Weekend reads: Snarky acknowledgement sections, journal editors on fraud

booksAnother busy week at Retraction Watch, beginning with a story we broke about faked HIV vaccine results that was picked up by the Des Moines Register and other outlets. Here’s what was happening elsewhere on the web:

  • Have you ever thanked the Bush Administration in your paper’s acknowledgements? One group of researchers did. Find out why, and what other snarky messages scientists leave in their papers, in a fun piece at Slate.
  • “If you want to be entertained (not to say amazed or even disgusted) by the retraction epidemic, I suggest visiting the Retraction Watch Web site (http://www.retractionwatch.com).” The editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Neuroradiology weighs in on the “The Fraud and Retraction Epidemic.”
  • The editors of The Bone & Joint Journal also comment on research fraud in their field.
  • “[M]ajor players on Wall Street and elsewhere have been aggressive in underwriting and promoting academic work,” reports the The New York Times.
  • Should universities help researchers “work around” conflicts of interest?
  • The “NEJM seems determined to prove that it can maintain stony-faced intellectualism at all times.” Richard Lehman’s review of the year’s batch of journal Christmas issues.
  • Elsevier “has launched a wide-ranging takedown spree, demanding that several different universities take down their own scholars’ research.”

6 thoughts on “Weekend reads: Snarky acknowledgement sections, journal editors on fraud”

  1. Is Retraction Watch considered to have “broken the story” about faked HIV vaccine results? I guess you’ll be ‘breaking” every story that originates with a public ORI finding.

      1. When I hear about somebody “breaking a story”, I imagine that some investigative journalism was involved, and that something hidden was exposed. In this case, RW saw the ORI finding that was posted publicly on the web and pointed at it and quoted it, as they apparently do for every ORI finding when it comes out. It is fine that they pass ORI findings on to us, and I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think RW was generally valuable. However, to boast of having “broken” this story is silly and misleading (casual readers might even get the misimpression that RW exposed the fraud). RW is ever eager to criticize misleading and self-serving wording in statements made by others, so I don’t feel too bad pointing this out.

  2. Slate article did not include an acknowledgment that I saw in a peer-reviewed article.

    “The authors blame each other for the mistakes in the paper.”

    I am assuming that this was said tongue-in-cheek.

    1. Regarding the Elsevier story. In 2012 and 2013, I complained to Elsevier on several occasions that I had discovered many web-sites around the world that openly displayed the PDF files of published papers. This was allowing those scientists to be given an unfair advantage because the likelihood of being referenced was heightened. My complaint was not so much because the papers were open access. I think open access is excellent and Elsevier represents the greedy traditional alternative that makes billions in profits from scientists’ intellect and rewards them with a PDF file. My complaint was more that the situation was unfair. many, like myself, were being legally forced to hand over our copyrights, then were being “legally” forced to not publically show-case our own work on our own private or professional pages. Elsevier, with its take-down notices, is enforcing the notion that copyright is an artificially implemented system that goes against the grain of freedom of speech and free access to information. The last 3-5 years have already seen one way in which academic have protested Elsevier and the classical publishing model: through a pandemic of open access journals. So, the only way to now protect their 12 million forcefully inherited papers on sciencedirect.com is by legal threats. Fortunately, the world consists of 190+ countries and the anger by scientists against greed exceeds the borders of one nation that is the bosom of Reed-Elsevier.

      Greed and power (and possibly even in former years the true desire to represent scientific knowledge) was the policy that kept them ahead of the pack for literally hundreds of years. Open access was the movement that crippled their globalistic vision within the space of less than a decade. And it is retractions and the desperate grab for the control of “ethics”, the final frontier in the fight in science publishing, that will rot the remainder of the carcass like a nasty gangrenous organ or internal cancer.

      The base can only be sustained and grow when the principles are trust and honesty, not aggressive implementation and unfair policies.

      One reaps what one sows. The question is how will we, the scientists, be able to ensure that our intellectual investments survive long into the future after the vultures who hold its copyrights have finished picking at each others’ flesh?

      PS: I never received a thank you note from Elsevier, EVER, for pointing out many of their faults. Their lack of basic respectful principles of thanking people who call in problems, and who assist the company in making improvements, will result in the establishment of a resentful base, but one with limited options… yet.

      The efforts started here (http://thecostofknowledge.com/) died because the focus was off-center. Money is something corporations can work around. But ethics, bad PR, forceful systems will eventually come back to haunt the company. Fortunately for Elsevier, for now, the only reason why so many scientists still keep flocking to its journals is because of the power of its data-bases and the fact that so many of its journals carry an impact factor. When this latter plague is wiped off the face of the publishing plate because it is nothing more than a gamed system to generate profits, superficial salaries and unfair grants, then we will see scientists move en masse elsewhere.

  3. For German readers, there was an article about reproducibility in science in one of the most important German weeklies (The newspaper for the political class ‘Die Zeit’). It’s in four parts and the link is to the first part. Retraction watch and Ivan are cited on the second page. The article talks a lot about retractions, and various new initiatives such as Arxiv and JUnK to publish negative data and reproduce stuff. Also Clare Francis is mentioned.


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