Head-spinning: Publisher to post dozens of notices of concern following investigations into editors in chief
There are a number of threads to tie together here, so bear with us for a moment. First, BioMed Central, the publisher of Head & Neck Oncology, posted this statement on the journal’s homepage today:
While conducting an internal audit of publications between January and June 2012, BioMed Central discovered a number of apparent major irregularities in the content and editorial handling of the journal Head & Neck Oncology. In order to maintain the integrity of the BioMed Central portfolio of journals, we decided to cease publication of the journal with effect from 9th August 2012.
University College London (UCL) and University College London Hospital (UCLH) subsequently conducted a joint investigation of our concerns. This focused primarily on the actions of Editor-in-Chief Mr Colin Hopper, because neither of the other active Editors-in-Chief, Waseem Jerjes and Tahwinder Upile, were employees of UCL during the time covered by our audit, so an investigation of their actions would have been beyond the scope of UCL’s investigation.
Following their investigation UCL were satisfied that there was no evidence of research misconduct arising from any employee, honorary researcher or student in relation to the articles they were asked to investigate. They were also satisfied that there was no evidence of editorial or author misconduct on the part of Colin Hopper.
In the absence of definitive conclusions about all the concerns raised by its audit, BioMed Central has provided details of its findings on relevant articles which will be updated if further information becomes available. If you are an author of a published article in this journal and have further questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The publisher tells us that they will be posting notices on articles of concern covered by the time period of their audit, some 40 articles. They’ve also offered post-publication peer review to all of the affected authors.
Meanwhile, the editors have begun posting studies
republished the journal’s contents on another site using the journal’s name , which is perfectly legal given the Creative Commons license that governs copyright — but probably also means there won’t be any expressions of concern on those versions. There is, however, at least one correction on that site, which is published by a company on Jeffrey Beall’s list of possible predatory publishers.
And in another related development, two of the journal’s editors are vice-chairs of a new organization, the Publication Integrity and Ethics, that launched on November 14 and seems to a competitor of the Committee on Publication Ethics. They’ve been trying to recruit scientists, including Jonathan Eisen, with what Eisen called the “strange email of the week.”
We’ve asked one of the editors, Colin Hopper, for comment, and will update with anything we learn. There will probably be other updates, as well.
Update, 8: 30 a.m. Eastern, 11/27/13: Blogger Neuroskeptic dug into Publication Integrity and Ethics (PIE), and his findings are worth a look.
Update, 11 a.m. Eastern, 11/28/13: Corrected third-from-last-paragraph to clarify that the editors don’t seem to have republished old studies on their new site, but have simply started publishing new studies. Also, Hopper responded to our request for comment:
I am afraid I cannot add anything at the present time as the matter is with our solicitors.
I can however confirm that I have been cleared of any misconduct in an investigation by UCL.