Wiley snafu costs an early-stage researcher his first paper

Through no fault of his own, Martin Bordewieck is oh-for-one in his publishing career. 

The psychology researcher at Ruhr-University Bochum, in Germany, published his very first paper in Applied Cognitive Psychology in August 2020 – only to lose the article to retraction because of a screw-up by the journal. 

Malte Elson, Bordewieck’s co-author – whose name might be familiar to readers of Retraction Watch for his work as a data sleuth – called the situation “a weird one”: 

The editor had accepted the paper, but at the same time asked for some clarifications, mostly details on how this study would be conducted online and not as a lab-based study, as originally planned, due to the coronavirus pandemic. We told them we’d need some time to prepare this final version; imagine our surprise when we saw that production had apparently moved on regardless and published the study protocol.

They let us include a link to the actual version in the withdrawal notice, which I guess was a good way to solve this for us. It left a bitter taste, of course, particularly since this was my co author Martin’s very first paper!

Here’s the notice

Martin Bordewieck and Malte Elson, the impact of inducing troubleshooting strategies via visual aids on performance in a computerized digital network task, Applied Cognitive Psychology 2020, (https://doi.org/10.1002/acp.3731)

The above article from Applied Cognitive Psychology, published online on 11 August 2020 in Wiley Online Library (http://wileyonlinelibrary.com) has been withdrawn by agreement among the authors, the Journal Editor-in-Chief Graham Davies and John Wiley & Sons Inc. The article was published in error. The authors are updating the proposed methods in this Stage 1 Registered Report, partly due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on conducting research. The revised Stage 1 Registered Report can be found here: https://doi.org/10.1002/acp.3809.

Bordewieck agreed that “the whole matter was a bit unfortunate,” which we believe qualifies as more than a bit of an understatement. We’ve argued that these sorts of publisher blunders have the potential to damage career prospects for researchers – which is why we’ve said they deserve to be classified as something other than conventional “retractions.” 

Elson added that the editor, Davies:  

handled everything very diligently. I don’t think he was actually aware that production of the now withdrawn version had started at all before we submitted the last revisions. So, all in all, an unfortunate misunderstanding.

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4 thoughts on “Wiley snafu costs an early-stage researcher his first paper”

  1. I believe that the publisher has an ethical obligation to correct the retraction notice by making it clear to readers that the error was entirely the publisher’s and not the author’s.

  2. I think that the Publisher should also issue a public apology to the Authors for putting their work into an unfavorable light, when there was no wrongdoing on the Authors’ part in the first place. Wiley: do better.

  3. Unfortunately, such an incident happened and I think the authors should first not make this more public but share their concern with the publisher. Editors working with Wiley are also human beings and such human errors must be accepted. And, I believe being an author, they are happy that they are interacting with human beings and not chatbots which is annoying to many of them.

    Coming to the author’s concern, I entirely agree that the retraction notice is poorly phrased. When I read it, I got carried away that they are “updating” and ignored the later provision to the link for the revised version of the article. The retraction notice should be updated stating that it was “withdrawn for revision to update the protocol…” and the revised version of the Registered Report is published now at the particular DOI. Even otherwise, though is the editor’s discretion, I will still recommend to the Editor as a publisher to consider the update to be retained and updated in the Registered Report 2 or the final manuscript with the results. They could have retained the need to update these revisions as comments or responses to the editor’s query while submitting the Registered Report 2. Why not solve such disagreements internally between the two parties, and without taking it to the notice of the public. Will not the author be happy to have this as the solution?

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