Four private scientists without any agenda whatsoever published a research result preprint on the portal BioRxiv. The “new results” reported in the article are actually new ideas which are just as good as any research results, because they are supposed to bring the field of scholarly communication forward. The question is, where to, and why should anyone go there. Because the idea is to abolish the only tool science now has at hand to punish research misconduct: retractions. Fraudulent papers are to receive instead an amendment, which will notify those particularly inclined readers that research data or ethics approval (for clinical studies) might have been falsified or missing. Those proposing to remove the only punitive measure available in scholarly publishing are in fact the very people who are supposed to be overseeing the editorial integrity. The goats whom science welcomed as gardeners now dropped the pretence and declared their true vision for the garden.
The preprint is titled “Amending Published Articles: Time To Rethink Retractions And Corrections?” and is authored by Virginia Barbour (1), Theodora Bloom (2), Jennifer Lin (3) and Elizabeth Moylan (4), their respective affiliations are: 1 Queensland University of Technology (QUT); 2 BMA House; 3 the Digital Object Identifier Registration Agency Crossref and 4 the publishing house BioMed Central (BMC), which is part of Springer Nature. Only a footnote said that Barbour’s main work is not in her academic capacity with QUT, but as the Chair of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), a publisher-financed advisory board on editorial processes (see my earlier report here). The publisher executive Moylan is in fact also since last year a Council member at COPE. Bloom’s day-job is that of Executive Editor with the medical journal The BMJ, the journal which co-founded COPE in 1997.
However, Bloom declared to me in an email:
“As indicated prominently on the preprint, the views expressed are those of the authors and not our organisations”.
Of course they are. As Bloom pointed out, there is even a note: this document does not necessarily represent the views of the organizations listed here”. Why would Bloom, COPE president Barbour, or the BMC research integrity official Moylan let their private views on how publishing should deal with misconduct influence their professional day-to-day work, which just coincidentally is mostly about decisions on research integrity and editorial ethics? Such supposition is just plain silly. That the preprint constantly refers to COPE, is just a coincidence.
This is what the COPE president Barbour et al have on offer in their preprint:
“We propose removing the term retraction altogether and instead using the term “amendment” to describe all forms of post-publication change to an articles. The term “amendment” carries a neutral tone and is generic enough to apply to a wide array of cases, including the smallest instances such as a typographical error all the way to large retractions. By employing a uniform term, we hope to remove any associated stigma in the context of scholarly literature. When readers encounter each amendment, they read the notice for details on each case, and can judge the article and its revisions as appropriate”.
This above might as well have been written by the notorious cheater scientists Olivier Voinnet or Paolo Macchiarini, who were so far quite successful to avoid a number of retractions. Voinnet succeeded to keep his record down to 8 retractions so far (see here), by issuing almost 20 shady corrections where he replaced manipulated data with something new and often just as fishy, in a process I like to call ”Voinnetting”. Especially Macchiarini was relatively in luck regarding retractions (recent case here), since his main papers in the journal The Lancet are still standing, despite obvious lies about ethics permits and the patient’s true state in them. This is because the Editor-in-Chief (EiC) of The Lancet, Richard Horton has a strong personal antipathy to the concept of retractions as such (e.g., it took him 11 years to retract the toxic and infamous Wakefield paper on alleged dangers of vaccines, see my report here). Fun fact is: Horton is one of the founding fathers of COPE of 1997. So there is indeed a big customer interest to avoid retraction, certainly among the many cheater scientists, but also among the journal editors who just want to avoid the hustle.
Retractions namely are a pain in the neck. Especially with the rise of the internet portal PubPeer, editors are now inundated with suspicions of data manipulations. Dealing with all this is cumbersome; many journals do nothing at all until someone contacts them in person with evidence. Even then, anonymous complaints are sometimes disregarded straight away. To investigate the misconduct evidence further, journals must invest lots of time and money, when they often can spare neither. Thus, many journals simply sit tight and wait for the results of institutional investigations, if those ever take place. But even when an institution demands a retraction after having investigated and found misconduct, journals still haggle with authors for many months on end and sometimes even drop the issue altogether if the authors oppose the retraction too much.
