Legal threats against “Retraction Watch”

by Walter Olson on April 30, 2013

Quoting Ken White at Popehat:

The blog Retraction Watch tracks, and probes, retractions in scientific journals. They say they do so because retractions are a “window into the scientific process,” because doing so helps create a repository of retractions and publicize them, because retractions can be the lead-in for a great story about misconduct, and because tracking retractions can help keep scientific journals honest.

Unsurprisingly, this does not make them popular among some of the scientists they cover. Last month a researcher at a well-known Texas cancer center menaced the site with a lawsuit, soon unleashing the Streisand Effect. And now, in a separate case, a pharmaceutical chemist is threatening to sue them because they reported on one journal’s “Expression of Concern” about one of his pieces, and in the terminology of scientific journals, an “Expression of Concern” is a different thing than a “Retraction,” which, he says, means that the website’s title is exposing him to defamation. Per Ken, this is not exactly the world’s most meritorious theory either.

{ 2 comments }

1 gitarcarver 04.30.13 at 2:26 pm

Popehat says there is a strong “anti-SLAPP” law in Texas where the defendants can recover costs incurred for lawsuits where there is no basis for a case.

I don’t see this any differently than a “loser pays” law.

This is not to say that we should have a “loser pays” for all lawsuits, but there are some lawsuits that are without any basis that cost people money and anguish that a person should be forced to pay for the costs for filing such frivolous suits.

2 John Burgess 04.30.13 at 5:53 pm

Unfortunately, anti-SLAPP laws only cover very narrow parts of speech and some states narrow it even further to apply only to criticism of government speech/policy.

There are (faint) moves to institute a federal anti-SLAPP law, but it hasn’t been going anywhere for the past several years. In any event, it would only have effect on 1st Amendment issues.

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