Publishing gadfly demands journal editor’s resignation, then has “fairly incomprehensible” paper rejected

sci eng ethicsA scientific publishing gadfly who was banned earlier this year from an Elsevier journal for “personal attacks and threats” has had a paper rejected by a Springer journal after he called for the editor’s resignation because of alleged incompetence.

As detailed in a comment left at Retraction Watch, Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva submitted a manuscript titled “One Conjunction, a World of Ethical Difference: How Elsevier, the ICMJE and Neurology Define Authorship” to Science and Engineering Ethics on November 11, 2012. As of last week, despite a number of messages sent to editors of the journal, he had not had a decision on the manuscript.

As a result, on July 14 of this year, Teixeira da Silva sent this letter to journal editor Raymond Spier and to Stephanie Bird, an editorial board member assigned to the manuscript:

I am calling on your immediate and unconcditional resignation from the editor board of Science and Engineering Ethics (Springer Science + Business Medium).

After waiting rather patiently for 20 months for my paper to be “peer reviewed”, I can only come to the conclusion that your editorial incompetence is to blame for such an outrageously long peer review period.

I should add that this call for your immediate resignation has also been sent (CC:) to the original editor board members whom I contacted in late 2013 with a formal complaint, because their silence is somewhat supportive of your editorial incompetence. Other relevant parties have also been copied on BCC.

To ensure that my complaint is not silenced any further by this publisher, journal and editor board, I have posted my e-mails and communications with you and with Springer over the past 20 months publically at Retraction Watch (including all relevant editorial dates):

In addition to my call for your resignation, I would apreciate a formal explanation, and apology, from Springer Science and Business Media.

Finaly, although it is quite evident that the peer review will no longer be free of bias, I would appreciate a formal decision on my manuscript, so that I can edit and improve it, or submit it elsewhere.

In a rejection letter sent to Teixeira da Silva last week, Bird apologizes for the delay, and explains that

the delay reflects a workload problem, not any inherent bias or conflict of interest on my part.

Specifically, she says, the Spier asked her to

take over responsibility for your manuscript in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, given his long-standing relationship with Elsevier as founder and Editor-In-Chief of the journal Vaccine for 28 years…

Bird comments on the importance of authorship as an issue in scientific publishing, but notes:

At the same time, authorship is what the community of authors understands it to be, not what publishers or editors suggest that it ought to be, nor even what professional societies say it should be.

Here are the reasons for rejection, according to Bird, who offers Teixeira da Silva the opportunity to rewrite and resubmit the manuscript:

As it stands now, your manuscript is not acceptable for publication. It is fairly incomprehensible, in part because it demonstrates an apparent lack of understanding of the authorship guidelines and definitions you discuss; it misrepresents recommended standards as rules, and the evolving state of guidelines as an indication of unethical behavior; and it appears to be a vehicle to attack particular entities in order to further your own goals. Your focus on the pronouncements of editors or self-appointed groups of editors is misdirected and a bit of a “straw man.” Furthermore, it is the long-standing policy of Science and Engineering Ethics (since its founding in 1995) that it is the role of this journal to be neither a place for personal attacks, nor for investigative journalism.

We’ve made the letter available in full here. Here’s part of Teixeira da Silva’s response:

Thank you for finally formally rejecting my manuscript.

I am sure that the same conclusion could have been drawn 15 months ago, including the perceived COIs betwen Prof. Spier and Elsevier.

Unfortunately, in this situation, there has only been one victim: me.

So, while I am to now left to deal with the consequences of bad editorial handling, you maintain your position as coEIC of one of the world’s premier “ethics” journals. That in itself, has got to be the most ironic aspect of this whole case.

In closing, I should add that political corectness and pure criticism of the farse behind Elsevier’s authorship definitions and the useless protectionism offered by COPE have no place in science, and I will make it my personal mission to make sure that there is anger and rage among scientists at the way we are abused by pseudo-ethicists who reign ethics journals and who impose their ethical values upon the scientific community, aka COPE and its highst paying “member”, Elsevier Ltd.

Thank you for the offer, but I will restructure my paper and update it to submit to a journal that is able to embrace editorial responsibility and see the facts as they are, not try and fill papers with euphemisms to avoid legal repurcussions or politcal fall-out.

Teixeira da Silva’s comments are often — by his own admission — sharp, and we often edit personal attacks and unfounded allegations out of them, per our comments policy.

56 thoughts on “Publishing gadfly demands journal editor’s resignation, then has “fairly incomprehensible” paper rejected”