In fact, some authors even threaten to sue the publisher if a retraction is threatened. The western-blot-breeding specialist Mario Saad did this, but he meanwhile lost a number of manipulated papers to retractions. Some journals operate the policy of never retracting anything unless all authors agree. The EiC of the journal Human Molecular Genetics refused to do anything at all about a manipulated paper despite the retraction request of the corresponding author Philippe Froguel, because the other corresponding author and the obviously guilty party, Kathrin Maedler, did not agree to the retraction (see my report here). Other journals are apparently staff-overstretched, clueless or simply can’t be bothered dealing with their authors’ misconduct. The best example of the latter is the COPE-member Cell: to its EiC Emilie Marcus, data manipulation or absence of original data is no reason at all to retract a “cool” paper, as she recently demonstrated for both Voinnet and Maria Pia Cosma (see this report). Retraction is a total measure; a retracted paper cannot be cited or referenced anymore. There is no such thing as a partial retraction, though EMBO Press did establish such a weird concept, with the result that they simply applied it to save the most disreputable papers by Cosma from a proper retraction (see this report).
Bottom-line: too many journal editors would sure prefer to hang on some amendment note to a paper and be done with it.
Liz Wager, former COPE chair, who “offered some comments” during the preprint’s writing, explained in the comment section of the preprint:
“I can see many benefits from separating the process of investigating misconduct and alerting readers to unreliable work. However, one important recommendation of this new proposal is that “If misconduct or fraud has occurred, this should be reported on, but such reporting should be considered as distinct from the process of correcting the literature.” But we know that universities in many countries are often unwilling to share information about misconduct investigations, so I hope the authors will provide some more detail (and research institutions will also comment on) how this might work in practice”.
However, the authors who actually invited readers to comment on their preprint, chose not to engage in a critical discussion, but only respond to praise from other publishing executives, as Barbour did here.
I approached Bloom, who then wrote back to me:
“We also try to say emphatically that misconduct needs to be investigated and reported. Our concern is simply that waiting for a full investigation before providing any formalised correction of the literature means that there are long periods when some people know that there are clear problems with an article but most readers do not. Once investigations are complete we would absolutely want that linked to the article, but it is frequently the case that this would be many years after the problems with a paper are identified”.
I then asked Bloom straightforward if the idea was to abolish retractions altogether and replace them with amendments. I received this reply:
“In our view, there is a need to quickly and unmistakably flag papers that are problematic, inaccurate or erroneous. That need is not well met by the current system that requires a full investigation to be completed, behind closed doors, and the full reasons behind any problems determined, before a retraction notice is issued. In our view, in such circumstances it makes more sense to quickly flag the issue – even while people are disagreeing about what might have caused it – and subsequently to add a narrative about the causes. This separates the two aspects – correcting the literature on the one hand, and investigating misconduct on the other – both in time and in terminology. (I wrote something that reflects my own thinking about this issue a few years ago, at http://blogs.plos.org/biologue/2013/11/11/so-tell-me-what-would-you-do/)”.
However, in their provocative preprint Bloom and her co-authors do not propose to flag papers until retraction is sufficiently justified (and conveniently forget that such tool already exists, aptly named Editorial Expression of Concern). They propose to abolish retractions altogether. In the very worst cases, where fraud or patient abuse are officially established, and even the authors gave up defending their opus, the preprint’s authors advice preservation of the paper in full, but decorated with explanatory amendments:
“Wholesale or complete: the article as a whole is considered unreliable in its current form. There may be elements that remain “correct” but large proportions are not. Instead of “retract and replace” as currently practiced by some publishers, we would recommend “retract and republish” with a new DOI that lands on the newer version and makes plain the chain of events. In the case where authors and/or journal may wish to dissociate themselves from it completely, this is fully noted with a full description in the associated narrative and no attempt to insert new text or other content”.
The publisher executives insidiously use as a smokescreen the good and honourable concept of a “living” paper, as opposed to the traditional “static” printed version. There, the authors can add in time their new data or new discussion through amendments, or versioning, to their already published papers. A great idea, and certainly worth pursuing. But it should not be polluted with Voinnetting. Authors caught with manipulated or absent research data should under no circumstances be invited to replace it with something else, through an amendment. If a doctor who lied about ethics approvals or the outcome of the published medical intervention is permitted to “fix” all this with an amendment, actual human lives of real patients are at stake.
