The Tobacco Control, a supposedly respectable journal, is acting like a petulant, difficult child.
The journal doesn’t have the cleanest of track records, but this latest move certainly takes the cake. And yes, it’s even worse than the junk science they publish on a regular basis. The issue is that the editors/website administrators/people who don’t like facts are filtering through the comments and ‘criticisms’ they see fit for publication. One example of the ‘alternative facts’ they publish is their conclusion that vaping is a definitive gateway to smoking. In a recent study, they attempted to say that e-cigarettes cause people to take up smoking from a sample size of four. No. Really: ‘four non-smoking youth who experimented with e-cigarettes … then went on to try one or two cigarettes.’
Rather obviously, junk science of this kind was met with significant ridicule by the Academic community online.
Do you think that Tobacco Control would respond to these criticisms? Particularly given that they admit that ‘Despite careful review and selection procedures, no journal can guarantee that everything published is accurate, or that all readers will agree with the authors’ interpretation of findings.’
Of course not! That would be far too sensible and adult-like.
Instead they announced that:
‘As a result of discussion about these issues, the Tobacco Control editorial team has now established a policy that editors will not respond to external blog posts or social media messages about specific studies.’
This may come as somewhat of a surprise to the esteemed editors of Tobacco Control, but generally when you publish something and it’s made available to the public, some form of criticism and/or disagreement will eventually ensue. This is generally considered particularly important in the scientific field, where checking the falsifiability of data is central to progress.
When I published articles on pill testing and codeine regulation, I certainly didn’t expect everyone to agree with me. But some people like encouraging debate because guess what? It’s healthy, it’s fun, it leads to better outcomes and better science, and it can even lead to policy reform.
The entire scientific method is based on testing and verifying data. They should give it a go sometime.
Marija Polic is a Research Associate at the Australian Taxpayers' Alliance