Academic Publishing Blog COVID-19

On Dangers of Preprints

Antivaxxery in scientific literature - are preprints to blame?

Preprints are not peer-reviewed, and hence dangerous for public health and safety, as we are constantly warned. Horribly wrong and pseudoscientific stuff is published utterly uncontrolled because of the COVID-19 urgency. These pandemic preprints fuel the global antivax and covidiot movement and undermine the international pandemic-fighting efforts, as scientists and science journalists don’t tire reiterating. We must stem against this flood of preprint disinformation and return to the reliability of peer-reviewed science, published in proper scientific journals

I am here to help.

Antivaxxers bypassing peer review!

Let me start with two recent examples of such un-peer-reviewed preprints spreading dangerous antivaxxery.

Antonio F. Hernández, Daniela Calina , Konstantinos Poulas , Anca Oana Docea , Aristidis M. Tsatsakis Safety of COVID-19 vaccines administered in the EU: Should we be concerned? Toxicology Reports (2021) doi: 10.1016/j.toxrep.2021.04.003

The preprint concluded:

“In conclusion, the benefits and risks of current COVID-19 vaccines must be weighed against the real possibility of contract the disease and develop complications and long-term sequels; all this on the basis of the available scientific evidence and in the absence of unmotivated biases.”

This is a prime example of dangerous antivax preprints which evade editorial gate keeping and peer-review to influence COVID-19 policies and public sentiment. We should indeed be concerned!

The preprint received an Erratum:

“The publisher would like to clarify that contrary to the original Handling Editor line in this article (now corrected), Dr Aristidis Tsatsakis, the Editor-in-Chief of Toxicology Reports, had no involvement in the peer-review of this article and has no access to information regarding its peer-review. Full responsibility for the editorial process for this article was delegated to Dr Alexander Vardavas. The publisher would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

A certain Hoya Camphorifolia commented on PubPeer:

“A similar contretemps seems to have occurred to “Why are we vaccinating children against COVID-19?” in the same Special Issue (Kostoff et al 2021): a paper with an author list that overlaps with the present list. According to its original table-of-contents entry, its Handling Editor was also last author Aristidis M. Tsatsakis, but again this has been updated – though so far without any Erratum to explain the mysterious change.”

This was the other antivax preprint Hoya Camphorifolia mentioned:

Ronald N. Kostoff , Daniela Calina , Darja Kanduc , Michael B. Briggs , Panayiotis Vlachoyiannopoulos , Andrey A. Svistunov , Aristidis Tsatsakis “Why are we vaccinating children against COVID-19? Toxicology Reports (2021) doi: 10.1016/j.toxrep.2021.08.010 

The antivaxxer authors of the preprint conclude:

“A novel best-case scenario cost-benefit analysis showed very conservatively that there are five times the number of deaths attributable to each inoculation vs those attributable to COVID-19 in the most vulnerable 65+ demographic. The risk of death from COVID-19 decreases drastically as age decreases, and the longer-term effects of the inoculations on lower age groups will increase their risk-benefit ratio, perhaps substantially.”

Same Hoya camphorifolia commented:

“Same problem at Toxicology Letters, which the first and last authors previously used to promote weird 5G fantasies. The third author’s name is familiar. https://pubpeer.com/search?q=darja+kanduc

All these horrid preprints have the same last author: a strange Greek professor with a bloated ego: Aristides Tsatsakis, who, as author “of over 1000 publications“, founder of “the spin-off of the University of Crete, ToxPlus SA“, member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and despite his youthful age already “Emeritus Professor” in Moscow, must be a figure of such significant public eminence that he even made a Wikipedia page for himself. Tsatsakis’ research is described there:

2017: “Major European toxicologist Aristides Tsatsakis [left] became the first FEFU Honorary Doctorin Vladivostok!