    1. Neuroskeptic, you can state that for one simple reason: you were not the victim or the author who had to wait for more than 20 months for the peer review. If you had had to wait for 20 months, how would you feel, what would you say and what would you do? I wish to thank Ivan and Adam at RW once again for bringing another one of my cases to the public domain. I also with to thank Dr. Spier for ending my agonizing wait for more than 20 months for traditional peer review, which clearly failed in its supposed objectives. I can appreciate that many scientists, editors and publishers don’t like my tone of voice and knife-edged criticisms. But, years of experience have indicated that a soft-footed approach and diplomatic language has its limitations, as was in fact extremely clear in this case, too, in which I wrote very polite, and diplomatic requests to Dr. Bird and Dr. Spier over a few months. When I then came to the conclusion that they were clearly avoiding trying to deal with my paper, for whatever reason, I then had no choice but to cry foul, i.e., to make the claim of editorial incompetence. It’s astonishing, to be honest, to see how professionals like Dr. Bird actually have the courage (or the gall) to spin the message to their advantage. In this case, if the paper was in fact so “fairly incomprehensible”, then this could have been transmitted 15 months ago, after I submitted my revised form in January 18, 2013. Would it have cost Dr. Bird too much time and too much patience to send me a simple email in January, 2013, indicating that my paper was “fairly incomprehensible”? I believe it is only because I made a public raucous did Dr. Bird decide to try and swing attention from my concerns about Springer Science and Business Medium’s JSEE, that a diversionary reason was provided. I should note that no apology has yet been received from Springer S&BM, which, like so many other complaints, sits on the side-lines in silence and watches the circus in full commotion. In summary, this is how I feel (and if it reflects the truth in other ways, I am not sure): I am the victim, 20 months of my precious time was wasted, and my ideas have now gone to the back of the line. In contrast, Dr. Bird maintains her editorial position and prowess, and nothing changes. This is why I am glad that y public disclosure to RW has resulted in a story here. I should indicate that my public exposure of corruption and academic fraud and nepotism in Elsevier’s Scientia Horticulturae was followed by the removal of 12 editors from their editor board within ONE month [1] while my public exposure of the same rot in a Serbian journal more recently [2] was followed by the sacking of the ENTIRE editor board. These changes took place, I believe, not because I was a “publishing gadfly”, but because I exposed the truth. There comes a time in our career when we realize that the ideals we stood for were all just smoke screens imposed by people running journals and publishers, imposing their will upon us. I may be irritating. I may be noisy. I may be considerably undiplomatic when push comes to shove, but this is because we are figuratively in a war. And while the editors serve as the frontline for the marketing campaign of publishers, in a bid to downplay the errors and to soften the mistakes, it is incumbent upon the scientific community to stand up to injustice, to reveal the truth (even if it does also reveal our own weaknesses, too), so that science can improve, correct its errors and move on, better, albeit more scarred. I hope that this case will at least be useful for some. I wouldn’t be surprised if Springer S&BM bans me also from this journal, for publically exposing this case. Such is the nature of the risks and the struggles that the 99% of the scientists suffer.

      As for my paper, I would like it to be revealed, but it does need considerable edits, as I clearly indicated to Dr. Bird, making her criticisms premature. The scientific community will have to wait for the final version, which I will try to get posted here linked to this story at RW once published so as to centralize and concentrate al links.


      1. JATdS: why did these ‘considerable edits’ not happen before the paper was re-submitted after peer review on January 17, 2013?

        1. lar, that’s a good question, but one which I already indicated clearly on my RW post last week. See my comments below to our other query in which I explained that on January 18, 2013, I had FULLY responded to, and addressed, all three peer reviewers’ comments, requests and suggestions. My comment above about ‘considerable edits’ related to my own self-assessment made in mid-2013 in which I wanted to include the authorship definitions of a few more societies and/or publishers, or scholarly journals, in order to give more balance and a wider scope to the paper. These suggestions were my own and not requested by JSEE-assigned reviewers, by Dr. Bird or by Dr. Spier. I should note that I have always claimed editorial incompetence but not peer reviewer incompetence (important to distinguish both). I think the three peers did a good job, even though I may have traded some theological barbs with reviewer 2.

      2. Haven’t we all dealt with a few excessively long peer-reviews at one time or another. Why not just withdraw the manuscript, try another journal, and encourage colleagues not to submit to journals that don’t provide a decision in a timely manner?

        1. 20 months is excessively long (thanks for confirming this). Does that mean you should sit silent? Especially when there were clear COIs between Elsevier and Spier that were hidden from me for the past 15 months? This is not some willy-nilly journal liste don Beall’s list of predtaory OA journals, this is a “respectable”, “peer reviewed” ethics journal, that shuld, in all aspects, represent the highest publishing norms and values. Why should I withdraw a paper that has received exceptionally high reviews by three peers, and has addressed all of their concerns, and is on its way to being accepted, as suggested by the peers, to another journal? That’s like telling a swimmer that has reached the 90 m mark of a 100 m race to stop and fall out just because some water seeped into the goggles. The logic is wrong. In fact, more recently, if “peer review”, or the lack of it, exceeds 4-6 months in more less-known journals, I do withdraw. I withdrew two papers already in July from a Serbian journal and from an Omics journal precisely because their handling was wrong. Why, for example, does no JSEE editor (of the approximately 40) come here publically to RW to provide comments, as “ethicists”? It’s not like they are not aware of the existence of the story.

          1. I’ve found that academia is 90% rejection and frustration. Rejected grants, rejected papers, unfair reviews, lengthy review processes….That’s the nature of the game. You can’t take it personally. There are other journals, there are other funding agencies, and there are other papers to write. Fighting every unfair review or editorial decision would leave little time to actually do science. It’s not healthy either. Be positive, look toward the future, and do the best work you can possibly do.

          2. As an additional stroke of sick humor, I just received this e-mail from JSEE a few minutes ago:
            “Dear Dr. Jaime Teixeira da Silva,
            We have received the reports from our advisors on your manuscript JSEE-D-12-00418R1 “One Conjunction, a World of Ethical Difference: How Elsevier, the ICMJE and Neurology Define Authorship”.
            With regret, I must inform you that, based on the advice received, the Editors have decided that your manuscript cannot be accepted for publication in Science and Engineering Ethics.
            Below, please find the comments for your perusal.
            I would like to thank you very much for forwarding your manuscript to us for consideration and wish you every success in finding an alternative place of publication.
            With kind regards,
            Journals Editorial Office
            Comments for the Author: [completely blank]”

            I am so glad that this story is out. Because we now have the responsibility, like it or not, of reporting these faults. I do good work, and I do fight passionately too. The scientific community thinks that the problems in science will resolve themselves if they only do the former. No longer.

