Clarifying a revisited retraction

Frontiers has issued a further statement on the retraction of our paper “Recursive Fury” (available at uwa.edu.au/recursivefury). This statement is signed by their editor in chief. It cannot be reconciled with the contractually agreed retraction statement signed by the journal and the authors on 20th March.

Whereas the agreed retraction statement clarified that the journal “…did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study”, the latest statement raises a concern about identification of ‘human subjects’ that escapes classification as anything other than an ethical issue.

This latest statement renders inescapable the following two conclusions:

  1. As detailed previously, Frontiers made no mention of their concern for human subjects throughout the past year during which they focused exclusively on the risk of defamation. It thus appears that the journal withheld its true concerns from us for a year or that they failed to discover those concerns until recently.
  2. The journal signed a retraction statement that they are now explicitly contradicting.

The latest statement furthermore claims that “all efforts were made to work with the authors to find a solution.” What that statement omits is the fact that we submitted another paper to Frontiers in January 2014 that was completely de-identified and that did not permit anyone to ascertain the identity of the people whose public statements were analyzed.

If Frontiers were concerned about identification of ‘human subjects’, why did they decline publication of a paper that was de-identified and written in compliance with their specific criteria to resolve this issue? The only grounds offered for this declination were continued concerns about defamation.

This declination sits uneasily with the journal’s current public focus on ‘human subjects.’

Whatever might have caused the journal to take multiple and conflicting public positions on their most widely-read paper, the evidence that they were at the receiving end of intimidation and bullying has become impossible to overlook with the growing number of individuals who are publicly claiming to have done so.

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