Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

College retracts press release about sociologist reviewing manuscript

with 9 comments

pctThe Pennsylvania College of Technology, aka Penn College, has retracted a press release about a sociologist there reviewing a manuscript.

Now, although we’ve covered a few retracted press releases, we don’t typically write about such events. This one, however, struck us as odd: Is reviewing a paper really the bar for sending out a press release? What if every university did that every time one of their faculty was asked to review?

The May 2 press release, issued by Penn State, of which Penn College is a part, begins:

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — A member of the sociology faculty at the Pennsylvania College of Technology has been invited to evaluate a manuscript for publication in the journal Contemporary South Asia.

The page now redirects to a 404 error. We asked Penn State’s public affairs office why the release was retracted. Paul Starkey, vice president for academic affairs/provost, said:

The press release was published in error and has been taken down from our news website.

That leaves us guessing, of course, but it strikes us that one possibility is the fact that the release included the name of the manuscript Bahl is reviewing. That’s a no-no, if the journal uses blinded review.

This isn’t the first time Penn College has issued a press release about the sociologist, Vinay Bahl, reviewing a manuscript. They did the same in September.

Hat tip: Joel Berkowitz

Written by Ivan Oransky

May 5th, 2016 at 6:05 pm

Posted in united states

  • Dean May 5, 2016 at 9:09 pm

    Maybe it’s big news that this person actually got to review a manuscript. Maybe that’s an unusual occurrence at the college.

  • Anonymous May 5, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    How does such a reputable university accidentally publish a press release?

    • SB May 6, 2016 at 3:10 am

      For that matter how do you even accidentally write one? Acidentally publishing it I can see happening if it’s in with a load of others set for publishing but whay write it in the first place?

  • Sujai Kumar May 6, 2016 at 2:39 am

    Search for “peer reviews” or “presents paper” or “co-authors paper” on that press release site and you’ll see this goes back to 2006. Nothing specific about Vinay Bahl (or the other named researchers). As I wrote on , I don’t doubt the ability/scholarship of these specific researchers but there’s something very broken in the Penn College PR process.

  • Anonymous May 6, 2016 at 3:06 am

    I am wondering, did Dr. Bahl see and approve this press release for publication?

  • Roger GS May 6, 2016 at 3:15 am

    Possible reasons: 1) the post was attracting widespread mockery from academics on social media (the press release is the equivalent of shooting off an email to your friends and family bragging that your 7 year old tied her shoes today); 2) breaks anonymity of the reviewer (but reviewers usually have the right to sign their reviews anyway); 3) breaks confidentiality of the article’s title while in the review process. #1 makes most sense to me.

  • Ken May 6, 2016 at 7:25 am

    Google cache has the press release and it includes the title of the manuscript. It just seems an extreme case of self-promotion.

  • K2 May 6, 2016 at 8:44 am

    If this were standard, and assuming a second release when the review is completed and a third when (if) the paper is published, many scientists would have two or three press releases per week just from reviewing activities. Reviewers should get more credit, but this is a bit much.

  • Chris Mebane May 7, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    Who needs Publons when you have press releases? I thought that I would read in this post that this announcement on these high scientific laurels for Dr. Vinay Bahl would be attributed to the Onion.

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