PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to assess the relative opacity of the “About” page at PubPeer, which is a whistleblower website, primarily of the academic literature. The site refers to itself as an online journal club. It is important to assess whether the PubPeer site, organization or leadership display opacity because PubPeer attempts to hold the authors who have published errors in their literature to the high standards of transparency.Design/methodology/approachThe paper examined the statements of the “About” page at PubPeer to assess the aspects of opacity. The “About” page is the face and image of an organization to the public.FindingsIn 2015, The PubPeer Foundation was created as a charitable organization to receive funding in the USA, and at the end of 2016, the PubPeer Foundation received funding (US$ 412,000) from a philanthropic organization, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. Several of these details were not indicated in the older version of the “About” page at PubPeer. Other aspects of that page are opaque.Research limitations/implicationsTo fully assess the opacity of PubPeer, continual monitoring is needed. The examination of the “About” page gives a limited perspective.Practical implicationsAcademics are under intense scrutiny by a vigilant anonymous and pseudonymous community at PubPeer. Any opacity by PubPeer, as was documented here, reduces trust in its objectives and operations. Reduced trust is at the heart of the replication crisis.Originality/valueThis paper represents the first published critical assessment of PubPeer. Science watchdogs, which watch various science-related organizations, also need to be watched.
Online Information Review – Emerald Publishing
Published: Apr 9, 2018
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