Thus, if COPE and the publishers it represent get their will, there will be no retractions in the future. The most outrageously fake papers will get a cautionary amendment, but can still be quoted, referenced, and used for funding and job applications. Barbour and her COPE colleagues sure understand the implications of their proposal to pull the teeth of all research integrity watchdogs. Should we nod in agreement, lulled by the big talk of a “living” paper? Whose ally is COPE anyway? Their guidelines on editorial integrity (which are already full of loopholes) are in fact not worth the paper they are printed on. When called for advice, COPE showed that they are incapable of advising retraction even in clear cases of self-plagiarism (e.g., see here) or even plagiarism (personal communication with a reader). No real revolution can be imposed from above, and the simple fact is: COPE represents the interests of the scholarly publishing industry. Not those of honest scientists.
My take on some of the proposals is here https://ferniglab.wordpress.com/2017/03/29/on-amending-published-articles/
Honoured to be invited to Liverpool by Patricia Murray on May 23rd. Come to my talk!
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“If misconduct or fraud has occurred, this should be reported on, but such reporting should be considered as distinct from the process of correcting the literature.” Why? So that the need for correction becomes as invisible as possible to readers of that literature.
These people and their opinions have become irrelevant. They’re flailing for the control that they’ve irretrievably and deservedly lost.
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Amendment to the article, “One plus One equals Three”.
The authors have re-evaluated the complex algorithm employed in the study and have concluded that one plus one plus one equals three. The authors do not feel that the fundamental finding of the study is flawed. One plus one equals two, which is not a significant difference from three and thereby underpins the core findings. The authors apologize for this slight error in calculation and have all agreed to this Amendment.
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Now my ideas:
As I mentioned before I think peer review should be public and reviewers should have access to original data
Seems to me that by eliminating retractions and encouraging amendments to what should be already completed and vetted work, we simply perpetuate the problematic public or perish academic model. The benefits go to those who publish higher quantity, shoddy, possibly fraudulent work, and then – as the authors of the pre-print who have no possible conflict-of-interest propose – said researchers even get amply opportunity to fix or retroactively alter their work if flaws are noticed (which they rarely are – or were). This academic model continually rewards quantity over quality (quality is rarely even assessed) and tends to reward all the wrong people; ineptitude, misconduct. and outright fraud tend to be overlooked for sheer numbers of publications. Meanwhile, of course the publishers wish to maintain the system that benefits themselves most:
“t is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” —Upton Sinclair (A line that cannot be quoted enough)
I agree with K: what is extensively wrong should be retracted
Also definitely we have to put an end in the actual system: “publish or perish “, so I think peer review and raw data should be available to public, reviewers and editors should become auditors and journals auditory enterprises in future therefore editors become paid to perfectly understand everything
It seems to me that one of the authors of this preprint will give a presentation about (parts from) this preprint at the 5th World Conference on Research Integrity in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, on 29 May 2017.
Copy/pasted from https://www.eventure-online.com/eventure/public/publicAbstractView.form?id=321499&congressId=10578&from=session&fromId=357901
“Abstract title. How could editors think differently about the complexities of research and publishing ethics? Author V. Barbour (Norfolk, United Kingdom) (Presenting author)”
“Abstract text. (….) current methods of correcting published work are not now sufficient for the changing norms of publishing” (…) The previous framework of submission, review and publishing of a final version which remains unchanged post publication, all conduced solely within limited academic circles, is now at an end.”
I have conducted a review of this preprint and I present my findings in this comment. I have send my findings to TB and JL on 19 April 2017. An e-mail with additional details was send to them on 26 April 2017. There was until now no response. There was until now also no response on my proposal in the e-mail of 26 April 2017 to post my findings at forbetterscience.com It seems therefore reasonable to assume that the authors have no objections against the posting of this comment.
