Updated: Ski resort paper hits a (media) mogul and gets retracted

With temperatures at Retraction Watch’s New York HQ threatening to break 100 degrees today — that’s nearly 38 degrees Celsius for those of you in the rest of the world — what better way to take our minds off the heat than by writing about than skiing?

Lucky for us, the author of a paper in the Journal of Maps about new ways to create ski resort maps — aka the “Breckenridge schematic map” — has retracted it. Here’s the notice:

The following articles have been retracted from publication in the Taylor & Francis journal Journal of Maps:

Kenneth S. Field. Schematic visualisation of ski resort trails. Journal of Maps 2009, 5, 30–36 (DOI:10.4113/jom.2009.1045)

The Editor and Taylor & Francis received a request from Dr Field requesting that the article be withdrawn from the journal. We note that the Editor of Journal of Maps published the now retracted article in good faith.

It is Taylor & Francis policy that the Journal of Maps article be kept online, but also stating that the paper has been retracted, together with a link to this Retraction to ensure the integrity of scientific record.

Other than suggesting that someone may have slipped one past a journal editor acting “in good faith,” the notice tells us nothing about why the paper was retracted. We tried contacting the editor, who works at Kingston University, the same university as the author did when he submitted the paper, but we haven’t heard back.

The paper notes, in a postscript, that

A version of this map was winner of the Best Software Integration and Best Overall Winner in the Map Gallery Competition at the ESRI European, Middle East and African conference, London November 2008.

As it happens, the paper’s author, Kenneth Field, is now working at ESRI. He also edits the Cartographic Journal, which despite its title is not a Journal of Maps competitor, Field says. As he notes in a blog post that describes the history of the two journals — and why the ski resorts map paper was retracted [see note at end for a description of how this and other paragraphs have been updated]:

The Cartographic Journal is a scholarly publication and publishes original research and, occasionally, articles that explore techniques, patterns of work or opinion pieces on change (for instance). What it doesn’t do is publish maps. It cannot publish maps and was never designed to do so. Sometimes people find that odd, but this means that if you’re looking at publishing a paper (or a map), you have to learn what the journal is designed to offer; what will it accept; and what will it reject simply because it maintains uniqueness by being specific.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, as we were, what the new map was, here’s what it looks like, from that announcement of Field’s move to ESRI (click on image for a larger version):

It’s hard to miss the similarities to the iconic London Underground map, an inspiration that Field notes in the now-retracted paper.

A description, from the paper:

The Breckenridge schematic map is an innovative and, perhaps, provocative, attempt to challenge the de facto method of representing trail networks for winter sports. The map displays all trails on a single, uniform image without the need for insets. It also takes a novel approach in that the top of the mountain (and the trails) are at the top of the map with all trails flowing down the map.

Perhaps it was too provocative. Too hot, even.

Update, 1 p.m. Eastern, 6/21/12: After this post went live, Kenneth Field responded to the email we sent yesterday, and it turns out there is a lot more to this story. As Field notes in a May 1 blog post, Taylor and Francis bought the Journal of Maps in late 2011, and moved what was an open-access journal behind a paywall. Field also felt that he and others should have been made aware of the details of the acquisition, and should have been consulted. He concludes his blog post:

Why this blog entry? Well, what other recourse does one have when faced with completely unprofessional behavior and utter silence? Sure I can take legal action, I can write to Kingston University and I can write to the Editorial Board (which I have done) but, ultimately, it comes down to how people are, how they conduct themselves and whether, deep down, they actually care. It’s disappointing when you find out what people are really like. If this simply illuminates what goes on behind the scenes of a journal at least readers might reflect on who they are dealing with. If you don’t like how people are behaving then go seek another place to publish. It’s a competitive market out there and putting JoM behind a paywall has just placed it in a whole new realm. I’ve asked for papers I have had published in JoM to be officially retracted. I feel extremely strongly about how things are being handled with that particular journal. I wish Mike good luck with JoM going forward. I’ll focus on The Cartographic Journal instead. Life is too short to get overly concerned about how others want to run their professional lives.

We see one other paper by Field in the journal, not marked as retracted.

We’re not sure of any other cases in which authors have retracted papers from journals whose management changed in ways they thought were problematic. If Retraction Watch readers know of any, please send them along.

We’ve updated the paragraph that begins “As it happens” to correct the name of the journal Field edits — apologies for the error — and added context about the distinction between the two journals. We’ve also updated the sentence about the London Underground map to make it clear that Field credited that map with his inspiration in the now-retracted paper.

Hat tip: Clare Francis

7 thoughts on “Updated: Ski resort paper hits a (media) mogul and gets retracted”

    1. Thanks for the question. Please see the updates to the post, following an email from Kenneth Field.

  1. In the light of the Elsevier boycott at costofknowledge.com I (slightly tongue-in-cheek) proposed the following subversive action, not dissimilar to Kenneth Field has done:

    1. Submit article to Elsevier journal
    2. Receive acceptance email/letter
    3. Respond with a retraction and reasons why
    4. Post article, acceptance and retraction letters online

    This way you can be accepted by the journal of choice, and also avoid publishing with the publisher one wishes to avoid.

    It would take a brave soul to do this, though.

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