Weekend reads: Should retirement-age scientists make way?; no pay-for-fast-track peer review

booksThe week at Retraction Watch featured lots of news about exercise. Here’s what was happening elsewhere:

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19 thoughts on “Weekend reads: Should retirement-age scientists make way?; no pay-for-fast-track peer review”

  1. This is indeed massive news: “The Springer-Nature Publishing Group merger is complete.” The number of citations at PubMed is also extremely important. Given the importance of this merger and these numbers, there is now a greater need to examine the literature that exists in both Springer and NPG collections and also in PubMed. PPPR provides us with such a tool. I often discuss the issue of PPPR with colleagues, and even though some of them they like the idea, they are unclear as to where to start to criticise errors or problems in the literature. So, unless a trail is blazed (with its inherent risks), correction of the literature will remain stifled, and it will be impossible to hold the following triage accountable: authors for what they have published, editors for what they have approved, and publishers for what they have gained fame for, including impact factors.

    As a result, I decided to piece together a road-map for post-publication peer review. It is intended, of course, to guide colleagues in plant science and allied sciences, but the road-map is equally valid for any scientist from any field. I hope that my step-by-step solution may be useful for those who have identified errors in the literature, to embark upon PPPR, either by name, or anonymously. Feel free to comment.

    Teixeira da Silva, J.A. (2015) The PPPR road-map for the plant sciences: cementing a road-worthy action plan. Journal of Educational and Social Research 5(2): 15-21. http://www.mcser.org/journal/index.php/jesr/article/view/6551
    DOI: 10.5901/jesr.2015.v5n2p15

    Disclaimer: the publisher of this journal is listed in Beall’s list of predatory OA publishers, but my personal experience was that the editors and management were courteous, prompt in responding to any queries, provided a valid and critical peer review, within a reasonable amount of time (about 3-4 weeks), and processed the proof efficiently and professionally. I personally found no major problems.

    1. The motion and supporting documents are at the link above. Could they be made available t the RW community?

      I’ve RECAPped it except for the last two exhibits.

      1. Thanks for doing this. Lots of information to digest but in a nutshell GW point out that everything they did was consistent with their contractual relationship with Dr Kumar and their responsibilities as an NIH grant recipient institution. And of course Dr Kumar claims that the investigation of his alleged research misconduct was flawed without actually attempting to refute the allegations.

        Perhaps the most interesting nugget is that SF struck from beyond the grave to add additional alleged instances of research misconduct to the docket investigated by the GW committee. I hope Paul Brooks reads this!

        Science-Fraud.org was the then-anonymous blog of Paul S. Brookes, Ph.D., a research scientist at the University of Rochester (NY), where, between July and December of 2012, numerous instances of apparent data irregularities in the life sciences literature were reported. Dr. Brookes shut down the blog in January 2013 after he was “outed” as
        the blogger, but the page containing allegations involving Plaintiff and the two papers is available through the “Wayback Machine” Internet Archive: “Will ASBMB’s new integrity officer have teeth?,” (posted Dec. 10, 2012),
        available at https://web.archive.org/web/20121217021721/http://www.science-fraud.org/ (snapshot taken Dec. 17, 2012).

  2. I find it a little odd that Megan Scudellari’s otherwise well researched piece on retirement in the sciences contains a quote by Paul Brookes. Really? There was nobody else available to speak on a topic as general as retirement?

    1. I think most of the quotes she got were from people who left comments over at the RockTalk blog by NIH’s Sally Rockey. I’m guessing not many people used their real names at that site, which is owned/run by NIH (the hand that feeds). Or if they did, may not have been available to speak to the reporter or to double down on their comments left a couple of months ago.

  3. A potential compromise could involve a “set-aside” fund of sorts for investigators at their respective institutions. Most institutions take upwards of 50% of all grant funds for overhead expenses. Over the career of a prolific investigator this adds up to some serious cash. So why not take a portion of that and set it aside for emeritus faculty research? This way, older PIs could carry on without impacting the available pool of public funding and with emeritus status, institutions could hire new faculty to fill the void.

