Blog
About

158
views
1
recommends
+1 Recommend
0 collections
    9
    shares
      • Record: found
      • Abstract: found
      • Article: found
      Is Open Access

      It may be easier to publish than correct or retract faulty biomedical literature

      Croatian Medical Journal

      Croatian Medical Schools

      Read this article at

      Bookmark
          There is no author summary for this article yet. Authors can add summaries to their articles on ScienceOpen to make them more accessible to a non-specialist audience.

          Abstract

          Getting from an experimental result to a published paper is an energy- and time-consuming process that involves the concerted effort by authors, editors, and publishers. Generally, a published paper represents a positive and celebratory outcome. Correcting errors in the literature is generally considered to be a positive academic achievement. In contrast, retracting erroneous or fraudulent work is still viewed in a negative light, even though it may simply be a necessary corrective measure because investments are lost, time is wasted, and effort is flushed away. Thus, supported by a base built on sand-like academic metrics-based incentives, there is no real incentive or desire to correct the literature, even if it is necessary, because that would hurt the status quo. If the culture of shame can be disassociated from the act of correcting the literature – which is not made any better by the existence of increasingly aggressive and emboldened science watchdogs – then it is likely that corrections might be embraced as a more natural process in science publishing, especially when errors might be truly erroneous. Such a change in mentality will require a total overhaul of peer communities, a change that has taken an entire career to establish and develop, and thus will not take place overnight to reform. The increasingly zombified state of biomedical publishing can only correct itself when several core issues are recognized, openly debated, and resolved through interaction with all concerned parties. The value and strength of publishing and the weaknesses and flaws of its gate-keeping Publishing is not an easy feat. In some cases, after taking rejections into consideration, it may take as long as a year or two from initial submission to see a paper get published. The process itself involves considerable energetic input: first, a dual investment by scientists – in time, effort, and money – to complete experiments, and second, writing and publishing a paper, which involves several rounds of peer review and editorial scrutiny, assuming that the journal has a thorough and robust peer review system in place. The publisher also invests time, but invested resources are minimal, at least during the selection process since peer reviewers and editors generally work freely for academia (1). Thus, peer review serves merely as a conduit for manuscript evaluation and processing, but one that implies a task-intensive process that relies on the coordinated effort of authors, peers, and editors (2). Even so, an increasing number of high-profile cases of abused peer review indicate that even mainstream publishers are vulnerable to attack by an unscrupulous element of a dark academic underbelly (3,4). Fraudulent actions are fully the authors’ responsibility, for example, where self-appointed peer reviewers are suggested or where false or fake peers are created to give the impression of valid identities; however, publishers are at fault for allowing author-suggested peer review to predominate the peer review model (5). Sadly, global academia still makes itself willfully dependent on false pseudo-academic incentives, such as the journal impact factor or the new metric, Elsevier’s Scopus CiteScore (6,7), and citing such metrics as the reason for a publisher’s survival. Thus, a never-ending cycle of a non-academic culture that claims that a journal without quantifiable metrics cannot survive, or cannot be appreciated because it has no such metrics, pits academia against academia, which ultimately feeds into an expanding culture of cheating to achieve an artificially academic objective. This achievement can express itself as citation rings, editorial abuses, including the request by editors to self-cite their journal or peers to self-cite their work (8), or even a recently discovered phenomenon for citation manipulation, nested self-citation (9). Insufficiently robust peer review and insufficiently strict editorial oversight (10) are without a doubt the main reason why biomedical science finds itself in a very complicated bind at the moment. Potentially decades of lax editorial oversight, or author abuse of that lax system, has led to an exponential increase in the militarization of the entire publishing process (11). During this process, ethics – as if ethics could ever naturally evolve – became increasingly rigorous. Clauses