Weekend reads: Science News cites The Onion, bitterness over lack of credit in sixth grader’s project

booksAnother busy week at Retraction Watch. Here’s what was happening elsewhere:


26 thoughts on “Weekend reads: Science News cites The Onion, bitterness over lack of credit in sixth grader’s project”

  1. As promised, I have now decided to sacrifice my name and my career to try and get a new mind-set in the plant sciences. I am extremely frustrated to see the attitude by so many leadng plant scientists who are afraid for themselves, their positions, their jobs, their salaries to do anything to correct the literature, even though, in many cases, they are cognizant of the errors. These elite of the plant science community, and in fact, from my experience, in about 99% of the plant science community, are absolutely unwilling to correct the literature when there are clear, black-on-white, cases of plagiarism, duplication (partial or full), and other academic issues such as pure bad science. Thus, I decided to post publically the letter I am using to invoke change among plant scientists. Not only will this letter serve as a public repository of my ideas, and a historical date setting, it will hopefully also serve as a rough blue-print for other scientists, and other activists who are equally frustrated about the selfishness and irresponsibility in their field of study towards the academic literature, to seek pro-active change. Please feel free to use my letter and modify it to suit your own needs. It is only by making public calls, and then, by public shaming, or public listing of faults, that we will be able to start to reverse this mental block among colleagues and academics. If they are not willing to change, then change has got to be forced.
    “Dear Dr. X,

    I would be extremely grateful if you could take a few minutes of your precious time to read over some concerns and ideas that I have regarding plant science and plant science publishing [1]. These ideas have evolved over at least two decades of experience with dozens of publishers and journals related to the plant sciences, pure and applied (including food-related sciences, biotechnology and agriculture / agronomy).

    I am of the opinion that plant science is in a serious crisis that endangers not only the very future of science as we know it, but the security of the scientific facts that have been published thus far in the literature. Unless something is done now, the work that we do in the laboratory, and the work will publish in journals, may lose its intrinsic value. Although the problems are ample, they span from the first step of the scientific process, the laboratory, or most likely even earlier, the education system that we embrace, and its inherent weaknesses and failures. Insufficient peer review, or no peer review at all, in so-called scholarly journals, has led to a literature that is marked by a wealth of problematic papers ? some small, some larger ? that has the potential to irreparably damage the trust and value of what was published, as honest, ethical and solid science becomes inexplicably intertwined with false, fraudulent or unethical science. I have embraced the concept of post-publication peer review (PPPR) [2] in order to make plant science more accountable, to repair the errors in the literature, and to identify the root causes of the problems that will allow us to increase not only public trust in plant science (and more widely science), but to reaffirm trust in the plant science peer community. And I am strongly encouraging you, too, to embrace PPPR, because it is, without a doubt, going to be an integral part of the new plant science publishing platform.

    PPPR is essential for the following reasons:
    a) It allows scientific and other errors in the literature to be identified and corrected;
    b) It allows fake or poor peer review and/or reviewers/editors to be identified [3];
    c) It allows for fraudulent or false data to be reported;
    d) In doing so, retroactively, it allows trust to be regained and it ensures that the process of publication, from laboratory to PPPR remain aspects that scientists, authors, editors, universities and publishers are held accountable for.

    I believe that the impact factor (IF), although itself not a bad metric of evaluation, is one that is open to being abused or corrupted, since it is commercialized in several countries to reward scientists who publish in IF journals. Consequently, PPPR needs to focus, extremely carefully, on IF journals in particular, but without ignoring an increasing plague of unscholarly journals, both traditional and open access.

    As scientists, I believe that we can no longer stay passive, or silent. We have a communal moral and ethical responsibility to contribute to repairing the plant science literature. This can happen in various ways:
    a) Anonymously, or not, reporting errors in the literature to journals (i.e., editors and their publishers) [4].
    b) Anonymously, or not, archiving those errors in public data-bases or repositories (e.g. PubPeer or PubMed Commons).
    c) Publishing papers that report on case studies to raise awareness and induce change [5].
    d) Calling out editors or publically exposing scholarly fraud, and demanding their resignation, and/or accountability [6, 7].
    e) Examining, in fine detail, small clusters of the literature that fall into our areas of specialization, that critique the problems and errors that exist, and permit their correction [8].