Under his direction, many studies and research projects were performed focusing on the development and improvement of new methods for the analysis of xenobiotics, biomonitoring and recording of their acute and long-term effects on human health, the use of macromolecular systems in nanomedicine and nanotoxicology as carriers for targeting and reducing toxicity and the examination of the length of telomeric ends in cellular aging and their association with chronic diseases. […] His most current significant research approach is based on interpreting “real-life human exposure” scenarios based on a long-term, low-dose exposure to chemical mixtures as well as “real-life risk simulation” (RLRS) studies“.

Yes, it is about the dangers of vaccines. And of other stuff, so here is that preprint in Toxicology Letters:

Ronald N. Kostoff, Paul Heroux , Michael Aschner , Aristides Tsatsakis Adverse health effects of 5G mobile networking technology under real-life conditions Toxicology Letters (2020) doi: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2020.01.020 

The preprint warns:

“5G mobile networking technology will affect not only the skin and eyes, but will have adverse systemic effects as well.”

I asked the Editor-in-Chief of Toxicology Letters Angela Mally (Professor at the University of Würzburg in Germany) if she sees any problems with this 5G study by her editorial board member Tsatsakis. Mally refused to discuss it.

Then, Tsatsakis co-author Darja Kanduc of University of Bari, Italy, whom Hoya Camphorifolia mentioned, is a close associate of a certain Israeli immunologist Yehuda Shoenfeld, president of Arial University, member of the Israeli Academy of Science and, shall we say, “vaccine critic” who frequents antivax conferences.

You will not be surprised to know that also the preprint Kanduc & Shoenfeld 2020 is crypto-antivax pseudoscientific bullshit. The study is so stupid that it insinuates humans were more related to mice than to other primates, and still people give Shoenfeld the honour and debate him scientifically:

Those bloody preprints!

Nah, I was pulling your leg. Those are not preprints of course, but peer-reviewed papers, hence SOLID SCIENCE. The Kanduc & Shoenfeld trash was published by Springer Nature, in the journal Immunologic Research (impact factor 2.5) edited by a German and an Italian professor. Also Toxicology Reports and Toxicology Letters are supposed to be respectable journals, published by Elsevier, founded and edited by scholars from Europe and USA, with an impact factor of 4.8 and 4.4, respectively. Tsatsakis is, as mentioned, Editor-in-Chief of the former and editorial board member of the latter. On top, Toxicology Reports just reassured you that all that unhinged antivax paranoia by Tsatsakis and his covidiot friends has passed independent peer review.

Bloody preprints though.

Are preprints doing more harm than good?

In this regard, here the Canadian health law professor Timothy Caulfield (the Netflix celebrity and bestselling book author who bravely exposed none other but Gwyneth Paltrow as an unscientific quack) warned us all of dangers of preprints in the pandemic. The warning has been of course peer reviewed:

Timothy Caulfield, Tania Bubela, Jonathan Kimmelman, and Vardit Ravitsky Let’s do better: public representations of COVID-19 science FACETS (2021) doi: 10.1139/facets-2021-0018

The study had 10 recommendations, Number 6 being:

“Great care should be taken in how research results that haven’t been peer reviewed—such as preprints—are represented in the public domain, including emphasizing the preliminary nature of conclusions. Further consideration—by research funding entities, universities, academic journals, scientific associations, etc.—about the place of preprints and how to counter their possible harm on public discourse is required.”

The occasion for Professor Caulfield’s concerns was a recent preprint from his Canadian colleagues, where a claim about allegedly dangerously high rate of mRNA vaccine-induced heart inflammation was picked up by anti-vaxxers like Robert Malone.

Tahir Kafil, Mariana M Lamacie, Sophie Chenier, Heather Taggart, Nina Ghosh, Alexander Dick, Gary Small, Peter Liu, Rob S Beanlands, Lisa Mielniczuk, David Birnie, Andrew M Crean, mRNA COVID-19 Vaccination and Development of CMR-confirmed Myopericarditis medRxiv (2021) doi: 10.1101/2021.09.13.21262182

That preprint however was soon withdrawn by its authors from the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, “to avoid misleading either colleagues or the general public and press” and “the authors do not wish this work to be cited as reference“.

