The irony of some peer-review and citation complaints


Anti-fluoridation propagandists and other promoters of pseudoscience have a sort of “love-hate” attitude towards science and the scientific literature.

On the one hand they love to cite scientific papers they claim support their message. Very often the citation is completely unwarranted, misrepresents the paper or even distorts the findings reported. Declan Waugh stands out as a repeat offender of such misrepresentation and distortion of the literature on the fluoride issue.

But, on the other hand they sort of recognise that they cannot rely on support from the scientific literature so will often denigrate the scientific process. Sort of having a bob each way.

A sordid affair

“Penelope Paisley” at Fluoride Free Hamilton NZ  is indulging in the latter by posting a link to a news report about exposure of a “peer review  and citation ring” at the Journal of Vibration and Control (JVC). This was reported at Retraction Watch in its article SAGE Publications busts “peer review and citation ring,” 60 papers retracted.

Besides retraction of the 60 papers this exposure led to the editor in chief of the journal resigning and a  professor in Taiwan who was responsible for the ring resigning from his employment.

A sordid affair which unfortunately does happen from time to time in the scientific community. We are, after all, human.

But it is ironic for local anti-fluoride propagandists to “point the finger” at this case. Periodically they promote “their own” peer-reviewed paper from a journal with a somewhat similar scandal. I wrote about this in Peer review, shonky journals and misrepresenting fluoride science.

The hypocrisy of the complaint

The paper is Peckham & Awofeso (2014), Water Fluoridation: A Critical Review of the Physiological Effects of Ingested Fluoride as a Public Health Intervention, The Scientific World Journal Volume 2014 (2014). It has been heavily promoted in the anti-fluoride social media –  “natural” health web sites, blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter.

However, The Scientific World Journal was described as a” bottom feeding” journal because of its approach to peer review and citation.  It relies on author fees, and not subscriptions, and is therefore open to the charge that it provides an easy way for unscrupulous authors to buy space for their articles. It was banned from lists of impact ratings because it allowed the unethical practice of self-citation.

So there is one irony in anti-fluoride propagandists’ exposure of  a shoddy incident in science publishing – they happy to use it to attack the scientific publishing process in general while on the other hand giving support to a similar shoddy case because it supports their word-view.

But there is another irony. “Penelope” is the on-line name used by Lynn Jordan – the  Fluoride Free NZ Committee member for Wellington. She also practices as a  cranio-sacral therapist in Wellington. Cranial-sacral therapy is an alternative or “natural” therapy which Edzard Ernst  described as more or less bogus (see Up the garden path: craniosacral therapy). I imagine that “Penelope” consults very few peer-reviewed scientific journals as part of her job. More likely she relies on “natural” health and pseudoscientific publications and on-line sites.

The irony here is that the “natural” health and pseudoscience publication industry will never have a scandal involving peer review and citation. Peer review and responsible citation is completely outside the ethos that guides them.

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6 responses to “The irony of some peer-review and citation complaints

  1. From your vitriolic reaction Penelope and Declan must be getting the message out . . . congratulations to them both . . . :}

  2. From your vitriolic reaction Penelope and Declan must be…

    Logical fallacy.
    Guess which one.
    Go on, guess.

  3. The problem is that the general public don’t understand how the scientific peer review process works

    This is because they are morons

  4. The problem is that the general public don’t understand how the scientific peer review process works.

    That’s very true.
    They don’t.

    I can understand someone who has no idea what they are talking about. That’s forgivable. What I don’t get is not knowing what you are talking about…on the internet…when reliable,mainstream sources of information are only a click away.
    That takes a special snowflake.

    Confused about the meaning of a word? Look it up. Go ahead and check out several dictionaries if you are suspicious of the first one.
    (You’d think it would be obvious yet certain people don’t.)

    Unsure how the medical profession defines toxins?
    Look it up. Go to the top five/ten/twenty medical communities on the planet and find out if you really want to dig deep.

    Convinced that volcanoes produce more CO2 emissions that human industry? Look it up.
    There are scientific communities that make it their business to know what come out of volcanoes and how much. They do the counting and they are happy to put it out there for all to see. A quick google is all it takes. Thirty seconds-tops! THe USGS is a great place to start.

    Don’t really know the Age Of the Earth or if cell phones give you cancer? Again, it’s simple stuff. Just go to the relevant scientific communities and find out for sure. It’s all at your fingertips. There no need to get your information second-hand. There’s no need to rely upon some blog or “thinktank”. Just go directly to the people that do the work. Use as many different scientific communities as you like. They are all good.

    You can turn your back on the scientific community. Only you won’t get anywhere with those smart ones that don’t.
    A choice between some anonymous guy on the Intertubes linking to whatever- versus just going to mainstream, scientific communities and checking any and all of them all out is an easy choice to make.

    The Peer Review Process

  5. Pingback: Weekend reads: How to fix “slow,” “unhelpful,” and “generally awful” peer review, where all the PhDs go | Retraction Watch

  6. Pingback: I am still waiting for my cheque | Open Parachute

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