Mar 022016

Designed by MichaelangeloIn a post not long ago on SCI-HUB and its importance for communicating science, I also made some remarks on the quality of topnotch journals. Don’t expect quality because it is expensive or has a so-called Impact Factor of significance. And now it rains gold on my modest point. PLOS ONE (reads Public Library of Science)  is a well renowned Open Access Journal (authors pay), with the following statement:

PLOS ONE upholds rigorous standards for quality. Every article we publish undergoes peer review led by one of approximately 6,000 PLOS ONE Academic Editors.

On 5 January, the journal published a long article about human hand biomechanics. An eye-opener for many on how wrong things can go, but there was some latency before the article became widely known. Already the abstract got the scientific society to turn to twitter #HandOfGod, blogs and other social media for exclamations (this is just one):

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

It is actually quite funny. A long text on the intelligent and purposeful design of the human hand and – blasphemically – how it can be model for robot hands:

The clear link between the structure and the function of the human hand also suggests that the design of a multifunctional robotic hand should be able to better imitate such basic architecture.

Obviously there was no editing or review of this contribution, and it was probably hit by a wholly inadvertent blunder somewhere along the way. S happens. It is surprising, however,  that PLOS ONE do not retract the paper . Retraction Watch has already set out the net.

Could it happen with fish papers? Sure, worse stuff gets published all the time but you are not likely to read much about it here because I am of the opinion that I should not comment on particular fish research here, but only in scientific peer reviewed publications. But papers on intelligent design are not scientific, and it is really amusing when they slip into  respectable journals.

Has something like this happened before?  Yes, creationsists are bragging about it here, but note that most journals publishing their pseudoscience are of lesseer quality. A major scandal was a paper in the well-renowned Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington in 2004. Do we have to be afraid that pseudoscience takes over? No, only real science can provide reliable explanations of the world and its history. LOL!

Only today, PLOS editors have reacted to their own temporary demise:

PLOS ONE editors apologize that language wasn’t addressed pre-publication. We’re looking into concerns w/ priority.

As if language were the problem …Where were the reviewers, the editors?

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