumption is that the money spends a lot better than integrity.
Meanwhile, as directed, here is Cohn's comment, in its entirety:
Childhood Obesity is fortunate to have a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation is an independent Foundation designated by the IRS, and has no direct connection to Kellogg. The Foundation has no control over journal content. Articles are reviewed for publication by our journal editorial board and other experts in the field (Gail Christopher, who is on the editorial board, does not participate in the peer review process). Dr. Christopher did indeed write a Welcome, but the U.S. Surgeon General had an editorial in that issue as well. Support from the Foundation allows us to reach public officials, community-based organizations, teachers and staff in public schools who might otherwise not have budgets to access this timely, peer-reviewed information. In addition, hundreds of other nonprofit grantees of the Foundation working in poor communities throughout the country have a resource to submit and share their work on the challenges and successes in this extremely important field. We encourage the readers of your blog to assess the quality and integrity of our journal editorial board and the Journal itself by visiting our website and reading the free sample issue online at www.liebertpub.com/chi.