Weekend reads: Citation cartels; a history of scientific integrity; another Nobelist retracts a paper

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The week at Retraction Watch featured:

Our list of retracted or withdrawn COVID-19 papers is up past 400. There are more than 47,000 retractions in The Retraction Watch Database — which is now part of Crossref. The Retraction Watch Hijacked Journal Checker now contains more than 250 titles. And have you seen our leaderboard of authors with the most retractions lately — or our list of top 10 most highly cited retracted papers? What about The Retraction Watch Mass Resignations List?

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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10 thoughts on “Weekend reads: Citation cartels; a history of scientific integrity; another Nobelist retracts a paper”

  1. “Nature publishes too few papers from women researchers — that must change.”
    Wow! Wokeism has hit science too. You know what Publication Bias is? This:
    The only thing science must care about is SCIENTIFIC quality, not the gender of the authors or anything else. Nature MUST publish only and only whatever reaches its scientific standards, regardless of even thinking for one moment about the gender or race of its authors.
    If women are to publish more in Nature, they (women) must improve their research quality, not vice versa: Nature mustn’t artificially manipulate that man/woman proportion by accepting a greater number of papers from women.
    If Nature does that, it will be a serious PUBLICATION BIAS, meaning that studies will get a greater chance of getting published not because of good methodology or research interest, but because of the gender of its author.
    Please don’t contaminate science with ideologies like feminism, wokeism, neo-marxism, etc. Let science remain clean and focused solely on quality.
    Elsevier as well has gone this route of publication bias in the name of inclusion.
    Major players who are supposed to be guardians of science are the most dangerous players destroying science.

      1. I agree. It is still single-blind at Nature to the best of my knowledge. They should make it double-blind or even triple-blind (see below); it is the best option for ensuring a high scientific quality irrespective of the authors’ demographics etc. Though it doesn’t guarantee an increase in the share of women; it might even decrease their share. But let’s the best science wins, regardless of gender, whatever the outcome may be in terms of man/woman ratio.

        Besides, there is another issue: Journal EDITORS are never blinded to the authors even in double-blind peer review. At best, only reviewers are. There should be policies to make the review procedure triple-blind, that is only the staff members know the names; the editor, reviewers, and authors are all blinded until the final decision.

        It would have some drawbacks though: for example, if the editor knows the author names, he may catch some cases of misconduct by looking at their number or their CVs to identify suspicious people.

        Perhaps, the system’s AI assistant and the staff can tell the BLINDED editor the necessary info without giving away the names. For example, that the number of authors is 9, and 2 of them are on the publisher’s watch-list for scientific misconduct, without revealing the author names or their gender, race, country, affiliation, etc. to the editor.

        This would be a very good strategy, I guess, to make sure only scientific content matters. If these woke feminists let science breath.

    1. You have not even read the entire article, have you ?

      To me, it looks like they observed that the proportion of manuscript authored by women researchers is smaller than the proportion of said women researchers (not so much at the PI level though). On top of that, they report that the acceptance rate is also smaller for women researchers (compared to male researchers).

      They then briefly discuss why there is such a difference and how they could potentially fix that perceived bias. They do not mention anything along the lines of lowering the bar, as your post seems to indicate. And honestly, why would they do so ? They have a nice spot in the never ending race of being the most “reputable” publisher (whatever that means), and lowering the bar is probably going to hurt them more than being recognized as biased towards one gender. We can and should be critical of their suggestions, but, at least, let’s be precise.

      1. Schinia honesta: “We can and should be critical of their suggestions, but, at least, let’s be precise.”

        On that, I agree. Though if you read my below answers carefully and then re-read my above answer, you may see my point.

        ————————————–

        Schinia honesta: “On top of that, they report that the acceptance rate is also smaller for women researchers (compared to male researchers).”

        Well that can be due to poorer research done by female researchers. Especially if it has become double-blind, then it is more likely that the reason for more rejections of female authors is their worse papers compared to men.

        —————————————————————

        Schinia honesta: “They do not mention anything along the lines of lowering the bar, as your post seems to indicate.”

        Me: They do; read the title again. “Nature publishes too few papers from women researchers — that must change.”

        It clearly says “that MUST change”. What else “must” may mean except from exerting external force and BIAS, as in publication bias?

        The sentence sounds as if it is something bad or evil that fewer women publish in Nature, and that they must CORRECT this evil wrongdoing through some artificial “adjustments”.

        The “must change” in the title says: We don’t care if the quality of manuscripts submitted to Nature by women is generally lower, leading to a greater rejection of their papers. All we care about is the man/woman ratio, regardless of quality and interest. That MUST change. We will lower the bar to allow more women in, at the EXPENSE of quality and science.

