Ivan: What’s the weather like today?
And then there’s uninformative as served up by the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
We’ve already recounted one teeth-grinding experience with the JBC, a publication of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. The case involved two papers in JBC by Axel Ullrich, an esteemed cancer researcher at the Max Planck Institute in Germany. According to Ullrich, one of his then-postdocs, Naohito Aoki, had manipulated figures that appeared in the papers, necessitating their retraction.
Round two involves another JBC retraction of a 2000 paper by Aoki and co-author Tsukasa Matsuda, titled ‘A cytosolic protein-tyrosine phosphatase PTP1B specifically dephosphorylates and deactivates prolactin-activated STAT5a and STAT5b.’ The paper has been cited more than 100 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.
According to the notice:
This article has been withdrawn by the authors.
Whoa there! TMI! Don’t share so much!
Alas, that’s all she wrote. In fact, neither the abstract nor the article itself are marked as retracted, so it’s worse than useless.
We spoke — briefly — with Nancy Rodnan, director of publications for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Rodnan says it’s her group’s policy to provide brief retraction notices; readers who might want to know more can contact the authors involved. She wouldn’t say any more.
We’ll give them points for consistency. On the four JBC retractions for papers by Silvia Bulfone-Paus and colleagues, the notices said nothing, either.
Let’s get this straight: According to JBC, retractions are between the authors and, well, the authors. Curious readers — ahem, paying customers; society members get the journal through their $140 per year annual dues — who’d like to know more about the reason for a retraction have to contact the authors directly. How’s that working for you?
Of course, it’s ironic but hardly surprising that JBC has a high regard for its purpose in the publishing world. According to a note on the journal’s website, if a manuscript
is judged to be novel, important, of broad interest and technically sound, then it will be accepted and published in the JBC, an icon among scientific journals.
The publication also boasts about its “ongoing effort to improve our service to the research community” — a campaign that evidently does not include openness or transparency. (That kind of service reminds us of the “service fees” banks like to charge for the privilege of earning interest on our money.)
Ironically, the JBC fancies itself a catholic journal in its tastes and policies. In an editorial explaining its relatively middling impact factor, two associate editors wrote that the journal:
has been in existence since 1905 and has always been a repository for a broad cross section of research in the biochemical sciences. Like the New York Times, it publishes “all the news that’s fit to print,” without consideration of its relative trendiness.
Last time we checked, though, the Times had a corrections column, and a public editor who made it a point to explicate the paper’s misprints, missteps and other follies rather than leave its readers to hounds. Maybe it’s time the JBC paid a little more attention to its own promotional material.
Hat tip: Anonymous reader