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Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Editor who published Andrulis paper tries to explain how it happened

with 94 comments

The editor of a new journal that published a paper that has been met with disbelief by many in the blogoshpere — and those are the polite reactions — has posted a narrative about how the paper came to appear in his journal. Retraction Watch readers may recall that Case Western, home to the paper’s author, Erik Andrulis, retracted its press release about the work. Several of the journal’s editorial board members have resigned over it.

Life’s editor, Shu-Kun Lin, writes that there was a switch in editors:

So that our readership has as much information as I can divulge without violating the confidentiality of the review process, what follows is the background of these events. Professor Bassez had previously guest-edited a successful special issue titled “The Origin of Life” in another MDPI journal [2]. Although Professor Bassez [3] had also planned to be the Guest Editor of the special issue “Origin of Life – Feature Papers” for Life [4], she was, for personal reasons, unable to do so. I therefore volunteered to take this responsibility on her behalf and to guest edit this special issue and supervise the editorial procedure for the papers. I made the decision of acceptance based on the peer review reports we received and their recommendation in support of publication.

Later he gives details of those reports:

the two reviewers were both faculty members of reputable universities different than the author’s and both went to considerable trouble presenting lengthy review reports. Dr. Andrulis revised his manuscript as requested, and the paper was subsequently published.

Derek Lowe of In the Pipeline, where we found news of the explanation, wasn’t very impressed with it. Neither were we, although we should say that we welcome any efforts to pull back the veil of peer review and increase transparency. This line sort of says it all:

I feel obliged to stress that although we will strive to guarantee the scientific standard of the papers published in this journal, all the responsibility for the ideas contained in the published articles rests entirely on their authors.

So, um, what value is the journal adding, exactly?

There’s one line in particular that we think is worthy of extra attention:

All papers are peer-reviewed, although it is often difficult to obtain expert reviewers for some of the interdisciplinary topics covered by this journal.

To us, that suggests an obvious question: Shouldn’t journals check whether there are really enough qualified peer reviewers before they launch a journal that promises quality peer review?

It’s one thing if publishers launch journals whose criteria for publication are a “sanity test,” as F1000 has done with F1000 Research. (Some have wondered whether this Life paper would have passed that test, but more literally than F1000 means it.) Such papers would be marked as unreviewed. But if there aren’t enough peer reviewers out there to staff peer-reviewed journals, should we really support publishers who launch endless numbers of them?

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Written by Ivan Oransky

February 3, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Posted in mdpi

94 Responses

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  1. @nettle:

    I’ve been reading through the paper and am extremely interested, but could definitely use some help understanding some of the nuts and bolts.

    In particular, I could use a more thorough description of the very basic majorgyre with examples in different scopes, particularly in the cognitive, psychological, linguistic, and social realms since that’s my area of expertise.

    I’m still unclear as to how to frame any given gyrosystem and how they develop over the course of several cycles. And I do understand that the recursive nature makes it hard to describe succinctly.

    I’m sure this type of informal explanation outside of the super-dense manuscript could help everyone form more intelligent opinions about the framework.

    Please get in touch by email if you’re willing to have an ongoing conversation about this, I’d love to understand the model better: anon.rex.15@gmail.com

    Anon Rex

    March 10, 2012 at 5:32 pm

  2. Apropos the subject:



    “Part II: Experiments on Studying the Properties of Time, and Basic Findings ~

    The experimental verification of the above-developed theoretical concepts was started as early as the winter of 1951-1952. From that time, these studies have been carried on continuously over the course of a number of years with the active participation by graduate student V.G. Labeysh. At the present time, they are underway at the laboratory of the Pulkovo Observatory with engineer V.V. Nasonov. The work performed by Nasonov imparted a high degree of reliability to the experiments. During the time of these investigations, we accumulated numerous and diversified data, permitting us to form a number of conclusions concerning the properties of time. We did not succeed in interpreting all of the material, and not all of the material has a uniform degree of reliability. Here we will discuss only those data which were subjected to a recurrent checking and which, from our viewpoint, are completely reliable. We will also strive to form conclusions from these data.

