Weekend reads: Preprints under scrutiny; a math retraction in politics; proving yourself wrong

The week at Retraction Watch featured a look at retractions in China, and an expression of concern for a paper co-authored by a controversial journalist in Australia. Here’s what was happening elsewhere:

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4 thoughts on “Weekend reads: Preprints under scrutiny; a math retraction in politics; proving yourself wrong”

  1. With regard the statement “New interest in preprint servers in clinical medicine increases the likelihood of premature dissemination and public consumption of clinical research findings prior to rigorous evaluation and peer review.”:
    It is not clear to me that peer review and rigorous evaluation are that strongly coupled in most papers in clinical medicine.

  2. With regard to the single blind versus double blind issue. I think a lot of this depends on who you are. I would expect that authors with established reputations or those affiliated with top universities would benefit from reviewers knowing their identities. If given the choice, I expect they choose to single blind. However those who have not yet established a reputation and work in obscure universities would benefit from double blind refereeing. If given the choice, I would expect them to choose double blind. However, in either case, the editor knows who the author is anyway. Hence I think this explains the finding that only 8% of those choosing double blind get their papers reviewed versus 23% of single blinded papers.

  3. In the linked article about Daniel Biss running for governor, his campaign claims
    “Daniel has had dozens of academic papers reviewed by his peers and published. In a few cases, further research has found that the case posited in the original article didn’t stand up, and he revised his findings.”

    MathSciNet is showing 20 “publications” for him. These include 1 retraction and 3 errata admitting that the main claimed results are wrong, without providing any fixes. In other words, this leaves 12 papers. The two papers in the American Math Monthly are obviously expository. Several other papers are very short. This basically leaves a few noteworthy papers, all joint with now established mathematicians. One of the papers with an erratum, MR2031856, is his PhD thesis, as a quick check of MIT theses confirms. This seems hardly a record to be proud of.


  4. “Wikipedia seems to be shaping the language in papers, as phrases in recently published Wikipedia articles appear more frequently in scientific papers. (Mark Zastrow, Nature)”

    Two possible explanations: (1) there are only so many different ways you can state a factual statement about a specific event or object, so it is not surprising that different authors use the same or similar words to describe a specific event or object. (2) authors for whom English is a second language may over-rely on Wikipedia as a guide on how to write articles in English.

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