    2. Dear Neuroskeptic.
      I don’t know if Jaime Teixeira lost control. But… I’m a firm believer that the scholarly publishing tends to fly off the handle, to say the least.

    3. I am willing to have a PDF file of my R1 version published by RW to allow the scientific community to judge for themselves if the claim of “fairly incomprehensible” by Dr. Stephanie Bird holds up. I think this would be the best way to deal with the question marks lingering in bloggers minds in the most transparent, accountable and open way way possible. Here it is.

  1. “Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.”
    ― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

    1. Let’s not forget that Charlotte Brontë used a false name (euphemistically referred to as a pen name), Currer Bell, to publish Jane Eyre. If scientists were to do the same in scientific papers, they would surely have their papers retracted and called unethical by the current leading publishers. So, let’s use 21st century quotes to characterize 21st century struggles.

      1. With the amount of bile and venom you spew towards anyone who wrongs you in the slightest, it is completely understandable why you are persona non grata. So here’s your 21st century quote, as LL so succinctly put it: “[you are] not a correspondent but a career – and life is too short for that.”

          1. You have a seemingly almost narcissistic need to justify your own behavior as being right and totally ignore that you are, in at least this situation, truly your own worst enemy. From observing your quoted interactions with others and here, you are just too expensive in time, effort and self respect to maintain.
            While all or most of those making comments here are in favor of rehabilitation of the system, I would guess that very few would want you as a partner to take on the effort.

          2. One has to believe with conviction that one is right, and be consistent about it, otherwise the argument is lost, and weakened. The system can only be rehabilitated when the problems are exposed, as I have done in this and in dozens of cases already. I take no credit, and as is clear by the aggressive comments against me, I take alot of hits, too. So, yes, I am my own worst enemy, but this is of choice, because this is a duty I feel I have towards science and the system that underlines it, which has not been fair to me. So, I must fight back and respond. Those who are concenred with my tone are looking at the surface and those who confuse narcissism and passion are myopic. My complaint about JSEE is, was and always will be valid, and every counter comment that is posted by any critic, I will defend. I have great partners who understand that what I do is unique, and very rarely liked by the majority. Once again, allow me to emphasize the following: I was the victim of the poor editorial performace and clearly failed peer review of this journal.

  2. Hm. So apparently the editor saw fit to have the manuscript peer-reviewed by several experts, and to have the manuscript revised, yet the resulting manuscript is now summed up as incomprehensible? That suggests to me that either this journal is very careless with reviewers’ time, or things are not exactly as described.

    Did the peer reviewer(s) recommend that the article should be published?

    Is a copy of the manuscript available?

    1. lar, you are right. Something is missing: logic. I unfortunately cannot release the full paper, of course, because it will be submitted elsewhere after I make edits. However, I can indicate that I sent the coy of the peer reviewers’ reports as well as the revised paper to ALL JSEE editors 2 days ago, and then got, in 24 hours, a sudden rejection e-mail from Dr. Bird. Isn’t it oddly contradictory that Dr. Bird is claimed to e in charge of handling the paper when in fact Dr. Bird actually handled the paper until January 17, 2013? Until January 17, 2013, Dr. Spier did not indicate to me, in any transparent way, that he had any link to, or possible COI with Elsevier, the central focus of this paper.

      I can however, indicate the following excerpts from the 15-page peer reviewer report and rebuttal, signed by Ray Spier, Editor in Chief, on 17 January, 2013:
      a) “Based on the advice received, I feel that your manuscript could be reconsidered for publication should you be prepared to incorporate major revisions.” “Please be informed that your revision is due on 05 Feb 2013.” “We look forward to receiving your revised manuscript.” Spier
      b) Reviewer 1 (summary; verbatim): Title should be changed; Abstract is clear and adequate; The message contained in the paper is significant; Interpretation is adequate; Statistical treatment is not relevant to this opinion piece; Language is grammatically sound; Presentation is adequate; Literature references are mostly adequate; The paper is graded as good; I found this to be an interesting paper that highlights the inconsistencies in authorship criteria that are reflected in statements by the various scientific societies. It should stimulate discussion. In my opinion, this manuscript can be published With minor revision.
      c) Reviewer 2 provides some really harsh criticism, and that takes me about 10 pages to defend and major edits to address (of course later I will reveal the full peer report and version of that paper). Most of the critiques are important, and valid, but I am able to address 100% of them, but also offer some diplomatic words of rebuke to the reviewer for his/her heavy-handed stance.
      d) Reviewer 3 states “In this opinion article author tackles a well known problem with ICMJE criteria for authorship. However, author also points to incompatibility of two definitions of authorship used by Elsevier biomed journals and opens an important discussion about publishers’ ethical responsibility. I believe this opinion should be published in Sci Eng Ethics.”

      So, I ask, how did Dr. Bird jump from a fairly positive and encouraging peer review (at least 1 and 3) and a thorough revision and response to reviewer 2, to “fairly incomprehensible” (in 24 hours)?

      1. Do you know whether reviewer 2 is satisfied with your changes and whether s/he now recommends publication? (I don’t think this is a crucial point, but it would reduce the journal’s ammunition.)

