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Hacked Review System Leads To Fake Reviews and Retraction of Scientific Papers

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 years ago | from the too-good-to-review dept.

Education 67

dstates writes "Retraction Watch reports that fake reviewer information was placed in Elsevier's peer review database allowing unethical authors to review their own or colleagues manuscripts. As a result, 11 scientific publications have been retracted. The hack is particularly embarrassing for Elsevier because the commercial publisher has been arguing that the quality of its review process justifies its restrictive access policies and high costs of the journals it publishes."

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Publish or Perish (5, Insightful)

crazyjj (2598719) | about 2 years ago | (#42260321)

I actually went to grad school with a woman who later got caught doing something similar. There is a lot of pressure to publish in academia, even at the grad level these days (especially with so much competition now for the few tenure-track positions available).

When I was in academia, there were all these promises of baby boomers retiring and the fields opening up to new blood, but all I saw was a profession getting more and more cutthroat, with fewer and fewer opportunities for any future. Ended up seeing some pretty questionable activities going on. One of the most prominent was the proliferation of smaller academic "journals" that were little more than conglomerations of local grad students and profs looking to publish their own papers under the guise of a supposedly peer-reviewed journal (with the "peers" being themselves and their friends). I wanted no part of it myself, but the temptation was there for a lot of my fellow academics.

There is also the temptation to publish a lot of really conventional stuff that basically just takes someone else's work and modifies it slightly, or applies it to a slightly different framework. This is the academic equivalent of shovelware. Professor Hot Shit publishes some groundbreaking work, and for the next 20 years you get hundreds of knockoff articles from ass-kissing, unoriginal grad students and nontenured profs basically just parroting Hot Shit's work. Tends to produce a LOT of groupthink in academia (at least until the next Hot Shit comes along). At least 99% of the articles and papers coming out in my field fell into this category. You could actually be seriously be penalized for coming up with original arguments if you didn't have the established cred (and tenure) to challenge the reigning Prof. Hot Shit. Saw another fellow grad student basically drumheaded out of the field for challenging the ideas of a prominent professor in the department. Big mistake.

MOD PARENT UP (5, Funny)

telchine (719345) | about 2 years ago | (#42260417)

MOD PARENT UP (because he's a friend of mine and he promised he'd get my next comment modded up).

Re:MOD PARENT UP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42261321)

Oh, you meant your NEXT comment? Sorry...

Re:MOD PARENT UP (2)

BorisSkratchunkov (642046) | about 2 years ago | (#42262203)

MOD PARENT UP (because he's a friend of mine and he promised he'd get my next comment modded up).

Okay. That's one citation. How many more do I have to make before I get modded up too?

Re:MOD PARENT UP (0)

marcello_dl (667940) | about 2 years ago | (#42264031)

i write:

why not, I mean, it is called PEER review.

wiktionary says

peer (plural peers)

        Somebody who is, or something that is, at a level equal (to that of something else).

So by definition A is peer of A. And so it can review A work.

QED.

^ this is so true.
 

arXiv-like site? (1)

Gliese 581 (2793615) | about 2 years ago | (#42260543)

If that's the case, why not just publish at an open-access site?

Re:arXiv-like site? (4, Insightful)

ledow (319597) | about 2 years ago | (#42260663)

I'd say:

Because, from what I've seen, in certain field, publishing on arXiv is like handing a note "from your mother" written in your own scrawly handwriting and signed "Mom" to your teacher.

It tends to get a bad rap and it's almost impossible to sort the wheat from the chaff precisely BECAUSE it's an open-access site. And absolute tripe can get there and get positive feedback without any rigorous verification at all.

From what I see, if you want to stay reputable and not just "pass", you have to publish properly or not at all. And even that's not a guarantee.

Think of the publishing industry. A self-published ebook is highly unlikely to sell millions of copies and be on the bookshelves for Christmas. It can happen. It has happened. But if you go to a literary agent and tell them you're self-published, or have previously published your book under an open-source license, they'll laugh you out of the room and not want to touch you. In some cases, people who have self-published 20 copies of their own "book" without any editing and failing every submission they've ever done and being rejected by every agent in the land will tell you they are a "published author" while everyone else snickers behind their back. Academic reputation is dealt in pretty much the same way.

