Paraphrasing plagiarism? Who gets the DiRT? Coming to terms with conflicts of interest: CROs, practice guidelines, authors, editors, publishers. Future of peer review, sharing data more easily


  • Free Paraphrasing tools make evading plagiarism detection tools easier, requiring manual review to identify problems. The article provides useful tips to help identify such work. However, how does one determine whether the awkward phrasing that the paraphrasing tools may create is due to the tool or to lack of English writing fluency?

A troubling new way to evade plagiarism detection software. (And how to tell if it’s been used.) (Retraction Watch)

  • Retraction Watch and STAT announce the DiRT (do the right thing) award and the first recipient, apparently a judge who rejected a defamation lawsuit against a journal for expressions of concern.

Announcing the DiRT Award, a new “doing the right thing” prize — and its first recipient (Retraction Watch)



  • Challenges to trial integrity may occur when for-profit clinical research organizations (CROs) conduct international RCTs, as they’re doing more and more– as illustrated by the TOPCAT spironolactone study

Serious Questions Raised About Integrity Of International Trials (CardioBrief)

  • A JAMA theme issue on conflicts of interest includes some commentaries [some restricted access]; the following seem especially relevant to editors:

(1) Why There Are No “Potential” Conflicts of Interest By McCoy and Emanuel, who argue that conflicts of interest aren’t potential; there are conflicts of interest and ways to mitigate them

(2) Strategies for Addressing a Broader Definition of Conflicts of Interest by McKinney and Pierce: “[Conflict of interest] disclosure is thus useful as a minimum expectation, but is fundamentally insufficient. It is one tool in a toolbox, but no more.”

(3) Conflict of Interest in Practice Guidelines Panels by Hal Sox, including guidance from the Institute of Medicine, useful to editors who review such guidelines. “To accept a recommendation for practice, the profession and the public require a clear explanation of the reasoning linking the evidence to the recommendations. The balance of harms and benefits is a valuable heuristic for determining the strength of a recommendation, but this determination often involves a degree of subjectivity because harms and benefits seldom have the same units of measure. Because of these subjective elements, guideline development is vulnerable to biased judgments.”

(4) How Should Journals Handle the Conflict of Interest of Their Editors? Who Watches the “Watchers”? by Gottlieb and Bressler, who discuss current recommendations for how editors should handle their conflicts of interest. As is usually the case the advice does not address small journals with very few decision-making editors; other solutions may be needed in those cases.

(5) Medical Journals, Publishers, and Conflict of Interest by JAMA‘s publisher Tom Easley. This article pertains primarily to large journal-publisher relationships, but many journals have a different arrangement and additional guidance is needed.



  • Predatory Indian journals apply to DOAJ in large numbers

“Since March 2014, when the new criteria for DOAJ listing were put out, there have been about 1,600 applications from Open Access journal publishers in India…Of these, only 4% (74) were found to be from genuine publishers and accepted for inclusion in the DOAJ directory. While 18% applications are still being processed, 78% were rejected for various reasons. One of the main reasons for rejection is the predatory or dubious nature of the journals.”

” ‘Nearly 20% of the journals have a flashy impact factor and quick publication time, which are quick give-aways….Under contact address, some journal websites do not provide any address but just a provision for comments. In many cases, we have written to people who have been listed as reviewers to know if the journal website is genuine.’ ”

Predatory journals make desperate bid for authenticity (The Hindu)

  • A journal published by Gavin changes its name from Journal of Arthritis and Rheumatology in response to the American College of Rheumatology–to a name very similar to a different journal




BioMedCentral and Digital Science publish a report on “What might peer review look like in 2030?” and recommend:

  1. “Find new ways of matching expertise and reviews by better identifying, verifying and inviting peer reviewers (including using AI)
  2. Increase diversity in the reviewer pool (including early career researchers, researchers from different regions, and women)
  3. Experiment with different and new models of peer review, particularly those that increase transparency
  4. Invest in reviewer training programs
  5. Find cross-publisher solutions to improve efficiency and benefit all stakeholders, such as portable peer review
  6. Improve recognition for review by funders, institutions, and publishers
  7. Use technology to support and enhance the peer review process, including automation”

The Future of Peer Review (Scholarly Kitchen)



Angela Cochran blogs about the apparent failure of online commenting, but she defines success as percentage of papers with comments. If few letters to the editor are published do we consider them a waste? Maybe the approach isn’t mature yet. Ultimately. all PPPR comments need to be compiled with the article. If they’re useful to the commenters, some readers, and maybe the authors, that’s sufficient.

Should we stop with the commenting already? (Scholarly Kitchen)



Figshare releases new platform to help authors share data more easily

Figshare Launches New Tool for Publishers To Support Open Research (PRWeb)


Newsletter #8, first circulated May 8, 2017.  Sources of links include Retraction Watch, Stat News, Scholarly Kitchen. Providing the links does not imply WAME’s endorsement.


