An author submitted part of his PhD thesis as a paper. The section editor of the journal asked the PhD supervisor to review the paper. This induced a very heated response from the reviewer who made various claims regarding the paper:
The author does not credit one of the tests he uses in his work
There is no proper acknowledgement of co-workers who perhaps should have been co-authors (including the reviewer himself).
The manuscript is similar to others—one published with the reviewer’s name but without his consent
The author is taking credit for work done by others—most notably the reviewer
The author has refuted many, if not all, of the allegations
What should the editor do now? He has invited advice from the university who awarded the PhD, but is not sure what standpoint the university will take, particularly if there is any allegation of misconduct at a scientific level which can be supported by hard evidence. At the moment, the editor is inclined to go ahead with publication and call the reviewer’s bluff. However, this might be expensive in litigation.
COPE advises the editor to back off this one and let the university sort it out. The editor should certainly not publish the paper or do anything further until the university reaches a judgement.
The editor informed COPE that the reviewer who had complained about the author plagiarising his work had backed down. The paper was re-reviewed in the normal way.
Two authors wrote to me to ask if they could publish a scientific paper anonymously. The authors work in a general practice that had switched its cervical cytology contract from one laboratory to another. Some time after the switch they noticed that the rate of abnormal smears had almost doubled. This has profound implications for the practice and particularly for the women whose smears were positive. The authors said that they wanted to publish their findings anonymously because: “We have no wish to blame or criticise anyone, even though some of our patients have been harmed by unnecessary distress and anxiety. We simply want to highlight the limitations of the test.” What does the committee think I should do?
The assumption is that everything should be signed and there is no adequate reason for anonymisation. Writing a paper is like signing a cheque and the authors must be prepared to take the responsibility. The laboratories concerned could be anonymised. The distinction is that this is a scientific paper and the authors have to be prepared to stand by what they report and therefore they must sign as authors (cf, a personal view). This case is not so different from the cases of results which did not agree with established dogma. The case epitomises a lack of confidence and must not be anonymised. All the case does is make the variability between laboratories explicit; it is not saying one laboratory is better than the other. Conclusion To refuse the authors their request of anonymity: the study is not novel anyway.