Science is open. Research is open. Publishing is open. But your reputation (and thus talks, jobs, further research, etc.) is predicated on being in properly peer-reviewed journals.

Re:arXiv-like site? (2)

PvtVoid (1252388) | about 2 years ago | (#42261747)

from what I've seen, in certain field, publishing on arXiv is like handing a note "from your mother" written in your own scrawly handwriting and signed "Mom" to your teacher.

Really? I'm not sure what fields you're referring to. ArXiv was founded primarily to disseminate preprints in High Energy Physics. In that field, nobody treats it as the equivalent of a peer-reviewed journal, but it is where most people I know in the field actually get and read the literature. Hardly anybody looks papers up in the journals any more.

For what it's worth, arXiv does filter out the outright crackpots, which is why viXra [vixra.org] exits. Shop and compare.

Re:arXiv-like site? (2)

bzipitidoo (647217) | about 2 years ago | (#42262123)

Last time I took a quick look at the Computer Science section of ArXiv, I only looked over a dozen titles, and saw one paper which claimed to prove that P=NP. I skimmed that paper, and found it full of plain wrong assertions, that is, where they simply hadn't glossed over things entirely. In short, that paper was garbage. If ArXiv filters obvious crackpots, they sure missed that one.

Re:arXiv-like site? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42263345)

Just reading through a few papers in the artificial intelligence section on viXra - Crackpots indeed

Re:arXiv-like site? (2)

heypete (60671) | about 2 years ago | (#42263707)

Exactly. An open-access record of preprints is really handy as it allows one to really keep up with the state of research (as opposed to journals, which are often months behind where things are right now).

Take it with a grain of salt, of course, but it's useful in the same way that the Debian sid repository is useful.

Re:arXiv-like site? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42260689)

Because you need to acknowledge all of the authors, including whoever is supervising you, and if they're trying to play the cut-throat politics game they might not be so keen to authorise the publication of a paper which contradicts one of their political buddies.

Re:arXiv-like site? (2)

mandginguero (1435161) | about 2 years ago | (#42262181)

If that's the case, why not just publish at an open-access site?

Because that site isn't peer reviewed. As we can see, peer review isn't the unblemished pillar we hold it up to be. But as a grad student whose adviser doesn't often check my work, peer review can be the only thing standing between me publishing a mistake and actually catching it. That being said, there are several open access sites that are peer reviewed. And in support of open access, the University of California, San Diego recently started a fund for researchers where it will pay for the fees for one open access submission per year.

Re:Publish or Perish (1, Interesting)

jkflying (2190798) | about 2 years ago | (#42260555)

I guess it depends on what field you're in. If your field has 3 months of hard work implementing a system in order to be able to get any results at all, you probably won't have that kind of problem - it tends to weed out the people who aren't willing to put in the effort. I'm currently doing my MSc in robotic mapping (AKA SLAM) and the quality of papers I find has been consistently high. In fact, sometimes I wish they had tried some little tweak, because it would take me two weeks of coding/testing to figure out if there is even any merit to the idea and chances are my system is so different from theirs to begin with that the results wouldn't even be comparable.

Re:Publish or Perish (0)

MadKeithV (102058) | about 2 years ago | (#42260647)

I guess it depends on what field you're in. If your field has 3 months of hard work implementing a system in order to be able to get any results at all, you probably won't have that kind of problem - it tends to weed out the people who aren't willing to put in the effort.

You meant "it tends to weed out the people who aren't willing to fake their data" [slashdot.org] , right?

Re:Publish or Perish (4, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | about 2 years ago | (#42260601)

It's Dr. Hot Shit. The PhD wasn't honorary.

Re:Publish or Perish (3, Funny)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 2 years ago | (#42260797)

I'm not buying it. Ph.D's don't pull these shenanigans - this sounds like a trailer park drama! If there's anything I've learned, it's that highly educated people are simply better than double-digit IQs. Moreover, most of society's mavericks are brave professors who challenge society to accept new, uncomfortable truths. You must be some sort of wingnut who was failed out of school for unacceptable political views instead of actual lack of intellect, that's the only thing that can explain your bitterness.

Re:Publish or Perish (1)

crazyjj (2598719) | about 2 years ago | (#42260973)

LOL

Re:Publish or Perish (2)

swan5566 (1771176) | about 2 years ago | (#42262899)

Ph.D's don't pull these shenanigans

Well I have my Ph.D, and I work with a lot of Ph.Ds. The fact that this goes on a lot is hardly any secret. Where are you getting this notion from?

