Open-Access Journal Publishes Review Article with Questionable CoI Statement

The Open Urology & Nephrology Journal

Open to anything?

An open-access publisher from the United Arab Emirates has published an article with a conflict-of-interest statement that itself may have a conflict of interest. Here’s the explanation.

The publisher is Bentham Open, one of the open-access publishers on my earliest list of questionable OA publishers created about five years ago. Bentham Open publishes The Open Urology & Nephrology Journal, one of over one hundred low-quality journals in the firm’s portfolio.

The article in question is “Gonadotoxic Effects of DBCP: A Historical Review and Current Concepts” by Kathleen Hwang, Michael L. Eisenberg, Rustin C. Walters, and Larry I. Lipshultz. It was published in 2013.

DBCP is a pesticide, and the review article seems to question whether the compound is as harmful as earlier research has asserted, finding,

Despite the lack of substantive scientific data indicating a causal relationship between testis failure and the agricultural application of DBCP, extensive litigation continued and extends even to the present day (p. 29).

The article includes this conflict-of-interest statement:

Conflict-of-interest statement

Strangest CoI statement ever?

I find this statement to be ambiguous and perhaps unprofessional. Scientific articles do not have personal “interests”.

Is the statement purposefully written this way to shield the authors from not declaring any possible conflicts-of-interest? In other words, does this statement allow the authors to say, “We never said WE had no conflicts of interest”?

A 2015 letter-to-the-editor by Susanna Bohme published in the journal takes the authors to task and states,

There is little debate that DBCP is gonadotoxic in men. However, Hwang et al.’s interpretation of studies of exposed agricultural workers suggests that exposures in this population pose no important risk. The authors fail to adequately report the findings of the studies they consider, and omit other important scientific information (p. 56).

The letter also discusses the ambiguous conflict-of-interest statement attached to the article, asserting that one of the authors does indeed have what may be a significant conflict of interest, as he served as an expert witness for the defense in lawsuits making DBCP damage claims. Despite the problems identified in the letter, no known relevant action has been taken by the authors.

The journal charged the author of the letter, Dr. Bohme, an author fee to publish it.

Were the authors using the easy acceptance that author-pays, scholarly journals offer to make the compound appear less harmful than it really is?

Conclusion

If someone has an interest in a compound and wants to make it appear more efficacious or safe than it really is, whether to sell it or to protect against lawsuits, dozens of predatory journals stand ready to publish these claims in the form of a scholarly article.

Similarly, if a researcher wants to make unscientific claims about a compound and avoid having to declare any conflicts-of-interest, predatory journals provide an easy means to do this.

18 Responses to Open-Access Journal Publishes Review Article with Questionable CoI Statement

  1. Marcos says:

    Jeffrey, is it common for a journal to charge for publishing a letter to the editor? Do any honest OA publisher that you know about do this?

    It seems to me that charging for a letter like this could strongly preclude authors to write letters criticizing papers, and this could be harmful.

    It does not surprise me if a predatory publisher charges for this, but I’m curious if any other publishers have this procedure.

  2. An editor at TOUNJ informed me that they’ve never received a letter to the editor before, and they thought it was because of the charge.

  3. tekija says:

    What about the CoI policy of Dove Press? A prime example:

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/25587217

  4. wkdawson says:

    Jeffery,

    You’re surely naive if you think publication of science is without conflict of interest (COI). It depends on the field and the topics in the field. Some areas I have observed are quite fair and work in the spirit of science, others I find not. Most often COI seems to involve fiefdoms rather than a sellout to business interests, but such is hardly a surprise. Science also has its politicians.

    At any rate, it is surprising to see is a journal that charges for a short letter to the editor. It seems hardly in the interests of even the most corrupt of corrupt journals, as publishing counter opinions would help advertise their operation and give the _appearance_ of fairness and a self-correcting spirit — the one feeble thread that helps good science eventually win over the politicians who succeed in corrupting it for a time.

    • MC says:

      This was a bizarre way to introduce your argument. Surely you would know that Dr Beall has an understanding of how potential conflicts of interests relate to dissemination of information.

      It’s not surprising that a questionable publisher would charge for publication of a letter (or a corrigendum, or an erratum, or an extra line of text, or ‘too many’ references, or too many e’s in a single paragraph…..), and I’m also not surprised that a low tier journal that is largely ignored and largely useless had “never received” a letter before.

      • wkdawson says:

        Sorry for the late reply. I wasn’t notified of a comment. I somehow misread the statement thinking Jeffrey wrote something else.

        You may be right about questionable publishers, but it is still true that it isn’t in their best interest if they want to redeem themselves and become legitimate.

  5. Jake Bundy says:

    A brief Google search indicates that that exact phrase has been used several times before – largely (but not exclusively) in Bentham journals. Seems far more likely to me that it’s a badly-written phrase that has been copied verbatim from a template or journal website than some kind of maladroit attempt to escape admission of a CoI.

    • MC says:

      Maybe so, but one would hope, then, that either the authors who are copying and pasting this statement forward or a journal editor who is publishing it, would realise this and take an English class.

  6. Harry Hab says:

    So – who are Kathleen Hwang, Michael L. Eisenberg, Rustin C. Walters, and Larry I. Lipshultz? What is there affiliation, are there ties to companies that might manufacture this compound?

  7. […] Here’s an odd disclosure statement, courtesy of Jeffrey Beall: “The authors confirm that this article content has no conflicts of interest.” […]

  8. ‘The Open Ornithology Journal’ is another journal of Bentham Open. Quite a few recent papers in this journal list “PATIENT’S CONSENT Declared none.” This is also the case for papers without information about Humans (H. sapiens).

    An example is http://benthamopen.com/contents/pdf/TOOENIJ/TOOENIJ-7-55.pdf Please note that the first author is the EiC of this journal. I am curious about opinions of native speakers of English about the level of English in this paper. This paper does not list the name of the photographers of the pictures of the birds depicted in figure 1 (page 58).

    http://benthamopen.com/contents/pdf/TOOENIJ/TOOENIJ-8-10.pdf is an example of a paper with details about Humans and birds (“Lake use by three avian piscivores and Humans”). Still with the statement [ “PATIENT’S CONSENT Declared none.” ].

    http://benthamopen.com/contents/pdf/TOOENIJ/TOOENIJ-6-52.pdf is a paper with two authors and with a COI statement which lists: [“CONFLICT OF INTEREST. The author(s) confirm that this article content has no conflicts of interest.”]

    • MC says:

      ” I am curious about opinions of native speakers of English about the level of English in this paper.”

      The first article is written poorly, but it is more read-able than some of the other stuff that gets published in other predatory journals. However, when the first sentence isn’t grammatically correct, it’s hard to give out too much credit:

      “Songbirds evolution (Aves, Passeriformes, Passeri) have
      frequently been studied.”

      I also liked this:

      “DISCUSSION
      Some topics and questions arise from our results. ”

      haha, right….

      I am unhappy to see that none of the birds consented to being studied.

  9. Sajjad Ahmed says:

    Dear Bell,
    Kindly analyzed it;
    https://www.lap-publishing.com/site/how-to-publish/14
    Regards,

  10. nooduan Muangsan says:

    Dear Bell,
    Kindly analyzed it;
    http://eacbee.org/registration.php

    Regards,

    • Okay, this is a conference organized by the Emirates Association of Chemical, Biological & Environment Engineers. I generally limit my work to scholarly open-access publishers. I have not heard of any problems with this conference.

Leave a Reply -- All comments are subject to moderation, including removal.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: