COMMENTARY

5G-COVID-19 Paper Slipped Through the Net

Ivan Oransky, MD

July 29, 2020

We have heard back this morning from the publisher of a journal that yanked a paper that linked 5G cellphone technology and the novel coronavirus last week — a paper that scientific sleuth Elisabeth Bik mused was the "worst paper of 2020."

The response to our request for comment from editor in chief Pio Conti reads a bit like a Mad Libs of excuses we hear from publishers when something goes wrong. Read carefully for:

We are heavily inundated with papers this year, you can imagine I presume.
We rely on the best peers in each field for review and send our papers to at least 3.
Some papers can slip through the net, I'm sure you know this more than us, it is the first time in 30 years that our journal has retracted a paper.
After probing the results before being published (it was ahead of print) we had it peer-reviewed again and the reviews contrasted in such a way that the Editor felt that best thing to do was retract.
Unfortunately, publishers today have a very narrow time frame that does not allow solid scientific rebuttal or an article in response, or a letter to the editor that confutes the publication…due to the overwhelming hurricane that is social media and that can destroy an honest ongoing company.

The response from the editor came, we note, from Connie De Vincentis, whose title is "Accounts Supervisor, FINANCIAL DEPARTMENT." While we are accustomed — unfortunately, we would argue — to having editors refer our requests for comment to publishing company spokespeople instead of responding themselves, this may be the first time we have had a response from someone in the financial department of a publisher.

De Vincentis ended the note with:

I hope that I have now responded to your queries?

Alas, the accounts supervisor had not. We had also asked whether the journal planned to post a retraction notice. We jogged De Vincentis' memory with a follow-up. The response:

yes we do.  Please allow this week for it to appear.

We await the notice.

This article originally appeared on Retraction Watch.

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