An Elsevier journal has taken “the exceptional step of ceasing to communicate” with a scientist-critic after a series of “unfounded personal attacks and threats.” The move means that the journal, Scientia Horticulturae, will not review any papers that include the critic, Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva, as an author.
Here is the text of the letter (pdf here, obtained from an anonymous source), signed by Gert Jan-Geraeds:
I am a Publishing Director for Elsevier, publisher of the journal Scientia Horticulturae. I am contacting you with regard to your communications with the journal’s editors and publishers since 2010.
Elsevier fully supports scholarly discussion as a vital part of scientific communication and progress. In that spirit, our editors and publishers have repeatedly responded to your concerns over the past years. However, there is a difference between healthy dialogue and disagreement about science and unfounded personal attacks and threats. In addition, we find unfounded accusations forwarded to outside parties, whom have little or nothing to do with the science at all, inappropriate and not conducive to scientific discourse.
For example, you have heavily criticized the editors’ requests for you and your co-authors to confirm that all authors have fulfilled the authorship criteria. As we have explained to you, the reason for these requests is that we know of instances where you did not qualify as an author under our journal guidelines, which are identical to the ICMJE criteria for authorship.
Therefore, we now take the exceptional step of ceasing to communicate with you, and that includes any review of your papers. Since you do not communicate with the Journal and Elsevier in a professional manner, we will neither recognize nor respond to your attacks. The Editors of the journal also agree with this decision. We regret that we will have to take this very unusual step, but in this case there is no other choice.
The restriction is apparently limited to Scientia Horticulturae, and the letter does not use the word “ban,” although this is of course effectively the same thing.
Readers of Retraction Watch will be familiar with Teixeira da Silva’s name, as he is a frequent commenter. For those who do not know him, he is a former plant researcher at a Japanese university who has been crusading for years against what he considers corruption in scientific publishing, particularly in the plant sciences.
For a sense of what the journal is referring to, here is quote from a message Teixeira da Silva sent the editors, copying a number of other scientists, after the journal rejected one of his papers:
I will expose your fraud to every scientist I know, and make my case public from now on that corruption and fraud, lack of professionalism and libel are the four corner-stones for the publishing frame-work by Elsevier and this journal, Scientia Horticulturae.
In another email, in which he called for the immediate resignation of the journal’s two editors-in-chief, Teixeira da Silva wrote (capital letters his):
Moreover, if I do not see a resignation in 72 hours, I will immediately post this libelous case of editorial bias and witch-hunting on Retraction Watch and other blogs.
MOREOVER, IF I DO NOT RECEIVE A CONFIRMATION, WITH PROOF, OF STANDARD AND UNIFORM INQUIRY TO ALL AUTHORS, AS WELL AS A RESPONSE TO THE NEXT 8 QUESTIONS, I WILL CONTACT ALL SCIENTIA HORTICULTURAE AUTHORS AND ALSO THE INSTITUTES TO WHICH ALL SCIENTIA HORTICULTURAE EDITORS BELONG.
We asked Teixeira da Silva to comment on the letter, whether he agreed with the decision of the editors and publisher, and how he would respond to allegations that he has engaged in “unfounded personal attacks and threats” and “unfounded accusations.” He did not respond directly to our specific questions, but sent this comment:
I am quite surprised to be receiving a PDF file from Retraction Watch that is addressed to me and not to Retraction Watch. That document was only in my hands for at most 2 hours. Considering that this is a confidential document that was provided by Elsevier Ltd. to me, exclusively, and that Retraction Watch has not formally received this document from me, I can only conclude that there has been foul play. Has Elsevier provided this document to Retraction Watch? Has the content and the background been duly researched by Retraction Watch? If yes, then there is absolutely no need to respond to any query by Retraction Watch since Ivan and Adam will thus know all the answers.
Elsevier declined to comment, saying that the letter spoke for itself.