Consequences of Wiley’s incompetence handling my research

Fervent devotees of this blog might recall the time when I got mildly frustrated with Wiley in how they handled one of the major research papers from my PhD (this beast).

The tl,dr is this:

  1. Wiley messed up the proofing stage repeatedly, adding several months of delays at this stage.
  2. Wiley incorrectly delayed the publication by three months due to their failure to understand their own publishing process, even after I had explained it to them.

Why had I waited more than 3 months, delaying the release and re-ue of my research for no reason, and my being able to take credit for it at a crucial time in my career (I submitted my thesis last week..). Well, I asked the Production Editor. They said that the difference was because I hadn’t provided an LSID in my paper. Which I had. And was pretty obviously right there where it should have been. Oops.

Well, some of the consequences of this incredible incompetence are now coming to light. An impressive new paper by some colleagues of mine from Germany, including who I might even collaborate with or be employed by in the future, is directly related to this delayed publication of mine, being based on this small group of extinction crocodile ancestors called atoposaurids. In our publication, we even provide commentary on the specimens analysed in the new paper, but this is completely ignored.*

Despite a nice couple of “Tennant, pers. comm.”s throughout, which are always nice, it is completely lacking in any reference to this important work of mine (it references other works of mine a lot, though), which should really be used as the foundation for any further research into this group as it is a huge overview and detailed analysis of them.

There’s a mention of “Tenannt et al., in review”, which presumably is a reference to the published work of mine. Except that my work isn’t in review, it’s been published for quite some time now. My paper was published finally on July 13th, 2016, despite having the corrected proofs ready on April 12th, 2016.

So a three month delay, during which the new research was under peer review, but my own research was neglected as a direct consequence of Wiley’s poor handling.

The newly published paper was received for publication on February 25th, 2016, and accepted on September 26th, 2016. So my paper was actually published finally right towards the end of this, which means that it makes sense for the authors not to include it, or not to have seen it. It would have also probably meant re-doing a lot of their research, which isn’t exactly appealing right towards the end of a project in peer review.

However, if my work was published in April, as it should have been, this could have been noted during the peer review process, or incorporated during the revisions of the research at the beginning. But it wasn’t, because Wiley failed to understand how their own journal publication process works. I’m quite furious about this (*sips tea angrily*).

I’m at the stage in my career where every single citation helps, every bit of re-use of my research, every little bit of ‘impact’ and recognition. We’re in too competitive an environment these days for it not to. Also, it means that the new research lacked the context and input that my own research would have undoubtedly provided, had it been published on time.

Wiley’s incompetence, and general nonchalance in handling my work, has cost me citations. It cost this research valuable input and discussion. It makes the authors look a bit bad, it makes me look quite bad (‘Oh, maybe they didn’t include his research because it’s low quality..’), and it certainly makes the publisher look bad too. All because of sloppy processing.

Just a reminder that to publish this paper, Wiley charged $3600. $3600 to offer zero value to my work, to slow down it’s publication, to compromise future research in doing so.

Why do we let some publishers get away with not doing the job that they are paid to do?

*Relevant text from our paper:

Another specimen (DFMMh 200, the anterior part of a crushed skeleton) from the Kimmeridgian of northern Germany was tentatively referred to T. pusillus by Karl et al. (2006), although it is probably of a different ontogenetic age to the type material. This specimen has a posterior maxillary dental arcade situated within a confluent dental groove, similar to the feature that we identify as synapomorphic for (Tpusillus + Tguimarotae) (see above). The teeth of DFMMh 200 are morphologically similar to T. pusillus (Karl et al., 2006), owing to the presence of faint carinae, a slightly labiolingually compressed and lanceolate morphology, an enlarged fourth maxillary tooth, and caniniform third and fourth dentary teeth. However, the external nares are almost completely divided by an anterior projection of the nasals, a feature that we consider to be diagnostic of Atoposauridae, to the exclusion of Theriosuchus. Despite this latter feature, we tentatively refer DFMMh 200 to Theriosuchus cf. pusillus, pending a more detailed description of this potentially important specimen.