        1. You would have to ask Dr. Bird and JSEE about that. The journal’s communication about the paper died after January 18, 2013 (the offical date when I re-submitted R1 edits). Hence this whole drama. I have no idea what any of the reviewers actually decided.

  3. JATdS – whatever are you grizzling about? The editor’s letter whilst rejecting your article gave you much positive and optimistically constructive feedback on how it might be publishable. Moreover since you have accepted that your paper requires ‘considerable edits’ By your own hand it was prematurely submitted. I have read many of your posts and almost without exception you seem to be spoiling for a fight, your language full of fury and conflict-ridden expressions such as ‘victim’ and ‘war’. 20 months is on the long side but not without precedent; how were those 20 precious months ‘wasted’ ? Were you unable to do anything else pending receipt of the outcome? I look forward to being added to the list of those who have caused you tho take offence even when none was offered. mhs.

    1. I addressed all of the peers’ comments and that in fact the paper was en route for acceptance and publication (provisionally). How is change and reform supposed to take place behind an iron curtain of euphemisms, polite language, opaque information by publishers and cover-ups by editors, their front-line of defense? Just to let you know, my rebuttal letter states the following:

      “Dear Dr. Ray Spier
      Editor in Chief, JSEE,

      At the outset, I wish to thank you and the reviewers for very interesting feed-back on my opinion paper. These comments have allowed me to reflect not only on the content but also on my choice of words or expressions used. I believe that I have been able to address all comments and requests, and have responded to all suggestions made below. My responses appear in blue text, as does new or modified text within the main body of the actual opinion paper itself.

      I should further add that in this interim period, I also requested a formal response from the three main proponents of the opinion paper and also independent peer reviews from several individuals linked to science, publishing, or publishing ethics, in order to verify and fortify the validity of what I have written. I truly believe that this paper, although submitted as an opinion paper, represents a very important issue that has been overlooked. It is my sincerest hope that the paper can be accepted by JSEE because, through Springer, it would bring my message to a wider audience.”

      That indicates that I was very grateful to the three peer reviewers for their input.

      1. Speaking as a long retired bench scientist (with many fewer publications – 105 over 10 years of activity) it seems to me that JATdS is his own worst enemy in this imbroglio. Any chance he had to make substantive changes in the process was completely lost by his willingness to speak the absolute worst of any situation that he encountered. He responds to every spark with a fire hose.
        If I were an editor, I would rather the science go unreported than have to deal with him. He is not a correspondent but a career – and life is too short for that.

        1. The critical comments are quite astonishing, to be honest. Over the weekend, the focus was on the way in which peer review has collapsed, is dysfunction and is becoming degraded. I gave nothing less than a prime example of this in the JSEE (Springer) case. It is my right to respond to fire with fire, because fire often extinguishes fire ad admittedly leaves everything torched). And I have my right to complain. I also have my right to indicate to the EIC and co-EIC that their actions are wrong and irresponsible. These are my inherent rights as an author. This kind of editorial mishandling is not something normal.

          1. I don’t question your ‘right’ to reply. The manner in which you do reply, seeking out every conceivable issue and then losing a torrent of accusations in dense prose that is almost unreadable, is counter-productive.
            For example, when your proofs were returned with the wrong figure, instead of trying to repair the situation with the least damage, you start accusing people of being incompetent.
            You seem to overwhelm and insult everyone you deal with and yet remain oblivious to the effects. Well, now you are feeling them.

          2. theunderscoretraveler, your comment “For example, when your proofs were returned with the wrong figure, instead of trying to repair the situation with the least damage, you start accusing people of being incompetent” seems to refer to another case, my Scientia Horticulturae paper, in which Elsevier Ltd. did a royal goof-up up my proof by using the wrong text. I did, as you say, accuse them of incompetence then. It does not in fact refer to this paper submitted to JSEE (Springer S&BM). So, may I suggest that you please write your facts more precisely since I was confused and thought you were talking about the JSEE figure). And yes, why should I not accuse Elsevier Ltd. and its proofing team in Chennai, India, of incompetence when they used the incorrect files to create my proof? Surely, this would epitomize incompetence? There seems to be some strange antipathy to the word “incompetence”, even though the examples I provide are perfect. We are scientists, no need to become diplomatic and euphemistic about facts. Just call a spade a spade.

          3. “We are scientists, no need to become diplomatic and euphemistic about facts. Just call a spade a spade.”
            OK, since you encourage me – you are the least interested in improving the journals you claim to care, or changing way editors work. You are just seeking attention, and you seem to think you are god’s gift to science.
            You complain about other’s posts being confusing, but your own walls of text are almost always nothing more than unintelligible rants. There are plenty of scientists who have minor issues with editors/papers once in a while, and they all find amicable ways to resolve it.
            What I never figured out is why you think Elsevier needs to run a scam and reject your papers and accept others to turn a profit. Care to explain in a 1000 words or less?

          4. I second what theunderscoretraveler says! Elsevier’s proofing stage is completely author controlled. You can change as much text as you want, and you can upload new figure. I have changed a figure in the proof stage before, to change some fonts in it, and it turned out OK in the published version.

            I cannot understand why you went off on such a fit and started screaming murder when you were just asked to make changes in a proof!

