Volume 86 Issue 34 | p. 4 | Letters
Issue Date: August 25, 2008

Journal Publishing Impact

Department: Letters

SOPHIE ROVNER’S ARTICLE “The Import of Impact” is making the rounds here in Australia, where the new Labor government is trying its hand at funding according to some oversimplified conglomerate assessment of research impact (C&EN, May 26, page 39). Thank you for a great update on an ever-evolving but incessant source of frustration among us.

I found several comments from James Pringle of Thomson Reuters particularly interesting. He acknowledges that “there’s going to be some small percentage of things that need to be corrected,” adding that “the company fixes errors brought to its attention by authors and publishers.” Pringle later states, “Evaluation, particularly where individuals are involved, has to be done extremely carefully, because one is dealing with people’s careers.”

Unfortunately, this diligence is not evident in daily operations at Thomson Scientific. In 2007, I notified Thomson of errors I found with the spelling of an author’s name in several database items. These errors potentially caused this scientist, unrelated to me, to lose all-important citations.

In return, Thomson instructed me to “Please send through copies of the original articles where these errors occur, so that we may compare and verify against our records. This is per our Editorial policy. We can then forward your email to the Database Operations department for their investigation. If they determine these are corrections that we can make based on our editorial policy, you will see it corrected in the database.  Thank you for your interest in Thomson Scientific products. We need your input and welcome your comments.”

I promptly informed them that “as per my personal policy, based upon a severe shortage of time as well as a respect for copyright rules, I am unable to send copies of the original articles in addition to my notification of several weeks ago regarding inaccuracies in Thomson’s database. Thomson’s editorial policy would appear rather inconsistent with needing my input and welcoming my comments; I am surprised that I would instead be held responsible to provide Thomson with proof to correct mistakes. However, I do not accept this responsibility. Correct the mistakes if Thomson is interested in the quality of its product or don’t if it persists in pushing the onus on me. Please inform me if and when the editorial policy gets revised, at which point I will consider spending the time to alert Thomson of any future mistakes I find.”

To Thomson’s credit, although I personally heard nothing further, Pringle’s convictions did prevail over editorial policy and the errors have been fixed.

John Gehman
Melbourne, Australia

 
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