Weekend reads: Faith-based peer review; lab bloopers; post-publication peer review etiquette

The week at Retraction Watch featured a lawsuit over the authorship of a paper, and a look at when exactly a study should be retracted. Here’s what was happening elsewhere:

6 thoughts on “Weekend reads: Faith-based peer review; lab bloopers; post-publication peer review etiquette”

  1. “The study that never existed, cancer edition.”

    That story is worth reading. Briefly: a university PR flack sent out a press release to promote a talk to the AACR. Because “Professor re-hashes unreplicated results from a 2012 paper and draws a broad conclusion from mutually-contradictory studies” is lacking in oomph, the flack made stuff up about “new research”.

    The flack is now blaming the resulting publicity — the blizzard of “supplements-cause-cancer” media reports — on journalists and bloggers relying on the honesty of his press release.

    In a follow-up post, McBurney wrote that there was, in fact, no presentation of new study data by Byers at the AACR meeting, and that “The entire news cycle linking multivitamin/mineral supplements with cancer risk seems to have been stimulated by the university press release alluding to a commentary published in 2012.”

    I confirmed McBurney’s account with Garth Sundem in the University of Colorado media relations department this morning. He told me that there is no new meta-analysis, and that the “study” referred to in these news accounts is indeed the 2012 paper cited by McBurney (apparently a narrative review of the evidence and not study per se) from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

    Sundem said he was surprised to see that his news release was “immediately and aggressively sensationalized” by the media, and described a “ripple effect, almost like a game of telephone tag, where news outlets, especially in the UK, seemed to give increasingly more sensational accounts of the study without ever going back to the original source.” He described Byers as being “just as horrified as you’d expect any academic researcher would be” by the hype surrounding the non-study.

    Some obscure commenters went on futile searches for facts right at the start of the story.

  2. The online submission system for Scientific Reports, a journal published by Nature Publishing Group, states the following:

    From March 24th 2015 – April 20th 2015, Scientific Reports ran a small scale trial to offer authors submitting a Biology manuscript the option of a fast-track peer-review service. This trial has now concluded, and further results will be reported later in 2015. For further information please visit our blog: ‘further experiments in peer review’.” That link leads to here:

  3. A rejection of a paper by Springer’s 3Biotech this morning:
    “It is the general policy of the journal that all submissions are first screened for suitability and broad interest. Your manuscript was discussed at the editorial office and was found to be too specialized to warrant broad interest.”

    What does that even mean? A perusal of most papers published in this journal indicate that they are specialized.

  4. I wish to focus on, very briefly, the issue of publisher-induced errors. In recent times (about 1 year back), I started noticing errors in the proofs of my papers that did not exist in the final version of the paper. In other words, these were being introduced by the proof setters at the publisher’s proof department. In all cases in which I issued a formal complaint, the editors were also not aware of this issue. I think it is worthwhile debating this topic in a bit more detail because it falls under the retraction umbrella, for the following reason: errors, whether introduced by authors, or by publishers, are finally subject to scrutiny by peers. When a reader, or peer, reads a final PDF file of a published paper, they do not know, however, if that error was in fact introduced by the reader, or by the publisher. In serious cases, where criticism may be severe, a retraction may arise. Thus, this fine-scale analysis is going to become increasingly important, so I wanted to start the ball rolling now. Does anybody have any experiences or case studies to share?

  5. The Journal of Forest and Environmental Science, published by the Institute of Forest Science, Kangwon National University, lost my final file that was accepted for publication on March 18, 2015.
    JFES URL: http://www.koreascience.or.kr/journal/AboutJournal.jsp?kojic=SRGHBV

    Let me walk you through it. First, the acceptance after the files were deposited on the online submission system (text, figures and title page as 3 files; blind peer review).

    “On Wednesday, March 18, 2015 1:57 PM, The Journal of Forest and Environmental Science [redacted] wrote:
    Dear Dr. [redacted]
    Our referees have now considered your paper and have recommended publication in Journal of Forest and Environmental Science. We are pleased to accept your paper in its current form which will now be forwarded to the publisher for copy editing and typesetting.
    You will receive proofs for checking, and instructions for transfer of copyright in due course.
    The publisher also requests that proofs are checked and returned within 48 hours of receipt.
    Thank you for your contribution to Journal of Forest and Environmental Science and we look forward to receiving further submissions from you.
    • Manuscript ID : JFS-13-022
    • Manuscript Title : [redacted]
    • Date of submission : 2013-04-16
    • Date of acceptance : 2015-03-18
    Contact us Editor : Portia Lapitan
    Email : [redacted]
    The Editorial Office
    The Journal of Forest and Environmental Science
    Tel: +82-33-250-8323
    Fax: +82-33-259-5615
    E-mail: jfs@jofs.or.kr
    Homepage: http://www.jofs.or.kr

    I was then contacted by an agency that appears to process the proof.

    “On Wednesday, April 29, 2015 1:40 PM, (주)메드랑 편집부 wrote:

    Dear Sir,
    We are MEDrang Inc., the publisher of JFES(Journal of Forest and Environmental Science). We’re editing your manuscript now, but the final file of online page(e-submission) is empty.
    We need the text of the final file. Could you provide the file?

    Thank you for your cooperation.

    Warmest regards,
    MEDrang Inc.

    서울시 마포구 월드컵북로5가길 8-17
    편집부 대표: 02-6711-4760
    Fax: 0303-3139-0118
    E-mail: edit@medrang.co.kr

    I then complained:

    “From: [redacted]
    Sent: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 2:08 PM
    To: (주)메드랑 편집부; [redacted]
    Cc: [co-authors’ e-mails redacted]
    Subject: Query: Journal of Forest and Environmental Science Vol. 31, No. 2, 2015 (13-022)

    Dear MEDrang Inc.

    Are you somehow suggesting that the publisher has LOST our final version of the paper? In our acceptance letter in late March, the publisher already confirmed that the file was sent for production (see March 18 e-mail below).

    It is most definitely not the authors’ responsibility if the publisher’s online submission system is dysfunctional.

    Kindly deal with the publisher directly and confirm that they have the correct final file.

    We look forward to receiving the proof soon.


    [redacted] and co-authors”

    A response a few hours later:
    “On Wednesday, April 29, 2015 3:49 PM, (주)메드랑 편집부 wrote:

    Dear Sir,
    We are MEDrang Inc., the publishing company of Journal of Forest and Environmental Science. First, we’re very sorry for the inconvenience.
    We asked about this problem to the INFOrang, our subsidiary company which run the online submission system of Journal of Forest and Environmental Science. And they answsered that your manuscript have been failed to be uploaded on the system at all because of the new security enhancement policy for Window operating system by MicroSoft Inc. They said they are solving this problem now.
    We seek your generous understanding about this point, and earnestly ask you to send your manuscript to us.
    We apologize sincerily for the inconvenience again.
    We will make best efforts for editing your article.
    Thank you for your kind assistance.

    Warmest regards,
    Department of Editing, MEDrang Inc.”

    Another concern: Do third parties have access to our online accounts? (without our prior consent and knowledge?)

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