Re:Publish or Perish (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#42264875)

If there's anything I've learned, it's that highly educated people are simply better than double-digit IQs.

I've known an awful lot of PhDs, and usually that is indeed the case. But there were two I knew, one a woman and one a man, who were dumb as doorknobs. I still don't have a clue how they ever graduated high school, let alone got PhDs (cheated? How did they get past the thesis?). Both of them seemed completely incapable of learning anything.

I noticed that none of the other PhDs I'd known put "PhD" after their name, nor had folks address them as "doctor". I knew quite a few for years before I knew they were so educated; one fellow I thought probably had a Masters had two PhDs and three Masters.

Re:Publish or Perish (1)

doconnor (134648) | about 2 years ago | (#42260831)

Why can't the people in charge of making the career decisions for academics take the few days a year to read and judge papers themselves rather the relying on the peer review system to do it for them.

Re:Publish or Perish (1)

rickb928 (945187) | about 2 years ago | (#42261059)

You think the chair can understand any of what their faculty is doing? bahahahaha. Even the faculty has to figure out what their GAs are doing.

Re:Publish or Perish (2)

spikenerd (642677) | about 2 years ago | (#42263727)

Why can't the people in charge of making the career decisions for academics take the few days a year to read and judge papers themselves rather the relying on the peer review system to do it for them.

Most places that hire people with PhDs want to cover lots of topics. Hence, none of the doctors are qualified to evaluate each other, and all of them are too busy to take the time to become qualified in each others' areas.

Re:Publish or Perish (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 2 years ago | (#42264279)

A lot of this money comes from Grants outside the people the people who makes the "career decisions".

If that were the case there would be a lot of papers complementing such people. "Case Study: Human Resource Done right, example Mr. So and So from x university"

Re:Publish or Perish (4, Interesting)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 2 years ago | (#42260849)

At least 99% of the articles and papers coming out in my field fell into this category

Certainly. The REF (research excellence framework) concocted by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has actuall come up with and implemented a really good idea.

This is actually quite shocking and really rather unexpected, but you know, stranger things have happened (like the release of Duke Nukem Forever and unexpected popularity of My Little Pony).

Basically, it happens every 5 years or so and each researcher in the institution gets to submit up to 4 publications (that is less than 1 per year). The publications are then graded by impact, and the general quality is assessed.

Naturally, the system is imperfect and it would be silly to think otherwise, but it is a huge improvement over the previous system.

It almost does away with the wretched salami slicing, minimum publishable units and paper churning. Churning out 100 mid quality papers in 5 years is much worse according to the criteria than churning out 1 great one and 3 mid quality ones.

In other words, it encourages people to dial back on the churn and concentrate on publishing high impact science.

You could actually be seriously be penalized for coming up with original arguments if you didn't have the established cred

Generally, the way to make a name in academia is to overturn the status quo. It's what everyone dreams of. The few papers that do successfully challenge things generally do much better in all measurable terms of impact than yet another me-too article (generally, but not always, sadly).

Saw another fellow grad student basically drumheaded out of the field for challenging the ideas of a prominent professor in the department.

I've never seen that but I don't doubt your story. Some professors are idiots and some departments are worse than useless.

Re:Publish or Perish (1)

Crispy Critters (226798) | about 2 years ago | (#42263155)

> the way to make a name in academia is to overturn the status quo.

I don't think it's as simple as that. An unknown researcher can't fight the conventional wisdom merely by being right. A recognized rising star might fight the accepted view. Or the CW might be tottering and rotten and the critics ready to rally around the right attack from a newcomer who has nothing to lose by bucking the establishment.

Re:Publish or Perish (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42276667)

Basically, it happens every 5 years or so and each researcher in the institution gets to submit up to 4 publications (that is less than 1 per year).

You don't say.

Re:Publish or Perish (4, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | about 2 years ago | (#42261127)

It really comes down to a basic problem.
We are trying to quantify peoples status in life/figure out if their funding is worth it. This makes sense because we live in a world of scarcity we cannot fully fund every idea.
However we come up with measurements to quantify these things. Shortly after once people figure out the measurements will then change their behavior to put the measurements into their favor.