BioRxiv is a preprint server for ‘articles covering all aspects of research in the life sciences’. BioRxiv accepts ‘preprints, which are complete but unpublished research articles’. BioRxiv states: ‘research articles reporting new, confirmatory, or contradictory findings may be posted.’ This preprint is thus a research article. It is posted in the category ‘New Results’. My review reveals that this preprint does not contain new results and that it does not fall within the category ‘original research article’. This point of view is in line with a recent comment of the physicist professor Parthasarathy (‘That essay is not, nor does it claim to be, a research paper.’). A comment at Twitter by Dr Teytelman, dated 4 May 2017, reveals that BioRxiv had rejected https://peerj.com/preprints/1901.pdf (“Our preprint was rejected by biorxivpreprint b/c it’s a tool, not original research. Went to Peerj”). It is thus not excluded that researchers are wondering why BioRxiv accepted this preprint and rejected ‘VERVENet: The Viral Ecology Research and Virtual Exchange Network’ (the preprint of Dr. Teytelman et al.).
This preprint is an extremely rare case of a research article where authors use the ‘argument from authority’ to support their views/statements/proposals. Copy/pasted from the last paragraph of the Introduction (page 2): “Many people are discussing changes in publishing. We bring to this our diverse and collective experience of a number of traditional and start-up publishers as well as of developing infrastructures for open access and other publishing innovations.” The preprint contains no opposing views, and with solid references, on major topics which are discussed in this preprint. It can thus be concluded that we are dealing here with an ‘argumentum ad verecundiam’. The appendix is some sort of promotional text of the employer of author JL. This underlines that this preprint is a policy document of (some of) the affiliations of the authors.
The scientific level of this preprint is extremely low. The main issues are: (i) (almost) no definitions for a whole array of terms, (ii) loaded with biased opinions which are almost never supported by solid references (which for example implies that the scientific level of the Introduction is more or less equal to nil), (iii) references which are disorganized, sloppy, and incomplete. Commenting took so much time that several parts of the text, in particular sections in the middle of the text, have not been reviewed. All remarks are listed in a WORD document. Please don’t hesitate to contact me when you would like to have a copy of this WORD document.
Readers will wonder why the 4 authors have, more or less as a private person, published a preprint about a topic which is directly related to their professional activities (‘this document does not necessarily represent the views of the organizations listed here’, page 1). So for example TB, the executive editor of The BMJ since June 2014, is trying to convince the readers that she has published this preprint more or less as a private person, and that we thus must more or less ignore that TB has listed BMJ as affiliation behind her name. Excuse me very much, but that’s not how is works in life sciences (and in other fields of research) when you publish a research article (as preprint at BioRxiv). So TB will have to make a choice: (1) upload a new version without her name as author, or (2) ensure that BMJ et al. approves the contents of (a new version) the preprint, and upload a new version in which it is stated that the contents of this preprint has been approved by BMJ et al.
This preprint has multiple issues in regard to undeclared conflicts of interest (see also item 4). Is ‘COPE working group’ (page 1) also some sort of author? How about people other than the authors who are member of this ‘COPE working group’? Which people are member of this ‘COPE working group’? Who is responsible for the acting / behaviour / activities / output of this ‘COPE working group’? Is the ‘initial working group’ (page 12) identical to this ‘COPE working group’? It is not indicated that VB is also affiliated to the UQ (the University of Queensland), to GU https://www.griffith.edu.au/ and to AOASG https://aoasg.org.au/ It is unclear why VB and TB have declared that they ‘are both on the Eighth International Congress on Peer Review and Scientific Publication Advisory Board’ (page 12). Does this imply that (parts of) the contents of this preprint will be presented at this Congress? The readers have no idea. EM, the guarantor and the corresponding author of http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/11/e012047 has not declared that her ICMJE form of this recent paper in BMJ Open is unavailable (for me). This unavailability (for me) is a clear violation of the submission guidelines for manuscripts to BMJ Open. VB has not declared that UQ is investigating for already over one year a formal complaint against her with serious allegations of ‘wilful concealment or facilitation of research misconduct by others’. VB is not disclosing that she is member of the ‘Ethics and Policy Committee’ of WAME. More remarks are listed in the WORD document (see above).
