Stop fetishizing the scientific paper: Our invited Comment in Nature
If there’s one consistent lesson of covering retractions, it’s that science doesn’t stop when researchers publish a paper. But what also seems true is that once a paper is published, lots of people — authors and editors, in particular — are often reluctant to say just what’s happened next, particularly if it casts the study or the journal in a negative light.
Some of this is understandable, given the weight given papers by tenure committees and granting agencies. Still, Retraction Watch readers will not be surprised to know we’d like that to change, so when Nature asked us to contribute an end-of-the-year commentary, we decided to focus on post-publication peer review. In our piece, which appears this week, titled “The paper is not sacred,” we argue:
What is needed, instead, is a system of publication that is more meritocratic in its evaluation of performance and productivity in the sciences. It should expand the record of a scientific study past an individual paper, including additional material such as worthy blog posts about the results, media coverage and the number of times the paper has been downloaded.
As it happens, there will soon be a way to do all of that: CrossMark, about to be launched by CrossRef. (Ivan recently spoke at CrossRef’s annual meeting, but just in case it’s a question, didn’t accept any travel expenses or honorarium, and wasn’t talking about CrossMark.) As we note in the piece:
The idea is for every piece of content to include a clickable logo that will let a reader know whether there have been any corrections, retractions or other revisions. It is a solution to the fact that such changes are at best difficult to find — and are sometimes not mentioned at all on ‘current’ versions of papers.
That is the ‘Status’ tab on CrossMark. But the platform will also have a ‘Record’ tab that gives publishers a way to take the idea even further. They will be able to include material they didn’t produce, such as blog posts, media coverage, letters, additional data and metrics such as downloads.
You can read our whole commentary, in which we also question the troubling practice of allowing authors to make new claims in retraction and correction notices, sans peer review — here. (We have it from a higher authority that the naked Adam pictured holding a scientific paper might, or might not, be based on Adam.)
A final note: As Retraction Watch readers know, we tend to beat up on lots of journals, Nature and its sister journals certainly among them, so we appreciate the space they’ve given us in this week’s issue. We also appreciate the kind words from Nature Medicine, which called us “key people who made headlines this year, either by standing up for what they saw as right or by stopping what they felt was wrong.”