Weekend reads: ‘An Anti-Tobacco Hero’s Complicated Legacy’; plagiarism at Snopes; is publishing in predatory journals misconduct?

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The week at Retraction Watch featured:

Our list of retracted or withdrawn COVID-19 papers is up to 149.

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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13 thoughts on “Weekend reads: ‘An Anti-Tobacco Hero’s Complicated Legacy’; plagiarism at Snopes; is publishing in predatory journals misconduct?”

  1. Appreciate the outside piece from Undark on Glantz.

    I’m with him on flavored vapes, esp. since tobacco companies, at least some, are looking at eliminating menthol cigarettes.

    But, yes, his other claims on vaping seem over the top.

  2. “We didn’t bother too much about it (poor research, exagerating results ) when he was doing things that we thought were good”. Sums up the major problems with modern science. Either it’s paid for or meets the polical agenda of the research, being correct and honest are way down the list.

    1. Also: “Frankly, none of us cared if he was a little bit sloppy with his research because the ends justified the means,” Abrams says.

      I guess I admire Abrams’ and Bates’ honesty, because there is no question that scientists are not immune to confirmation bias and other cognitive biases that influence how we interpret the research. Still, their statements make it sound less like unintentional bias and more like deliberate, tactical support of bad science. And maybe there was some of the latter, but I’m hoping not too much. Certainly the other side was straight out lying, so no one should spare any sympathy for Tobacco execs. But science is supposed to be better than Tobacco execs. Mistakes will happen, and scientists are as flawed as anyone else, but intention is absolutely crucial. I hope that these quotes are misleading, and if so, I think these scientists could have phrased their statements more thoughtfully or carefully.

  3. Regarding the entry “The Co-Founder Of Snopes Wrote Dozens Of Plagiarized Articles For The Fact-Checking Site.” I am totally dismayed over the fact that a staff member of this fine organization -one of its co-founders no less- would have engaged in such egregiously unethical, journalistic behavior. At a time when the number of conspiracy theories and the number of those who believe them seem to be on the rise, giving these people the ammunition to now dismiss outright Snopes’ debunking efforts is plain disheartening.

      1. Ren, that may be, but is there any doubt in your mind that this incident will undermine the public’s trust in Snopes, especially for that segment of the population that tends to subscribe to fake news and that may already be somewhat skeptical of these types of independent sources that attempt to rectify it?

      2. Right. Same as slight alterations in a figure not affecting the conclusions of a paper isn’t the same as generating fake data.
        Same as driving 5% faster than allowed with no car accident isn’t the same as skipping red ligths and kill someone.

    1. I read the abstract and first couple of sentences. It didn’t seem like a good paper. Nothing new there. Was not well written.

      1. “Wilfully submitting to and publishing in predatory journals – a covert form of research misconduct?” My question earlier (August 19, 2021 at 7:10 am) was : Should Editorial Board Membership with publishers which are listed as predatory publishers be considered as scientific misconduct as they suggest wilfully submitting/publishing in predatory journals – a covert form of research misconduct?

    2. Interesting proposition! I think this perspective is short of calling “invited presentations” at “predatory conferences” in the same line. Moreover, what about editorial board memberships in the predatory journals? Can we include knowingly accepting editorial memberships in the same category? Should we advise faculty members not to take up editorial board memberships from such journals?

    3. “Wilfully submitting to and publishing in predatory journals – a covert form of research misconduct?”
      Does Editorial Board Membership with publishers which are listed as predatory publishers?
      Second author of the above paper is an editorial board member of the following journals
      Open journal of cell biology https://www.scirp.org/journal/DetailedInforOfEditorialBoard.aspx?personID=5244
      World Journal of Biological Chemistry https://www.wjgnet.com/1949-8454/EBoardMembers?pageNumber=3
      Botany Research Journal https://medwelljournals.com/eboard.php?jid=1995-4751

      these are published by Science Reserch Publishing, Medwell Publications, Baishideng Publishing Group which are under this list of predatory publishers https://predatoryjournals.com/publishers/

  4. An important aspect of the story is that the plagiarizer was not a journalist, and didn’t really understand journalistic ethics. It’s not like he was hiding what he was doing; he was openly encouraging other people at Snopes to do the same. But probably because he was the boss, the actual journalists there apparently never pushed back; they just ignored it instead. Not that this excuses him or puts the blame elsewhere; he should have learned about journalistic ethics along the way. But I think it’s an inherent danger when something changes from what was basically a personal blog written by someone focused on getting clicks than on following journalistic ethics. Of course, the irony of Snopes being a fact-checking source makes it that much worse. They will probably not fully recover from this.

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