By David Tuller, DrPH
I recently noted that BMJ Paediatrics Open did not publish the peer review history of a 2021 study from a team led by Professor Esther Crawley, Bristol University’s methodologically and ethically challenged pediatrician and grant magnet. The study (Clery et al) was titled “Qualitative study of the acceptability and feasibility of acceptance and commitment therapy for adolescents with chronic fatigue syndrome.”
BMJ Paediatrics Open, like many so-called “open” journals, highlights its “open peer review” process. Here’s a statement from the journal’s website:
“Articles submitted to BMJ Paediatrics Open are subject to external open peer review; at least two external reviewer reports are obtained before an Original research, Protocol or Review article is accepted for publication…Upon publication, all previous versions of the manuscript are made available, as are the reviewers’ comments and authors’ replies to those comments. Exceptions are made only when an article is accepted based on reviews received at another BMJ journal and the reviewers have not granted permission for their reviews to be posted online.“
Perhaps BMJ Paediatrics Open did not peer review Clery et al, or perhaps it did but did not publish the peer review history, for whatever reason. To try to clarify what happened, I have sent the following to Imti Choonare, the journal’s editor-in-chief and a professor emeritus in child health at the University of Nottingham.
Letter to BMJ Paediatrics Open
Professor Imti Choonara
University of Nottingham
BMJ Paediatrics Open
Dear Professor Choonara—
Last October, BMJ Paediatrics Open published an article called “Qualitative study of the acceptability and feasibility of acceptance and commitment therapy for adolescents with chronic fatigue syndrome” (Clery et al). The senior author was Professor Esther Crawley, from Bristol University. The “article info” page does not include any links for the peer review history. (I have written a post about this paper for Virology Blog, a website hosted by Professor Vincent Racaniello, a Columbia University microbiologist.)
Given BMJ Paediatric Open’s open peer review policy, does this absence indicate that Clery et al was not peer reviewed? If it wasn’t, why was that? If it was peer reviewed, can you explain why the peer review history was not posted, and can you provide it now?
Thank you for your attention to this matter. (As a back-up, I have cc-d a journal deputy editor, Dr Malcolm Brodlie, from Newcastle University, and Dr Philippa Clery, the paper’s corresponding author, from Bristol University. Since I plan to post this letter on Virology Blog, I have also cc-d Professor Racaniello.)
David Tuller, DrPH
Senior Fellow in Public Health and Journalism
Center for Global Public Health
School of Public Health
University of California, Berkeley
Thank you David, Be interesting to read their reply.
More shoddy work from the UK. It’s an embarrassment.
I wonder if the information isn’t available due to imaginary harassment or if the peer reviewer(s) works closely with the author(s) or has the same fixed agenda. We’ll see hopefully.
The scientific-paper-realm has been changing from a most-informative and most-useful realm into a too-many-bad papers not being noticed realm (Gone but Not Forgotten: Retracted COVID-19 Papers Still Cited).
Let’s hope the bad papers epidemic is restricted to COVID-19 papers.