Post-publication peer review and legal clashes: Should researchers be wary of commenting publicly?

“The recent case of a defamation suit filed against PubPeer an online forum for anonymous, post-publication peer review—has created a buzz in the scientific community. The lawsuit has been filed by Fazlul Sarkar, a cancer researcher at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, the author of more than 500 papers, and a principal investigator for more than $1,227,000 in active grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, on the grounds that anonymous derogatory comments posted on the site about his work cost him his job. Sarkar wants to uncover the identities of the anonymous commentators and press legal charges against them. This incident has brought to the fore several doubts academicians have long harbored about post-publication peer review such as:

Would scientists be wary of commenting about a paper’s inaccuracy for the fear of legal action?
To what extent should law interfere with science?
Should whistleblowers be offered legal protection? ”

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Autor: Klaus Graf

Historiker und Archivar, Blogger

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