that were not in place, or even existed 5, 10 or 20 years ago, such as the ICMJE or Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) guidelines, have now flooded the biomedical publishing landscape in a desperate bid to reign in on academic fraud and introduce a desperate measure of accountability of all parties and regain lost faith and trust in a system rocked by scandal after scandal. Although tightening of the ethical screws is welcomed, it may have come too late. In essence, this sudden ethical update in a bid to remediate biomedical publishing’s ills over decades victimizes the current generation of biomedical researchers for the lax attitudes and system that has been implemented by their predecessors. The ultimate effect is that authors’ rights are being drastically infringed upon and curtailed (12) at the expense of saving the reputations of editors, journals, and the publishing status quo (13). And what has emerged is an increasing class of zombie scientists, editors, and journals, with flawed academic credentials or publishing profiles that are still somehow able to maintain their status quo and privileges, but whose zombie nature is often unknown to the readership or wider public (14). Consequently, when the same status quo that created a flawed publishing platform is entrusted to remold the system and correct the ills it created itself, an in-built conflict of interest arises, one that corrects the record in half measures. How to correct the literature and what are the prevailing struggles? There are many reasons to correct errors or fraud in the biomedical literature, including regaining trust in a system that has clearly failed a basic academic bar, and to amend ills of a platform that has allowed wide-spread error and fraud to proliferate. Truly academic journals likely have fairly well-established policies on how to deal with errors and their subsequent corrections, including errata, corrigenda, expressions of concern, or retractions (15). Retractions represent failure at several levels, but only represent the apex of the wider problem (16). Ideally, all errors should be corrected, but the fact that editorial independence gives editors wide liberties in determining what is worthy of correction (17), sometimes in direct violation of established policies (18), indicates that even the current corrective process is deeply flawed. Not fully correcting the literature, despite the bruising to the status quo’s ego, has serious ramifications, including the continued propagation of error in an endless loop (19) and the sudden surge of the post-publication peer review movement (20). These problems become even more astute as the metrics and altmetrics culture becomes reinforced and expands. Even retracted papers, which should not be used or cited as reliable academic sources, continue to be cited because of flaws in the system created by the same publishing status quo that is now desperately trying to fix their own self-inflicted flaws, including faulty or misleading journal or publisher websites, porous PubMed entries, or an exploitative business model that has seen the aggressive emergence of potentially politically and economically motivated counter-measures, some possibly even illegal and criminal, such as pirate sites like Sci-Hub, journal hacking, email phishing, hoaxes, stings, and journal or identity hijacking (21-24), all adding pressure to a system already under great strain. Editors who fail their stated responsibilities, even more so those that claim to abide by written ethical clauses such as COPE member editors, need to be relieved from their positions, and the vetting process by which editors are recruited, and the qualifications that have led them to be selected as academia’s sentinels, need to be stated openly and transparently, allowing for independent verification (25). Legends are falling, and the role of post-publication peer review There is a sector of the academic community –some of which is still heavily and actively involved in research and publishing – that has now seen through the artificial smoke screens and marketing jingle-jangle of the oligopolic publishing enterprise, and understands that massive and immediate change is required, or face implosion of academia. Unfortunately, this call for reform, increased transparency and correction of science and biomedical publishing’s ills has also attracted a crowd of anti-science ideologists, those with their own interests and agendas, and an increasing masked post-publication peer review movement that is incompatible and confrontational with the traditionally anonymous traditional peer-review system that currently predominates. Stark contrasts and incompatible positions are now beginning to emerge. On one hand, there is a growing call for releasing all results, including negative results (26). On the other, a somewhat naïve suggestion arises that by somehow excluding results