Weekend reads: Peer review abuse, a journal that will print anything for $1,200, PubPeer faces legal threats

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

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7 thoughts on “Weekend reads: Peer review abuse, a journal that will print anything for $1,200, PubPeer faces legal threats”

  1. Some of my own thoughts about some of these stories:
    a) Although Tom Spear’s concerns may be valid, just like Bohannon, the use of a “sting” operation, which relies on the submission of false manuscripts with false information, fake authors and possibly false affiliations is UNETHICAL. Yet, why does Tom Spear and possibly colleagues, similar to John Bohannon and Science, think that they are ethically superior to those individuals and entities whose ethics they are challenging. I say that you cannot use unethical means to show the lack of ethics of others. That would make you a hypocrite, at best.
    b) Neuroskeptic asks “What would happen if scientists stopped trusting each other?” I answer: scientists have already stopped trusting each other and what we will see, with this blend of serious problems in science, is the almost total collapse of science. The key question that we should be asking is, after the collapse, who will be left to tell the tale? It’s like a carcass on the African plain: at some point, you will find jackals, hyenas, vultures and crows, but as you approach the level of the bone, you will only find minor scavengers of the insect type lingering. Could the same imagery be applied to science and science publishing?
    c) Is Neuroskeptic the same as the Skeptical Scalpel?
    d) I am extremely concerned about Beall’s latest blog entry. Even though he shows that two journals claim the same ISSN, instead of contacting the ISSN, he contacts a series of entities that are related to the WorldCat entry. This logic is seriously flawed. The ISSN is directly responsible for assigning ISSNs and should be held directly responsible for much of the mess we are seeing with predatory open access publishing [1]. I do agree with Beall that “But this list, despite being used by many as an indicator of journal quality, has been polluted with data from hijacked journals recently. I find the list unreliable.”
    [1] http://www.globalsciencebooks.info/JournalsSup/images/2013/AAJPSB_7(SI1)/AAJPSB_7(SI1)76-80o.pdf

    1. I wish to focus on Cambridge Journals retractions and retraction notices. A scan of RW shows that there are only three cases covered by this British publisher, two in the British Journal of Nutrition and one in Animal. This type of characterization is important because if one relies on the RW search filter, which only goes back to 2010, it will give the false impression that Cambridge Journals has only few retractions, relative, for example, to Elsevier or Springer, but in reality, it is far from reality. However, I wish to highlight some concerns I have about the lack of transparency (and inconsistency) by some of Cambridge Journals’ retractions and/or retraction notices. Unfortunately, the keyword “retraction” results in >11,000 hits over 221 pages, so I only scanned several initial pages using the “relevancy” option of the search function (yet the site needs to be much more thoroughly explored). First 10 cases listed next:
      1) Itaru Nitta, Takuya Ueda, Kimitsuna Watanabe (1999) RNA, Volume 5, Issue 05, 707-707
      Problems: no title, no abstract, not OA, no reason for retraction.
      2) Raymond K. Walters, Charles Laurin, Gitta H. Lubke (2014). EpiPen: An R Package to Investigate Two-Locus Epistatic Models. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 17, 354-354. doi:10.1017/thg.2014.37.
      Reason: overlap of used product with another trademark product. Not OA.
      3) Mark H. Rümmeli, Alicja Bachmatiu, Young Hee Lee, Juergen Ecker (2014). Electron-driven engineering of graphene. Journal of Materials Research, 29, 604-604. doi:10.1557/jmr.2014.5.
      Reason: use of two figures from PhD thesis without permission. Not OA.
      4) M. Sreenivas, T. Srinivas (2009). A short note on marginal analysis of a transportation problem. RAIRO – Operations Research, 43, 331-337. doi:10.1051/ro/2009021.
      Reason and notes: plagiarism. Notice OA. It deals with serial plagiarists and the story as described by the EIC, Philippe Mahey, is quite comprehensive and open access (http://journals.cambridge.org/download.php?file=%2FROE%2FROE43_04%2FS0399055909000213a.pdf&code=899b43597f41bf96535dff80e4f96db5). The original publisher is EDP Sciences, a French Publisher, which appears to have been bought by Cambridge Journals, I suspect sometime between 2011 and 2013, at about the same time when EDP Sciences also secured the sale of several of its journals to Oxford University Press.
      5) (2001). Announcement of Element 118 Retracted. MRS Bulletin, 26, 757-757. doi:10.1557/mrs2001.221.
      Reason: the journal appears to be retracting an announcement it made regarding an element, No. 118 on the periodic table, which doesn’t exist (http://webelements.com/).
      6) Kuang-Chong Wu (2009). Editorial Retraction of a Paper. Journal of Mechanics, 25, pp 335-335. doi:10.1017/S1727719100002811. Which is actually the editorial note for the actual retracted paper: Kamran Daneshjou, Majid Shahravi (2009) A Simple Model to Predict Critical Ricochet Angle in Long-Rod Penetration. Journal of Mechanics Vol. 25, No. 1, 117-128.
      Reason: not given; also listed on the same page as an Erratum. Not OA.
      7) F. Moufekkir, M. A. Moussaoui, A. Mezrhab, H. Naji (2014). Computation of coupled double-diffusive convection–radiation including lattice Boltzmann simulation of fluid flow. Journal of Fluid Mechanics, 748, 957-957 doi:10.1017/jfm.2014.205
      Reason: large parts of a thesis were copied in translation. Notice OA.
      8) Majid Afkhami, Maryam Ehsanpour, Farida Forouzan, Kazem Darvish Bastami, Amir Houshang Bahri, Abdurasoul Daryaei (2013). Distribution of ascidians Phallusia nigra (Tunicata: Ascidiacea) on the north coast of the Persian Gulf, Iran. Marine Biodiversity Records, 6, e111 doi:10.1017/S175526721300078X.
      Reason: plagiarism (but notice the euphemism used to avoid using this term). The html image is not visible, so click on the OA PDF.
      9) Baolong Shen, Akihisa Inoue (2005). (Fe,Co,Ni)–B–Si–Nb Bulk Glassy Alloy With Super-High Strength and Some Ductility. Journal of Materials Research, 20, pp 1-5. doi:10.1557/JMR.2005.0001.
      Reason: not given.
      10) S. Gupta (2007). Retraction: “Ion transport and electrochemical tuning of Fermi level in single-wall carbon nanotubes: In situ Raman scattering” [J. Mater. Res. 22, 603 (2007)]. Journal of Materials Research, 22, pp 2640-2640. doi:10.1557/JMR.2007.0087r.
      Reason: duplicate publication. Interestingly, from the University of Missouri, so was this case reported to ORI?