  4. I think that most reasonable people can see what exactly happened in the “peer review” process. My personal record – 9 months (to be rejected in the end). My own venom spit VERY POLITELY at the editor that this is a joke did no good.
    I think the whole problem is that publishers are nothing but profit-seeking entities, and behave accordingly. The peer-review process is clearly nowhere near sufficient to detect flaws nor mistakes in manuscripts, and millions in research money get wasted and washed down the drain every day because of very poor publishing process in general, not to mention ethics. Elsevier, Nature – they ALL publish because they want to make money, not because they give a crap about the science.
    I agree that authorship is largely earned by being a good friend with important people, especially if one is senior enough, and careers are advanced in academia by people who have no idea how to hold a pipette, yet claim 100 publications to their name as co-authors due to “intellectual contribution”. It makes me sick to my stomach, yet the poor PhD/post-doc that did all the work gets very little say in this – how many more names that had absolutely nothing to contribute to the work tailgate him to the journal publication (I wish they at least made a table or a figure, but most of the time – do absolutely NOTHING).
    So I think that sharp articles targeting this SHOULD be published in respectable journals, in order to get the “guidelines” and “evolving standards” more even, just and fair for everyone involved, including funding bodies. Whether the tone should be aggressive, belligerent and combative to get one’s point across is a question. I believe in diplomacy, and don’t think that diplomacy means having to keep one’s mouth shut, on the other hand, alienating everyone is rarely the way to forward one’s, or even everyone’s cause.

  5. By any standards, a 20 month interval from submission to decision is not acceptable, let alone from submission of a revision to decision. Period.

    Generally speaking, as a associate editor of an well over 2 impact factor Wolters Kluvers journal published, though various commercial publishers over more that five decades as the journal is over by a scholarly society that very now and then decides on the published by competitive offers, here are some insights.

    For a number of papers, typically to those that have a sell sample, are case series or opinion papers, it is surprisingly hard to find one let alone two reviewers. It may take up to ten invitations over two to three monta because you must wait some time for their answer – which more often that not is net received. I would in fact substantially speed the review prosess if everyone would immediately just click the not available link. The proportion out of all invitees who do not do so is increasing and approaches forty percent or so.

    In this journl like many others the days, the manuscript first goes to an editorial board member to invite the reviewers. This translates to an extra waiting step. One or two times every year I get a manuscript that has been disassigned from an editorial board member who with was to busy or incapable of getting any reviewers. This can add two to three monta to the process. Again, the process would be speeded up if they would immediately let the Chief editor to know that they are temporarily available. Of course, if this proves to be the modus operandi the editorial board member should be diplomatically dismissed.

    By and large, the are five types of reviewers – diaregarding the luckily rare but existing exception who is hostile and writes the entire review with the aim of inducing a rejection – these are often easy to recognize and diaregard.

    1. A quick and detailed review – highly pertinent but rare, about 10 percent
    2. A delayed from slightly to markedly delayed but detailed review – perhaps 50 percent, we still presitentin and enjoy receiving them and try to avoid reviewers who consistently are very late. Note that mostly a late review is an exception to the reviewer, likely dictated by circumstances.
    3. A quick but superficial review which just suggests a decision or at most summarizes what the paper is about – unwelcome but tolerable; one can at least invite a replacement without delay – about 20 percent
    4. A delayed and superficial review – waste of time as the other reviewer are already in an I have to decide whether to respond to the authors based on partial review – which I usually do – or invite a placement and accept the delay if what you have is clearly inadequae and you are a poor judge of the topic yourself – about 10 percent
    5. A disappearing reviewer – you never hear about them any more, despite the three authomatic reminders the the system sent them – about 10 percent

    Finally I read the paper one more and put the reviewer comments in perspective – what is mandatory and what is not, adding journal style specific comments as reuired.

    In summary, in spite of considerable effort from the editorial staff, to have a paper adequately reviewed may take several months in spite of an aim of one month and, occasionally, after six months has been spent, the editors may need to make a decision by their own reading when no adequate reviews have been received.

    The situation has not improved over the years because the number of submitted papers and journals has continues to increase thanks to electronic review and publishing.

  6. Are several of the replies to this thread which appear to be from different contributors actually from the same contributor? I don’t think it would be the first time either….

    1. Dear Captain Scarlet, I also get the feeling, from the grammar and from the style of attacks (no positive or encouraging criticism or even objective reflection of the facts, dates and reactions) that your theory may be true. Here I am trying to give as much background and transparent information as possible, and here are some critics saying “out of control”, “the amount of bile and venom you spew”, and “whatever are you grizzling about”. My Latino temperament draws, thus, an immediate and equal reponse.

    2. Sorry,
      I was on a new computer and commented as LL because I didn’t remember my original screen name and I was in a hurry.
      When I got to my home computer then my comments are as written.
      No intent to deceive, there just didn’t seem to be a proper time to mention my small issue.


      1. So, in summary, you are a “long retired bench scientist (with many fewer publications – 105 over 10 years of activity)” that has left comments in a rush, from different computers. Indeed, it’s a small issue, but I think it is an important one.

        1. I usually work on a desktop machine and, when I am relaxing or recuperating I lie in bed and read email or browse the Internet on an iPad.
          I’m having trouble understanding what’s suspicious in that fairly ordinary behavior.

          1. The focus of this story is my claims that I was victimized by unprofessional editorial work in a scientific journal, and not about iPads and resting on the bed to relax or recuperate, which you seem to be using to explain your rushing and use of different computers. I would welcome your comments on the scientific merits, or finding prctical solutions to avoiding such situations in editor boards.

          2. Since you opened this question by insinuating that my actions were somehow scurrilous, I replied explaining, giving you the benefit of the doubt.
            Your response has convinced me that I was wrong to do so.
            I suggest that the best and most practical solution for avoiding the situation with editorial boards is for someone else to be the corresponding author.

