Controversy continues to swirl around the retraction of a Frontiers paper linking climate skepticism to conspiratorial ideation, with three editors resigning from various Frontiers journals, and competing narratives. The authors say the journal retracted the paper because of a fear of legal threats, while the journal, and critics of the study, has said it was withdrawn because the paper did not protect the rights of its subjects.
Whatever the issues with the paper, we and others have been saying that the journal stumbled since the study was first retracted last year. The publisher continues to insist, for example, that there is no contradiction between their retraction notice — agreed upon by the editors and the authors — which said that the journal “did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study” and a later statement saying that the paper “did not sufficiently protect the rights of the studied subjects.”
Today, editor-in-chief Henry Markham acknowledged missteps in a blog post. Here’s how it starts:
The retracted Recursive Fury paper has created quite a blogger and twitter storm. A sensational storm indeed, with hints to conspiracy theories, claims of legal threats and perceived contradictions. It has been fury – one of the strongest human emotions – that has (perhaps understandably at first sight) guided the discussion around this retraction. Not surprisingly though, the truth is not as sensational and much simpler. The studied subjects were explicitly identified in the paper without their consent. It is well acknowledged and accepted that in order to protect a subject’s rights and avoid a potentially defamatory outcome, one must obtain the subject’s consent if they can be identified in a scientific paper. The mistake was detected after publication, and the authors and Frontiers worked hard together for several months to try to find a solution. In the end, those efforts were not successful. The identity of the subjects could not be protected and the paper had to be retracted. Frontiers then worked closely with the authors on a mutually agreed and measured retraction statement to avoid the retraction itself being misused. From the storm this has created, it would seem we did not succeed.
Read the rest of the post here.
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