All authors have a PhD in the life sciences from (very) well respected universities and all claim ‘argument from authority’ in this field of research (see above). The extreme low scientific level of this preprint is therefore remarkable. This low level is obvious after a comparison with the preprint of Dr. Teytelman et al. (see above) and after a comparison with other preprints in the subject area ‘Scientific Communication and Education’, e.g. http://biorxiv.org/content/early/2017/04/10/124495 , a preprint with one author who is a PhD student. The review history of the recent paper in BMJ Open of author EM (see above) reveals on the other hand more or less similar issues with the scientific level (‘this paper reads like an advertisement for BioMed Central’, reviewer R. Grant Steen, ‘As the field stands by now, it makes little sense to just count retractions and report simple descriptive statistics whilst ignoring the element of journal policies’, reviewer Daniele Fanelli).
It can thus be concluded:
* the preprint server BioRxiv accepts research articles with a very low scientific level;
* policy documents (about publication ethics) can be published as ‘research article’ at the preprint server BioRxiv.
It has turned out that BioRxiv has added a sentence to the text of “What types of content can be posted on bioRxiv?” at http://biorxiv.org/about/FAQ
The added sentence is: “In the Scientific Communication and Education subject category, research articles and white papers on professional standards and best practices may be posted.”
This added sentence was not yet present at http://biorxiv.org/about/FAQ on 23 April 2017. This added sentence was present at this url on 20 May 2017. It is at the moment unknown at what date this sentence has been added and it is at the moment also unknown if the discussions about this preprint have caused this change / amendment.
The authors of this preprint have published on 5 June 2017 at http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2017/06/05/minor-substantial-or-wholesale-amendments/ some backgrounds about their proposals they reflect on some reactions. They do not refer to this blogpost at forbetterscience.com when reflecting on these reactions.
The authors state in their blogpost of 5 June 2017: “More practically, we know that editors often never fully know what the cause of a retraction was as they do not conduct investigations themselves (this is the responsibility of the institutions) (…)”.
I am not aware of peer-reviewed references in journals (excluding journals which are on the lists of Jeffrey Beall), and/or peer-reviewed references in books, in which it is stated that ‘editors [journals] do not conduct investigations themselves’ and in which it is stated ‘conduct[ing] investigations (..) is the responsibility of the institutions’. I propose that the authors post over here a comment with a list with at least 3 of such references.
There are numerous postings at Retraction Watch with opposing statements about this responsibilities. I therefore hold the opinion that the claim of the 4 authors (and also more or less of their affilations, and/or of this ‘COPE working group’?) in regard to this item is unsubstantiated as long as they have not provided readers with these references.
Recent examples of such postings include http://retractionwatch.com/2017/06/05/authors-retract-two-plant-biology-papers-duplicated-images/ [“The editor-in-chief of TPJ Christoph Benning said that, after the authors contacted them, the journals looked into the issue, confirmed the duplications and then retracted the papers:”The authors contacted TPJ and TPC at about the same time. TPJ and TPC launched independent investigations into the matter that led to the findings described in the two retraction notices. TPJ and TPC communicated about their findings prior to publishing their respective retractions and coordinated the timing of the publication of the retractions.””.] and http://retractionwatch.com/2017/05/25/journal-retracts-nine-papers-one-day-author-investigation-weizmann-institute/ [“Kaoru Sakabe, the Data Integrity Manager at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, which publishes the JBC, told us: “A reader alerted us to possible issues. As is customary, we investigated the articles, the details of which may be found in the withdrawal notices.””].
The authors of this preprint have until today, Wednesday 2 August 2017, not provided a single reference to support their claim “‘editors [journals] do not conduct investigations themselves’ and in which it is stated ‘conduct[ing] investigations (..) is the responsibility of the institutions’”. The authors of this preprint have also until now not commented over here (about this issue) and/or contacted me, and/or posted at http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2017/06/05/minor-substantial-or-wholesale-amendments/ and/or at http://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2017/03/24/118356 backgrounds about this issue.
It seems therefore reasonable to conclude that the claim “‘editors [journals] do not conduct investigations themselves’ and in which it is stated ‘conduct[ing] investigations (..) is the responsibility of the institutions’” is unsubstantiated, and that this claim can thus be rejected.