CBS reported:

“The preprint study, which was released by researchers at the Ottawa Heart Institute last week but has not been peer-reviewed, looked at the rate of myocarditis and pericarditis cases after Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccinations in Ottawa from June 1 to July 31.

The study identified 32 patients with the rare side effects out of a total of 32,379 doses of mRNA vaccines given in Ottawa in the two-month period, finding an inordinately high rate of close to 1 in 1,000 — significantly higher than other international data has shown.”

The scientists miscalculated, you see:

“Instead of 32,379 mRNA vaccine doses administered in June and July, as the study suggests, there were actually more than 800,000 shots given out at that time, according to Ottawa Public Health. That means the true rate of side effects is closer to 1 in 25,000 — not 1 in 1,000. 

“We recalculated the rate, and the rate is not correct in that paper,” said Dr. Peter Liu, scientific director of the Ottawa Heart Institute and a co-author of the study, in an interview with CBC News. “We were doing this on the run, in a way, and we were getting kind of the preliminary vaccination rate data, and so it turns out that that number was not complete.” “

The professors were in such a hurry to warn the world, you must forgive them. The last and corresponding author, the cardiology professor Andrew Crean (described by former patients as “full of himself“, “Gets high off his title” and “inept and cannot follow through on what he says he is going to do“) explained that preprints don’t count anyway:

“”As you know, preprints are not full peer-reviewed publications,” he said. “The peer-review process worked quickly and efficiently to detect our error and we were happy to retract this data once the error was confirmed.” “

How to spot a preprint

This is why Professor Caulfield had to step in. Enough of the preprint pandemic! Enough of citing those non-peer reviewed sources in scientific literature! This is how to do it properly, from Caulfield et al 2021:

“Some journals—including The Lancet, the publication involved in one of the recent high-profile COVID-19 related retractions (Medical Xpress 2020; Rabin 2020)—have already suggested that the peer-review process will need to be adjusted to ensure greater scrutiny of the relevant methods and data (Caulfield 2020a).”

The referenced scholarly source Medical Xpress 2020 was a press release by The Lancet on the occasion of a high-profile retraction. Two utterly fraudulent papers by Sapan Desai and his colleagues were retracted by The Lancet and NEJM, and the fraud only came out because Desai and his colleagues caused a huge kerfuffle by claiming that chloroquine would literally kill people (while aiming to push ivermectin instead). Had they instead faked their data to prove chloroquine as a miracle drug for COVID-19, there would be no retractions and we all would be taking the malaria medicine on daily basis even today.

The citation Caulfield 2020a references an opinion article by the professor in the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail. Guess how rigorously it was peer reviewed. But then again, Professor Caulfield warned you about referencing un-peer-reviewed preprints, he never mentioned press releases or newspaper articles.

The peer-reviewed study Caulfield et al FACETS 2021 also reminds us:

“In mid-March, 2020, French researchers published a preprint suggesting that hydroxychloroquine had potential therapeutic benefits in the treatment of COVID-19 (Gautret et al. 2020). […] preprints can also result in the circulation of unverified and poor research in a manner that can confuse public discourse (the hydroxychloroquine issue started with a preprint).”

The referenced preprint is:

Philippe Gautret, Jean-Christophe Lagier , Philippe Parola , Van Thuan Hoang , Line Meddeb , Morgane Mailhe , Barbara Doudier , Johan Courjon , Valérie Giordanengo , Vera Esteves Vieira , Hervé Tissot Dupont , Stéphane Honoré , Philippe Colson , Eric Chabrière , Bernard La Scola, Jean-Marc Rolain, Philippe Brouqui , Didier Raoult Hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin as a treatment of COVID-19: results of an open-label non-randomized clinical trial International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents (2020) doi: 10.1016/j.ijantimicag.2020.105949

My regular readers know that one of course, the famous chloroquine paper by Didier Raoult, director of IHU Marseille in France. They might also object it doesn’t look like a preprint at all.

