Nonsense paper at Frontiers retracted

Frontiers now retracts the paper by the retired surgeon Ivo P. Janecka “Sensing risk, fearing uncertainty: systems science approach to change“, following complaints by Klaas van Dijk and Guillaume Rousselet.

sensing risk

 The retraction note reads:

“Frontiers retracts the paper: “Sensing risk, fearing uncertainty: systems science approach to change” (doi: 10.3389/fncom.2014.00030). Following a formal complaint concerning the publication cited above, the Specialty Chief Editors of Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience conducted an assessment of the article, according to the Frontiers complaints protocol. The Specialty Chief Editors concluded that the publication should not have been accepted in its published form, as it does not meet the standards of editorial and scientific soundness for Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience. This assessment was conducted in consultation with the Handling Editor, Dr Tobias A Mattei, who agreed to this conclusion. The author agrees to the retraction, commenting that the article was inappropriate for the Journal and its audience”.

Below excerpts from my earlier posts where this article has been discussed.


Trolling peer review to promote its ethics

Chief editor Misha Tsodyks further tested the Frontiers quality control system by allowing in his Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience a publication of a very peculiar “Original Research Article”.  It was named “Sensing risk, fearing uncertainty: systems science approach to change” and authored by a respectable oncology surgeon from Harvard University, Ivo P Janecka. This apparently retired academic now claims to head an obscure “Foundation for Systems Research and Education” in New York. The main problem with his paper: many readers, including myself, could not understand what it was supposed to be about or actually make any sense of its content or even words. Also the figures, though colourful, made little sense, which made it rather difficult to comprehend what “original research” was supposed to be hidden in the Janecka original research study. One commenter suggested a computer algorithm was used to generate a randomly worded text, which was then passed off as serious research manuscript. Another suggested a prank on Frontiers, by someone hacking their website.

The author himself was not really helpful. In his reply Janecka described his critics as driven by “Self’s Ego”, which “invokes the toxic power of emotions eliminating any rationality and simultaneously leaving basic courtesy in any dialog behind”.

Whatever this work of original research was supposed to be about, no connection could be made to the journal’s original scope, namely computational neurosciences. It was invited as part of the research topic “Application of Nonlinear Analysis to the Study of Complex Systems in Neuroscience and Behavioral Research”, edited by Janecka’s surgeon colleague, Tobias Alecio Mattei.  The latter had enjoyed only apparently a very cursory research training during his studies of medicine at the University of São Paulo. He worked since as neurosurgeon, currently at the Kenmore Mercy Hospital in Buffalo, NY, which in turn is operated by the Catholic Church and according to its website does not seem to be running any research programs. Mattei’s academic activities show no evidence of any association with basic research, computational neuroscience-related or otherwise. He is also editorial board member with the notorious predatory publisher OMICS. Why he became associate editor at Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience in the first place and why he was invited to handle and peer review publications in this journal, is anyone’s guess. Only the chief editor Tsodyks could offer any explanation here, but he did not reply to my email.


Other reviewers of the Janecka paper were Damian Kelty-Stephen, assistant professor in psychology at Grinnel College, US, and David Kronemyer, formerly film producer in Hollywood, now postdoctoral researcher of behavioral disorders at UCLA. One would love to read their peer review reports of that mystery paper, but unfortunately, the Frontiers editorial transparency ends there. This and a number of other Frontiers publications serve as solid arguments for openness of the peer review.



Frontiers Christmas Carol

Rousselet and other researchers have been demanding from Frontiers a retraction of a certain article by a retired neuro-oncologist, Ivo P Janecka, titled Sensing risk, fearing uncertainty: systems science approach to change and described by many scientists as utterly nonsensical. As I reported, it was edited (and reviewed!) by a totally field-unrelated medical surgeon Tobias Alecio Mattei, who according to his own employment record, is not and never has been an active researcher, in any field. How he came to be associate editor at Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience, is anyone’s guess. Yet also here, the journal’s EiC Tsodyks apparently chose not to interfere or even participate in the discussion. Instead, Rousselet was told by the Journal Operations Specialist, Martina Haller, that:

“The manuscript has undergone peer review as part of the Research Topic “Application of Nonlinear Analysis to the Study of Complex Systems in Neuroscience and Behavioral Research” and was approved by the Topic Editor, Dr Mattei. Our investigation did not identify plagiarism, reporting of unethical research, established misconduct, data manipulation, data fabrication or breach of third-party legal rights which would substantiate the need for retraction of this publication”.

January 24th 2016 comment:

The data integrity sleuth Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva informed  me about following developments regarding the Ivo P. Janecka paper in Front. Comput. Neurosci.: a figure has been apparently re-used for a later publication in American Journal of Psychology and Cognitive Science, Vol. 1, No. 5, Pub. Date: Dec. 6, 2015
The publisher Public Science Framework was flagged by Jeffrey Beall:
The following might indicate self-plagiarism by the sole author Janecka:
Figures 2a, 2b, 2d, 2e, 2f, 3 from this newer paper are very similar to Fig 1 in Frontiers:

Teixeira da Silva has also informed the EiC of Frontiers Comput. Neurosci., Misha Tsodyks, at his institutional email address

7 thoughts on “Nonsense paper at Frontiers retracted


    On January 24, 2016, I asked Dr. Janecka to please observe his Public Science Framework (PSF) paper, and specifically pointed out the duplicated figures that were reused without proper attribution to the source. He provided a response about his Frontiers paper, but failed to address the self-duplicated images.

    Now that the Frontiers paper has been retracted, this now poses a theoretically interesting question:
    Should the AJPCS paper also be retracted because, until 1/2 days ago, it was in fact self-plagiarizing figures from the Frontiers article?

    Those in defense of Janecka might offer two arguments (I would imagine) that his PSF paper could reuse figures:
    a) A BCC license in which the Frontiers article was open access and that he had the right o reuse any figure. In theory, true, but ONLY if the original source was indicated, which it was not. So, this argument is invalid.
    b) The Frontiers paper is now retracted, so that means that the Frontiers paper in theory no longer “exists”. Thus, the “duplicated” figures in the PSF paper are in fact not self-plagiarizing any other figures. In theory, this is also correct, if we consider that the Frontiers paper does not exist as a “citable” document. However, it still exists, simply as a retracted document, so the PSF paper has the responsibility of citing the original source, whether retracted, or not. Secondly, the source was not cited, this itself an ethical infringement. Thirdly, at the time the PSF paper was published, the Frontiers paper was still “intact” (i.e., not yet retracted) so this would have implied that he submitted, and had his PSF paper published while the Frontiers paper was still a valid “citable document”, i.e., a de facto paper with self-duplication.

    I will contact PSF today, but I am not confident that they would retract the PSF paper because:
    a) They are listed as “predatory” by Beall (but so is Frontiers, and Frontiers in fact did eventually retract the paper);
    b) I had a nasty experience with PSF, totally unsatisfied by their false peer review, charging me payment when they had promised no fees, and then withdrawal of my paper after acceptance. Since the email for all PSF journals appears to be the same, I suspect that the email would be received by the same “manager” or “editorial assistant”. Nonetheless, today I will formally request that the PSF paper also be retracted on the basis of undeclared self-duplication. I encourage others to do the same.


  2. After the “Hand of God” retraction at PLOS*, a Frontiers paper that starts with a quote from the Bible is now receiving some curious challenges at PubPeer:

    This is well worth public debate given the prevalence of cereal allergy and the wide consumption of bread.


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