      1. 11) S. Gupta, R.J. Patel and R.E. Giedd (2007). Retraction: “Electron beam-induced surface modification and nano-engineering of carbon nanotubes: Single-walled and multiwalled” [J. Mater. Res. 21, 3109 (2006)]. Journal of Materials Research, 22, pp 2639-2639. doi:10.1557/JMR.2006.0380r.
        Reason: duplicate publication. Same S. Gupta as case 10 above.
        12) Soon Moon Jeong, Won Hoi Koo, Sang Hun Choi, Sung Jin Jo, Hong Koo Baik, Se-Jong Lee, Kie Moon Song (2006). Retraction: “Influence of electrode modification by Ar+ ion beam upon passivation and electrical characteristics in organic light-emitting diodes” [J. Mater. Res. 20, 81 (2005)]. Journal of Materials Research, 21, 1619-1619. doi:10.1557/jmr.2005.0004r.
        Reason: duplicate publication.
        13) Sudhir Kumar Chaturvedi, Palanisamy Shanmugam, Chan-Su Yang, Ugur Guven (2014). Detection of Ocean Wave Parameters Using Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Data. Journal of Navigation, 67, 927-927. doi:10.1017/S0373463314000356.
        Reasons: possible duplicate publication; authorization by two co-authors not granted.
        14) Akihisa Inoue, Wei Zhang, Tao Zhang, Kei Kurosaka (2001). Formation and mechanical properties of Cu–Hf–Ti bulk glassy alloys [Article Retracted]. Journal of Materials Research, 16, pp 2836-2844. doi:10.1557/JMR.2001.0391.
        Reason: not given.
        15) (2007). Editorial notice. Theatre Research International, 32, pp 102-102. doi:10.1017/S0307883307003008.
        Reason: copyright infringement, but the exact volume and page numbers are not indicated.
        There may be more retractions, but I was unable to identify others using the CJ search function.

    1. CR, good link. This is a scary development, because what whistle-blowers and critics might be perceiving as a valid criticism of an error, a flaw, duplication, plagiarism, etc. can now be potentially misconstrued as defamation. This case must be watched extremely carefully, because if the case goes to trial, it will automatically silence the voice of many important critics, who will head for the caves. How does US law deal with non-US individuals? The case appears to revolve around a US plaintiff, but what if both parties are from different countries? What is the value of tone? What weighting does public relevance and importance play vs publically exposing error (without necessarily calling it misconduct and fraud)?

      1. I am betting this will never get to the court, for the plead is probably feeble (never read an outright accusation of fraud in PubPeer) and taking the matter officially will disclose of every detail of the case to the great public, which will bring massive attention to the plaintiff’s papers… which must contain at least some questionable information otherwise would not have been involved in this. Possibly the author was expecting to scare the website out of existence and his bluff is already backfiring in more publicity. In overall I find the whole situation will turn quite positive to science, as it brings more attention to anonymous PPPR and thus make it stronger. Yet, let us sit and watch.

        1. Well said. Another factor against litigation is that free speech protection in the US is very strong, and consequently the chances of a successful lawsuit are slim. The Unhappy Scientist’s lawyer will no doubt advise his or her client of the likelihood of such a lawsuit resulting in having to reimburse PubPeer’s enormous legal fees.

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