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posted on 07.08.2022, 10:33 authored by Tom E. Hardwicke, Robert T. Thibault, Jessica E. Kosie, Loukia Tzavella, Theiss Bendixen, Sarah A. Handcock, Vivian E. Köneke, John P. A. Ioannidis
Journals exert considerable control over letters, commentaries and online comments that criticize prior research (post-publication critique). We assessed policies (Study One) and practice (Study Two) related to post-publication critique at 15 top-ranked journals in each of 22 scientific disciplines (N = 330 journals). Two-hundred and seven (63%) journals accepted post-publication critique and often imposed limits on length (median 1000, interquartile range (IQR) 500–1200 words) and time-to-submit (median 12, IQR 4–26 weeks). The most restrictive limits were 175 words and two weeks; some policies imposed no limits. Of 2066 randomly sampled research articles published in 2018 by journals accepting post-publication critique, 39 (1.9%, 95% confidence interval [1.4, 2.6]) were linked to at least one post-publication critique (there were 58 post-publication critiques in total). Of the 58 post-publication critiques, 44 received an author reply, of which 41 asserted that original conclusions were unchanged. Clinical Medicine had the most active culture of post-publication critique: all journals accepted post-publication critique and published the most post-publication critique overall, but also imposed the strictest limits on length (median 400, IQR 400–550 words) and time-to-submit (median 4, IQR 4–6 weeks). Our findings suggest that top-ranked academic journals often pose serious barriers to the cultivation, documentation and dissemination of post-publication critique.

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