But if Professor Caulfield says in his own peer-reviewed piece that Gautret et al 2020 was actually a preprint, and not really published in a peer-reviewed Elsevier journal (impact factor 5.5), then who are we to question this informed expert decision by Caulfield and the Canadian editors and reviewers of FACETS (impact factor 2.5). I for my part, am the last person to argue with the academic authorities here.

The Canadian preprint on alleged myocarditis risk of COVID-19 vaccines which Professor Caulfield mentioned has been withdrawn by its authors. The peer-reviewed paper by Raoult remains standing, both Elsevier and the society which runs the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents decided against retracting it.

Graveyard of bad science

All other fraudulent and unethical papers by Raoult, on COVID-19 and other topics, published in this and in other peer-reviewed Elsevier journals (which Raoult just happens to fully control), are also perfectly safe from retractions. But sure, bloody preprints.

Also the peer-reviewed antivax papers by Tsatsakis are in no danger of retraction. Most references to preprints in media do mention that work has not been peer reviewed and thus preliminary. Never ever is it noted regarding “peer reviewed” studies when those appeared in garbage journals and were editorially handled by friends of the authors. Yet Professor Caulfield warns in his peer-reviewed study (unlike with preprints, he had to pay CAD 1350 for publishing it), it is the preprints whose place must be defined to prevent “possible harm on public discourse“.

Those bloody preprints.

A scientific fact is that what remains a preprint and never makes it into a peer reviewed journal, must be nonsense, quackery or maybe fraud. Right? Well.

There was that much-criticised preprint by the MIT professor Rudolph Jaenisch, a star of biomedical sciences. That preprint became quite popular with antivaxxers because it insinuated mRNA from the SARS-CoV2 virus or maybe also from COVID-19 vaccines could permanently insert itself into the genome of a human recipient.

Liguo Zhang, Alexsia Richards, Andrew Khalil, Emile Wogram, Haiting Ma, Richard A. Young, Rudolf Jaenisch SARS-CoV-2 RNA reverse-transcribed and integrated into the human genome bioRxiv (2020) doi: 10.1101/2020.12.12.422516

Jaenisch even admitted that he was made to publish the preprint when he submitted the manuscript to an elite journal, because those are apparently the COVID-19 rules in academic publishing now. The journal then rejected the submission. See how dangerous this preprint fetish is? A scientifically shaky study which was definitely not fit for publication and failed peer review, appeared in press anyway, as a preprint, and was abused by antivaxxers!

Bloody preprints again, eh?

Oh wait. Jaenisch then published this same study in the elite society journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS, impact factor 11.2), because as a National Academy of Sciences member the MIT professor is entitled to “contribute” papers while organising the editorial process himself. Officially, the study is peer-reviewed, appeared in an elite US journal and thus perfectly trustworthy science:

Liguo Zhang, Alexsia Richards, M. Inmaculada Barrasa, Stephen H. Hughes, Richard A. Young, and Rudolf Jaenisch Reverse-transcribed SARS-CoV-2 RNA can integrate into the genome of cultured human cells and can be expressed in patient-derived tissues PNAS (2021) doi: 10.1073/pnas.2105968118

Another example.

An opinion piece in The BMJ warned of “The perils of preprints

May C I van Schalkwyk, Thomas R Hird, Nason Maani, Mark Petticrew, Anna B Gilmore, The perils of preprints BMJ (2020) doi: 10.1136/bmj.m3111

The occasion for this letter was described as such:

“Notably, two linked preprint publications examining the association between smoking and covid-19,6 7 which were widely disseminated before formal peer review, drew substantial media attention, leading to claims that smoking or nicotine—or both—are protective.8 The first 6 is a small observational study with multiple biases.8 The second,7 coauthored by a researcher with historical links to the tobacco industry,8 proposes a hypothesis based on the first study, while ignoring the broader evidence base on tobacco related harms.8 While additional studies have also reported low rates of infection among smokers, most drew less, if any, media attention.”

