As regular Retraction Watch readers may have noticed, a number of sites have sprung up recently to examine — quite critically — papers that other scientists say are dodgy. There’s Abnormal Science, for example, which has not been updated since last February, and a Japanese whistleblower took to YouTube to demonstrate what was wrong with two dozen studies.
The people running these sites have provided a useful service, in that they often nudge journals along and lead to corrections and retractions. When they’ve pointed out issues with papers, we always try to link back to them for details.
But these sites can also have sharp elbows, particularly those that are anonymous, and one site launched last summer, Science Fraud, has drawn unwanted legal attention from scientists whose work has been questioned. Last month, the site earned its first cease-and-desist letter. Today, the site has suspended posts, and deactivated all of its older entries. Here’s the post announcing the move:
As many of you may be aware, in recent days this site has been the subject of numerous legal attacks, and as such we have no option other than to temporarily suspend posting. Specifically, a lawyer attempted to subpoena the contact information for the site’s registrant, from our web hosting company (DreamHost Inc). The lawyer (or someone connected to them) then wrote an email to more than 100 people whose papers have been questioned on the site, alleging to provide the identity of the site’s owner. The person mentioned in that email owns the domain.
We hope this can be resolved in a way that continues to allow the scientific record to be scrutinized, whether anonymously or not. For the record, we have received one cease-and-desist letter since we launched in August 2010, but it was over using a scientific society’s logo, not our content.
Please see an update to this post, in which the owner of Science Fraud identifies himself and explains what happened.