Weekend reads: Biotech CEO on leave after allegations on PubPeer; a researcher disavows his own paper; plagiarism here, there, and everywhere

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The week at Retraction Watch featured:

Our list of retracted or withdrawn COVID-19 papers is up to 128.

Here’s what was happening elsewhere (some of these items may be paywalled, metered access, or require free registration to read):

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8 thoughts on “Weekend reads: Biotech CEO on leave after allegations on PubPeer; a researcher disavows his own paper; plagiarism here, there, and everywhere”

    1. At least Muddit has tried to do paid peer review (at Collabra). It failed but I trust that she has an idea of the complexities of the issue. She also runs a non profit publisher that’s actively trying to move away from toxic business models. So you may disagree with the authors but I would say that they’ve written a well intentioned and serious take regardless.

      1. Fair enough. I found their arguments very weak. Paying for peer review would be too complicated? Funny, journals managed to overcome that obstacle when accepting payments for APCs. And all publications with freelancers will have a process in place. It will introduce some admin overhead, but if payments mean editors have to send out fewer rounds of invitations, it will probably be a net win.

        Payments for peer review introduce an ethical dilemma? That’s rich, coming from an editor and CEO who hold much more power and receive much more compensation than any peer reviewer, yet are somehow ethically unimpeachable.

        I can understand the nature of the piece (one-sided, gratuitously argumentative) given its origin as an opening statement from a debate. Yet I am uncertain of the value of publishing only one half of a conversation like that.

        1. I find it more convincing that paid peer review will crush smaller, non-profit and free journals. A diamond OA journal budget might be just hosting and DOIs. Now imagine that every time they ask someone to review they’re asked why they won’t pay $450. We’re already seeing extensive consolidation due to “transformative agreements”. Adding more complexity will make it worse. Now of course, if you don’t care about diamond OA or smaller and non-profit journals that’s fine. But a lot of the “why don’t they pay peer reviewers” sentiment comes from anger at for-profits.

          But I also agree that there’s no ethical problem, in principle, with fee for service. We don’t worry that our doctors won’t treat us if we pay for the consultation. We pay for basically every other service from food and electricity to law and real estate. Why shouldn’t professional services like peer review be similarly paid?

          Finally, I think I saw on Twitter that James Heathers was planning to respond. And TSK says in the comments they welcome a counterpoint.

    2. It is a remarkably weak assessment, in the vein of “throw everything at the wall and see if something sticks.” Internally self-contradictory as well. I was hoping to see a serious discussion.

      In particular the argument that a flat fee is inherently problematic, if it has any force at all, would apply very strongly in the case of a fee of $0.

      I’ve done a great deal of peer reviewing, though I stopped doing it for Elsevier many years ago. I did not think maintaining their profit margins was a good, or even defensible, use of my time. One editor angrily wrote me that his own work for them was unpaid – meaning that he was diverting the university funds going to his salary to a private publisher. A relic of an earlier time. (Admittedly, my problems with Elsevier would still not be addressed if they did pay for services rendered.)

    1. Trans activists are incredibly powerful in academia. Trans academics command huge social media followings and can rally thousands of signatories for their petitions. Non-trans scholars append their pronouns to their Twitter bios and email signatures in support. Publishers plan to silently rewrite history to effect author name changes for trans authors (something they never cared to do for women who marry and change their name – “get an ORCID” was good enough a reply for them).

      The strength of the trans movement makes every claim in that retracted and republished book review believable. I am not at all surprised that it cannot be published in a mainstream outlet.

    2. Yes. I read the review, and unfortunately, it just presented the author’s claims, without evaluation or much context. It was not worth presenting, and was not a good fit with the excellent work on the rest fo the site.

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