I wrote about these two preprints by the French scientists Zahir Amoura and Jean-Pierre Changeux here. Here they are, both preprints offering nicotine either as a COVID-19 therapy or as a preventive, and announcing clinical trials (which are now ongoing, NCT04608201 and NCT04583410):

  • Makoto Miyara, Florence Tubach, Zahir Amoura Low incidence of daily active tobacco smoking in patients with symptomatic COVID-19 Qeios 2020 doi: 10.32388/WPP19W.3
  • Jean-Pierre Changeux, Zahir Amoura, Felix Rey, Makoto Miyara A nicotinic hypothesis for Covid-19 with preventive and therapeutic implications Qeios 2020 doi: 10.32388/FXGQSB

Well, sure, these cigarette preprints were not helpful. But at least one of them now appeared in the French journal Comptes Rendus – Biologies which is described as “a peer-reviewed, open-access diamond electronic journal that publishes original research articles […]”.

Jean-Pierre Changeux ; Zahir Amoura ; Felix A. Rey ; Makoto Miyara A nicotinic hypothesis for Covid-19 with preventive and therapeutic implications [Une hypothèse nicotinique pour Covid 19 et ses implications préventives et thérapeutiques] Comptes Rendus. Biologies, Tome 343 (2020) no. 1, pp. 33-39. DOI : 10.5802/crbiol.8

The paper was submitted on 14 April 2020, and accepted two days later, on 16 April, and somehow in between it was peer-reviewed, at least in theory. The journal is published by the French Academy of Sciences, of which Changeux is a member. Very similar situation to that of Jaenisch’s preprint. Both studies are now certified as scientifically correct by peer review in very respectable national society journals.

Same team now proposes ivermectin as COVID-19 therapy, because, brace yourself…. “IVM is a positive allosteric effector of the alpha7 neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptor, and could therefore act via this receptor [16].” No, not in another preprint. In a peer-reviewed journal:

Olivier Chosidow , Charlotte Bernigaud , Didier Guillemot, Bruno Giraudeau, Anne Lespine, Jean-Pierre Changeux, Hervé Bourhy, Marc Lecuit , Zahir Amoura Ivermectin as a potential treatment for COVID-19? PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases (2021) doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0009446

Blood preprints though.

Unretractable Trash

Sure, there are antivax preprints out there. But there are probably many more antivax peer-reviewed papers, and still you need a really big scandal to get those retracted. And before the pandemic, those retractions were even rarer. And don’t get me started on predatory or semi-predatory publishers where any trash gets published under the pretence of “peer review”, and fat chance to see that ever retracted while it gets successfully rubber-stamped by grant and recruitment committees, disguised as peer-reviewed science.

Usually it’s not enough for an antivax paper to be insane, paranoid and scientifically abysmal, it also has to be sufficiently fraudulent to make the academic editors and the publisher think twice about what has passed peer review in their journal. Sometimes they react:

Also the peer-reviewed Walach et al insanity decrying COVID-19 vaccines as a tool of mass murder was retracted by MDPI and its journal Vaccines (impact factor 4.4), thank you very much. Incidentally, after a huge social media storm and high-profile editor resignations.

Harald Walach, Rainer J. Klement, Wouter Aukema The Safety of COVID-19 Vaccinations—We Should Rethink the Policy Vaccines (2021) doi: 10.3390/vaccines9070693

Afterwards, JAMA Pediatrics (impact factor 16) retracted a “study” by the same Austrian lunatic Harald Walach, claiming that facemasks would suffocate German children:

Harald Walach , Ronald Weikl , Juliane Prentice , Andreas Diemer , Helmut Traindl , Anna Kappes, Stefan Hockertz Experimental Assessment of Carbon Dioxide Content in Inhaled Air With or Without Face Masks in Healthy Children: A Randomized Clinical Trial JAMA Pediatrics (2021) doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2021.2659 

Well, again, those bloody un-peer-reviewed preprints.

