With standards and practices in academic journal publishing much under debate lately, an incident where a scientific journal is closed by its publisher on the grounds of content is going to attract some attention, especially when the journal has affiliations to a controversial area like climate change skepticism. This is what has happened in the case of Copernicus Publications and the open access journal Pattern Recognition in Physics (PRP). The publisher’s notice on the journal website states:

“The journal idea was brought to Copernicus’ attention and was taken rather critically in the beginning, since the designated Editors-in-Chief were mentioned in the context of the debates of climate skeptics. However, the initiators asserted that the aim of the journal was to publish articles about patterns recognized in the full spectrum of physical disciplines rather than to focus on climate-research-related topics.”

All the same, as the publisher noted, the magazine used a special issue on “Pattern in solar variability, their planetary origin and terrestrial impacts” to advance the conclusion that “doubt the continued, even accelerated, warming.” Furthermore, “the editors selected the referees on a nepotistic basis.”

None of this implies that the publication of properly conducted research that refutes climate change is wrong. But erosion of scientific standards and proper process or impartiality in research publication , including using an unconnected debate as a Trojan horse for entirely separate issues, is a completely different matter, as the publishers insist:

“Of course, scientific dispute is controversial and should allow contradictory opinions which can then be discussed within the scientific community. However, the recent developments including the expressed implications (see above) have led us to this drastic decision.”

The publisher also added in a separate letter to the editors: “Copernicus Publications cannot risk losing its excellent reputation in the scientific community.” PRP Editor in Chief Sid Ali Ouadfeul replied as follows (quoted at the same link): “I can not realize that one sentence on a conclusion of a scientific paper, even if it is true/wrong, it remains an opinion and anybody who is not ok with it is welcome to send his/her paper for discussion, can stop a project/result of hard work.” However, Sid Ali Ouadfeul’s own publishing track record and PRP’s standards in general had already been called into question by third parties well before Copernicus acted. So it looks so far, despite the bad press that some scientific publishers have attracted lately, that in this instance, Copernicus acted correctly.



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