Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Weekend reads: Science reporter fired; crappiest fraud ever; are journals necessary?

with 16 comments

booksThis week at Retraction Watch featured a big new study of retractions, another that looked at scientist productivity over time, and a new statement on how to use p values properly. Here’s what was happening elsewhere:

Retractions Outside of the Scientific Literature

Update, 2 p.m. Eastern, 3/12/16: Clarified Michael Balter’s status as a freelance reporter in first item.

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Written by Ivan Oransky

March 12th, 2016 at 9:30 am

Posted in weekend reads

  • ELF March 12, 2016 at 9:40 am

    The link to Michael Balter’s blog doesn’t work – says “Sorry, the page you were looking for in this blog does not exist.” This link works:

    • Ivan Oransky March 12, 2016 at 9:43 am

      Fixed, thanks.

  • Larry March 12, 2016 at 10:24 am

    I wish RW would stop giving so much attention to Jeffrey Beall and repeating his “predatory journals” mantra. Yes, there are bogus “journals” out there, and there may be value in calling them out. But Beall perversely turns this into an argument for closed access.

    See all those “subscription required” notes in the “Weekend Reads”? Beall wants more of them. See all those nice links to items in open-access journals that anybody can read? Beall wants them to go away.

    I know that RW is just linking to things that are out there, without necessarily endorsing them. But there are many more things out there than it is feasible to link to. RW inevitably makes choices about which ones to promote, and it this is an unfortunate choice.

    • Neuroskeptic March 12, 2016 at 12:02 pm

      When someone else stands up against predatory journals in the same way as Beall, maybe we will be able to do without him. At the moment he’s the only one.

      • Larry March 12, 2016 at 1:02 pm

        Stands up against them? You make it sound like this is some sort of courageous act.

        A lot of these “journals” are crap. There is value in having a list of them, but you and I can recognize them when we see them, can’t we?

        There’s lots of science-related crap on blogs. And it might be helpful for somebody to make a list of “junk science blogs”. But if they tried to turn that into some kind of “argument” against science-related blogs in general (such as RW), making them out to be the biggest existing threat to science, that would be ridiculous. Beall has done something analogous, and we should not aid him.

        • VT March 13, 2016 at 10:54 pm

          Larry you speak as a veteran scientist who can recognize “crap” journal tittle. However many scientists who is working in Asia (China, India…) don’t recognize such fraudulent titles. They are more than happy to have their work published in those journals and spread the practice around. That’s how these publishing “predators” thrive. It’s always good to have an updated list and keep it in the spot light to increase the chance of people knowing of it.

          Your argument is like you know the this is a scam and others probably know it is a scam so just ignore it, but there are a lot of gullible people out there.

    • Bob.B March 12, 2016 at 9:47 pm

      I find it rather unfortunate that because you personally disagree with Beall’s stance regarding open-access that you would both admonish those who chose to link to his site and expect them to censor their content.

      I too see value in the idea of open access and thus diverge from Beall’s overall stance. However, he is drawing attention to fraudulent publishing practices and highlighting the actions taken by those attempting to deceive and swindle researchers. He is the one of the few that is allocating the time to do so on a regular basis.

      The scholarly journal to science blog comparison is not an equivalent one. We expect that there is some type of screening process (though not always foolproof) that will separate the science from the junk. While many people realise that you cannot always trust what is written in a random internet blog, they may hold the misconception that what’s published in a prestigious sounding journal must be accurate (even if researchers know this to be false). It’s held to a different standard. Further, an OA journal relies on APCs. The $ for these APCs frequently derives from organisations funded by governments and citizens. The resulting articles can be used in future research/promotion/grant proposals worldwide. Substandard science, journals, and con artists harm a significant number of people, even if indirectly.

      @KK- “I receive plenty of invitations and announcements to publish in those journals – this means they still are thriving.”

      How does having an efficient spamming system in place possibly define how well a journal is thriving? I suspect you’re missing a few criteria there.

      • Larry March 13, 2016 at 3:21 pm

        The issue is not that I “personally disagree with Beall’s stance regarding open-access”. It is that these Beall posts are an integral part of his nonsensical anti-OA campaign. He eagerly catalogs bad or questionable things that happen in OA journals, while blissfully ignoring the more serious and harmful things that happen in closed-access publishing. He attributes everything bad in any OA journal to OA itself, and tries to turn the existence of obviously fake journals into some kind of argument that high-quality OA journals are evil. So, the objection is to linking to a well-disguised component of propaganda.

        It is not censorship to omit a link from a list of suggested reads. In fact, we could come up with hundreds of candidate items for the list but only about a dozen made it. RW already makes choices about what to include and what not to, as I pointed out in my original remark, and it is legitimate to question those choices.

  • Sam March 12, 2016 at 10:54 am

    Color me confused. One study negates hundreds? Especially when the creator of the theory questions the methods used in that one study?

  • Shi V. Liu (@truth_coming) March 12, 2016 at 11:02 am

    Science needs to give specific reason for firing its reporter. I read Balter’s blog and could not get answer for this.

  • Hiro Kawabata March 12, 2016 at 11:37 am

    An interesting alternative perspective on diversity

    • Feo Takahari March 12, 2016 at 3:00 pm

      This article doesn’t respond directly to anything said in the NYT article linked today. I’d need to see a challenge to allegations like that before I could really evaluate this. (It also reminds me way too much of the vocabulary and writing style used in global warming denial articles, but I suppose that’s a more subjective critique.)

  • From Morocco March 12, 2016 at 11:59 am

    Larry sorry BUT Beall’s blacklist can not be challenged!
    What is important is to challenge Beall’s blog or list of predatory journals/publisher rather critiquing his preference in term of open access/subscription journals.
    For instance, can you please give to RW readers your disagreement on this blog post: Advocates are increasingly using predatory journals to make their cases

  • aceil March 12, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    Re Helene Hill:
    “This analysis emphasizes the importance of access to raw data ”

    What about those who may fabricate or manipulate raw data?

  • KK March 12, 2016 at 3:53 pm

    I concur with Larry that the list and his comments on some journals are really disturbing. Moreover, his advice to people who ask him about a particular journal – “don’t publish there”. I receive plenty of invitations and announcements to publish in those journals – this means they still are thriving.

  • Klaas van Dijk March 13, 2016 at 4:58 am

    The retracted paper in PLOS ONE mentioning “the Creator” lists “Renzhi Han, Ohio State University Medical Center, UNITED STATES” as Academic Editor. I am at the moment unable to locate this name at

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