Weekend reads: Stem cell trial halted; Nazi doctors in the literature; is it OK to cite a paper you haven’t read?

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The week at Retraction Watch featured the story of how an editor solved a mystery about bad data, a new addition to our leaderboard, and a project designed to identify a common mistake in clinical trials. Here’s what was happening elsewhere:

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4 thoughts on “Weekend reads: Stem cell trial halted; Nazi doctors in the literature; is it OK to cite a paper you haven’t read?”

  1. “Unethical aspects of open access” is poorly argued.

    “But this just shifts the problem: allowing OA fees to be included in budgets will either mean less money is available for research projects themselves to be funded.”
    “Even If more funding is made available globally for research to offset the introduction of OA fees, that money could instead have been spent on other promising research projects.”
    The idea is of course that there is less money required for the subscription journals, which can be redirected to directly benefit research and open access publishing.

    “This benefits universities and the public, but disadvantages researchers who cannot afford OA fees.”
    It’s not argued how researchers who cannot afford OA fees will have sufficient funding to buy/access subscription journals articles.

    “Second, it seems plausible that editors are less likely to reject a below-average paper if acceptance means their journal will ‘earn’ several thousand dollars.”
    Of course, ideal Open Access would separate the editorial work from the business of running the journal. But still, editorial boards of subscription journals also have an incentive to only accept research that will increase the impact of the journal and thereby hopefully the number of subscriptions. We have seen signs that this also could introduce a bias, for example by ignoring less sexy replication studies. So editorial bias is not unique to open access publishing.

    1. I disagree that the article is poorly argued. Unoriginal maybe but these are commonly understood problems with author pays OA.

      1. OA adoption has stalled. Only 20% of articles are published OA – OA is doing nothing to solve the serials crisis.

      2. Researchers do not pay for subscriptions. Libraries do. Or they get copies via sharing or black OA. So they don’t need to explain how researchers who can’t pay for OA can survive with subscription.

      3. Incentives are much better aligned for subscription than author pays OA. I’d rather editors select for research that is exciting and will attract attention than accept papers that are mediocre. No one starts a subscription journal to make money out of papers they had rejected. But they do start OA journals to do this (Sci Rep, Heliyon). And no one can credibly argue that open access article processing charges have nothing to do with the rise of predatory journals and the mountain of spam in my inbox.

      OA advocates need to accept there are problems with APC OA. Only then can we get on with the business of advocating for more ethical OA models like library and funder publishing models, community based platinum journals and submission fees. The author pays vs reader pays argument has been going on too long.

      1. Note that the article aimed to argue that OA is *unethical*, not that there are problems.

        Regarding your points:

        1) This has nothing to do whether or not OA is unethical.

        2) Libraries don’t pull money out of thin air; they often have to pay enormous sums of money to cover all the important subscription journals. Universities in turn take large sums of overhead on project budgets, partly used to fund the library. This money is also not directly available for research. So whether money is directly used for APCs, or is used by the library to buy subscriptions, in both cases it is money not directly available for research. OA is not more unethical at this point.

        And if researchers are associated with a university with a well funded library, the APCs will hardly be a problem. Often universities have funds available to cover OA publishing costs and national science foundations often allow to include OA publishing costs to the project budget. So the most likely scenario for a researcher having no funds available to publish in OA is that this researcher will also struggle to get access to all the relevant subscription journals.

        3) The nature publishing group is a perfect example where several subscription journals were created to publish less high-profile research that was originally rejected for the nature journal.

        For sure the debate goes on for too long now. Luckily I’m working in a field with several high quality OA journals and society journals, such that I can afford to not publish in commercial subscription journals and reject all requests to review for those journals. Nature and all the affiliate journals being the only exception as the truth is that it is needed for my career.

  2. More than 30% of about 150 researchers surveyed considered it acceptable to cite a paper that they had not read.

    I guess I should read the paper before commenting on it.

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