  4. The case around the OA journal “Amphibian and Reptile Conservation” as reported by Jeffrey Beall focuses around a paper co-authored by Robert K. Browne (at that time also editor of this journal) which got retracted very soon after it was published in 2013.
    The paper got retracted because it contained unpublished field data on the occurrence of salamanders in Iraq collected by PhD student Elnaz Najafi-Majd of the Ege University in Turkey. Her name is not listed in the acknowledgements. She had not given permission to the authors to use these data. A recent paper of her on the same topic in the same journal “Amphibian and Reptile Conservation” was also not listed in the references of the retracted paper. Soon afterwards Robert K. Browne got fired by the Board of the journal “Amphibian & Reptile Conservation”, due to unethical behaviour.
    Robert K. Browne did not accept that he was fired and he also did not accept that one of his papers was retracted. So he started with his own website which claims that he is the owner of the OA journal “Amphibian and Reptile Conservation”. It is evident that his own website does not mention that the paper was retracted.
    Al-Sheikhly OF, Nader IA, Rastegar-Pouyani N, Browne RK. 2013. New localities of the Kurdistan newt Neurergus microspilotus and Lake Urmia newt Neurergus crocatus (Caudata: Salamandridae) in Iraq. Amphibian and Reptile Conservation 6(4): 42–49 (e68). [SPECIAL NOTE: Paper retracted from publication (Date: August 2013)] See http://amphibian-reptile-conservation.org/archive.html
    Please note that Omar F. Al-Sheikhly is also the first author of a 2013-paper in a Taylor & Francis journal which is discussed on Pubpeer ( https://pubpeer.com/publications/CBDA623DED06FB48B659B631BA69E7#fb28443 ).

  5. On the “retraction” of UWA’s agreement to host Bjorn Lomborg’s “Australian Consensus Centre” there might be a bit more going on: see Bjorn Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus Center – Real Charity Or “Foreign Conduit”? and see its US location, a storefront postbox in Lowell, MA. Lomborg seemed rather unhappy with this article, which helped inspire a snarky piece in Sydney Morning Herald, widely Tweeted.

    There may have been a bit of a due diligence deficit in AU government… 🙂

    1. What most impressed me — as someone who neither is Australian nor follows the AGW denialist crowd — is that the Guardian article didn’t identify what was controversial in the first place. I had to get halfway through the earlier “Abbot Government…” article before arriving at an explanation.

      1. ? I mentioned Sydney Morning, not Guardian … but it helps to know that this topic has been widely covered in Australian media since early April, so an article targeted there might assume that, for better or worse. Indeed, if it’s the Guardian article I think you meant, I wouldn’t want to start there either.

        In any case, there sure seemed to be a Due Diligence Deficit in the OZ government. Aussie Graham Readfearn dug out some of the dubious governance and finance issues. Once I looked at the Copenhagen Consensus Center USA last July, it took 5 minutes to use Google Street View to find its “location.”.

  6. About staying at the bench instead of retiring:
    1. It’s not really about “stay at the bench”: generally PIs “complain” about NOT being at the bench.
    2. I believe that this American tradition leads to a gerontocracy in science. Examples elsewhere are Soviet Union and other socialist dictatorships.
    3. The more powerful one becomes, the more indispensable one feels. Also, it is simply too difficult to switch from being a science demi-god to a humble pensioner.
    4. I believe that science is actually best done by young people whose minds are open and flexible. There are enough experienced colleagues in pre-retirement age to advice and guide them.

  7. About Science journalism, point 5:
    It is now subject of discussion how inappropriate the press releases by university or journal press communication offices are, how they misguide and manipulate science journalists and how scientists must be held responsible for their press releases.
    To state “science journalism is prompted by scientific events and is rather noncritical” is, to put it mildly, ironic, given the kind of information journalists are being fed by the press communication offices.

  8. Re: Editor-in-Chief of Clute “Institute” Journal Badmouths the DOI

    “….. membership in the DOI system is expensive for small publishers …”
    “The Editorial Board is currently reconsidering DOIs, but members are understandably reluctant to pass more costs on to authors, if it is unnecessary.”

    If this is true, then it is legitimate criticism and not bad-mouthing. I do not know the Clute Institute.

  9. Mark, for for-profit publishers, the values discussed might seem like nothing. For small publishers, or for non-profit publishers or even academic bodies, that amount is large, and can make or break them. Incidentally, I should note that the DOI does not allow individual scientists to purchase a DOI for their articles in a post-publication assignment f they have published in a journal that did not employ DOIs. This needs to change.

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