Less than a year after the entire editorial board of a public health journal resigned in protest of moves by publisher Taylor & Francis, the publisher has decided to call it quits for the journal, Retraction Watch has learned.
In November, the editorial board resigned en masse because its members were unhappy with how the publisher had chosen a new editor, Andrew Maier, who had ties to industry. Maier is chair of the fellows program at Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA), which they described as a “corporate consulting firm” in a letter to Taylor & Francis. What’s more, now-former members protested the unexplained withdrawal — after publication — of a paper by the previous editor, David Egilman about how companies use research to “manufacture doubt about the health hazards of products.”
In 2015, a group of researchers based in Spain decided to write a review article on high blood pressure. But when they looked over eight articles co-authored by the same person, they noticed some undeniable similarities.
Over the last few years, Giuseppe Derosa, based at the University of Pavia in Italy, has racked up 10 retractions after journals determined he’d published the same material multiple times. But there’s much more to this story: The researchers in Spain (led by Luis Carlos Saiz of the Navarre Regional Health Service in Pamplona) kept digging into his publication record, and have since identified dozens of additional potential duplicates. Although the outside researchers alerted journals to the additional potentially problematic papers in 2015, most have not taken action; recently, two journals published by Taylor & Francis flagged 12 of Derosa’s articles, three of which they had been alerted about in 2015 by Saiz and colleagues.
Now, Saiz is telling his story — and why duplication of medical research matters:
When the former editor of a public health journal didn’t get a straight answer about why the journal retracted his paper that was critical of corporate-sponsored research, he brought his concerns to an organization dedicated to promoting integrity in academic publishing. He wanted the group to help resolve the impasse he’d reached with the publisher, but was sorely disappointed.
David Egilman, the former editor of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, had been seeking answers about the paper for a year. In November, the journal’s editorial board resigned, in protest of the “apparent new direction that the journal appears to be moving towards.” They objected to the “unilateral withdraw[al]” of Egilman’s paper, with little explanation, the delay in publishing other papers that had been accepted under Egilman’s leadership, and the decision to appoint a new editor with industry ties.
Amidst all that upheaval at the journal, Egilman still wasn’t getting the answers he wanted about why his paper was withdrawn. So he brought his concerns to the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE).
deeply shocking and we strenuously disagree with this decision. It is not in the best interests of the journal or the community served by the journal.
Taylor & Francis have argued that an editor’s term should be limited. But many academics disagree — an online petition to save outgoing editor Richard Lorch (started by Lorch himself) has collected hundreds of signatures; many people on Twitter have posted comments using the hashtag “#saveBRIeditor.”
At the end of the open letter, three associate editors and dozens of board members write:
In a statement from Taylor & Francis, the publisher laments that the board of theInternational Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health“did not wish to take the opportunities offered by ourselves and the editor-in-chief to discuss the journal’s future,” and defended its recent editorial decisions that were questioned by the board.
Since the the spring, the board has vocally protested actions taken by thejournalwithout consulting the editorial board, including its decision to appoint a new editor with industry ties, and the “unilateral withdraw[al]” of a paper by the previous editor that was critical of corporate-sponsored research, with little explanation. In the resignation letter from last week, the board said it did not wish to participate in the “apparent new direction that the journal appears to be moving towards.”
In its statement, the publisher says it has no plans to make “major changes” to the journal:
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 theen 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:
This isn’t the first time the journal has withdrawn a statement that authors couldn’t pay the page charges — we’ve discovered the journal removed a line to that effect from a 2015 retraction notice (although in that case, it left the retraction intact). Page charges, often required by traditional publishers, typically cover printing costs; they differ from article processing charges (APCs) levied by open-access journals, which cover the cost of publishing the paper and making it freely available.
We’ve contacted editors at the journal and its publisher, Taylor & Francis, to try to find out why there are mixed messages about author page charges. A spokesperson for the publisher said it was unable to respond before deadline, but it was looking into the matter:
I can confirm that we are committed to following [Committee on Publication Ethics] guidelines and that we are taking this issue seriously.