It’s fair to say that we’ve been watching Elsevier over the past two-plus years, and we’ve also known they’ve been watching us. Last year, Tom Reller, the company’s vice president of global public relations, wrote that we “represent the new breed of science watchdog that is able to promote the results of their own investigations quickly via the internet.”
But as Reller notes in a thoughtful post today at ElsevierConnect:
My colleagues and I didn’t quite know what to make of Retraction Watch when it first launched a little over two years ago. We wondered if they had a sincere interest in improving transparency in scholarly publishing, or if they were just out to embarrass publishers and editors by over sensationalizing and demonizing the small percentage of what’s wrong in science,at the expense of the high percentage of what’s right.
Reller says since then, Elsevier “could quibble over a post or two,” and as he knows, we could quibble over how they’ve handled some retractions. But as our archive of posts about Elsevier journals makes clear — and as Ivan said on On The Media about a year ago — the publisher is actually one of the most consistent when it comes to retraction notices. It’s rare to see a completely opaque notice, and it’s even more rare to see a notice behind a paywall — this at a publisher who is often the whipping boy for open access advocates.
So it’s perhaps not surprising that after a few years of watching Retraction Watch, Reller concludes:
Elsevier’s and Retraction Watch’s objectives are quite aligned in that we both want more transparency in publishing. Our journals, and academia overall, do better when shining a light on bad actors and bad science. For certain, investigative journalists and their subjects will always often have different views on just how much transparency is ideal, but Retraction Watch is playing an important role and I think the world of scholarly publishing is better for it.
We particularly hope that editors at Elsevier journals and elsewhere heed Reller’s recommendations:
My advice to anyone receiving an email from Retraction Watch is to always at least respond to various inquires for information. Usually the retraction notice says as much as an editor is able to say about an event, but they should always consider the request and answer additional basic questions when they can. And when they can’t, they should simply say as much.
You can read the whole post here. Reller welcomes feedback, as do we.