          3. The paper has now been posted open access for all to judge. There is only one author. So, the battle is exclusively mine. I will be more than happy to respond to those who pose serious questions about editorial failure and irrespondibility, which is the focus of this story with Dr. Bird and JSEE.

  7. Jaime, kudus to release the full text of your retracted paper. Some preliminary comments after reading / scanning parts of the paper.
    * focus the paper around Table 1. It seems to me that this is ‘new information’? Anyone else ever has made such a comparison?
    * the first part of your Introduction is excellent.
    * you have done alot of research for this paper, change the scope to ‘original paper’. As a consequence, you will need to remove all ‘opinions’. I tend to think that the message in the paper will become more clear when your will change it from an ‘opinion paper’ into a ‘original paper’.
    * the manuscript is easy to read and easy to understand. I strongly disagree with the opinion of editor Bird that your paper is “fairly incomprehensible”.
    * you need to include more background information and more references on general rules in regard to authorship issues. See, eg,
    . (first half is the German text, second half is the English version).
    * try also to get such information from other countries (eg the US and/or China and/or India and/or Japan).
    * I get the idea that parts of the information is presented twice (or more) in the paper. I tend to think that the contents would still be similar when around 50% of the text will be removed (or rewritten in a more condensed way).
    * what’s the difference between ‘scholary’ and ‘academic’?
    * remove all words like ‘false’, ‘grossly’, etc. and be very sure that your have solid references for all of your opinions.
    * I tend to think that ‘The take-home message’ must be situated at the end of the paper.
    * Zeng et al 2011 only list case studies of successfull CPC projects. Are you also aware of unsuccessfull / failed CPC projects?
    * I would like to advise you to ask more people for comments, collect all comments, make a new manuscript and (re)submit this new manuscript to Science and Engineering Ethics.
    * I end with a quote of Paul S. Brookes: “If someone criticizes your work, instead of getting hung up on what names they called you while doing so, concentrate on the data. (..). Real scientists, when challenged, reach out for the lab-book, not to the lawyer or the image-management consultant.”
    So concentrate on the contents of this manuscript and on the sources / references which support your findings, and don’t bother about the opinion of Stephanie Bird.

    1. Dear Klaas, even though I do not know you, your response was classy, and constructive. Thank you. These were excellent suggestions, and most definitely, when I make further edits to the manuscript, I will incorporate some of these ideas and subsequently acknowledge you, too. Of course, the issue of authorship is vast, the authorship definitions that exist are also quite vast, but it was important to focus on three closely-linked bodies: Elsevier Ltd., COPE, and the ICMJE, because they are all intertwined. So, in my paper, it was Neurology that was the “outlier”. What will have to now focus, is how definitions might differ for different plant science journals, to narrow down the applications, because plant science and medical science is incompatible in many senses, hence some of my criticisms of the forced application of ICMJE’s definitions. Note that originally, I had submitted as an opinion paper, and the peers liked the “opinion”. It was not a traditional data-based paper, as is evident, but a critique of a definition, as I interpreted it. So, indeed, I do not take notice of Bird’s opinion any longer. She is only one person in a process, but an important one to show how there are problems in editorial issues even in the highest ranking “ethics” journals. Once again, thank you for those remarks and critiques. I hope more come forward with comments. Perhaps they too had published in Elsevier journals and were not aware of these contradictory definitions in authorship that are invoked by a single conjunction. In fact, every author that has ever published in an Elsevier journal should know – and debate – this!

      1. Dear Jaime, thanks for your friendly comments. Some other ideas.
        * I tend to get the idea that the current version of your paper needs some sort of translation from ‘a long opinion letter with a variety of opinions about authorship issues’ to a ‘research paper’ / ‘orgininal paper’ with a clear focus on one item. Towards my opinion, Figure 1 can be used as the focus.
        * towards my opinion, your ‘Figure 1’ must be renamed ‘Table 1’, as such kind of information is not presented in a Figure.
        * you might even think to built up the new version by taking Table 1 as your starting point. So start composing the new version with parts which must be placed behind Table 1 and parts which must be placed before Table 1. As a bonus, parts who don’t fit will automatically be deleted.
        * at a certain moment you might reach a conclusion that a certain part of your ideas don’t fit anymore in the new version. This part can be used as a focus for another paper.
        * don’t be afraid to delete (even large) parts of your own text and check the next day (or week) the readability of the paper without the deleted part.
        * many papers, including various papers written by myself, originate from faults / mistakes / wrong assumptions / contradictory statements and/or definitions, etc, in other papers. I tend to hold the opinion that many readers of such papers will often not be aware that these papers were written to correct these faults, errors (etc.), because the focus of the paper is totally different (eg by presenting own information / data).
        * I tend to think that you have enough information [from the literature] to change the focus of your current version from errors, mistakes (etc.) to your main theme [= , eg, a preliminary investigation on some authorship issues by comparing rules of A, B. C, and whatever].
        * remove the bold words (and / or). These differences are immediately obvious for anyone who sees your Figure 1, so no need to use bold words in the text.
        * what’s your definition of plant sciences? Disclaimer. I am a biologist, but readers of Science and Engineering Ethics might be less familiar with such kind of words.
        * You state: “In order to provide a full, fair, open, transparent and official response, and to somewhat buffer the impact of the notion that this is simply an excessively biased opinion paper, I formally requested Elsevier, ICMJE,
        Neurology and COPE to respond to this opinion paper. I requested a timely response within a reasonable time-frame of 3 weeks and the opportunity to challenge, refute, or correct any statements that may have been made within this paper.”
        * I would like to suggest to make a section with ‘methods’ and put such kind of information in this section. As a bonus, readers will be aware what they can expect when they read a paper from the start to the end.
        * I would like to suggest to change the above text into something like “A final version of the manuscript [ which part?] was send to Elsevier, ICMJE, Neurology and COPE with a request for comments.” Have you omitted comments send to you after the deadline?