    The theoretical concepts indicate that the tests on the study of causal relationships and the pattern of time need to be conducted with rotating bodies: namely, gyroscopes. The first tests were made in order to verify that the law of the conservation of a pulse is always fulfilled, and independently of the condition of rotation of bodies. These tests were conducted on lever—type weights [scales]. At a deceleration of the gyroscope, rotating by inertia, its moment of rotation should be imparted to the weights [scales], causing an inevitable torsion of the suspensions. In order to avert the suspension difficulties associate with this, the rotation of the gyroscope should be held constant. Therefore, we utilized gyroscopes from aviation automation, the velocity of which was controlled by a variable 3-phase current with a frequency of the order of 500 cps. The gyroscope’s rotor turned with this same frequency. It appeared possible, without decreasing significantly the suspension precision, to supply current to the gyroscope suspended on weights [scales] with the aid of three very thin uninsulated conductors. During the suspension the gyroscope was installed in a hermetically sealed box, which excluded completely the effect of air currents. The accuracy of this suspension was of the order of 0.1-0.2 mg. With a vertical arrangement of the axis and various rotation velocities, the readings of the weights [scales] remained unchanged. For example, proceeding from the data for one of the gyroscopes (average diameter D of rotor equals 4.2 cm: rotor weight Q equals 250 gr), we can conclude that with a linear rotational velocity u = 70 m/sec the effective force upon the weights [scales] will remain unchanged, with a precision higher than up to the sixth place. In these experiments, we also introduced the following interesting theoretical complication: The box with the gyroscope was suspended from an iron plate, which attracted the electromagnets fastened together with a certain mass. This entire system was suspended on weights [scales] by means of an elastic band. The current was supplied to the electromagnets with the aid of two very thin conductors. The system for breaking the current was accomplished separately from the weights [scales]. At the breaking of the circuit, the box with the gyroscope fell to a clipper fastened to the electromagnets. The amplitude of these drops and the subsequent rise could reach 2 mm. The test was conducted for various directions of suspension and rotation masses of the gyroscope, at different amplitudes, and at an oscillation frequency ranging from units to hundreds of cps. For a rotating gyroscope, just as for a stationary one, the readings of the weights [scales] remained unchanged. We can consider that the experiments described substantiate fairly well the theoretical conclusion concerning the conservation of a pulse in causal mechanics.

    In spite of their theoretical interest, the previous experiments did not yield any new effects capable of confirming the role of causality in mechanics. However, in their fulfillment it was noted that in the transmission of the vibrations from the gyroscope to the support of the weights [scales} variations in the readings of the weights [scales] can appear, depending on the velocity and direction of rotation of the gyroscopes. When the vibrations of the weights [scales] themselves begin, the box with the gyroscope discontinues being strictly a closed system. However, the weights [scales} can go out o equilibrium if the additional effect of the gyroscope developing from rotation proves to be transferred from the shaft of the gyroscopes to the weights’ [scales’] support. From these observations, a series of tests with these gyroscopes developed.” – N. A. Kozyrev [Possibility of Experimental Study of the Properties of Time]

    (continue reading in link for further explanation)

    Felix Vainglory

    July 11, 2012 at 3:27 am

  3. The editor wrote: “All papers are peer-reviewed, although it is often difficult to obtain expert reviewers for some of the interdisciplinary topics covered by this journal.”

    The statement that it was difficult to find a reviewer does not fit to the incredible speed with which this 100-page article was accepted. The article states: “Received: 15 November 2011; in revised form: 10 December 2011 / Accepted: 13 December 2011 / Published: 23 December 2011″

    Thus finding the reviewers, doing the reviews and revising the paper took less than a month. Then it is not possible that too much time was spend on finding reviewers. And this speed seems to be typical for this publisher, many articles are accepted within a month.

    Victor Venema

    January 8, 2013 at 10:40 am

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