The unhinged antivax trash Frontiers once published remains unbothered. Because it a) passed the famously “rigorous” Frontiers peer review, and b) nobody except me and Smut Clyde is complaining.

Here for example, by well-known and very toxic antivaxxers:

  • Romain Kroum Gherardi, Housam Eidi, Guillemette Crépeaux, François Jerome Authier and Josette Cadusseau Biopersistence and brain translocation of aluminum adjuvants of vaccines Frontiers in Neurology, (2015) doi: 10.3389/fneur.2015.00004
  • Muriel Rigolet, Jessie Aouizerate, Maryline Couette, Nilusha Ragunathan-Thangarajah, Mehdi Aoun-Sebaiti, Romain Kroum Gherardi, Josette Cadusseau and François Jérôme Authier Clinical features in patients with long-lasting macrophagic myofasciitis Frontiers in Neurology (2014) doi: 10.3389/fneur.2014.00230
  • Christopher Exley Why industry propaganda and political interference cannot disguise the inevitable role played by human exposure to aluminum in neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease Frontiers in Neurology, (2014) doi: 10.3389/fneur.2014.00212
  • James Jeffrey Bradstreet, Stefania Pacini and Marco Ruggiero A new methodology of viewing extra-axial fluid and cortical abnormalities in children with autism via transcranial ultrasonography Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, (2014) doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00934
  • Douglas L. Leslie, Robert A. Kobre, Brian J. Richman2, Selin Aktan Guloksuz and James F. Leckman Temporal Association of Certain Neuropsychiatric Disorders Following Vaccination of Children and Adolescents: A Pilot Case–Control Study Frontiers in Psychiatry, (2017) doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2017.00003

But we must be fair to Frontiers. Like with MDPI above, when an antivax paper by paying customers was challenged on social media, it can be withdrawn swiftly. Deleted, even:

Anthony R. Mawson, Brian D. Ray, Azad R. Bhuiyan and Binu Jacob Vaccination and Health Outcomes: A Survey of 6- to 12-year-old Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Children based on Mothers’ Reports Frontiers in Public Health (2016) doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2016.00270 (archived version here)

But then again, Frontiers just published the fraudulent proxalutamide clinical trial by Flavio Cadegiani et al. This Brazilian-American quack team, seeking to enrich themselves by a peddling a Chinese anti-androgen drug as a COVID-19 solution, do publish preprints also. In fact, this preprinted study passed Frontiers’ peer review with flying colours.

John McCoy , Andy Goren , Flávio Adsuara Cadegiani , Sergio Vaño-Galván , Maja Kovacevic , Mirna Situm , Jerry Shapiro , Rodney Sinclair , Antonella Tosti , Andrija Stanimirovic , Daniel Fonseca , Edinete Dorner , Dirce Costa Onety , Ricardo Ariel Zimerman , Carlos Gustavo Wambier Proxalutamide Reduces the Rate of Hospitalization for COVID-19 Male Outpatients: A Randomized Double-Blinded Placebo-Controlled Trial Frontiers in Medicine (2021) doi: 10.3389/fmed.2021.668698

Other Cadegiani et al works on ivermectin and proxalutamide appeared in Cureus, which is officially a peer-reviewed journal. Or in Medical Hypotheses by Elsevier, a peer-reviewed journal which specialises on lunacies, quackeries and idiocies. None of that is in danger of being retracted, it passed peer review, you see. Unlike this preprint:

Flávio A Cadegiani , Daniel DN Fonseca , John McCoy , Ricardo A Zimerman […] Carlos G Wambier, Andy Goren Efficacy of Proxalutamide (GT0918) in Hospitalized COVID-19 Patients SSRN Electronic Journal (2021) doi: 10.2139/ssrn.3866539

A DOI (digital object identifier) which is supposed to be “a persistent identifier” is not always that persistent, not just with Frontiers, but also with Elsevier. Their preprint server SSRN declares regarding the Cadegiani et al preprint now:

“SSRN Search Results. This paper has been removed from SSRN at the request of the author, SSRN, or the rights holder.”

