Weekend reads: Concussion researcher faces more scrutiny; ‘Mendel the fraud?’; seeking redemption after misconduct finding

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The week at Retraction Watch featured:

Our list of retracted or withdrawn COVID-19 papers is up to 215. There are more than 33,000 retractions in our database — which now powers retraction alerts in EndNoteLibKeyPapers, and Zotero. And have you seen our leaderboard of authors with the most retractions lately — or our list of top 10 most highly cited retracted papers?

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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5 thoughts on “Weekend reads: Concussion researcher faces more scrutiny; ‘Mendel the fraud?’; seeking redemption after misconduct finding”

  1. Well-meaning open-access idealists never seemed to account for how the journals staff would be paid and how the massive computer servers would be maintained.
    However, the idealists may be achieving another worthy goal – knocking the “glossies” off their pedestals. I recently decided to send a manuscript elsewhere after looking up the fee for a Nature-family journal. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
    And NO, there is NOT money for those fees in my budget. The size of a modular NIH R01 grant has not changed since I started my lab in the late 90s.

    1. Massive servers? They host PDFs and send some emails. They’re not running video games or AI. And open access makes it even easier techwise because it removes the need for reader authentication. The real cost of publishing is not tech, it’s staff. Most academics don’t appreciate this (“we do all the work of peer review!”) but managing the whole enterprise, doing typesetting and metadata takes time and effort. That’s much more work than signing up for AWS.

      That’s why it’s possible to find free open access journals. The server costs are cheap and volunteers remove the need to employ staff. But because they have no marketing budget you need to go hunting (DOAJ is a good place to start).

  2. Regarding the UNI plagiarism story, “Pohl contested the discipline, and the dispute was decided in favor of UNI by an arbitrator in September 2021.”

    As I understand these things, the court will first have to determine whether the arbitration agreement was entered into properly and was binding on both parties. If yes, then it will have to determine if this particular arbitration hearing was conducted properly. If yes, then the court will probably not intervene with the arbitration decision. It’s not common for courts to rehear an arbitration case just because one party is unhappy with the outcome.

  3. In his abstract of the paper “Mendel the fraud?”, Gregory Radick mentions that one of the things commonly known about Gregor Mendel is that “there is something fishy, maybe even fraudulent, about the data that Mendel reported.” This, however, is mainly the result of prejudicial headlines and titles, as now in Retraction Watch and Radick’s paper, even if they include a question mark. Hartl and Fairbanks appropriately titled their article on the case, “Mud sticks: on the alleged falsification of Mendel’s data.” Radick’s article is behind a paywall and cannot be checked by many readers (including me). His abstract, however states: “…..the notion that Mendel’s numbers were, in statistical terms, too good to be true was well understood almost immediately after the famous “rediscovery” of his work in 1900.” The reality is that many later studies disproved that the data were too good to be true. Perhaps this is mentioned in the article, but it is unclear from the abstract. Indeed mud sticks. This year is Mendel’s 200th birthday; we could do justice to him by avoiding tendentious headlines and article titles.

    Some relevant recent references (some open access):

    Franklin A, Edwards AWF, Fairbanks DJ, Hartl DL, Seidenfeld T, editors. Ending the Mendel-Fisher Controversy University of Pittsburg Press; 2008.

    Edwards AWF. Are Mendel’s results really too close? In Franklin A, Edwards AWF Fairbanks DJ, Hartl DL, Seidenfeld T, editors. Ending the Mendel-Fisher Controversy University of Pittsburg Press; 2008a. p141–163.

    Hartl DL, Fairbanks DJ. Mud sticks: on the alleged falsification of Mendel’s data. Genetics. 2007;175:975–9.

    Weeden N. Are Mendel’s data reliable? The perspective of a pea geneticist. J Hered. 2016;107:635–46.

    Ellis, T.H.N., Hofer, J.M.I., Swain, M.T. et al. Mendel’s pea crosses: varieties, traits and statistics. Hereditas 156, 33 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s41065-019-0111-y

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