        ——————————————————

        Schinia honesta: “And honestly, why would they do so ?”

        Me: Why? Because POLITICS. Why would anything else has gone the *woke* route in the past decade? Hollywood, businesses, big tech, social media, all have gone woke.

        Why? To please extreme lefty political agendas and ideologies. To please woke people, feminists, and neo-marxists.

        It is OK for any businesses to go one way or another but not for science. Science must remain neutral. Science must care only about truth and evidence and quality. It is not OK for science to become afflicted by politics and ideologies. Elsevier has gone woke too. Others are following too.

        They are crying and stumping their feet to the ground, asking the Nobel committee to give out Nobel prizes like candy to more women (Nobel resists), etc. This is called BIAS: positive bias, publication bias, you name it.

        ———————————————————

        Schinia honesta: “They have a nice spot in the never ending race of being the most “reputable” publisher (whatever that means), and lowering the bar is probably going to hurt them more than being recognized as biased towards one gender. ”

        Me: Why? Because POLITICS and IDEOLOGY. Why? Ask Disney or the whole Hollywood. Disney too has (had) the nicest spot in the race of being the most reputable and prolific movie maker. They (along with the whole Hollywood) preferred to lower the bar in the name of REPRESENTATION, at the expense of people of TALENT, even at the expense of billions of dollars they lost in 2 years only. (perhaps tens of billions of dollars).

        1. It is a bit difficult to discuss with someone who is twisting the reality until it fits their narrative. To you, that “must” in the title mean “We will lower the bar to allow more women in, at the expense of quality and science.”. I will argue that, to them, it means “our editors will actively seek out authors from these communities when at conferences and on laboratory visits.” and “editors will also strive to minimize our own biases through ongoing unconscious-bias training”, which are both extracted from the full article we are discussing. Nature made similar observations (about gender bias) in the past: in 2012 [1] and in 2018 [2]. Have you observed any decrease in quality in “Nature-branded journals” since then ? If so, could you substantiate your claims ?

          My guess is that you have not read the article with fresh eyes and an open mind (nor read any other literature on the topic to be honest).
          It looks like that headline triggered something (anger ?), which is preventing an honest analysis and a calm discussion. To be clear, I do think there are many problems with the current publication system and by no means I am supporting the big players in this field. However, their agenda to fix the gender biases they observe is definitely not the main issue in my humble opinion.

          Regarding your idea that this bias could be due to “poorer research done by female researchers”, it is of course hard to prove when scientific studies are conducted by several people who may not always share the same gender. Anyway, several studies have tried to approach the question and I think their findings do not really indicate that this is the main driver [3-10].

          I am not sure about the comparison with Disney as I am not familiar at all with this industry. From the outside, it looks like their businesses are too different. Scientists are the journal customers and desperately need to publish a lot (something I am not comfortable with). More often than not, these scientists are evaluated according to the journals in which they publish (which is definitely wrong). In my opinion, the movies the customers decide to watch have no such influence, but I could be wrong since, as I said, I know the scientific publication system a lot better.

          On a side note, peer-review at Nature has not exactly become double-blind. The authors are offered the option upon submission, but, as far as I know, its adoption has not been so great (12% in 2018) [11].

          [1] https://www.nature.com/articles/491495a
          [2] https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-05465-7
          [3] https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.1211286109
          [4] https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1538-3873/ab6ce0
          [5] https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/0022-0663.86.1.114
          [6] https://doi.org/10.1093/reseval/rvx021
          [7] https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11199-011-0051-0
          [8] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35120887/
          [9] https://www.jacr.org/article/S1546-1440(17)30209-0/abstract
          [10] https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.1510649112
          [11] https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s41073-018-0049-z

  2. “Nature publishes too few papers from women researchers — that must change.”

    Did someone at Nature write that?

  3. The Reuters article about the Springer IPO is informative. Excerpt:

    “LONDON, Feb 28 (Reuters) – Springer Nature’s private equity backer is dusting off plans to list the German academic publisher, amid growing optimism around initial public offerings, four people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

    BC Partners is in the early stages of exploring options for its 47% stake in Springer Nature, including a potential IPO as soon as the second half of the year, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

    Springer Nature, the publisher of science journal Nature and Scientific American, could be valued at up to 9 billion euros ($9.7 billion), including debt, one of the people said.”

    This publishing model really needs to be brought to an end.

  4. Princess Catherine turns out to be a photoshop editor of family photos! The front page photo of her with the three children has now been hastily retracted. News at 11.

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