If the measurement for a good scientist is the number of published papers, you are going to see a lot of crappy published papers, because they need to publish crap to get more resources.

Re:Publish or Perish (1)

ub3r n3u7r4l1st (1388939) | about 2 years ago | (#42266701)

Same with benchmarking in computer hardware. Quantifying performance into a single ( or a few ) number.

It is caused by combination of scarce resources and laziness.

Re:Publish or Perish (3, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | about 2 years ago | (#42262051)

There is also the temptation to publish a lot of really conventional stuff that basically just takes someone else's work and modifies it slightly, or applies it to a slightly different framework. This is the academic equivalent of shovelware... At least 99% of the articles and papers coming out in my field fell into this category.

Don't worry, lower-tier conferences and "journals" aren't confused with top journals. And the lower-tier venues play an important role. You can't have major leagues without minor leagues feeding into them, and their pipeline is in turn filled by colleges, then highschools, all the way down to little league. It takes years to work up to publishing in top-tier journals, and lower-tier venues are where you develop the chops. Most never make it to the summit after all, but still do useful applied work during their careers.

You see conspiracy in some people at your school setting up a student workshop or conference as a venue for their work. To me that sounds like an enriching activity for those involved. Are you afraid they will somehow use this to leapfrog you into professorships at Stanford? Don't be. At most, this is the first of many steps towards such a goal.

Of course, the fraud this story is about is a whole different matter.

So, it turns out that whole climate change thing.. (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42260343)

Is actually not real. Sorry about that.

My Paper (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42260357)

I don't troll these days, I just grumble at the poor effort of modern trolls. They forget that good trolling is in two parts: the bait and the switch.
You need to get people believing you before you bring out the troll. And it needs to be so subtle they don't even notice that you changed tack.
The easiest method is to come up with a thesis that starts with their premises and comes to a very different conclusion (or vice versa). Whatever you do, make sure you introduce the acceptable point (the bait) before pulling the switch. These are the examples I posted on this topic before:
I think we need affirmative action laws because how else will women be able to compete?
We need to be careful with the words we use because minorities are overly sensitive.
The fact that women make less money than men is terrible because dresses and shoes are so expensive.
Women don't need men in their lives to be happy and successful. Children can fill that role too.
Those are all "agree with conclusion, disagree with premise". I can't come up with good examples of the reverse right now.
Obviously these aren't the full troll posts you would make, but I expect you can see how they would go down. You get people responding to you and then you switch it up in subsequent posts (or in nuances hidden in a single post). Ideally half the people responding would recognise the switch and start attacking you while the other half would fall prey to the sunken cost fallacy and try to defend you. Then they fight amongst themselves and you do whatever 12-year-olds do these days.
Like I said, I haven't trolled in a long time. I just wish that modern trolls would have that element of artistry. Then you have something to appreciate when you're done frothing at the mouth.

Elsevier needs to go away (5, Insightful)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 2 years ago | (#42260361)

Elsevier does not help science, and an argument can be made that they actually hinder it instead. Their journal subscription costs go up all the time, which means that universities have to spend more to keep their subscriptions and get access to new articles. They charge as much to publish as higher-impact journals, and they add an additional fee to make an article open access.

We should be spending research money on research, instead thanks to Elsevier we are spending research money on publication fees. They may have provided a useful service a decade (or more) ago when research universities were not as well interconnected and literature searches were more time consuming, but their current model does not fit with the modern state of scientific research. They need to adapt, or die. Keeping their current MO does not help anyone.

Apologies in advance (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42260433)

I guess academics should publish elsevier.

Re:Apologies in advance (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42260737)

I guess academics should publish elsevier.

Dear Professor Coward,

After careful peer review we have concluded that your submitted draft comment should have been rejected.

Reviewer's remarks: Woeful puns. Also, I didn't like how you formatted your figures entirely out of blank space.

Re:Apologies in advance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42264269)

OBJECTION!
Your peer review comes from the same account of the submitter.

Re:Apologies in advance (1)

OneAhead (1495535) | about 2 years ago | (#42268153)

*facepalm*

Re:Elsevier needs to go away (1)

lurker1997 (2005954) | about 2 years ago | (#42261949)

What Elsevier journal are you paying to publish in? I have published in multiple Elsevier journals and have never been asked to pay a fee. I think this may be the policy of your particular journal?