    PPPR cannot work unless the plant science community works collectively to correct the literature and improve the underlying root causes of the problems. As a fellow scientist, I call on your active participation, using the vehicles indicated above, to assist me and dozens of other science activists who care about the integrity of the future of plant science.

    I look forward to your comments and feedback, and hope to work with you, using all possible channels available, to hold authors, editors, journals and publishers accountable, to encourage them to embrace PPPR and induce change and correct errors, and to begin to eliminate fraud. I would be grateful if you could forward this to your colleagues and other scientists so that the word begins to spread.

    When considering PPPR, please understand that there are very personal risks to one’s name and career [9,10], but all of these have a context in this battle for integrity.

    I wish you well in your research and publishing endeavours.


    Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva

    Select references and sources/examples:
    [1] Teixeira da Silva JA (Ed) (2013) Issues in science publishing. Asian Australasian J Plant Sci Biotech.
    [2] Teixeira da Silva JA (2013) The need for post-publication peer review in plant science publishing.
    http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fpls.2013.00485/full (and references therein)
    [3] Oransky I (2014) SAGE Publications busts “peer review and citation ring,” 60 papers retracted. http://retractionwatch.com/2014/07/08/sage-publications-busts-peer-review-and-citation-ring-60-papers-retracted/
    [4] Teixeira da Silva JA (2014) Blog comment on frustrations in trying to correct the plant science literature.
    [5] Teixeira da Silva JA (2014) Recent retraction cases in plant science that show why post-publication peer review is essential. J Advancement Eng Technol 1(3): 4 pp (DOI: 10.15297/JAET.V1I3.03).
    [6] Teixeira da Silva JA (2014) Blog case study reporting, publically, false peer review and attempted extortion (and leading to total replacement of the entire editor board).
    [7] Beall J (2014) Peer review reports from questionable publishers: three examples.
    [8] Teixeira da Silva JA (2014) Snub publishing: evidence from the Anthurium literature. Publishing Res Quarterly 30(1): 166-178.
    [9] Oransky I (2014) Following “personal attacks and threats,” Elsevier plant journal makes author persona non grata. http://retractionwatch.com/2014/04/10/following-personal-attacks-and-threats-elsevier-plant-journal-makes-author-persona-non-grata/
    [10] Oransky I (2014) Publishing gadfly demands journal editor’s resignation, then has “fairly incomprehensible” paper rejected.

    Disclaimer: This e-mail was sent to you in my personal capacity as a scientist, without any association with any publisher, journal or academic research institute. Should you have been contacted in error more than once, or should you not wish to receive further future information related to science publishing issues, please return an e-mail with a brief explanation.”

  2. It’s called freedom of expression. If you have no grievances, then you are either very lucky, or part of that sector of the scientific community that works in half measures: half for itself, and the other half for itself. This blog is about issues that are related to retractions. Understanding retractions means that we need to understand the basic issues that underline them. My comments will be useful for many, and I am highlighting the need for the plant sciences.

    1. I don’t think anyone is suggesting you should not have the freedom to speak, and many of the things you address are important, up to a point. However, many people don’t like the way you go about it. Some object to your abrasiveness. I (like failuretoreplicant) don’t very much care for how you hijack many threads on retractionwatch to voice your (usually rather wordy and sometimes difficult to parse) opinions on subjects not directly related to the RW posts you respond to. And of course because of the spreading of information among various unrelated threads some of the context and all of continuity is lost to readers.

      I think failuretoreplicant’s blog suggestion is a good one. There you can organize the essays on issues you wish to address. And when you wish to call attention to a letter or some other writing in a weekend reads thread, you can simply post a link to your own blog, where people would be able to find all the information that they need to understand the context of your present beef, which is perfect for a weekend reads thread.