It is up to the authors of this preprint to comment on my conclusion. It seems towards my opinion reasonable to argue that ‘no response within a reasonable period of time on this comment of today’ implies that the authors are unable to refute / rebut my conclusion about this issue.
I propose that the authors of this preprint reflect on the acting of Dr. Colquhoun, the author of another preprint which was recently posted at the subject aread ‘Scientific Communication and Education’.
Dr. Colquhoun immediately posted a comment alongside his preprint when BioRxiv has posted his preprint, and wrote in this comment on his preprint: ‘This is a first draft. Please tear it to pieces.’
A virtually identical comment was posted at the same day at http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2017/06/05/minor-substantial-or-wholesale-amendments/ and at http://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2017/03/24/118356
The comment at lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2017/06/05 was quickly approved and is thus available to readers of this blog (and of course as well for readers of forbetterscience.com). The comment was not approved by BioRxiv and this comment is thus unavailable for readers of http://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2017/03/24/118356
I have contacted BioRxiv for the motives that this comment was not approved. BioRxiv responded quickly. “From: biorxiv; To: Klaas van Dijk; Sent: Thursday, August 03, 2017 7:14 PM; Subject: Re: Comment on Amending Published Articles: Time To Rethink Retractions And Corrections?
Dear Dr. van Dijk, Authors of manuscripts posted to bioRxiv have no obligation to respond to comments made on the bioRxiv site or elsewhere so your comment has not been approved for posting.
Sincerely, The bioRxiv Team”
This motive is towards my opinion inadequate, in particular given other comments (about other preprints) at BioRxiv. I have contacted BioRxiv at the same day with my views. BioRxiv has not yet responded on my email. BioRxiv has thus also until now not rebutted that their motives of not approving my comment is ‘inadequate’ (and has thus also not ruled out that there are other motives, motives which are not listed in their email to me, that they have decided not to approve my comment).
The authors have also not yet responded on all of my comments. It seems therefore plausible to state that it is tough for them to rebut / refute my comments on their preprint.
I am in the possession of an e-mail from Dr John R Inglis (co-founder of BioRxiv) and dated 7 August 2017 in which Dr. Inglis states: “(….). The About page of the bioRxiv site states that as part of a two-step screening process, every submitted manuscript is examined by bioRxiv’s affiliate scientists to determine its suitability for posting. To appear in the Scientific Communication and Education section, a manuscript’s intent should be to communicate the results of relevant research or to be a white paper containing professional standards or best practices proposed by authors representing a relevant organization. When screening your manuscript, the affiliates concluded that it did not fit these requirements and instead presented the author’s opinions (….)”.
(1): So BioRxiv is using ‘authors representing a relevant organization’ as a criterion to accept / reject manuscripts (in the section Scientific Communication and Education). It seems to me that there are grounds to argue that this point of view of BioRxiv is not in line with for example statements about impartiality in the VSNU Code of Conduct for Scientific Practice at http://www.vsnu.nl/en_GB/netherlands-code-of-conduct-scientific-practice.html :
“In their scientific or scholarly activities, academic practitioners are led by no other interest than academic interest;”
“In assessing the performance of others (peer review of research and manuscripts), academic practitioners are led by scientific or scholarly arguments”.
(2): Dr. Bloom, one of the 4 authors of the preprint ‘Amending Published Articles: Time To Rethink Retractions And Corrections?’ http://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2017/03/24/118356 has explicitly explained to Leonid Schneider that the 4 authors of this preprint indeed do not represent any organisation (“As indicated prominently on the preprint, the views expressed are those of the authors and not our organisations”).
It is thus not excluded that onlookers will wonder why BioRxiv has accepted this manuscript, given the views of Dr. Inglis about the policy of BioRxiv to accept manuscripts (in the section Scientific Communication and Education) which only contain private opinions of the authors.
