A scientific publishing gadfly who was banned earlier this year from an Elsevier journal for “personal attacks and threats” has had a paper rejected by a Springer journal after he called for the editor’s resignation because of alleged incompetence.
As detailed in a comment left at Retraction Watch, Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva submitted a manuscript titled “One Conjunction, a World of Ethical Difference: How Elsevier, the ICMJE and Neurology Define Authorship” to Science and Engineering Ethics on November 11, 2012. As of last week, despite a number of messages sent to editors of the journal, he had not had a decision on the manuscript.
As a result, on July 14 of this year, Teixeira da Silva sent this letter to journal editor Raymond Spier and to Stephanie Bird, an editorial board member assigned to the manuscript:
I am calling on your immediate and unconcditional resignation from the editor board of Science and Engineering Ethics (Springer Science + Business Medium).
After waiting rather patiently for 20 months for my paper to be “peer reviewed”, I can only come to the conclusion that your editorial incompetence is to blame for such an outrageously long peer review period.
I should add that this call for your immediate resignation has also been sent (CC:) to the original editor board members whom I contacted in late 2013 with a formal complaint, because their silence is somewhat supportive of your editorial incompetence. Other relevant parties have also been copied on BCC.
To ensure that my complaint is not silenced any further by this publisher, journal and editor board, I have posted my e-mails and communications with you and with Springer over the past 20 months publically at Retraction Watch (including all relevant editorial dates):
In addition to my call for your resignation, I would apreciate a formal explanation, and apology, from Springer Science and Business Media.
Finaly, although it is quite evident that the peer review will no longer be free of bias, I would appreciate a formal decision on my manuscript, so that I can edit and improve it, or submit it elsewhere.
In a rejection letter sent to Teixeira da Silva last week, Bird apologizes for the delay, and explains that
the delay reflects a workload problem, not any inherent bias or conflict of interest on my part.
Specifically, she says, the Spier asked her to
take over responsibility for your manuscript in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, given his long-standing relationship with Elsevier as founder and Editor-In-Chief of the journal Vaccine for 28 years…
Bird comments on the importance of authorship as an issue in scientific publishing, but notes:
At the same time, authorship is what the community of authors understands it to be, not what publishers or editors suggest that it ought to be, nor even what professional societies say it should be.
Here are the reasons for rejection, according to Bird, who offers Teixeira da Silva the opportunity to rewrite and resubmit the manuscript:
As it stands now, your manuscript is not acceptable for publication. It is fairly incomprehensible, in part because it demonstrates an apparent lack of understanding of the authorship guidelines and definitions you discuss; it misrepresents recommended standards as rules, and the evolving state of guidelines as an indication of unethical behavior; and it appears to be a vehicle to attack particular entities in order to further your own goals. Your focus on the pronouncements of editors or self-appointed groups of editors is misdirected and a bit of a “straw man.” Furthermore, it is the long-standing policy of Science and Engineering Ethics (since its founding in 1995) that it is the role of this journal to be neither a place for personal attacks, nor for investigative journalism.
We’ve made the letter available in full here. Here’s part of Teixeira da Silva’s response:
Thank you for finally formally rejecting my manuscript.
I am sure that the same conclusion could have been drawn 15 months ago, including the perceived COIs betwen Prof. Spier and Elsevier.
Unfortunately, in this situation, there has only been one victim: me.
So, while I am to now left to deal with the consequences of bad editorial handling, you maintain your position as coEIC of one of the world’s premier “ethics” journals. That in itself, has got to be the most ironic aspect of this whole case.
In closing, I should add that political corectness and pure criticism of the farse behind Elsevier’s authorship definitions and the useless protectionism offered by COPE have no place in science, and I will make it my personal mission to make sure that there is anger and rage among scientists at the way we are abused by pseudo-ethicists who reign ethics journals and who impose their ethical values upon the scientific community, aka COPE and its highst paying “member”, Elsevier Ltd.
Thank you for the offer, but I will restructure my paper and update it to submit to a journal that is able to embrace editorial responsibility and see the facts as they are, not try and fill papers with euphemisms to avoid legal repurcussions or politcal fall-out.
Teixeira da Silva’s comments are often — by his own admission — sharp, and we often edit personal attacks and unfounded allegations out of them, per our comments policy.