Weekend reads: Death of a scientist; Science, the Lake Wobegon of experiments

booksNews elsewhere about scientific integrity, publishing, and related issues abounded this week:

11 thoughts on “Weekend reads: Death of a scientist; Science, the Lake Wobegon of experiments”

  1. Some important stries, and flash reactions:
    1) Imperial College London. Shame on you. Wasted talent at only 51.
    2) Nature Publishing Group. Shame on you for charging 1000$ for a PPPR report. There is no limit to the predatory model of profit by NPG. I propose inclusion on Jeffrey Beall’s lists.
    3) RW + PubPeer + scholarlyoa = the modern inquisition (aka public PPPR).
    4) Keep your eyes on the Obokata case. Independent of the final outcome, I do have one word for her “Omedetou”. It means congratulations, because she had the courage to complete the task, until the designated deadline, under a terrible state of duress. Show me another scientist anywhere on this planet that had the same courage as her.
    5) “Journal editors seem to be unwilling to take actions in cases of article duplications,” Have to agree on that one for the plant scinces, where we are looking at near total denial. An aggressive push for PPPR is essential. 2015 is the year of La Revolucion Cientifica.
    6) I wonder how common is the Spanish researcher inbreeding phenomenon in other countries?
    7) Butterflies of Arunachal Pradesh by Parmod Kumar: Funny, strangely close resemblance to a case on PubPeer:
    Wonder when Springer Science + Business Media and 3-Biotech will take action?

    1. Hilariously Nature had to add a correction to their news story

      The original headline on this article gave an exaggerated impression of the way in which content from Nature journals can now be accessed. As the story makes clear, read-only sharing must be facilitated by a subscriber.”

      IMHO if things can be seen on-screen, they can be shared. People will find a way. Maybe taking pictures of the screen using their smartphones.

    1. i know what you meant. i just searched one of the members on google you will be surprised how big they are! it appears that they are also members of other several online journals.

  2. Is there such a thing as a perfect journal, I have started to wonder. I have learnt, over the past 2-3 years, that apparently not. Seeing quite a substantial number of retractions emerging from Nature, PNAS, JBC and other high-IF journals, it has become evident that the only reason why they were “perfect” or near-perfect for so long, was because the errors had not yet been discovered, either because the authors had covered them up or failed to report them, or because the publishers had failed their peer review, and editors had either resisted exposing the truth, or because the peer review simply failed to achieve perfection. It is this latter term, perfection, that I wish to focus on for a second. Does a perfect journal exist? And on RW, that probably means, is there any journal that does not have a single retraction?

    I asked myself this question because I continue to experience fierce resistance to PPPR among members of the plant science community. I wish to single out four examples from four different publishers demonstrate that something is either chronically unhealthy, or something is seriously odd.

    The first example. Scientia Horticulturae, horticulture’s #1 journal, published by Elsevier. Only 22 errata, and one retraction, in 2013:
    i.e., near perfection. I estimate about 4000* papers having been published in total.

    The second example. Plant Cell, Tissue and Organ Culture, plant tissue culture’s (sensu stricto) #1 journal, published by Springer Science + Business Media.
    Only 8 errata, and one retraction, in 2012:
    i.e., near perfection. I estimate about 3500* papers having been published in total.

    The third example. The Journal of Experimental Botany, published by Oxford University Press. Estimated 0 retractions, 77 errata, and in excess of 12,000* published articles. 5-Yr impact factor: 6.019.

    The fourth example. Ranked 7/199 in plant sciences by ISI Journal Citation Reports, published by Wiley. Estimated 0 retractions, 40-50 errata/corrections, and in excess of 6500* published articles. Impact factor: 6.815.

    * Estimates based on publisher’s search parameters.

    I can thus conclude that PPPR is desperately needed, not only related to authors, but also related to editors/publishers. This is based on the hypothesis that there is a strong need to protect their images, and thus prevent the literature from being examined in detail.

    1. Possibly the genetic research is more susceptible to problems with quality control, but I have been told by an organic chemist that you would often find published research that was impossible to reproduce. You would ask around and find that other chemists had the same problem. Then researchers found it easier just to move on, but obviously today some people are going to report it.

      A look at pubpeer shows that some journals still believe in stonewalling. There are publications that are obviously flawed but both the authors and editors are reluctant to do anything about them. Maybe each journal has a paradigm shift where after they are forced to deal with the first few reports they are much more likely to review further reports.

    2. JATdS, I do not think that counting retractions is the measure for “perfection” here. I think the way how peer-review, communications with readers and authors, and in general: how in case of mistakes/errors/misconduct the truth is told or not (and how quick) does tell about the quality of a journal! By the way, some of the society owned journals are in my impression rather good in that way. Think of physics journals like the Physical Review (APS) or J Appl Phys (AIP) which I think are quite good.

  3. Veronique Greenwood wrote a fabulous essay about the life of her great-great-aunt, with sensible familiar background. This erudite article does very clearly raise the question of Marie Curie’s and co-workers actual goals. Was the lack of safety the price to pay for personal achievements?
    Difficult to answer (Veronique Greenwood doesn’t), because it’s difficult to imagine the atmosphere in the “Institut du Radium” at that time. For example, how can we possibly believe today that they drank hot tea at 5 pm… in laboratory glassware ??!!!
    There is also a less circulated photography of the team, where Marguerite Perey appears. The photo was taken during the Christmas party, in 1933, six months before Marie Curie’s death:
    (if the URL don’t work with IE, please use other browser. Chrome is fine. It’s a low quality photo, unfortunately).
    Marguerite Perey is seated, second from left. Sonia Cotelle, fourth from left. Apparently, they do not seem to be affected too much by radiations!

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