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Follow-up Notification from PLOS Staff

Posted by PLOS_ONE_Group on 03 Mar 2016 at 19:45 GMT

The PLOS ONE editors have followed up on the concerns raised about this publication. We have completed an evaluation of the history of the submission and received advice from two experts in our editorial board. Our internal review and the advice we have received have confirmed the concerns about the article and revealed that the peer review process did not adequately evaluate several aspects of the work.

In light of the concerns identified, the PLOS ONE editors have decided to retract the article, the retraction is being processed and will be posted as soon as possible. We apologize for the errors and oversight leading to the publication of this paper.

No competing interests declared.

RE: Follow-up Notification from PLOS Staff

canofuncanny replied to PLOS_ONE_Group on 03 Mar 2016 at 19:56 GMT

With multiple parties having been involved in the peer review process (I assume there were 2-3 reviewers, and 1 handling editor), this kind of oversight seems less like a simple mistake and more like a systemic failure. Retraction is a good first step, but it doesn't seem like it's enough given the gravity of this situation. What steps will be taken to ensure this doesn't happen again in the future?

No competing interests declared.

RE: Follow-up Notification from PLOS Staff

DanMadularu replied to PLOS_ONE_Group on 03 Mar 2016 at 20:02 GMT

Great, but an explanation is owed to the scientific community (especially those of us who published here), as to why/how this happened, as it now will put doubt on every article that has been, and will be published here. Why was this paper accepted on initial submission? What are the reviewer comments? What are the editor's comments?

No competing interests declared.

RE: RE: Follow-up Notification from PLOS Staff

diaemus replied to DanMadularu on 04 Mar 2016 at 10:20 GMT

Couldn't agree more!

No competing interests declared.

RE: Follow-up Notification from PLOS Staff

robertkraus replied to PLOS_ONE_Group on 03 Mar 2016 at 20:10 GMT

I agree with some other commentors, please shed more light and be mroe transparent. Also offer your view on how you will improve to re-gain oversight. This could be in the form of an Editorial where you recapitulate on the history of this case and give as much info on all steps as fairly as possible to all involved parties. Conclude how you will improve your journal management to assure this is not happening again.

No competing interests declared.

RE: RE: Follow-up Notification from PLOS Staff

keesvanoers replied to robertkraus on 03 Mar 2016 at 20:38 GMT

Respect for this quick action. I sincerely hope PLOS takes this opportunity to critically evaluate their reviewing process and provide the scientific community with an explanation of how this happened.

No competing interests declared.

RE: Follow-up Notification from PLOS Staff

msole replied to PLOS_ONE_Group on 03 Mar 2016 at 20:38 GMT

Dear editors,
thank you very much for the quick actions. As you'll see we are already being featured by Nature:
http://www.nature.com/new...

We should look at the positive aspects of that "incident": The whole peer-review system is collapsing. Editors are overloaded with work and every week we face several deadlines, peer reviews, project reports, steering committees...
For how long shall that go on?

No competing interests declared.

RE: Follow-up Notification from PLOS Staff

devilsadvocate2 replied to PLOS_ONE_Group on 03 Mar 2016 at 20:40 GMT

Just to play the devil advocate... or in this case am i god's advocate? haha

Anyway I posted this on the main page but thought I would post it here as well. I think another piece of information that should be taken into account is that the writer of the paper (or one of them) is clearly not a native English speaker. Maybe I'm a harsh critic but the majority of that paper is NOT written well.

Poor grammar and wording COULD be playing a bigger role here so I just thought I would give my 2 cents.

Also in regards to the paper itself. I think that the mistake of Creator vs. Nature is reasonably valid. Most who are interpreting this "religious" influence are coming from the stance of Western Society. I honestly know very little about Eastern religion but as the authors note they only used the word Creator three times and it is not clear whether they are referring to a deity.

""Perhaps "the Creator" is more akin to "Mother Nature" in some anthropomorphism of nature. NOT that this kind of language has any place in scientific literature but not all writers are equally deft.""

"The explicit functional link indicates that the biomechanical characteristic of tendinous connective architecture between muscles and articulations is the proper design by ""the Creator"" to perform a multitude of daily tasks in a comfortable way."

The grammar in the last part of the sentence is bad. "is the proper design" is probably the most controversial statement they made. Seemingly suggests that nature was designed. But the alternative interpretation would be the scientists' personal amazement as the ability of perfect hand to have come about naturally.

"Thus, hand coordination affords humans the ability to flexibly and comfortably control the complex structure to perform numerous tasks. Hand coordination should indicate the mystery of ""the Creator?s invention""."