will somehow resolve the reproducibility crisis (27). Similarly, there is almost a blind rush at calling for the open release of all data, the so-called open data movement, believing that it is a panacea to resolving science’s ills, while all the while ignoring the potential risks that open data carry, least of which is data and file hijacking for manipulative ends (28). This contradiction is fortified by the continued allowance of biomedical researchers to present hidden or undisclosed data in published papers as “data not shown” to support some of their stated claims (29). The issue of “reproducibility” has become more of a superficial hot topic in some respects (30) because the risks, the conflict of interests, the hidden interests, and the blatant failure and meaninglessness of several of the suggestions being put blindly forward are being ignored. In this ebb-and-flow of the evolving biomedical publishing landscape, unimaginable “black swan” events are taking place (31), and as the current and past literature comes under increasing scrutiny, some of those who were once considered to be academic legends are crumbling in overnight boom-to-bust cases (32) under the merciless force of the newly established post-publication peer review movement. Suddenly, within the space of less than a handful of years, decades or centuries of what was once considered to be an infallible system, appears to be tearing apart at the seams. To avoid the total collapse of the system, while holding all parties accountable, namely the authors, editors, and publishers, a new culture most likely has to be embraced that incorporates and fortifies journal clubs, online discussion forums, such as PubMed Commons, PubPeer or Publons (33), and the anonymous voice (34,35). The masked uprising is fortifying: a cautionary note Perception, like marketing, has suddenly taken center stage of the reproducibility and accountability crisis. The often ultra-conservative is often skeptical of, or resistant to, change, reform, correction, and criticism. Even in some cases, when the literature is retracted, it disappears – the so-called silent retractions, to avoid shame (36). Such events, which compound the plethora of issues already described above, fortify the voices of the science skeptics and embolden the presumptuous and often arrogant positions of several of the science watchdogs, including Retraction Watch, Jeffrey Beall (37), or even pseudonymous or anonymous science critics like Neuroskeptic (38), Claire Francis, fernandopessoa, and others who take pride in their masked attack – even if validated – on science. An unprecedented state of vigilantism (39) has now become established following a few years of an experimental stage of criticisms and attacks, and the masked post-publication peer review movement was recently fortified by its legitimized mask in the face of legal challenges (40). The status quo, now threatened by a perceived band of masked online hooligans, valid and/or anonymous and pseudonymous critics, needs also to counter a surge of uncontrolled attacks with disguised conflict of interests, hidden agendas, double standards, or non-reciprocal transparency (41). In essence, to avoid abuse by the vigilant vigilante movement, hold them in check, and ensure that the principles they espouse on others are applied equally to themselves, a counter-vigilantism movement that carefully scrutinizes the science watchdogs and exposes their failings, weaknesses, and contradictions, is urgently required. This process, this need, and this trend has now ushered in a state of unprecedented public shaming with blogs, Twitter, and Facebook taking center stage in the spread of contradictory information, or “alternative truths”. Conclusions Publishing incentives will continue to favor the production of literature over the correction of literature, with only extreme cases being retracted or corrected. Also, the volume and speed of the former will continue to grossly outweigh the latter, to promote the business model. Editors have to rethink their functionality and effectiveness and streamline the process to be faster and more effective, while being fair on the authorship (42). However, it will be difficult to break this unsustainable approach unless new publishers emerge with novel ways of thinking or unless entire communities of scientists exercise pressure on their peers in current journals and publishers to enforce greater rigor, especially about the already published literature. The consistently exclusionary attitude by mainstream publishers toward their authorship, except for assessing their feedback through cheap online surveys, will also lead to their alienation, as is witnessed by a growing predatory open access movement and attempt to hijack not only academic copyright, intellectual rights, and identities, but also to make a grab at a slice of a highly profitable biomedical business (43,44).