Re:Elsevier needs to go away (3, Informative)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 2 years ago | (#42262407)

What Elsevier journal are you paying to publish in? I have published in multiple Elsevier journals and have never been asked to pay a fee. I think this may be the policy of your particular journal?

Someone in our research group recently published in an Elsevier journal that charged at least for color figures, I'm not sure if there were page charges as well. Even just the charge for figures ended up at a couple thousand dollars.

Re:Elsevier needs to go away (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42263447)

As an engineering grad student, I'm well familiar with color illustrations in published papers. Color figures are charged for (and it is quite a steep charge) for just about every journal out there. It is very expensive for them to have color pages printed separately and inserted into the journal. This is nothing specific to Elsevier nor is it any more expensive.

Re:Elsevier needs to go away (1)

XaN-ASMoDi (894073) | about 2 years ago | (#42270205)

The current system is a hindrance. As an undergraduate student I want to get the fullest picture of my field so I can become the most rounded nurse that I can be. In comes Elsevier, restricting access by imposing ridiculous fees - £30 for 24 hours, anyone?! - despite a wide ranging institutional subscription. Sod that.

So I'm left reading abstracts, having to omit what look like relevant articles because I cannot verify the veracity of the authors methods. Let's not forget that this is affecting your future doctors, nurses, radiographers and all the other allied health professionals.

What's the pay for peer reviewers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42260403)

Would be cool to know how much money you could expect to get for peer reviewing an article in a given journal/given field. If anybody knows, reply to this post please.

Re:What's the pay for peer reviewers? (3, Informative)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 2 years ago | (#42260449)

Would be cool to know how much money you could expect to get for peer reviewing an article in a given journal/given field. If anybody knows, reply to this post please.

Quite often the pay is nothing. it is expected to be part of your service obligations.

On the other hand, journal editors do get paid. That is a big part of what publication fees cover now, is the pay of of the editors - especially since a lot of journals don't regularly print their issues any more or they have very few subscribers that pay for print editions.

Re:What's the pay for peer reviewers? (3, Informative)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 2 years ago | (#42260751)

Quite often the pay is nothing.

Quite often? I've never been paid once ever.

Re:What's the pay for peer reviewers? (2)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 2 years ago | (#42261109)

Quite often the pay is nothing.

Quite often? I've never been paid once ever.

I cannot vouch for every journal in existence, though I am not aware of any that pay their reviewers. Some might even consider such a thing to be unethical. However, just to play it safe, I answered "quite often" rather than making an absolute statement.

Re:What's the pay for peer reviewers? (2)

acidfast7 (551610) | about 2 years ago | (#42261941)

eLife (joint journal from MPI, HHMI, WT) pays reviewers if they returned their reviews rapidly (pos or neg). I heard it's €2k when it's returned in 7 days. http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2011/12/01/elife-can-a-top-tier-journal-run-without-professional-help/ [sspnet.org]

Re:What's the pay for peer reviewers? (1)

sensei moreh (868829) | about 2 years ago | (#42266133)

I never received any pay, nor did I expect any.

Re:What's the pay for peer reviewers? (1)

tastiles (466054) | about 2 years ago | (#42261301)

Reputable journals do not offer payment for peer review. Some journals offer incentives including short term subscriptions (1 to 3 months) to the journal you review.

Re:What's the pay for peer reviewers? (1)

lurker1997 (2005954) | about 2 years ago | (#42262077)

As you imply, reviewing articles is a part of academic life. The 'pay' is part of a faculty member's salary if you want to think of it that way. When applying for tenure or promotion, faculty routinely include reviewing work in their cv.

Re:What's the pay for peer reviewers? (5, Informative)

cazzazullu (645423) | about 2 years ago | (#42260567)

For IEEE journals, the pay for a reviewer is zero. As other people stated, it is considered part of the job, and an honor actually, since you are regarded an "expert" in the field.

Re:What's the pay for peer reviewers? (1)

Entropius (188861) | about 2 years ago | (#42260683)

I reviewed a paper for Physical Review D a bit ago and got paid nothing.

Re:What's the pay for peer reviewers? (1)

PvtVoid (1252388) | about 2 years ago | (#42261801)

I reviewed a paper for Physical Review D a bit ago and got paid nothing.

