How should a journal deal with persistent complainers?
The topic for discussion at this Forum was ‘How should a journal deal with persistent complainers?’
Every so often a journal may get not one, but a series of complaints from the same source. These complaints may be directed at an author, an editor, or the journal in general. If these complaints turn out to be well founded, obviously there is a serious problem with the publication. However, we are aware of cases where a complainant continuously comes up with cases that turn out to be baseless. Some complaints deal with matters outside the remit of the journal: for example, in one case an editor was accused of blocking a promotion; in another case, several journals received weekly (plagiarism) allegations against papers published by an editor-in-chief apparently because the complainant was not content with the outcome of an earlier unrelated investigation conducted by the editor-in-chief.
Other complaints are about publications. We have seen one complaint that alleges plagiarism, but evidence presented consisted only of common English phrases like “…has been proven to”, “In previous research, we observed that…”. There are also authors that insist repeatedly on a journal publishing comments to earlier comments, and do not accept that a certain topic has been closed.
In other cases, complainants accuse articles with similar titles of plagiarism whereas the content turns out to be entirely different. Finally, we receive complaints from researchers who insist that their work should have been cited, “as it is so important”. When the above happens on an incidental basis, editors can deal with such cases by following the standard procedure. However, how should they act when the complaints do not stop, get personal, and start humming around the community?
- How prevalent is this situation?
- What are legitimate options to deal with such cases?
- Should one escalate to higher authorities (lawyers, employing institutes)?
- How to repair any reputational damage incurred by unfounded accusations?
- Is there any way to prevent such cases (for example, through stated policy)?
- Should editors react to messages posted on blogs and forums?
- What is the role of publishers to investigate journals who receive such issues?
This is an extract. Refer to the PDF for the full discussion document
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14 September 2021
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