An online post-publication literature evaluation service, aiming to highlight the best articles in medicine, received an evaluation of an article on which the evaluator was listed as an author on PubMed. The editor queried the evaluation and the evaluator replied explaining s/he had no involvement with the study but had commented on it. When the editor looked at the full text HTML version on the journal website, the evaluator was not listed as an author on the article but featured as an author on the side-bar search tool. When the editor looked for the commentary in the HTML version, it could not be found. Only when the editor looked at the full text PDF version could the commentary then be read, where it was included on the last page of the article. Essentially, the article and commentary were published as one. The editor discussed the issue within an in-house editorial meeting, to ascertain whether the evaluation should be accepted, given that although the evaluator commented on the page, s/he was listed as an author. It was also discussed whether the evaluator might be too involved with the original article and it might be construed as self-promotion.
Questions we would like to ask COPE:
(1) Would you have taken a different course of action?
(2) Would you feel differently if the competing interest was that he/she was the peer reviewer?
(3) This is a form of consensus paper; therefore, it would be hard to find any expert/evaluator who was not involved in some way (it is very difficult to find anyone who hasn't been involved or consulted in the writing process). Could you offer any advice on how we could get round this?
(4) Since the evaluator appears as an author on PubMed, but not on the journal’s website, should it be our responsibility to raise this issue with the journal?
The committee thought that this might simply be an error. In the first instance, the advice from committee was to contact PubMed and the journal in question, to see if an error has been made, as the paper and commentary, although linked, should be two distinct entities. Further advice was to re-check the contributorship statements from the evaluator.