Again terrible grammar in the last sentence. It almost seems as if this is a problem caused by an error in translation. Its hard to decipher what they are trying to say here. What is the mystery? Mystery could have meant complexity but its not clear - very poor word choice.

"In conclusion, our study can improve the understanding of the human hand and confirm that the mechanical architecture is the proper design by ""the Creator"" for dexterous performance of numerous functions following the evolutionary remodeling of the ancestral hand for millions of years. Moreover, functional explanations for the mechanical architecture of the muscular-articular connection of the human hand can also aid in developing multifunctional robotic hands by designing them with similar basic architecture."

Here I think nature works. Nature somehow created a perfect hand (based on subjective criteria). Again this may be interpreted as: this feature, that is hands, is particularly well suited to its goal and very refined [maybe in comparison to other features? - although evolution has given rise to many interesting features].

No competing interests declared.

RE: RE: Follow-up Notification from PLOS Staff

hame replied to devilsadvocate2 on 03 Mar 2016 at 21:17 GMT

"NOT that this kind of language has any place in scientific literature"
-> this is sufficient.
Also, the fact that 'terrible grammar' got through the peer review process is just another problem, not an excuse for the wording 'Creator'.

No competing interests declared.

RE: RE: RE: Follow-up Notification from PLOS Staff

devilsadvocate2 replied to hame on 03 Mar 2016 at 21:59 GMT

Sure but does an error in translation merit RETRACTION or would it be more appropriate to CORRECT the manuscript. I would hope for the latter.

There are papers in top journals that have typos and grammatical errors. Enforcing very strict rules would be a significant barrier to scientists from non-English speaking countries.

Suppressing good science because of poor word choice (albeit VERY polemic in this case and easily construed as anti-science ideology) is not good for the field as a whole.

No competing interests declared.

RE: RE: RE: RE: Follow-up Notification from PLOS Staff

hame replied to devilsadvocate2 on 03 Mar 2016 at 22:14 GMT

as mentioned elsewhere by other commenters, it is doubtful to think that it was a matter of english proficiency.
the authors used the term Creator within the context of 'design'. they also used uppercase C.
nobody is saying non-english speakers should be disadvantaged. however, scientific journals should be able to convey
clear and concise content in the common working language which is on earth, currently, english.
therefore using plain and correct english is a must. most of the non-native english
speaking scientists take the effort and do a good job on this.
anyway, as i said grammar is not the issue here.

No competing interests declared.

RE: RE: Follow-up Notification from PLOS Staff

david_marjanovic replied to devilsadvocate2 on 03 Mar 2016 at 23:40 GMT

"Also in regards to the paper itself. I think that the mistake of Creator vs. Nature is reasonably valid. Most who are interpreting this "religious" influence are coming from the stance of Western Society. I honestly know very little about Eastern religion but"

And then a whole screen full of speculation follows. http://explosm.net/comics...

"Here I think nature works. Nature somehow created a perfect hand"

No, that's too bad a metaphor to be published. It's gravely misleading.

No competing interests declared.

RE: Follow-up Notification from PLOS Staff

rcpinto replied to PLOS_ONE_Group on 03 Mar 2016 at 20:51 GMT

Having previously published work on PLOS One (and it was not cheap), it seems my paper is worth nothing right now, unless you fully disclose the entire peer review process that took place here and make it clear that this was an isolated case.

No competing interests declared.

RE: Follow-up Notification from PLOS Staff

ArthurDent replied to PLOS_ONE_Group on 03 Mar 2016 at 21:18 GMT

So now you retract a paper for being blasphemic?
Seriously though, how many PLOS One papers with rigged peer review are out there, which no-one will ever find out because the authors did not evoke a divine fantasy being in their abstract? Time to start publishing your peer review reports!
Yours,
Leonid Schneider
https://forbetterscience....

No competing interests declared.

RE: Follow-up Notification from PLOS Staff

LeeDugatkin replied to PLOS_ONE_Group on 03 Mar 2016 at 21:51 GMT

This sounds like it was written a political speech writer, and falls far short of acceptable. The next step of many should be to dismiss the editor who handled the paper - Renzhi Han, Ohio State University Medical Center.
Lee Dugatkin, Lee.Dugatkin@Louisville.edu

No competing interests declared.

RE: Follow-up Notification from PLOS Staff

easouti replied to PLOS_ONE_Group on 03 Mar 2016 at 23:24 GMT

It will be necessary to publish in its entirety the full editorial process, including reviewers comments and editorial decisions and actions from the point of submission to the point of publication. Merely retracting the paper will not mend the reputational damage inflicted upon PLOS ONE and everyone who has contributed to it, as an author or reviewer or both.