A revised version of this preprint has in the meanwhile been published as https://f1000research.com/articles/6-1960/v1
I was unable to locate in this new version a reference to (comments in) this posting at forbetterscience.org I was also unable to sort out who has paid the APC ( https://f1000research.com/for-authors/article-processing-charges ). The section ‘competing interests’ does not list that author VB is an academic titleholder at Griffith University ( https://experts.griffith.edu.au/academic/v.barbour and https://www.griffith.edu.au/health/school-medicine/staff/academic-title-holders ) and that author VB is member of the Ethics and Policy Committee of WAME ( http://www.wame.org/about/wame-executive-board-and-committees ). Authors EM and TB have not declared that they are subjects in the recently published paper “Is partial behaviour a plausible explanation for the unavailability of the ICMJE disclosure form of an author in a BMJ journal?” ( https://riviste.unimi.it/index.php/roars/article/view/9073 , published on 2 November 2017).
Author Elizabeth Moylan (EM) has declared in the section ‘Competing interests’ in the F1000 version of this preprint that she had at that time a side-job (AKA ‘ancillary activity’) as ‘member of the Advisory Board for EnTIRE (an EU proposal for Mapping the research ethics and research integrity framework)’.
This F1000 article was published on 6 November 2017. It is stated at https://f1000research.com/about that there is a time lapse of on average 7 days between submitting and publishing (“Once the authors have finalised the manuscript, the article is published within a week”). It seems therefore likely to assume that the manuscript was submitted at or around 29 October 2017 and that EM has formally declared at or around 29 October 2017 to F1000 that she had at that moment a side-job as ‘member of the Advisory Board for EnTIRE (an EU proposal for Mapping the research ethics and research integrity framework)’.
No details about this side-job are listed in all versions of http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/11/e012047 (all previous versions of this article are available through http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/bmjopen/6/11/e012047.draft-revisions.pdf ). No details about this side-job were also declared in a “Response to: Commentary on a study about retraction notices in journals of BioMed Central” and published on 21 April 2017 at http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/11/e012047.responses EM is corrresponding author of this article. It eems thus likely to assume that this side-job did not exist(ed) (anymore) when EM was communicating in the period between 28 July 2015 and the second half of April 2017 with BMJ Open about this article.
Details about this side-job of EM are mentioned in the first version of the preprint which was published on 20 March 2017 at https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2017/03/20/118356.full.pdf+html Details about this side-job are not anymore listed in the second version of this preprint (published on the evening of the same day at https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2017/03/20/118356.1.full.pdf+html ) and also not in the 3th version of this preprint (published on 21 March 2017 at https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2017/03/21/118356.full.pdf+html ) and in the last version of this preprint (published on 24 March 2017 at https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2017/03/21/118356.full.pdf+html ).
EnTIRE is an EU-funded project ( http://entireconsortium.eu/entire/ ). Representatives from the EU and several other stakeholders were contacted in the second half of December 2017 about this issue. Anna-Kaisa Itkonen, spokesperson on behalf of the EU, and on duty during X-mas, wrote to me on 25 December 2017: “Dear Mr van Dijk, Many thanks for your messages. Let me and colleagues take a look at the issue at hand – I am less familiar with research programmes but will ask colleagues to look into the matter as soon as they return. With best regards for the holiday season, Anna-Kaisa Sent from my iPhone”. There was until today, Wednesday 21 February 2017, no follow up. All other stakeholders have until today also been unable to provide me with evidence about the existence of this side-job of EM. So not a single piece of evidence has been provided by any of these people (from the EU) that this side job of EM (still) exists.
F1000 and other stakeholders were informed on 11 February 2018 that there was at that day ‘not a single trace of evidence that this side-job of EM was (still) existing at or around 29 October 2017.’ Several auto-replies revealed that this e-mail was received in good order by F1000 and by other stakeholders. No one had until 20 february 2018 rebutted / refuted any of the findings / conclusions in this e-mail of 11 February 2018.
F1000 and other stakeholders were therefore informed on 20 February 2018 that there is a preponderance of evidence that the side-job ‘member of the Advisory Board for EnTIRE (an EU proposal for Mapping the research ethics and research integrity framework)’ of author Elizabeth Moylan (EM) did not exist (anymore) when the manuscript of https://f1000research.com/articles/6-1960/v1 was submitted to publisher F1000.
F1000 will thus need to issue a formal correction alongside https://f1000research.com/articles/6-1960/v1 in which it is stated that EM had declared a non-existing side-job in the section ‘Competing interests’.