They should give out "I refereed for PRD and all I got was this lousy T-shirt" T-shirts.

Re:What's the pay for peer reviewers? (2)

toutankh (1544253) | about 2 years ago | (#42261263)

I never get paid for reviewing an article, it's part of the job, and it also makes sense: I want other people to review my articles, so I review other people's articles too. I want good (not necessarily positive) reviews, so I try my best to deliver good reviews.

One anecdote though: I once received a request to review a paper for a journal which I didn't know. It was the "Journal of ****** University" or something like that, anyway a university edited its own journal, which I find questionable for several reasons. It was a Chinese university. I was extremely reluctant to accept to review this paper. This was probably expected, since the editor also asked me my postal address so that they can send me a gift, should I accept to review the paper. This made me even more reluctant. I still accepted to perform the review due to other reasons, but I did not indicate my address. I still received a gift a few weeks later (some Chinese stamps). So although in theory the reviews are performed for free, it doesn't prevent the editors from trying to buy services from the reviewers. In that case, in order to give credibility to a new journal.

Re:What's the pay for peer reviewers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42270369)

Reviewers don't usually get paid, although it's not unheard of by any means, particularly for fast reviews. The really big, high-impact journals often have a bank of reviewers who can turn around time-sensitive papers in 48 hours.

It is a slightly different story in Asia, though. In Korea particularly, but also other Asian countries, it is common practice to charge all authors a submission fee, maybe $200 or so, which is split between reviewers. One journal I spoke to recently (I'm a commissioning editor for a publishing company) said they would go back to the author and ask for another $100 if the two reviewers disagreed as to whether the paper should be published, so they could pay a third reviewer.

Re:What's the pay for peer reviewers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42262521)

ZERO

Elsevier has been caught publishing crap before. (5, Insightful)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | about 2 years ago | (#42260435)

See this article: http://science.slashdot.org/story/09/05/09/1514235/more-fake-journals-from-elsevier [slashdot.org] . Those guys have not much credibility left ;-)

Re:Elsevier has been caught publishing crap before (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42261049)

Exactly what I thought of when I saw this.

"Hacked" my ass!

Re:Elsevier has been caught publishing crap before (4, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 years ago | (#42261425)

Elsevier's ethical standards are such that, in all likelihood, they got hacked because somebody forgot to refill the firewall's kitten tears hopper or empty its puppy grinder promptly.

Aside from doing...um... important work in pharmaceutical awareness, Reed Elsevier has the somewhat tense situation of owning The Lancet and a bunch of other medical journals that attract bleeding-heart do-no-harm types, and also running among the world's largest trade shows [dsei.co.uk] for the security forces of the world looking for new and exciting ways to generate interesting cases for the trauma surgeons to write up. They've had some togetherness issues over that.

Re:Elsevier has been caught publishing crap before (1)

PvtVoid (1252388) | about 2 years ago | (#42261705)

Elsevier's ethical standards are such that, in all likelihood, they got hacked because somebody forgot to refill the firewall's kitten tears hopper or empty its puppy grinder promptly.

Somebody please mod parent "Extra Awesome".

Re:Elsevier has been caught publishing crap before (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42265801)

See this: http://ce.sharif.edu/~ghodsi/soft-group/misc/AMC-paper.pdf
Some folks from Sharif got an auto-generated crap paper accepted by an Elsevier journal. (it never made it to publication, as they contacted the editors after getting the acceptance)

I know they publish crap (3, Interesting)

DCFusor (1763438) | about 2 years ago | (#42260729)

Heck, they even published my book! This, after having bought it from another publisher (...). None of the three publishers who have owned my book report positive sales numbers, yet I continue (years out) to get emails from people who have read the code that was provided with it, and which the book is about.
.

Yes, if you believe them, it's possible to sell negative numbers of books when it comes to figuring out how not to pay me the royalties. These guys make the **AA's look like pikers with their "hollywood accounting". Sure, I know I never sold a million copies, but...I know I sold tens of thousands because I've had that many unique emails; the original publisher, Miller Freeman, sanitized the book text of my email address - but didn't bother actually reading the code!
.

And now they are selling an e-book version, without asking me. One wonders what you'll do with a ton of fancy MFC code on a kindle....if they even provide it anymore.
.