No competing interests declared.

RE: Follow-up Notification from PLOS Staff

jorge_ibannez replied to PLOS_ONE_Group on 04 Mar 2016 at 08:02 GMT

Glad to know about your prompt response to this unfortunate incident. However, this is nothing but the first step to clear the reputation of the journal and, by extension, the reputation of all of us that trusted the journal to disseminate our work. The repair will not be even half complete until all responsibilities of this event are publicly known. That means full disclosure of all the details of the revision process.

I take the opportunity to suggest the journal that this event can eventually turn into an overall positive outcome if such policy of full transparency is make default for all submissions. This policy will acknowledge the efforts that devoted reviewers, and expose the negligent behaviour of others. An essential side effect is the protection of the trustworthy authors from unfaithful reviewers, and the reduction of fraud among cliques of unfaithful peers. In addition, the review process is an integral part of scientific knowledge production, and this secrecy-based policy is no longer sustainable.

Of course, this trend should be paralleled by a change in the agencies that evaluate our work, crediting reviewing as another essential part of scientific production. But this is an ill-defined chicken-and-egg problem, and someone has to start rolling the snowball for anything to start to change. Obviously governmental agencies across the globe behave like bureaucratic elephants, so this challenge must be taken by those individuals and small organizations who directly produce and distribute science.

In sum, with these measures, the overall quality and transparency of contemporary of academic production can only improve the current shameful state.

No competing interests declared.

RE: Follow-up Notification from PLOS Staff

Otangelo1 replied to PLOS_ONE_Group on 04 Mar 2016 at 16:17 GMT

The proposition of intelligent design is that intelligence is the best explanation as causal agent and origin of cosmological, physical,chemical, biological, and ecological systems observed in the natural world. As a scientific theory, ID predictions can and have been tested :

The PLOS ONE staff may not have acknowledged yet, but ID theory is gaining ground in the last 3 decades:

Intelligent design theories gaining steam in scientific circles 1

http://reasonandscience.h...

The scientific endaveour has not brought us the ample and wide confirmation of Darwins theory of evolution, nor to the overwhelming conclusion that natural forces alone explain our existence. Rather than that, the gap is widening more the more time pasts, and rather than explaining natural phenomenas through naturalism, the end of the road is a big question mark, and unanswered questions.

Open questions in biology, biochemistry, and evolution

http://reasonandscience.h...

A reflection of the foundation of what science is, and what propositions should be permitted, and which not, may be well applied.

http://www.ise.ox.ac.uk/_...

There is overwhelming agreement amongst naturalists that a naturalistic ontology should not allow for the possibility of supernatural entities. I argue, against this prevailing consensus, that naturalists have no proper basis to oppose the existence of supernatural entities. Naturalism is characterized, following Leiter and Rea, as a position which involves a primary commitment to scientific methodology and it is argued that any naturalistic ontological commitments must be compatible with this primary commitment. It is further argued that properly applied scientific method has warranted the acceptance of the existence of supernatural entities in the past and that it is plausible to think that it will do so again in the future. So naturalists should allow for the possibility of supernatural entities.

I might add that i personally would not go that far. I would imho rather point out that there is no reason to permit only natural explanations into scientific publications :

Richard Lewontin, Billions and billions of demons, The New York Review, p. 31, January 9, 1997

We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfil many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.


There are two possible causal agents for natural phenomena, that is , a intelligent agency, and a " natural " agency. There is no justification to apply a pressupositional stance that only natural mechanisms should be permitted, and design inferences excluded a priori.


I encourage the PLOS ONE stuff to think about the situation , and pioneer a healthy debate about the foundation of modern science.

No competing interests declared.

RE: Follow-up Notification from PLOS Staff

snapolit replied to PLOS_ONE_Group on 04 Mar 2016 at 20:33 GMT

It's so easy to blaim it on the peer review process, implying that reviewers are responsable for this problem. Reviewers should focus on the technical validity of the manuscript, while the editorial board should care about the language. I've often reviewed papers written in a very poor English, but I usually do not comment on that, both because I'm not a native English speaker and because the editor in charge (especially in journals with publication fees!!!) should care about the language. I actually find "offensive" the fact that an editor dares to send a not clearly written text out for review. This attitude implies that editors do not care about reviewers.
The editor who dealt with this manuscript should resign, and I hope the authors got refunded for their publication fees.

No competing interests declared.