Why do researchers commit research misconduct? Should you publish a paper withdrawn (maybe) from a predatory journal? Should an editor also be a researcher? Researcher and reviewer gender gaps


Clinical trial registration and negative results

A study in BMJ tests the hypothesis that clinical trial registration should improve trial reporting and therefore increase the number of trials that do not report positive outcomes. Registered trials were slightly less likely to report positive results, particularly if they were not industry-funded. The authors did not compare the registered trial outcomes with the outcomes that were reported (they studied 1122 trials so that would have been a major undertaking). A great benefit of trial registration for editors and reviewers is  being able to determine whether outcome switching has occurred. If outcomes were switched, that could explain why trial registration was not associated with a larger reduction in positive results.
Another important observation: much of the trial reporting was poor, pointing out the importance of all authors using, and all medical journals requiring and verifying use of, CONSORT reporting (
Odutayo A, Emdin CA, Hsiao AJ. Association between trial registration and positive study findings: cross sectional study (Epidemiological Study of Randomized Trials—ESORT). BMJ 2017;356:j917. doi:


Why do researchers commit research misconduct? 

A case study with a chastening message for investigators (and a sobering message for editors): “He described how and why he started tampering with data. The first time it happened he had analyzed a dataset and the results were just shy of significance. Fox noticed that if he duplicated a couple of cases and deleted a couple of cases, he could shift the p-value to below .05. And so he did. Fox recognized that the system rewarded him, and his collaborators, not for interesting research questions, or sound methodology, but for significant results. When he showed his collaborators the findings they were happy with them-and happy with Fox.” What messages are investigators sending when research doesn’t turn out as hoped? “Hindsight’s a bitch:” Colleagues dissect painful retraction. Retraction Watch (blog). March 7, 2017.

Publishing a paper withdrawn from a predatory journal
What would you do if authors submitted a paper that they had unknowingly submitted to a predatory journal, then withdrew, but the predatory journal wouldn’t respond to confirm? COPE has published a case study on such an instance.
Withdrawal of accepted manuscript from predatory journal. Case Number 16-22. COPE.



The importance of research experience when evaluating research (blog):
“So pointing out why a study is not perfect is not enough: good criticism takes into account that research always involves a trade-off between validity and practicality… good research is always a compromise between experimental rigor, practical feasibility, and ethical considerations. To be able to appreciate this as a critic, it really helps to have been actively involved in research projects. I do not mean to say that we should become less critical, but rather that we become better constructive critics if we are able to empathize with the researcher’s goals and constraints.” The value of experience in criticizing research (Rolf Zwaag Blog)

Relationship between time to reject without review, the review process, and author satisfaction

An analysis across scientific fields, the authors find “One-third of journals take more than 2 weeks for an immediate (desk) rejection and one sixth even more than 4 weeks. This suggests that besides the time reviewers take, inefficient editorial processes also play an important role. As might be expected, shorter peer review processes and those of accepted papers are rated more positively by authors. More surprising is that peer review processes in the fields linked to long processes are rated highest and those in the fields linked to short processes lowest. Hence authors’ satisfaction is apparently influenced by their expectations regarding what is common in their field. Qualitative information provided by the authors indicates that editors can enhance author satisfaction by taking an independent position vis-à-vis reviewers and by communicating well with authors.” Huisman J, Smits J. Duration and quality of the peer review process: the author’s perspective. Scientometrics (2017). doi:10.1007/s11192-017-2310-5


Reporting race/ethnicity in research

“An explanation of who classified individuals as to race, ethnicity, or both, the classifications used, and whether the options were defined by the investigator or the participant should be included in the Methods section. The reasons that race/ethnicity was assessed in the study also should be described in the Methods section. ” Robinson JK, McMichael AJ, Hernandez C. Transparent Reporting of Demographic Characteristics of Study ParticipantsJAMA Dermatol. 2017;153(3):263-264. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2016.5978

What is happening with the researcher gender gap, in 12 countries?
A report from Elsevier (using Scopus): Gender in the Global Research Landscape . Analysis of research performance through a gender lens across 20 years, 12 geographies, and 27 subject areas. (2017)
and Scholarly Kitchen’s assessment: Alice Meadows. The Global Gender Gap: Research and Researchers Scholarly Kitchen Blog.

Is there a gender bias in selecting reviewers? 
Here we present evidence that women of all ages have fewer opportunities to take part in peer review. Using a large data set that includes the genders and ages of authors and reviewers from 2012 to 2015 for the journals of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), we show that women were used less as reviewers than expected…The bias is a result of authors and editors, especially male ones, suggesting women as reviewers less often, and a slightly higher decline rate among women in each age group when asked.
These findings underline the need for efforts to increase female scientists’ engagement in manuscript reviewing to help in the advancement and retention of women in science.” Lerback J, Hanson B. Journals invite too few women to referee. Nature | Comment, January 25, 2017.


BMJ will declare all its industry revenues, in the interest of transparency. Hear, hear! BMJ editor confirms that revenues from industry will be declared. BMJ 2015;351:h3908.


Newsletter #4, originally circulated March 16, 2017. Sources include Retraction Watch, COPE, LinkedIn, and Scholarly Kitchen. Providing the links and information does not imply WAME’s endorsement.