      1. Hijack? I use this blog or any other, as a tool. That is what a blog is. Too many of my critics are too engrossed about tone that they have started to lose the meaning of the topic at hand. I have made quite a large vlume of enemies among plant scientists because, I call out their shenanigans in a simple way: loudly. And seems like the same form of expression has riled a few of the softer voices in the RW crowd, too. So what?

  3. Any criticisms of JATdS’s posts should be directed solely at RW (i.e., Ivan and Marcus). They are the ones allowing JATdS to hijack these threads and co-opt RW to be his own. I’m puzzled why they are allowing this. It undermines the mission of the site, which is morphing into “the life and times of JATdS.”

    1. Correction, I meant to state “Ivan and Adam”, not “Ivan and Marcus.” No disrespect intended.

      1. How one scientist can hijack a blog? IF you want to submit 100 comments, that’s your right. If they are related to academic issues, directly related to retractions, then so be it. And if they are related indirectly to issues that could lead to retractions, then this is also acceptable, I believe. I am bringing forward a personal case study and personal experiences of what I perceive to be editorial irresponsibility. The fact that I do not use diplomatic channels to relay my information to editors and journals, who have actively ignored my voice of complaint, because it is so real, indicates that i have alot of issues with these proponents of the publishing industry. Rather than attacking bloggers, wouldn’t it be more useful to comment on some of the useful stories that Ivan and Adam provided? For example, I found the delisting of the predatory journal from Elsevier’s Scopus to be an important issue for us to consider while the comments a the Scholarly Kitchen are also worth a good read. It’s not about me. I’m just one small nothing in this pool of powerful elitist plant scientists. It’s about the truth, and how I expose it. I am quite happy to provide insight and information. I believe there is a large crowd of silent supporters who thoroughly enjoy my raw exposure of the fraud and/ir the problems.

        1. While I concur that the majority of your comments are important and add strength to many of the RW discussions, I too believe that it may be helpful if your comments could be expressed in a more concise and parsimonious manner. Your attention to detail, I imagine, is probably what facilitated the prominence and respectability of your research, analysis, and papers. However, the addition of certain extras, especially the emotionally charged sentiments, such as declaring, once again, how you are sacrificing your good name and that only about 1% of the plant scientists are currently willing to assist in correcting the literature, may be unnecessary for some of your replies and can potentially detract from your overarching theme.
          Additionally, I agree that is important to hold editors and others in the research community accountable for their misdeeds, and applaud your bravery in doing so, but also believe that some notions, such as demanding large quantities of resignations, could also polarize a high proportion of the populace, many of whom work in an environment that already perpetuates a culture of fear, and deter them away from your call to action.

          1. E., point well taken. I should note that I have not demanded the mass resignation of all plant scientists. I have demanded the resignation of only Curcic (ABS), Bird (JSEE), Debnath + Schwartz. That is the request for four resignations, which is harldy a mass request. I stand firmly by my comment that only 1% of the plant science community is potentially active in trying to deal with the problems, and only because they probably have no choice. But to say that there are an overwhelming number of academically responsible (in the sense of reporting fraud, duplications, errors, etc.) members of the scientific community, or even claiming that the numbers are large, is grossly incorrect. I understand full well the risks in what I am doing. I understand the repurcussions and the consequences. While I do respect your moderate and balanced stance, I am sorry to say, following years of evidence of procrastination, inequality, inefficiency, bias, and irresponsibility among the plant science community, especially in quite a few members of the Elite and ivory tower (details to be released later), I can no longer stand by and see this mass blindness to the problems. One has to follow with conviction, one’s mission. If that causes anger, distance, frustration, or other emotions, then it is incumbent upon the community to resolve these issues together. Don’t blame the messanger for the message he carries (even if the mesage is sometmes riddled with barbs).

        2. My opinion is that your posts would benefit from a better visibility and a better readability if they were posted on a dedicated blog. Right now if someone wants to follow the different cases you try to expose, they have to go through all the comments of all RW posts.
          You would also benefit from editing capacities which would help the readability of your page long posts.

