Monday, January 16, 2017

Problems with Peer Review

There has always been a potential problem with Peer Review. Namely the Reviewers are not always pristine. The latest example is extraordinary.

In the Annals of Internal Medicine an author harmed in the process writes:

Dr. Doctor,I am aware that you recently admitted to wrongly publishing, as your own, a scientific research paper that I had submitted to Annals of Internal Medicine. After serving as an external peer reviewer on our manuscript, you published that same manuscript in a different medical journal a few months later. You removed the names of the authors and the research site, replacing them with the names of your coauthors and your institution.It took 5 years from conceptualization of the study to publication of the primary analysis (1). This study was my fellowship project and required a lot of work. It took effort to find the right research team, design the study, raise the funds, get approvals, recruit and create materials for study participants, run the diet classes, conduct the study visits, compile and analyze the study data, and write the initial report. The work was funded by the U.S. government and my academic institution. The secondary analysis that you reviewed for Annals used specialized methods that took my colleagues many years to develop and validate. In all, this body of research represents at least 4000 hours of work. When you published our work as your own (2), you were falsely claiming credit for all of this work and for the expertise gained by doing it.As you must certainly know, stealing is wrong. It is especially problematic in scientific research. The peer-review process depends on the ethical behavior of reviewers. Physicians and patients depend on the integrity of the process. Such cases of theft, scientific fraud, and plagiarism cannot be tolerated because they are harmful and unethical. Those who engage in such behavior can typically expect their professional careers to be ruined: Loss of reputation, loss of employment, and ineligibility for future research funding are the norm. Coauthors are also collaborators in the fraud, and such losses potentially apply to them as well. All the previous publications of those who steal others' work become suspect, and it reflects poorly on their training institutions, current employers, collaborators, and mentors.
It seems that one of the Reviewers just took the paper and put names on it. Legally this may be a bit more than plagiarism, especially if it relates to Government funded work. 

I wonder how this one will turn out. Sorry for the original author!