2 Jun 2015

A thought on academic ethics

Last week, I sent this email (edited for anonymity):
I hereby resign my position on the advisory council of the Journal of X.

I do this because X published a paper I refereed, a paper that I considered unsuitable for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

I know that it's awkward to tell a guest editor that they need to fix their paper, but we academics should not let power or authority get in the way of open, critical and honest scientific debates. I was disappointed that the author/editors did not seem to take my criticisms seriously. Even worse, they did not even bother to respond to my concerns (as is normal in the review process) before proceeding to publication.

I do not want to participate in an endeavor that produces results like this.
The worst part is that the author is likely to claim the paper as a "peer reviewed article" in their CV and for promotional purposes. Will their supervisors know that the paper wasn't exactly peer reviewed? Will the citizens paying their salary know that their "scientific contribution" is flawed?

Bottom Line: Academics depend on openness and honesty to get their work done. Lose those, and the whole system collapses.*

* This article ("The trouble with scientists") looks at author bias, peer-conservatism and other important questions on research.


  1. Good point, and we have seen that before, also excellent water papers with new insights rejected because the editors did not understand or believe. Is there a standard way to review papers? I have been editor for 20 years, for different publishers, but not seen any.

  2. If you really want to help, I think you should name names of the Journal and the article. Otherwise they get away with it,

    1. You're right. They are "thinking about" how to respond to my requirement that I be allowed to publish a Note to Readers as the price of rejoining as an adviser (they asked me too -- apologized -- but I said that's not even close).


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