Last week, we covered the complicated story of a paper by Stephan Lewandowsky and colleagues that had been removed — or at least all but the abstract — from its publisher’s site. Our angle on the story was how Frontiers, which publishes Frontiers in Personality Science and Individual Differences, where the study appeared, had handled the withdrawal. It happened without any notice, and no text appeared to let the reader know why the paper had vanished.
Today, Frontiers posted a note to readers on top of the paper’s abstract:
This article, first published by Frontiers on 18 March 2013, has been the subject of complaints. Given the nature of some of these complaints, Frontiers has provisionally removed the link to the article while these issues are investigated, which is being done as swiftly as possible and which Frontiers management considers the most responsible course of action. The article has not been retracted or withdrawn. Further information will be provided as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience.
Fair enough, given the history of the study, although we wonder why this note didn’t appear when the paper was first “delinked” last week. We also wonder why Frontiers said the article was first published on March 18, given that it appeared online on February 5. Perhaps they meant the most current version of the paper, since that first version was also temporarily removed in response to complaints. But that’s a strange distinction to make.
We’ve asked Frontiers to clarify, and will update with anything we learn.
Update, 5:45 p.m. Eastern, 4/3/13: Frontiers tells us:
I think there’s a misunderstanding: the manuscript was accepted for publication by Frontiers on Feb 2, and the provisional (i.e. non proof-read) PDF was made available immediately, as we do in most cases. Because there was subsequently identified a need for authors, reviewers, editor
and associates to reviewand Chief editors to agree on the modification of one specific line in the text, the provisional PDF was hidden on Feb 6 while this modification was agreed. The paper was then published in the agreed form on March 18, and as you know was subsequently unlinked while we deal with all the complaints and allegations.
Again, fair enough, but probably best to mark the paper as withdrawn whenever it was.