Ideally, clinical publishing is an unbiased undertaking in which manuscripts are held to high requirements of evaluation to guarantee precision and guard versus conflicts of interest that might jeopardize a research studys dependability. Yet, as Retraction Watch and sometimes other outlets record, its not uncommon for poor-quality, or ridiculous or in some cases fraudulent, papers to gain the imprimatur of publication in a peer-reviewed journal. See “The Top Retractions of 2020″clara locherA research study published today (November 23) in PLOS Biology points to possible favoritism that could be present within particular journals editorial procedures, enabling less-than-stellar papers through. Scientific pharmacologist Clara Locher and a team of researchers from the University of Rennes in France took a look at almost 5 million documents released between 2015 and 2019 in 5,468 journals and found that while a majority of journals brought publications distributed across a big number of authors, 5 percent of journals had a single, highly respected author that was responsible for a minimum of 11 percent of the released short articles in the journal. In a random sample of this subset of journals, the extremely released author was a member of the editorial board 61 percent of the time and their documents were accepted in a median time of 3 weeks after submission, a much faster rate than the normal 100+ days reported in a Nature short article about studies published in Nature and PLOS ONE (no assessments of paper quality were carried out). The authors of the new survey argue in their paper that more openness is required around journals editorial practices.See “Revealing Peer Review Identities Could Introduce Bias: Study”In an email interview with The Scientist, Locher discussed her study and what the findings suggest about specific biomedical research study journals.The Scientist: What inspired you and your group to examine favoritism in research publications?Clara Locher: We started checking out favoritism in research publications following up the hydroxychloroquine saga … A common thread among the first posts supporting using hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19 was that these short articles were all released in journals where at least one author belonged to the editorial board or, indeed, editors-in-chief. Additionally, the time between submission and acceptance was unusually brief while short articles were below general research study standards. Completely, these aspects called into question the quality of the editorial process.See “Journal Publisher Concerned over Hydroxychloroquine Study”TS: Can you walk me through your procedure of evaluating favoritism in publications? How did you decide what to examine regarding authorship data?CL: Among posts supporting using hydroxychloroquine, a so-called meta-analysis was published in New Microbes and New Infections while the scope of this journal really does not match with therapeutic issues. So, we took a more detailed look at this journal and discovered that 35 percent of all posts were published by a minimum of one author on the present editorial board. A value that is not expected!Looking at other authors of the meta-analysis, we discovered that Didier Raoult has actually signed [authored] 235 of the 728 articles released in New Microbes and New Infections, making him the most respected author of this journal. Didier Raoult is not part of the editorial board, however as the director of the Institut Hospitalo-Universitaire Méditerranée Infection, 6 members of the editorial board ([ consisting of] the deputy and the editor-in-chief editor-in-chief) report to him. Coincidently, Dorothy Bishop reported a comparable analysis in her blogpost on the field of psychology. These convergent analyses led us to think about the portion of documents by the most respected author as a possible caution to determine journals that are thought of dubious editorial practice.TS: Building off of that, what is the Gini index and what does it inform you about authorship in journals?CL: The first caution that we determined, the percentage of papers by the most respected author, concentrates on a single author and is delicate to the variety of annual publications of the journal. This is why Alexandre Scanff suggested completing it with the Gini index, a statistical procedure extensively utilized in econometrics to [assess] the level of inequality in the distribution of income. In our research study, earnings represents the number of articles signed by authors in a given journal. The benefit of this measure is that it enables recognizing journals where a group of authors monopolizes authorship.TS: Did any of your outcomes surprise you?CL: Yes and no! The impression is that we might have cases, for various reasons, of favoritism in the editorial decision-making, and it isnt brand-new. What is new and surprising is that in a subset of journals, indexed in the NLM [National Library of Medicine] catalogue, a couple of authors, frequently members of the editorial board, were accountable for a disproportionate number of publications.TS: What are some constraints of this study?CL: The main limitation of our research study is that these quantitative metrics are not sufficient to assert that there is prejudiced editorial decision-making. These metrics need to be viewed as warnings which need to cause a more in-depth analysis of the journal: qualitative analysis of documents released in this journal, and examination of the place of prolific authors in the editorial board. This careful inspection of the journal need to allow to get rid of false positives represented by active editors and/or professional journalists.On the other hand, these quantitative metrics might only point the pointer of the iceberg by recognizing only the severe cases. This is particularly the case for the percentage of documents by the most respected author: the more the variety of posts published by a provided journal increases, the more difficult it is for an author to sign 10 percent or more of them.TS: Why does editorial predisposition and potential nepotism in research journals harm the research community, and in specific the biomedical research community?CL: As long as scientists will be rewarded according to performance metrics, favoritism in journals editorial procedures could be considered as dishonest. These journals might be utilized to increase productivity-based metrics such as number of publications, number of citations, with a positive result on decisions about tenure, promotion and grant funding. Moreover, editorial board members might utilize their position to release posts that do not reach the required quality standard for publication. In the case of this biomedical research study, that might have unfavorable effects on evidence-based medication, as we have actually all seen, throughout the case of hydroxychloroquine and COVID-19. TS: What are future steps you wish to draw from this research?CL: Our study provides information about the broad scene of what we call nepotistic journals. The next action is for that reason to describe this phenomenon [in a fine-grained way], especially by studying the quality and the stability of publications by editors in their own journal.TS: What do you hope readers and research study publications and their editorial boards will remove from your findings?CL: We hope that both readers and editorial boards will become aware of the requirement to enhance rely on editorial practices. Because of that, journals need to be transparent about their editorial and peer evaluation practices.Editors note: This interview has been edited for brevity.
Clinical pharmacologist Clara Locher and a group of researchers from the University of Rennes in France analyzed almost 5 million papers published between 2015 and 2019 in 5,468 journals and found that while a bulk of journals carried publications distributed across a large number of authors, five percent of journals had a single, highly respected author that was accountable for at least 11 percent of the released articles in the journal. The authors of the new study argue in their paper that more transparency is required around journals editorial practices.See “Revealing Peer Review Identities Could Introduce Bias: Study”In an e-mail interview with The Scientist, Locher discussed her study and what the findings suggest about certain biomedical research journals.The Scientist: What inspired you and your group to examine favoritism in research publications?Clara Locher: We started checking out favoritism in research study publications following up the hydroxychloroquine saga … A typical thread amongst the first posts supporting the usage of hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19 was that these posts were all published in journals where at least one author was part of the editorial board or, undoubtedly, editors-in-chief. We took a closer look at this journal and discovered that 35 percent of all articles were published by at least one author on the current editorial board. These convergent analyses led us to consider the percentage of documents by the most respected author as a possible caution to recognize journals that are thought of suspicious editorial practice.TS: Building off of that, what is the Gini index and what does it inform you about authorship in journals?CL: The very first warning that we identified, the portion of papers by the most respected author, focuses on a single author and is sensitive to the number of annual publications of the journal. These metrics must be seen as warnings which must lead to a more detailed analysis of the journal: qualitative analysis of documents released in this journal, and examination of the place of respected authors in the editorial board.