How do journals deal with problematic articles. Editorial response of journals to articles commented in PubPeer

Authors : José-Luis Ortega, Lorena Delgado-Quirós

The aim of this article is to explore the editorial response of journals to research articles that may contain methodological errors or misconduct. A total of 17,244 articles commented on in PubPeer, a post-publication peer review site, were processed and classified according to several error and fraud categories.

Then, the editorial response (i.e., editorial notices) to these papers were retrieved from PubPeer, Retraction Watch, and PubMed to obtain the most comprehensive picture. The results show that only 21.5% of the articles that deserve an editorial notice (i.e., honest errors, methodological flaws, publishing fraud, manipulation) were corrected by the journal. This percentage would climb to 34% for 2019 publications.

This response is different between journals, but cross-sectional across all disciplines. Another interesting result is that high-impact journals suffer more from image manipulations, while plagiarism is more frequent in low-impact journals.

The study concludes with the observation that the journals have to improve their response to problematic articles.

URL : How do journals deal with problematic articles. Editorial response of journals to articles commented in PubPeer


Beyond Fact Checking: Reconsidering the Status of Truth of Published Articles

Authors : David Pontille, Didier Torny

Since the 17th century, scientific knowledge has been produced through a collective process, involving specific technologies used to perform experiments, to regulate modalities for participation of peers or lay people, and to ensure validation of the facts and publication of major results.

In such a world guided by the quest for a new kind of truth against previous beliefs various forms of misconduct – from subtle plagiarism to the entire fabrication of data and results – have largely been considered as minimal, if not inexistent.

Yet, some “betrayers of the truth” have been alleged in many fraudulent cases at least from the 1970s onward and the phenomenon is currently a growing concern in many academic corners. Facing numerous alerts, journals have generalized dedicated editorial formats to notify their readers of the emerging doubts affecting articles they had published.

This short piece is exclusively focused on these formats, which consists in “flagging” some articles to mark their problematic status.The visibility given to these flags and policies undermine the very basic components of the economy of science: How long can we collectively pretend that peer-reviewed knowledge should be the anchor to face a “post-truth” world?