So yes, the only thing Cadegiani and his gang ever retracted was a preprint. The peer-reviewed rest continues causing chaos in Brazil and beyond.

Bloody preprints!

The Dangers of Preprints

So I hope you see how dangerous those bloody preprints are and how important it is to rely exclusively on peer-reviewed literature, whose scientific accuracy is vouched for by the journal impact factor.

At least someone has been doing something. The Australian Research Council (ARC), advised by the nation’s scientific elites, decided to crack down on those evil preprints.

Nature reported:

“Australia’s major research funder has ruled more than 20 fellowship applications ineligible because they mentioned preprints and other non-peer-reviewed materials… […] under a rule introduced in September 2020, ahead of this year’s funding round, applicants are instructed not to “include or refer” to preprints in “any part of” applications…”

And then of course a mob of snowflakes ran to social media, trying to deplatform ANC with their cancel culture. They succeeded, as a follow-up article by Nature reported:

“Announcing the U-turn in a statement posted online on 14 September, the funder said: “This adjustment to ARC’s policy position reflects contemporary trends and the emerging significance of preprint acceptance and use across multiple research disciplines as a mechanism to expedite research and facilitate open research.

According to the statement, future grant applications will not be excluded for citing or including preprints in lists of research output or in project proposals — but the change will not apply automatically to applications that were previously ruled ineligible or are currently under review.”

The fun bit is that those (according to Nature at least 23 researchers) whose applications were rejected for citing preprints are not allowed to reapply. Serves them right, if you ask me! Citing preprints is not scientific! But citing predatory publishers is.

Thing is, the biggest damage during this COVID-19 pandemic came from peer-reviewed papers published in respectable journals by respectable publishers, academic societies even. Most of those are never retracted, while many problematic preprints have been pulled. But sure, let’s fight against the idea of a preprint instead.

Seriously, why is everyone so obsessed with the problems of preprints? Scholarly publishing is broken way beyond repair, it became a rotting heap of toxic garbage, a science mafia underworld where greedy publishers will sell your grandmother for an article processing charge, where professorial mobsters and morons edit and review each other’s papers while making sure the research work of those who crossed them one way or another never sees the light of the day. The worst of scientific fraud never even gets corrected, people get literally killed with antivaxxery and other bad science which passed peer review and escaped retraction because of networks. Of course these scientific thugs hate those disruptive preprints. They want things as they used to be, like gangsters defending their criminal turfs.

F*** them. Don’t listen to their “authority”, they are part of the problem, not of the solution. They played the rigged system to get where they are, they and their mentors and their mentors’ mentors turned science into a fraudulent pyramid scheme it became. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and preprints bring a lot of sunlight into the scientific process.


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13 comments on “On Dangers of Preprints

  1. I think in fields like math, physics and IT, preprints are already widely accepted as a normal way to do sciences. I hope it comes to life sciences. In the field I know a bit, bioinformatics/genomics, it seems, especially among young people, that they also want to use preprints / open review.

    The thing is, scientists must not be lazy. When you read a paper, wether peer reviewed or not, you should exercise your scrutiny and critical thinking. I don’t see what would change, in fact. Unless you want to accept paper results “as is”. Which many do, probably due to time constraints. I hope preprints will also drive a “slow down” in research practices. That what will matter is what you contribute and not how often.

    Like

    • I agree.
      Why shouldn’t open review be much better than the hazy review of 1-3 random scientists which is the standard practice in most journals. The preprint system is extremely valuable as it allows the field to scrutinize papers, detect errors and allow for better correction and updating.

      Like

  2. Klaas van Dijk

    Great article. It reminds me to a now deleted tweet by Yoeri Albrecht, the Director of The Balie https://debalie.nl/english/, see https://web.archive.org/web/20210627085530/https://twitter.com/YoeriAlbrecht/status/1408745589538541570

    Yoeri Albrecht stated in a this tweet that he had more trust in a peer-reviewed publication by authors who all had a PhD (and of whom one was a professor) then in some calculations on the internet by Pepijn van Erp, a skeptic and a mathematician without a PhD.