Additional material referable to Theriosuchus sp. comes from the same region as DFMMh 200, including DFMMh 605 (a partial and damaged skull, probably of a hatchling); DFMMh 325 (four ventral osteoderms, two ribs, and a fragment of a dorsal vertebra; DFMMh 236 (numerous dorsal osteoderms); DFMMh 279 (single femur); and DFMMh 507 (a solitary tooth) (Karl et al., 2006). However, the dorsal osteoderms possess an anterior process, a feature that we do not consider to be present in Theriosuchus, and therefore at least some of the osteoderms comprising DFMMH 236 are more likely to belong to a goniopholidid. The femur and axial material cannot be definitively attributed to Theriosuchus based on our revised understanding of this genus, and we consider it to belong to an indeterminate mesoeucrocodylian. We tentatively consider the partial skull and the single tooth to be referable to cf. Theriosuchus sp., owing to the dental similarities they possess.

8 thoughts on “Consequences of Wiley’s incompetence handling my research

  1. Their Senior Production Editor said “My sincere apologies for the delay. I did not see the zoobank details on the proof.”

    Then published the article. That was it.

  2. You asked if I’d take this to the blog comments, so here goes.

    I think you’ve totally lost the narrative here and I think this post is actually ridiculously counterproductive.

    I can appreciate that it is frustrating to see a paper come out on the very specific subject that you recently published on, and to think that an opportunity was lost for another worker or group of workers to engage with your work.

    The flip side is that this happens literally all the time for a whole range of reasons, and an editor taking a little longer to resolve some bookkeeping is pretty harmless and affects all of us. I’ve had editors reject papers or delay publication because a reviewer said that despite a paper being methodologically correct and of high impact, they just didn’t like my conclusions. I’ve had papers delayed because editors just didn’t check the manuscript-handling software for a few weeks. I know someone who (back when manuscripts had to be submitted in hard copy) literally had a manuscript sit on the desk of a major journal for over 2 years before being sent out for review (submission to publication ended up being over 4 years!!!).

    There are, of course, more malicious issues out there which are a much bigger problem. Some editors allow reviewers to sit on reviews for huge durations while the reviewers finish and publish papers on the same subject. Reviewers are more hostile to authors with names indicative of certain national origins and are more hostile towards women, and editors oftentimes do not discipline reviewers who are clearly discriminating against the authors of a paper on these sorts of grounds. However, it seems unlikely that this is why your paper was delayed; it sounds precisely like they misplaced an email where you provided an LSID, and they thought they were still waiting on that communication from you. Honest mistake, and one which could have been resolved with additional communication at any time within that 3 month period.

    As for citation index, I thought you were past caring about standard impact metrics. Regardless, everyone knows that raw citation count isn’t itself a strong indicator of scientific output or impact, and that it instead reflects things like field size and time spent in the field. Having those papers on your CV is more important than whether or not they’ve been cited X number of times, or X+1 number of times.

    However, as I was trying to say on twitter, a whole lot of other factors affect citation rate as well. Research groups will often not cite papers of competitors due to either direct malice or a sense that competitors’ work is not very good. Workers who generally publish in languages other than English are often under-cited. APCs are a major barrier to publishing OA in many clearinghouse journals for workers in small labs with minimal external funding and/or for workers in the developing world. And, while we’re at it, there is a lot of latent discrimination against work by our colleagues in certain parts of the world, and papers from Western scientists are often treated as more definitive than the original work, with consequences for citation rate.

    Furthermore, access itself affects citation rate, which I suppose is part of your ongoing crusade for open access. If a research group cannot afford a subscription to the niche journal you publish in, then you are less likely to be cited. Meanwhile, workers (particularly in the developing world) who publish in local or regional journals for a range of very good reasons are often undercited compared to their colleagues who publish in more “international” journals.

    As for whether a colleague chooses to engage with the ideas you publish in a specific paper, you have basically no control over that, whether or not your paper is published in a timeframe that you personally prefer. I’m always surprised to see what other people do with what I’ve published; papers that I was certain would have cited a relevant paper never do, whereas papers may cue in on some very minor detail that I considered unimportant and will cite me for that detail. The idea that this other working group would have written their paper differently if they had had earlier access to your paper is speculation, but is honestly unrealistic.

