Journal “mistake” forces removal of toxicology study by leading scientist

We’ve seen this movie before: Researchers present a study at a scientific meeting, then learn to their surprise (and, sometimes, chagrin) that a journal has published the data in a supplement or other edition.

That’s the case with a group of UK scientists whose abstract for a meeting of the British Toxicology Society wound up in the journal Toxicology — only to be expunged when they complained.

The work was titled “Molecular mechanisms involved in resistance of CLL cells towards ABT-737, a specific BCL-2 inhibitor.Gerald Cohen, of the University of Leicester, who led the study, told us:

There was nothing wrong with the data. I just did not feel that publishing an Abstract in  this journal was particularly meaningful. The journal made a mistake in publishing the Abstract but there is nothing more to it than that. …We hope to publish in the future but it may need more work.

Cohen is one of the most-widely cited toxicologists in the world.

Administrative errors happen, of course. But it seems like this sort of thing is avoidable, and at the risk of ruffling feathers, we need to point out that the British Toxicology Society’s policy on meeting presentations is as explicit as can be:

Abstracts are published in the BTS official journal and behind the secure members area of the BTS website.

Toxicology puts out those meeting proceedings.

10 thoughts on “Journal “mistake” forces removal of toxicology study by leading scientist”

  1. It is very common for conferences to be associate with a specific journal. The journal then publishes all the abstracts of the conference in a special issue. Typically people who submit to the conference are told that their abstract will be published in the journal and I don’t see why these people would not want to. Perhaps because they reported something that had not been fully analyzed?

    1. For many people the sole purpose of taking part in a conference is to have their abstract published in a Philadelphia-list journal. The key is that there is no peer review involved, so any nonsense can be dumped there. This stuff can then be included in a CV or used during any kind of professional evaluation as a legit paper in a reputable journal. So I heard…

      1. No usually these non-peer reviewed abstracts do not form part of your publication list, they just prove that you presented at the meeting. So the most you can say in your CV is essentially “look, i am productive and i disseminate my results in public forums and/or I was invited to speak at this meeting”

        They can be evidence that your “in press” or “submitted” or “in preparation” papers in your CV are based on actual research and you are prepared present it to other scientists. I don’t think anyone seriously considers these as important career building publications or sees them as a paper in a reputable journal. At least not in my field (biosciences).

  2. Apparently the journal Toxicology is at fault for publishing this abstract without getting the permission of the authors, and in contravention of the British Toxicology Society’s rules. But why? Is it because Cohen is the avatar of toxicology today, and the journal is trying to reflect some glory?

    1. If I read the last lines of this post correctly, the authors should have known their abstract would end up in Toxicology…

  3. I still don’t understand why the authors goes through such lengths to remove the abstract from the journal? Especially when considering his statement that “There was nothing wrong with the data” and that publishing the abstract “was [not] particularly meaningful”.

    It is common practice that abstracts will be published in a supplement or something comparable. And in this case also explicitly stated prior to the conference. If correctly presented “preliminary data/results….” that should not pose any problems for future manuscripts. And does actually someone read the abstracts of conference proceedings, after the conference?

    Could somebody enlighten me? So, why was the abstract retracted and (like Jess) why did the journal allow the retraction?

    1. Not so much in the area of toxicology, but this “pre-publishing” of data, conclusions, or abstracts can really hurt you if your hoping to patent. Any disclosure of intellectual property that is not under a patent is free game to the public. You can’t patent what the public owns (or not easily at least). Just food for thought.

      I remember my PI telling me to be very careful what I can and cannot disclose in seminars and posters for some of the projects I worked on due to intellectual property and patent laws.

  4. The British toxicology society asks for abstracts for its meetings, which are published in toxicology. The form allows you to opt out of publishing the abstract.
    If the author asked for his abstract not to be published, and it was published in error, that seems a fairly straightforward explanation.

    It is not such a big thing to have a conference abstract- they are almost without value, and they don’t count as prior publication. Still some people don’t want them.

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