Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Peer Review and Frontiers in Chemistry- Don't Publish There

What's the point of Peer Review if it is really faulty?

Peer Review was designed to make sure that Scientist do not become overly bias towards their research and that when someone wants to read a Scientific article they do not have to spend most of their time reading it to determine if the paper is legit or not.

It doesn't seem to be working. There are so many retractions and so many bad papers that are published that the Scientific world is just overwhelmed with much nonsensical stuff.

So when something is broken I generally don't just complain, I attempt to fix it or contribute to a fix. I heard about PeerJ and despite the fact that they are just a business like all other publishers(they just charge less) I decided to Review some papers. I partcipated in the review of a couple of papers but then came upon this one: https://peerj.com/preprints/66v1/ and I made these comments: https://peerj.com/preprints/66v1/#feedback-84 . I thought the comments were very constructive considering the paper has no place in any Scientific journal. The paper basically sounds like it was written by someone with high school or below level of Science knowledge. The author responded with equally nonsensical responses and I was pissed for a little bit but I figured no one would really care because it was a paper on PeerJ, which let's be honest is not exactly a respectable place to publish anything, considering.

Then a few months later I receive an email from PeerJ saying that the paper in question was published in a "more" respectable journal, Frontiers in Chemistry (http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fchem.2014.00013/full) I was appalled that a journal that says they do Peer Review published this paper considering it has no Scientific basis and pushes the boundaries of even a high school level lab report. I thought that maybe the paper was just overlooked? So I emailed Frontiers in Chemistry with a detailed Review and asked them how it was published and this was their response:

Dear Dr Zayner,

We thank you for your message and for taking the time to send us your comments on the article by Dr Moustafa that was recently published at Frontiers in Chemistry.

I would like to kindly clarify that this manuscript underwent thorough peer-review before being accepted for publication at Frontiers. We received reports from three independent reviewers and two of them supported and endorsed the publication of the manuscript. The final decision was taken by the Associate editor after taking into account all of the reviewers' recommendations.

As you pointed out, any published article should be supported by evidence, and it was decided by two reviewers and the associate editor that this particular article included enough evidence to warrant its publication.

I would also like to point out that this manuscript is an Opinion article. These Frontiers article types allow researchers maximum freedom of expression to publish viewpoints on the interpretation of facts, weaknesses and strengths of any scientific theory or on any topic relevant to the field of research.

We certainly understand that this is an area of controversy and that there are various opinions on this point. We would encourage you to enter in a constructive discussion by submitting either an Opinion article of your own or a General commentary on this article (http://www.frontiersin.org/Chemistry/articletype), which would be linked to the first article and provide an alternate viewpoint of the situation and continue the debate in a constructive way.

Kind regards,

Marie Soulière, Ph.D.
Journal Manager

Frontiers | Chemistry Editorial Office
www.frontiersin.org | twitter.com/FrontiersIn
EPFL - Innovation Square, building I
Lausanne, Switzerland | T +41(0)21 510 17 11

(If you goto the Frontiers article you can actually see who Peer Reviewed this paper... I feel bad for these people)

That is why I am writing the post. Open Publishing and Open Access and even Peer Review are not all that they are made up to be, which we have heard again and again and again. 

So what now? If a paper in a High Impact journal has a higher than normal chance of being retracted and a paper in low impact journal has a higher then normal chance of being awful.

I really enjoy working at NASA and the freedom they give me but if I have a say NASA will probably be the last normal Scientific post I have(either because I stay here or leave). Science and publishing are just so messed up at the moment and I can do so many more cool things if I don't need to stay within those boundaries.