Posted on behalf of Andy Extance.
A German academic publisher that has journals of respected scientific societies among its titles has announced that it shut down its journal Pattern Recognition in Physics, citing what it calls nepotistic reviewing and malpractice. The firm, Copernicus Publications of Göttingen, Germany, was responding to a recent special issue on ‘solar variability’. “The special issue editors ultimately submitted their conclusions in which they ‘doubt the continued, even accelerated, warming as claimed by the IPCC project,'” the publisher wrote in its statement.
The move has quickly attracted the ire of climate-change sceptics. “I’m shocked at this censorship of science,” responded Roger Tattersall on his blog after the decision on Friday. Tattersall, a web-content editor at the School of Education of the University of Leeds, UK, has published papers in the journal and has served as one of its referees.
But Copernicus also cited concerns over how the troublesome special issue‘s authors reached their conclusion regarding the role of solar variability. Author names recur frequently on different papers, and Copernicus’ ‘public peer review’ reveals the same names again as editors and reviewers. “The editors selected the referees on a nepotistic basis, which we regard as malpractice in scientific publishing,” Copernicus asserted. Nature has requested comments from the editors of the now-defunct journal.
The journal was controversial from its outset, thanks partly to the two co-editors-in-chief, Sid-Ali Ouadfeul, from the Algerian Petroleum Institute in Boumerdès, and geophysicist Nils-Axel Morner, formerly of Stockholm University, but now retired.
In July 2013, Scholarly Open Access, a watchdog blog written by Jeffrey Beall, a Colorado librarian, warned that Ouadfeul had few journal citations to his name, and pointed to Morner’s reputation as a climate sceptic. Beall also saw a similar pattern to the special issue. “The journal so far contains only five articles: two articles by a co-editor (Ouadfeul), two by climate sceptics whose views align with the other editor (Morner), and one article bearing a significant amount of self-plagiarism,” he wrote at the time.
Copernicus, whose journals include titles published on behalf of scientific societies such as the European Geosciences Union, will keep the controversial papers available online, its statement said, but it now wants to “distance itself from the apparent misuse of the originally agreed aims and scope of the journal”.