14 Jun 2007

The perils of editing

The editor of Fertility and Sterility has apologized to authors he accused of plagiarism and lying in The Scientist. Without getting into the rights and wrongs of this particular case, the legal threats flying back and forth serve to highlight why you need to tred carefully when accusing authors of misconduct!

Brian Deer in the BMJ recently reported on the controversy surrounding Mark Geier, a brave move for the journal's editors considering Dr Geier's familiarity with litigation, and also considering that they had recently apologised and paid £100,000 to Matthias Rath, another controversial doctor who they had accused of fraud.

It is fortunately not too often that journals receive threats of legal action, but I remember one author saying that he would sue us for rejecting his article; I remember, as I had handled that manuscript. Peter Newmark, our Editor-in-Chief at the time, gave this pretty short shrift, and sent the authors a response that put quite plainly his dim view of them threatening one of his editors like that. They didn't sue.

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