    I disagree with some of your stances on publication, but normally I recognize that you’ve got a valid stance even if I disagree with it. In this case, I just cannot see this as a valid complaint. Complaining that a journal is “ruining your career” because a paper was delayed a few months is needlessly hyperbolic and ignores people who truly are harmed by systematic biases against citation.

    1. Hey Jason,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Ironically, I don’t find this comment particularly productive either. In fact, I find it quite contradictory. You basically say that I shouldn’t complain because the system is rife with these issues. Well, I don’t think that is cause for trivialisation of legitimate issues, but in fact a basis for raising awareness of them and trying to combat them.

      You’re quite wrong in your assessment of the delay too. The editorial team knew about the LSID, as this is in fact a requirement for the naming of new taxa, and was commented on during the process. It was not clear that this was the ‘issue’ until much further down the line when I raised the query.

      Nowhere in the post does it say that this is “ruining my career” either. I simply state that it is having a potential impact, which we can’t know more about at the present. I don’t care personally about citation metrics as a performance indicator, but there are others who do and that’s why it matters. And at the moment, missing one citation (for now) on this paper which only otherwise has 2 is a lot proportionally. By raising these issues, it is in no way saying that others matter less – you know full well that I talk about a range of issues in scholarly publishing, so it is unclear what point you are trying to make here too, and indeed in much of your comment – it is relevant, but not relevant here.


  3. I don’t think I’m trivializing anything. Having delays in the publication process is very annoying. I hear that, and I agree with you. I’m just suggesting that you do not adopt phrasing from discussions about how bias impacts careers of scientists of underrepresented groups.

    This does not realistically have impacts on your career. This happens to literally everyone and because it happens to literally everyone, if your CV is compared to someone else’s, this is essentially cancelled out.

    When we talk about publishing having systemic problems, we’re typically talking about issues of bias against women, people of color, and people with lower English proficiency due to learning it as a second or third language. We talk about access to widely-read publication outlets, we talk about APC costs as a barrier to publish in clearinghouse journals like PLOS or Scientific Reports, and we talk about access to journals. But when we talk about these issues, we’re talking about situations where injustice against certain groups of scientists impedes their progress. No offense here, but you’re a white male graduate from Imperial College of London. Those sorts of issues are not impacting your career.

    As for 3 being “proportionately” more than two, you’ve also got two Nature-group publications and a Royal Society of London publication to your name. Whether or not you got two citations or three citations from your Zool J Linn Soc paper published literally in the last six months is not going to affect your career. You’re also in a field where an active researcher can expect to publish 2-3 papers a year, as opposed to a field like, say, developmental biology or regenerative medicine, where a paper may be based on 4-5 years of laboratory work and the “extra experiments” requested by an overeager reviewer may take a full 2 years to complete. You also are well-connected and come from an active research group within an active research field. So, you can expect your citation rate and publication rate to climb at a much higher rate than a lot of very competent colleagues of ours. Not because you are better than them, but because citation index is very sensitive to these sorts of field differences.

    I’m all for calling out journals when bad behavior by the publishing industry OR by handling editors/reviewers disproportionately harms certain groups. I’m even in favor of calling out publishers/editors/reviewers when they do particularly grievous things in general. But saying “this has consequences for my career” is hyperbole. I realize that with Brexit and Trump, we’re all on edge and do not know what the future holds. Realistically, though, you do not need to worry about your publication or citation records.

    1. Citation needed for “This happens to literally everyone.” Grand claims need grand evidence. Ironic again that you call me out for hyperbole, yet are full of it yourself.

      It’s good that you recognise the different types of bias. Perhaps instead of wasting my own and your time here, you could write about these on your blog? I don’t compare or rank biases, or think that the existence of one devalues another. In this case, I’m talking about one particular example, and you are in no position to triviliase it based on your own thoughts and opinions. There’s very little substance to anything you say in the context of the current post, so please just leave it at that.

      1. I was only posting in here because you asked me on twitter to take it to your blog comments. We’ll agree to disagree and leave it at that.

        1. I asked you to post a comment because it’s easier to make a point in a concise, progressive, and non-combatative way when you have more time and space, than on Twitter. I was clearly incorrect in this case.

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