          1. I prefer RW with JATdS than without JATdS, for it adds colour exactly for being controversial and loud. If one does not want to read his indeed awfully long and repetitive posts, just scroll down and do give attention, for he will write more. Although I do not agree with everything he says, I think the guy has been through a lot, is not really hurting anyone here, and I would bet he is doing more good than harm to science with his voice. And he uses his real name on his comments, which is nonetheless admirable.

          2. I promise, this will be the last comment today. Although my stead-fast critics don’t want to hear it, the criticisms deserve some attention. For me, it has been an extremely difficult last 10 years, approx. as I discovered, more and more, the true colours of (plant) science publishing, as I discovered that there were so many problems with plant science and plant scientists. I have personally lived these problems, which have affected several aspects of my professional and personal life. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that there is a wealth of highly ethical, extremely hard-working and wonderful plant scientists. In my heart, I would hope to believe that this constitutes the majority. But my personal experience has shown me otherwise, and this may have resulted in the deep-rooted pain, frustration, disappointment and bitterness that has now settled in, and is being expressed at RW. So, on one hand, I am sorry that I have taken a rather aggressive stance, but simply because, if you follow some of my personal accounts carefully, you will notice that my cases have not been handled professionally, timely, or honestly (by the other party). Justice has rarely ben served, and the reasons are some of the same reasons that lead to retractions, in fact. Some of the more obvious cases have been my battles with Elsevier’s Scientia Horticulturae (no less than 4 years), with JSEE (Springer) (2 years), and the more recent one, ABS (Serbia). I wish I could write more succinctly, but that’s simply not my nature. That is why I am always open to improvements and suggestions. It is true that I have used RW to express many of those ideas, because many of these cases I feel very personally about. I have never had any intention of “hijacking” anything. In fact, I have stated before that RW is the perfect sandbox to test ideas and reactions, especially because of the traffic that flows through this site. Most likely, establishing a new blog would only dilute the message, rather than enhancing it. I do believe that many of my comments are valid, and spoke some controversy, but I thought that was the objective at RW, to stoke heated debate. In science, we cannot look at debate as a diplomatic effort filled with euphemisms and politically correct expression. Life is too short for that, and so too, is the time we have to effect a change. Everytime I receive a comment, I reflect deeply on it, rest assured.

  4. An update on the first item on SN: the post now has an editor’s note. Perfect storm of behind-the-scenes snafus led to it. Good thing Gawker and RW were watching to make it extra embarrassing. 🙂

  5. I just wonder about the character if anyone who sees fit and presumes to ‘demand the resignation’ of anyone. Which is just one of many examples of why Jamie’s posts are considered by many to be grating and inappropriate fir a science forum…..

    1. It seems to me most likely that Bochum simply will not accept the outcome of an investigation carried out in a foreign country. Rolf Degen reports Bochum university’s comment: “This is still a pending investigation that the University cannot comment on.” This attitude may strike you as odd, but then Germany is a rather insular country.

      It is possible that some other pressures were at play. Perhaps Bochum had entered into a contract with Förster that it felt it could not get out of on the mere assurance from an authority from the quaint Netherlands. And Förster may have friends in high places, which could account for his nomination to a Humboldt Professorship.

      1. When was the job offered? If there is no official conclusion to the investigation yet it’s quite possible the university can’t legally take any action (yet).

        1. Since the Humboldt Professorship application rules aim at a permanent university position, and applying universities are asked to describe their budget for such a position, we can be reasonably sure that the job was offered and accepted before the Humboldt Professorship was announced, in 2013. The form of this job offer might be important for the legal position: was the offer made conditional on the Humboldt grant? If not, that could explain some of Bochum’s difficulty.

          1. @Rolf Degen: I’m afraid I can see nothing in this press release that suggests anything about the timeline. Could you elaborate why you think this hearing took place in a certain timeframe?

    2. I am not so sure this appointment should be considered a fact. The Degen piece does not link to a source and the screen shot from the staff directory seems to be computer generated. I assume Ivan wasn’t so sure either and played it safe with his use of quotes.

    3. If you want to learn more about this, it might be helpful to contact the student representatives on the hiring comittee. They should know what has been going on and since they are not employees of the university, they might be willing to talk. You can reach them at fs-psychologie@rub.de.

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