        1. Klaas, all suggestions considered! I have another mega-mission in the pipe-line and that I think will cause a global furor among plant scientists, so I will work on this JSEE paper thereafter…

  8. I document another example of a rejection by “Science and Engineering Ethics”. Arun Sundar of Springer claimed that a submission by me (JSEE-D-14-00006) was a rehash of an earlier article by me. These articles shared no datum. These articles hared no reference. This articles shared only one sentence – i.e. the acknowledgement. I appealed thus:
    “Dear Mr. Arun Sundar of Springer:

    You rejected this paper without even showing it to referees.
    This paper is not changed at all: it is new. If you disagree
    that it is new, I would be grateful if you would explain to
    me why you think that this paper is not new.

    According to
    : “[. . .]

    Science and Engineering Ethics is a multi-disciplinary
    journal that explores ethical issues of direct concern to
    scientists and engineers. Coverage encompasses [. . .]
    standards and ethics in research and practice, [. . .]

    [. . .]”

    This paper exposes extensive promotion in supposedly
    scientific journals of a flawed model permitted by
    gatekeeping of low quality. This paper documents unethical,
    unscientific censorhip by an editor of a Springer journal.
    As you are also an editor of a Springer journal, why did you
    reject this paper without even showing it to referees?

    Yours sincerely,
    Colin Paul Gloster”

    Arun Sundar had shown this appeal to who he called “the editor” and reported that “the editor” has maintained this rejection without even showing this article to a referee.

  9. Well, I would fully understand the anger of the author, and each reader should put himself in his place to understand his situation.
    I also would understand the position of JSEE editor if I am in his place.
    A compromise should thus be attained friendly.
    Regardless, here some reflections and thoughts that might help:
    – the world of publishing and peer-review systems are getting corrupted.
    – the big publishers are true predators not the small ones.

    – as possible as you can, try to PUBLISH YOUR PAPERS as a sole author. Doing so, you will get the FULL credit of the publication and you avoid any headache with co-authorship issues. Double benefit!
    – don’t dramatize the situation more than it is; you are not the alone with such issues. The publication world is corrupted. Some editors think they are the “center of the world” and they forget their earlier days when they were juniors running behind other journals.
    – set up your own journal and publish all what you want!

  10. You should also note that, you talk about Elsevier, in a JSEE as a venue of competitor to Elsevier! I am not sure that this would be appreciated because it would be considered as an ads for a competitor, particularly when you say:
    “Elsevier, currently the world’s largest science journal publisher…”
    Springer should not like this claim!

  11. Publishing an article as an only author in a “small” journal is much more rewarding than being a co-author in a list of 10 authors in an article published in highest top journal!

  12. I wish to make a public call for ALL editors-in-chief (representing therefore the communal voice of ALL editors on that board) of all ethics-related journals, including Springer’s Science and Engineering Ethics, particularly those that carry an impact factor (and even those that do not carry one), especially from the main STM publishers, including Elsevier, Springer Science + Business Media (including BioMed Central), Wiley, Taylor and Francis (including the Routledge group), McMillan Publishers (including the Nature Publishing Group), Oxford University Press, and all publishers listed here (, as well as all COPE-paying publishers, and ICMJE-enforcing publishers, to make a voluntary public commitment to editorial quality and editor ethics, as defined by the UNCC, and to post such a declaration publically on their web-pages.

    This will go a very long way to ensure editor accountability, openness in manuscript processing, transparency when there are publisher- and editor-related issues. It will ensure, ultimately, that editors are held up to the exact same standards that authors are held up to, in a fair, equal, unbiased and equally scrutinous way. (Dec 2014) (verbatim quotation)