          Related collections

          Most cited references 32

          • Record: found
          • Abstract: found
          • Article: found
          Is Open Access

          Sarajevo Declaration on Integrity and Visibility of Scholarly Publications

          Preamble Non-mainstream scholarly journals are struggling to maintain a healthy flow of the best submissions, influence science growth locally and internationally, and become indexed in prestigious bibliographic databases. There are financial and non-financial factors confounding editing and publishing practices across low-resource countries. Publishers in these countries often face difficulties with involving experienced reviewers and editors in the processing of submissions to their journal. As a result, non-mainstream scholarly journals are at risk of publishing unchecked, poorly edited, erroneous, and unethical papers. They face challenges of inappropriate authorship, non-disclosure of conflicts of interests, plagiarism, and other forms of scientific misconduct. Journals’ applications to global indexing abstract and citation databases are often declined due to the lack of transparent and ethical editorial strategies, inappropriate scope of interest, low level of evidence, and low citation rates. A hhandful of the indexed regional journals are aggressively targeted by unethical authors and brokering editing agencies, exploiting the deficiencies in the editorial strategies and thus further damaging the reputation of the journals. To curb the problems with editing and publishing, journal editors from non-mainstream science countries are encouraged to upgrade their strategies of ethical editing and research reporting in accordance with the updated recommendations of editorial associations, such as the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), and the Council of Science Editors (CSE). Academic institutions and professional societies from these countries are called to provide guidance for researchers and science editors and allocate resources for improving editing and publishing practices. How to address the problems with journal publishing in non-mainstream science countries was discussed at the First Mediterranean Seminar on Science Writing, Editing and Publishing, which was organized by the Academy of Medical Sciences of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo, December 2-3, 2016. The idea of organizing such a meeting and drafting an instructive document for editors and publishers struggling with poor quality and visibility of their journals was proposed by numerous regional experts. They voiced their concerns and suggested to act jointly. The Seminar attracted more than 100 researchers, experienced journal editors, and publishers from Balkan and Mediterranean countries, who shared their experience with writing, reviewing, editing, and publishing. Updates to the recommendations of the most influential editorial associations, such as the ICMJE, COPE, and CSE, were presented to incorporate in the regional journal instructions. Participants had a unique opportunity to receive hands-on training on editing from the flagship regional journals, such as the Croatian Medical Journal and other MEDLINE-indexed journals. As the main problems with editing regional journals were highlighted, the decision was made to draft this Declaration. Journal editors from non-mainstream science countries are called to upgrade and enforce their instructions for authors in accordance with the listed points on integrity and visibility. Aim The Sarajevo Declaration is aimed at upgrading standards of editing and publishing scholarly journals across Balkan and Mediterranean countries. Journal editors from regional and other non-mainstream science countries are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the statements and amend their instructions accordingly. Expected outcomes The endorsement and enforcement of the Sarajevo Declaration may help avoid ‘wasteful’ or unethical publishing practices and improve visibility, scientific prestige, and indexability of the adherent scholarly publications. Strategic points for action Transparency of in-house editorial procedures and external editing support Support of professional editorial teams Focus on regional and local scientific research problems defined in the journal aims and scope Promotion of ethical research and reviews Statements 1. Scholarly publications are essential for research productivity, academic promotion, sharing professional information, and networking among scientists worldwide. Authors, reviewers, and editors are required to ensure the trustworthiness and ethical soundness of what they write, edit, and publish. To maintain the quality and ensure the impact of their publications, all stakeholders in science communication should make effort to ensure the integrity and promote innovative and evidence-based sources of information. 2. Scholarly papers are final products of collective efforts of all stakeholders in science communication. It is increasingly important to promote these papers post-publication by indexing and archiving on relevant global digital platforms. Responsible editors and publishers alike are in the position to contribute to the post-publication communication. To improve visibility of their publications, authors can rely on reliable social media, sharing platforms, and individual and institutional repositories. 3. Authors, reviewers, and editorial board members can increase visibility of their scholarly activities by registering with the Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCID) and providing information on their own authoring, reviewing, and publishing activities via their permanent accounts. Publishers of scholarly journals can maintain the integrity of pre- and post-publication communication by joining the ORCID global initiative. 4. Erroneous publications are common, and take place because of the authors’, editors’, and publishers’ oversights. Authors, reviewers, editors, and readers have the responsibility to notify publishers about any instances of known research misconduct and erroneous publications, necessitating corrections or retractions. 5. Effective functioning of scholarly journals is dependent on skilled individuals involved in the processing of manuscripts. Publishers encountering problems with erroneous and poorly written publications should expand their editorial teams by inviting experienced editors responsible for statistics, publication ethics, language, and design. 6. Continuing professional development (CPD) should be complemented by publications in scholarly journals that serve as platforms for distributing professional information of interest to both novice and seasoned authors. To achieve this goal, publishers may create journal sections for students, researchers, and specialists seeking CPD credits. Efforts should be made by publishers to acknowledge their contributors and obtain CPD credits for publishing and reviewing activities. 7. Professional societies can take the lead and contribute to the promotion of scholarly journals by taking responsibility for healthy flow of journal submissions from their memberships, quality checks, and publishing established and start-up periodicals and awarding the contributors with academic credits. 8. Science editors should adhere to the most recent recommendations of global editorial associations and incorporate relevant sections in their journal’s instructions to improve the quality of pre- and post-publication communication. 9. Websites and editorial management platforms of scholarly journals should contain transparent information on the editorial management, peer review, open access or subscription models, and acceptable editing practices. Commercial editing services, which are offered by publishers and other organizations, may help improve the quality of journal submissions. However, all these services require transparency and acknowledgment in accordance with the recommendations of global editorial associations. 10. Traditional and alternative impact indicators are instrumental for assessing the scholarly journals in terms of distributing information, attracting readership, and facilitating science growth. Combined quantitative and qualitative approach to citations, downloads, and distributions of individual papers through social networking channels can reveal interest of readers toward certain topics and types of publication, but not necessarily the quality of scholarly journals. Editors and publishers can increase the impact of their journals by improving the functionality of their journal websites and online content, ensuring the completeness of meta-data in the published papers.
            Bookmark
            • Record: found
            • Abstract: found
            • Article: not found

