Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Editorial board of public health journal resigns in protest

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The editorial board of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health resigned today in protest over ongoing battles involving the new editor and its handling of recent withdrawals.

We’ve covered the board’s gripes with the journal and publisher, which date back to the spring, and include appointing a new editor with industry ties without consulting the board, and withdrawing a paper by the previous editor that was critical of corporate-sponsored research with no explanation — again, without consulting the editorial board. In the en masse resignation letter dated today and submitted to Ian Bannerman, managing director at Taylor & Francis journals, which publishes the IJOEH, board member Arthur Frank writes:

We have been unsatisfied with our interactions with you and Taylor & Francis, especially regarding the appointment process for the new Editor-in-Chief, and the unilateral withdraw[al] of approved or printed articles done by the publishers.

We do not wish to be party to the apparent new direction that the journal appears to be moving towards, and will not be party to these developments.

Although the letter says it’s “on behalf of all members of the Editorial Board,” it does not list board member Reena Sandhu, founder of SafeDose, Ltd.

In May, Bannerman responded to the board’s concerns — but also said the journal was re-reviewing three (unidentified) papers after they were slated for publication by previous editor David Egilman.

In June, past and present members of the board filed a formal complaint against the publisher. On Monday, ProPublica reported the former editorial board asked the National Library of Medicine (NLM) to remove the journal from indexing in MEDLINE on November 16, a rare step for the NLM to take.

Explaining the decision to resign now, board member Barry Castleman told us the ProPublica story reported that consultant Dennis Paustenbach — whose work was mentioned in Egilman’s withdrawn paper — contacted the journal in 2016 requesting Egilman’s paper be retracted:

Despite the publisher’s refusal to answer questions about how or why Taylor & Francis decided to “withdraw” a published paper, we are starting to find out more…The publisher is turning IJOEH into something that none of the editors want to be associated with, hence their last official act as editors of IJOEH was asking the National Library of Medicine to de-list IJOEH issues after 2016 in MEDLINE.

In a media release issued today, Frank — based at Drexel University — said:

IJOEH’s impact factor will fall if it is removed from MEDLINE as has been requested. We are taking these unprecedented measures because Taylor & Francis has failed to address the Board’s concerns.

Board member Leslie London, associate director of the Occupational and Environmental Health Research, University of Cape Town, South Africa, said in a media statement:

It is the unanimous opinion of the 22 member IJOEH editorial board that Taylor & Francis’ actions are an assault on editorial independence…We urge the NLM to respond favorably and swiftly to our request. Failing to do so emboldens the influence of corporations on medical journals which will have dire consequences for public health.

Representatives for Taylor & Francis did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

As reported by Monday’s ProPublica story:

IJOEH is best known for exposing so-called “product defense science” — industry-linked studies that defend the safety of products made by their funders. At a time when the Trump administration is advancing policies and nominees sympathetic to the chemical industry, the journal seems to be veering in the same direction. 

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Written by Alison McCook

November 22nd, 2017 at 12:54 pm

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