I received yesterday a response from Sabina Alam, editorial director of F1000, in which it was stated: “I am acknowledging receipt of this. Given the comments you have raised we are investigating this issue”
Others have until now not contacted me about this issue. This implies that representatives from the EU and from the EnTIRE project, and various other stakeholders, have until now not refuted / rebutted “that the side-job ‘member of the Advisory Board for EnTIRE (an EU proposal for Mapping the research ethics and research integrity framework)’ of author Elizabeth Moylan did not exist (anymore) when the manuscript of https://f1000research.com/articles/6-1960/v1 was submitted to publisher F1000″.
I received on 27 February 2018 an e-mail from Sabina Alam, editorial director of F1000, with a copy of a letter which was signed by professor Guy Widdershoven of the Free University of Amsterdam and which is dated 23 February 2018. Professor Widdershoven is project leader of the EU funded project EnTIRE. It can be concluded from the contents of this letter that the side-job ‘member of the Advisory Board for EnTIRE (an EU proposal for Mapping the research ethics and research integrity framework)’ of author Elizabeth Moylan was not existing anymore when the manuscript of https://f1000research.com/articles/6-1960/v1 was submitted to publisher F1000.
In other words, Elizabeth Moylan, a member of the council of COPE, has declared a non-existing side-job in the section competing interests when the manuscript was submitted to F1000.
The url https://www.asktheeu.org/en/request/correspondence_about_a_mentor_at lists correspondence with the EU about formal queries about the existence of correspondence about Elizabeth Moylan, a member of the Advisory Board of the Horizon 2020 project EnTIRE http://entireconsortium.eu/ , and mentor within the Horizon 2020 project http://miror-ejd.eu/mentors-and-partners/ of PhD student Cecilia Superchi ( http://miror-ejd.eu/research-fellows/ ).
There is in the meanwhile a response from the EU, dated 23 April 2018, in which it is stated: “With regard to your request on the project MiROR 676207, the REA has no documents falling within the scope of the request.”
It is also stated in this response: “Regarding your application concerning the project EnTIRE 741782, please note that it is currently being handled. However, we are not in a position to complete the handling of your application with regard to the this project within the time limit of 15 working days, and an extended time limit is needed as the documents requested originate from third parties which have to be consulted. Therefore, we have to extend the time limit with 15 working days in accordance with Article 7(3) of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 regarding public access to documents. The new time limit expires on 22/05/2018.
José Gonzalez of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (Spain) and Darko Hren of the University of Split (Croatia) were earlier on contacted about issues in this request to the EU. There was no response, also not on reminders. It was therefore a good idea to start with communicating with the EU about these issues through https://www.asktheeu.org/
There is in the meanwhile a response from the EU with details about the membership of Elizabeth Moylan of the Advisory Board of EU-funded project EnTIRE. These details are extracted from the Grant Agreement (GA) 741782 — EnTIRE — H2020-SwafS-2016-1.
Page 19: “Dr. Elisabeth Moylan is Council member for COPE and member of the Advisory Board of
EnTIRE. This ensures close cooperation between EnTIRE and COPE.”
Pages 30-31: 3.2.3. Advisory Board: “By means of the external Advisory Board (AB), EnTIRE will seek regular external advice on relevant issues. The AB will provide expert advice on the quality of the deliverables, in order to oversee that the project will develop in accordance to the appropriate legal, ethical and social issues, general philosophy and direction of the project. It will also advise on corrective measures in the content of the work if necessary and the dissemination and exploitation of the projects results. The AB has no formal decision power within the project. The members of the AB are independent and therefore no budget is reserved for AB consultations. The members of the advisory board will be selected for (i) their experience in research and project management, (ii) their prominent role in their respective scientific communities, (iii) their prominent role in national and international policy making, and/or (iv) their link to relevant stakeholders. Persons will be invited when necessary and in consultation with the EC representative. The following persons and/or organisations are committed take seat in the AB:
Table 6 Advisory Board Members (..) Dr. Elizabeth Moylan BioMed Central, Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), Senior Editor for Research Integrity on the BMC open access-series journals, Council Member for COPE”
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