    Yoeri Albrecht has until now not responded on multiple requests to provide evidence that author Wouter Aukema has a PhD (earned at a Dutch university).

    The anti-vax paper was republished in the quack journal “Science, Public Health Policy, and the Law” (no DOI). Hard-core anti-vaxxer James Lyons-Weiler is EiC of this journal. James Lyons-Weiler wrote a very positive editorial about this anti-vax paper.

    The Balie was unwilling to process a formal complaint about the contents of the above listed tweet by Yoeri Albrecht.The Balie was also unwilling to provide evidence that Wouter Aukema has a PhD.

    Like

  3. alfricabos

    but horribly wrong and pseudoscientific stuff gets published in “proper” scientific journals too….

    Like

  4. Pingback: Lauretta e le altre – ocasapiens

  5. In bioinformatics, Brian Bushnell released a very popular and powerful package called bbtools. I think there is not even a preprint, just a website. The age of traditional papers is long gone in bioinformatics already.

    Like

  6. smut.clyde

    I wrote about these two preprints by the French scientists Zahir Amoura and Jean-Pierre Changeux here. Here they are, both preprints offering nicotine either as a COVID-19 therapy or as a preventive, and announcing clinical trials

    As well as these French pro-tobacco researchers riding the COVID-cure bandwagon, there is a Greek nexus as well… Konstantinos Poulas is funded by Philip Morris International to “[develop] new vaping products and [share] pro e-cigarette research from the tobacco industry”. His colleague Konstantinos Farsalinos is also involved. So

    “Poulas and Farsalinos co-authored papers on the role of smoking and nicotine in infection during the COVID-19 pandemic.[10] Poulas declares no conflict of interest on papers that suggest the use of nicotine products for COVID-19 treatment.[11]”

    [10] K. Farsalinos, R. Niaura, K. Poulas, COVID-19, a disease of the nicotinic cholinergic system? Nicotine may be protective, Qeios, 2020
    [11] K. Farsalinos, R. Niaura, J. Le Houezec, A. Barbouni, A. Tsatsakis, D. Kouretas, A. Vantarakis, K. Poulas, Editorial: Nicotine and SARS-CoV-2: COVID-19 may be a disease of the nicotinic cholinergic system, Toxicology Reports, 30 April 2020, doi:10.1016/j.toxrep.2020.04.012

    Note that these dudes were promoting nicotine-vaping to prevent COVID before the French late-comers. I am enjoying the irony that an Elsevier journal called “Toxicology Reports” is a vehicle for the tobacco industry.

    More on Farsalinos and Poulas from BMJ: https://www.bmj.com/content/373/bmj.n1303

    Tsatsakis’ name is familiar after he was last author on Kostoff’s dire antivax piece on all the imaginary people killed by COVID vaccines, again published in Toxicology Reports… originally with Tsatsakis as Handling Editor, though the journal retrospectively replaced him with Poulas in this role. Not to forget “Safety of COVID-19 vaccines administered in the EU: Should we be concerned?”, by Poulas and Tsatsakis again, in the same journal. The editorial position at Toxicology Reports is to oppose vaccines and encourage nicotine consumption.

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  7. gregortheking

    There is a nice&funny preprint/final article discrepancy in fraudster Zboril’s papermill (https://forbetterscience.com/2020/07/13/extraordinary-results-of-the-olomouc-nano-con/)

    The preprint with Tucek as co/author:

    Click to access light-and-temperature-assisted-spin-state-annealing-accessing-the-hidden-multistability.pdf

    shows faked noise-free Mossbauer spectra (Fig. 5).

    After all the fuzz with Zboril’s misconducts, the peer reviewed final version of the paper shows real Mossbauer spectra, Tucek as the author replaced with Zboril’s damage controller Navarik. The fulltext of the published article is available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/339521524_Light-_and_Temperature-Assisted_Spin_State_Annealing_Accessing_the_Hidden_Multistability

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