From: Michael Magoulias <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Thu, 10 Mar 2016 16:49:19 +0000
I would question this view of numerical significance, Rick. First, if
you are going to say that three isn't enough, then someone will
inevitably come back with the question "well, what is enough, then?"
Whatever answer you give will be just as open to the charge of
arbitrariness. There is no getting around the fact that at any
numerical marker of significance (which is a judgement of value, and
therefore unavoidably subjective and arbitrary) will not persuade all
of the people all of the time.
Secondly, everything is context dependent. There are plenty of cases
where three is more than enough to take action. Three deaths from a
prescription drug already administered to hundreds of thousands of
patients can be enough to pull the drug from the market. One case of
strep throat or head lice has been known to cause parents to freak
out. One instance of plagiarism can destroy a career. In the context
of scholarly journals, where the place of publication can have a
massive impact on one's employment prospects, a single highly
publicized case of exceptionally poor quality control could very well
change submission behaviors significantly.
A journal is just as much as set of perceptions as it is a collection
of articles. These perceptions are shared by communities within which
word travels fast. As you will remember from several Scholarly Kitchen
posts, PLOS's impact factor and submission numbers were already in
decline prior to this most recent incident. If you have been following
the commentary in the news media and the blogosphere as well, then you
will have noted that this particular article has elicited negative
assessments that extend beyond its immediate occasion from many more
than three scientists. This is not to deny, of course, that there have
also been defenders of PLOS. My original comments in any event were
framed by the suggestion -- not a categorical statement -- that there
were reasons to think that a trend in the perception of PLOS One on
the part of authors/scientists (not publishers or librarians) was
emerging. There are plenty of people who don't like that suggestion
for any number of reasons, but that in itself is not enough to
discount it. The weight of existing evidence, provisional though it
may be, still seems more in its favor than not.
From: Rick Anderson <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Wed, 9 Mar 2016 01:55:35 +0000
>I thought it was worth making my comments since all three of these
>cases -- and if you want to call them "anecdotal," it's worth keeping
>in mind that anecdotes can be just as empirically valid as anything
Not if you’re using three of them as a basis on which to draw broad
conclusions about a very large data set. PLOS One publishes tens of
thousands of articles every year. Three anecdotes about poor editorial
oversight, in this context, do not constitute a valid sample.
>So if you want to defend PLOS, the only recourse you can have is to
>some version of "not every single article it publishes is quite that
>awful" or, to quote the Osmund Brothers: "one bad apple don't spoil the
>whole bunch, girl.
I can’t speak for everyone else who has responded to you, Michael, but
I have no interest in either defending or attacking PLOS. I do think
it’s important to base criticisms on valid and rigorous data, though.
Assoc. Dean for Collections & Scholarly Communication
Marriott Library, University of Utah
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