            Problems with traditional science publishing and finding a wider niche for post-publication peer review.

            Science affects multiple basic sectors of society. Therefore, the findings made in science impact what takes place at a commercial level. More specifically, errors in the literature, incorrect findings, fraudulent data, poorly written scientific reports, or studies that cannot be reproduced not only serve as a burden on tax-payers' money, but they also serve to diminish public trust in science and its findings. Therefore, there is every need to fortify the validity of data that exists in the science literature, not only to build trust among peers, and to sustain that trust, but to reestablish trust in the public and private academic sectors that are witnessing a veritable battle-ground in the world of science publishing, in some ways spurred by the rapid evolution of the open access (OA) movement. Even though many science journals, traditional and OA, claim to be peer reviewed, the truth is that different levels of peer review occur, and in some cases no, insufficient, or pseudo-peer review takes place. This ultimately leads to the erosion of quality and importance of science, allowing essentially anything to become published, provided that an outlet can be found. In some cases, predatory OA journals serve this purpose, allowing papers to be published, often without any peer review or quality control. In the light of an explosion of such cases in predatory OA publishing, and in severe inefficiencies and possible bias in the peer review of even respectable science journals, as evidenced by the increasing attention given to retractions, there is an urgent need to reform the way in which authors, editors, and publishers conduct the first line of quality control, the peer review. One way to address the problem is through post-publication peer review (PPPR), an efficient complement to traditional peer-review that allows for the continuous improvement and strengthening of the quality of science publishing. PPPR may also serve as a way to renew trust in scientific findings by correcting the literature. This article explores what is broadly being said about PPPR in the literature, so as to establish awareness and a possible first-tier prototype for the sciences for which such a system is undeveloped or weak.
              Bookmark
              • Record: found
              • Abstract: not found
              • Article: not found

              Hijacked journals, hijacked web-sites, journal phishing, misleading metrics, and predatory publishing: actual and potential threats to academic integrity and publishing ethics.

                Bookmark

                Author and article information

                Affiliations
                P. O. Box 7, Miki-cho post office, Ikenobe 3011-2, Kagawa-ken, 761-0799, Japan
 jaimetex@ 123456yahoo.com
                Journal
                Croat Med J
                Croat. Med. J
                CMJ
                Croatian Medical Journal
                Croatian Medical Schools
                0353-9504
                1332-8166
                February 2017
                : 58
                : 1
                : 75-79
                CroatMedJ_58_0075
                10.3325/cmj.2017.58.75
                5346899
                28252878
                Copyright © 2017 by the Croatian Medical Journal. All rights reserved.

                This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Categories
                Essay

                Medicine

                Comments

                Comment on this article