These guys can go to hell - all of them. They are holding back science progress. Go check on the individual subscription rate for say, Rev Sci Ins with all the discounts. The cable TV guys need to learn how to bundle and overprice from them - for me, last I checked, it was $60k/year with all discounts to get hold of back issues of that one journal (in a bundle you can't pick and choose). I mean, wow, 60k/year per customer? Wonder how many servers they maintain for that - one? It's not like they wrote or even paid for those papers...I did, you did - tax paid research on which they got an additional publisher copyright to play this game with. Sure, if you can find the original author, they'll often send you a copy of the paper free, but if you're going through old physics looking for low hanging fruit - those guys are dead.

Not a huge deal (1)

schneidafunk (795759) | about 2 years ago | (#42260781)

Science will go on. The whole point to duplicate results.

bad incentives, repeat violations (4, Insightful)

call -151 (230520) | about 2 years ago | (#42261029)

Elsevier's financial interests have repeatedly caused conflicts before with the overall interest of good quality scientific publishing at a good value. There is a reason that many scientists have organized an Elsevier boycott, see this earlier slashdot story [slashdot.org] as very little has changed since then, aside from some superficial Elsevier posturing.

There are good quality affordable journals, run by professional societies or universities, which are an excellent alternative to Elsevier and other expensive for-profit journals. For the health of science, it is important that people choose to submit there. For untenured people who are under a great deal of pressure to submit to "top journals" it poses a difficult quandary, but for those of us for whom that isn't a concern, I don't see a reason to continue to support journals and publishers which have repeatedly done poorly.

Editors know their reviewers in my field (1)

peter303 (12292) | about 2 years ago | (#42261937)

Its small enough with just a few hundred in a sub-specialty.

Principle-Agent Problem and a Wiki-Journal (2)

m.shenhav (948505) | about 2 years ago | (#42262029)

What we have here is a classical example of the Principle-Agent Problem [wikipedia.org] - which one observes very often in Politics and Business as well. In my opinion, it is precisely well developed institutions that manage to consolidate the conflict of interests of their members.

One of the reasons the Institution of Science works is that it manages to turn what might seem to be a conflict of interest into mutual benefit, through the peer review process. What we see in this day and age are bloated institutions better adapted to serve their own growth then to serve their own original purpose. Publishers and Universities alike want more and more money. Publishers achieve this by abusing their oligopoly and Universities achieve it by pushing their research staff to publish in a way that increases their Ranking and pulls more Funding.

When I look at Wikipedia I see a nimble and efficient institution that has managed to create a cheap and effective peer-review (not scientific peers but peers none the less). It is clear that Wikipedia's system does not take into account the expertise of its users well enough to serve as a scientific peer-review platform. It is also clear that one would need a different system and possibly a different scale of financing but that should not be incredibly difficult.

What is not clear to me is why some of the supposedly brightest people in our civilization are incapable of liberating themselves from the oppression of Publishers and Universities in the Information Age.

Except for solving other problems, we might just find that people previously unable to assist in the peer review process could have significant contributions to Science. I want to see the say a erudite Janitor gets to refute a tenured Professor.

Best of both worlds (3, Insightful)

ntropia (939502) | about 2 years ago | (#42262043)

At least for Medicine and Biology, there is PLOS ONE [plosone.org] , an open source journal, online-only, with peer review and Creative Commons license.
Despite being fairly new, it has already gained a more than respectable impact factor of 4.092 (2011) and it's getting more and more momentum (although it aims to go against the "obsession of the impact factor").
As expected, initial reactions were pretty cold, especially from traditional publishers, but after its successful approach, several similar OpenAccess initiatives followed (yes, even from those traditional publishers like Nature Publishing Group they were 'teasing' directly with their launch campaign a-la-Apple VS IBM [wikipedia.org] ).
Being an electronic-only journal, they don't impose any limits to the length of an article, nor the number of figures and (as silly as it sounds) you don't have to pay any extra money for having your figures in color, as with many other journals.

In my opinion, their main achievement was to proof that their business model works and that traditional publishers are not the only viable option.

Source:Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

Hold the presses..... (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | about 2 years ago | (#42263245)

....evil multinational, which owns one of the major legal databases in North America, target of an ethical lawsuit several years back, alleging that the "precedent cases" in its database were being altered to favor specific court trials in favor of certain major financial firms, is hacked??? I'm shocked, I tell you....shocked......
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