    “Ethical Practices of Journal Editors: Voluntary Code of Conduct
    I __________as an Editor or Associate Editor of____________, already bound by the ethical standards of my respective journal(s), professional association(s), and discipline, affirm [as an individual and not on behalf of my journal(s) or sponsoring association] the importance of the following practices:
    Article I. Refraining from coercive citation practices, inappropriate citation inflation practices, and citation cartels (whereby editors link together and encourage authors to cite work published in the journals with whom they have partnered).
    In both public submission guidelines, and well as within the peer review process, authors will be encouraged to omit citations that are irrelevant to a paper’s main thesis. Specifically, I will refrain from encouraging authors to cite my journal, or those of my colleagues, unless the papers suggested are pertinent to specific issues raised within the context of the review. In other words, it should never be a requirement to cite papers from a particular journal unless the work is directly relevant and germane to the scientific conversation of the paper itself. I acknowledge that any blanket request to cite a particular journal, as well as the suggestion of citations without a clear explanation of how the additions address a specific gap in the paper, is coercive and unethical.
    I will monitor for, refrain from, and discourage the practice of citation cartels, reviewer/action editor self-serving citation advisement, and editorial regimes and partnerships. As for the latter, this could include serving as a guest editor (or having one of my associate editors serve in this capacity) of another journal with the intent of using it as a mechanism to cite articles from one’s principal journal.
    As an editor, I recognize that metrics such as impact factors are one of many imperfect methods of measuring the impact of published papers, and will not engage in efforts to game or influence these calculations (such as those listed above). I also recognize that, although all journals are entitled to aspire to certain acceptance rate levels and determine their own threshold for what is acceptable work to be published, journals should not artificially reduce the number of papers accepted so as to increase the probability of creating a more favorable impact factor.
    I will also consider the ethical implications of how editorial material is presented, and ensure that the use of editorials or the citations therein are in no way used to game citation counts or impact factor computations.
    Article II. Promotion of ethical research practices.
    In recognizing the global dialog regarding data fraud, research integrity, and implicit pressures on authors to manipulate findings, hide results, etc., I will, whenever possible and appropriate given the scope of my journal, encourage:
    8. data transparency including identifying potential conflicts of interest
    9. the citing of archival data sources properly, and for one-off data collections, revealing to action editors the full set of variables (if reasonable) and other papers emerging from the data sample under review (or for larger-scale investigations, involving publicly available, representative datasets, providing adequate context with which to assess the unique contribution of the reported study).
    10. the reporting (and publishing) of theoretically/methodologically relevant null results
    11. substantive and important replication efforts and the use of both (quality) inductive and deductive research.
    12. the refraining from opportunistic post-hoc hypothesizing under the guise of deductive research.
    13. compliance to journal policy, and discipline-specific ethical standards surrounding data sharing, data retention (to permit colleagues to verify results), and the reporting of results.
    14. careful monitoring for plagiarism, self-plagiarism, and the re-submission of papers rejected by previous editorial teams.
    Article III. Fairness to authors.
    I will encourage:
    6. the providing of clear feedback to authors about what is required to make a paper publishable.
    7. the keeping of commitments made in decision letters.
    8. the keeping of the revision process timely and/or not overly cumbersome or unduly prolonged.
    9. the holding of action editors and reviewers accountable to a high level of due diligence. I recognize that reviewers are expected to prepare high quality reviews that may require additional work beyond reading the manuscript, and that they should not review papers for which they are unqualified. I will monitor review quality and consider returning poor quality reviews, providing such reviewers feedback and/or flagging poor reviewers in the reviewer database. I also recognize that editors and reviewers have an obligation to justify, with relevant citations as appropriate, any recommendations for substantial change in the substantive focus or analytic methods of a paper.
    10. the timely dissemination of published work. I recognize the need to make authors’ published work publicly available as quickly as possible (e.g., through the immediate production of papers and posting on early view, online first, and other web-based listings of in press papers. These papers should be fully formatted and contain a permanent doi code.
    Article IV. The handling of investigations into potential errors and/or potential unethical research practices.
    I recognize that an investigation into alleged errors and/or unethical research practices is a very sensitive matter which involves the protection of the rights of multiple stakeholder groups, including but not limited to authors, accusers, reviewers, action editors, journals, and publishers. In instances where appeals or accusations require an investigation, I commit to handle such situations in a way that maximizes procedural justice and professionalism toward all involved. In many cases this may involve following a standard procedure for handling such issues, such as those put out by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE; who provides flowcharts for handling ethical problems and guidelines on retractions) or other governing bodies (American Psychological Association, Academy of Management, etc.). In other instances, it may involve following practices established by the journal publisher which are designed to uphold professional ethical standards.
    Article V. Communicating ethical standards.
    I commit to communicate these and other relevant ethical standards to associate editors, board members, and authors; and to convey these principles within appropriate public forums (e.g., editors’ panels at professional conferences). I will encourage reviewers and action editors to report to the Editor (or to the Editor Ethics Advisory Board) when they feel
    the articles herein have been violated. I will encourage action editors to similarly report occasions when reviewers are seen as engaging in unethical practices.
    Article VI. Dissemination of this code.
    I approve of this Code and its signatories being posted on a public Internet site.
    Affirming names are in ABC order by date of the affirmation.”

  13. “All’s well that ends well.”

    The first part of my analysis has been published, following major edits and a total restructure and broader analysis after a rigorous peer review, overseen by Dr. David Resnik at the NIH. Some may find the study to be useful and/or important.

    Part 2 of our meta-analysis is now in the R1 version of peer review in another journal. I will update once that has been published.

    Teixeira da Silva, J.A., Dobránszki, J. (2015) How authorship is defined by multiple publishing organizations and STM publishers. Accountability in Research: Policies and Quality Assurance online first.
    DOI: 10.1080/08989621.2015.1047927

    1. The second part of the analysis has been accepted:
      Teixeira da Silva, J.A., Dobránszki, J. (2015) Multiple authorship in scientific manuscripts: ethical challenges, ghost and guest/gift authorship, and the cultural/disciplinary perspective. Science and Engineering Ethics
      DOI: 10.1007/s11948-015-9716-3

  14. Today, the Editor-in-Chief of Science and Engineering Ethics reinvited me to peer review my own paper. I have questioned today the ethics of this request.

    ” On Friday, March 18, 2016 2:56 PM, Science and Engineering Ethics (JSEE) [email redacted] wrote:

    Dear Dr. Teixeira da Silva,

    As we did not receive a reply to our request for a review of [title redacted; my own paper], JSEE-D-16-00046 for Science and Engineering Ethics, we assume you must be very busy or on extended travel.

    If you are still interested in reviewing the article, please contact us as soon as possible.

    With kind regards,

    Ray Spier
    Editor in Chief”

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