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NOT PEER REVIEWED
The editors of this journal, Tobacco Control, and specifically the authors of the editorial “Blog fog? Using rapid response to advance science and promote debate”  highlight the need - or requirement, depending on the viewpoint - of utilising a specified platform to debate the finer points of an article.
From an academic standpoint, individuals that have an interest in a specific field of study - such as Tobacco Control - will see, and respond to, such articles in the appropriate manner. However, one of the pitfalls prevalent in any rapid response platform, and this isn’t limited to the journal Tobacco Control, is the necessity of the journal’s guidelines to adhere to a specific writing format. This does have some advantages in keeping the debate over an article related exclusively to the article. However, there are some respondents that prefer to write an unabridged version of a critique lest the comment not pass the rapid response system for publication.
There are several advantages to publishing a critique of an article outside the rapid response system  that allows for a broader audience to read and respond to both the article content and the critique.
Personal blogs often reflect the style of the author, and also allow for greater freedom of expression including the use of imagery to illustrate vital points that many readers find both enjoyable and informative.
Providing a platform within the journal must allo...
Providing a platform within the journal must allow for reasoned debate, including contrary opinions. It is widely regarded within non-academic circles that some responses don’t get published due in large part to the contrary nature of the response. Would the editors of the journal be comfortable with constructive guidance for non-academic parties to respond to articles published?
This seems to be an unlikely proposition and will only serve to reinforce a lack of trust and transparency in the journal. Blogging is a good practice at writing in an accessible way, academic publications should be accessible too.
 O’Connor R, Gartner C, Henriksen L, et al Blog fog? Using rapid response to advance science and promote debate Tobacco Control 2017;26:121 - http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/26/2/121
 Paul Cairney: Politics & Public Policy, Five advantages of blogging - https://paulcairney.wordpress.com/2017/03/06/five-advantages-of-blogging/
This is a test message to ascertain if BMJ and Tobacco Control have gotten the rapid response feature up and running. If so this message should appear and those scientists globally wanting to file responses will be immediately alerted that this is now possible. The essence of any critique I personally may have with the BlogFog article is summarized in my declarations of intellectual COI. Submitted March 2nd, 2017.
NOT PEER REVIEWED
The editors of this journal, Tobacco Control, argue in their blog that debate about published articles should be concentrated on their rapid reaction facility. It is possible that they are making a constructive invitation to their critics to join a debating platform they might otherwise be wary of. However, the blog has been widely read as disparagement of other forms of engagement, notably social media and blogs. It is possible that the editors do not fully appreciate why people use blogs and social media to respond to papers they find problematic, and not Tobacco Control's rapid response feature. Here are several reasons:
Critics may consider, rightly or wrongly, that Tobacco Control has a track record of publishing papers that have dubious scientific merit, overconfident conclusions and policy recommendations that cannot be supported by the paper - almost always reinforcing a particular (abstinence-only) perspective. Critics may be concerned that their work will be treated unfairly or sidelined, or that they will be judged or ridiculed. They may distrust the editors, believe the journal is not impartial, or hold it in low esteem.
2. Conflict of interest and incentives
Not everyone is content to have their reactions edited or approved by the same people whose work they are criticising. Once a journal has published an article that is open to criticism, it develops a conflict of interest between its own r...
Not everyone is content to have their reactions edited or approved by the same people whose work they are criticising. Once a journal has published an article that is open to criticism, it develops a conflict of interest between its own reputation and the pursuit of truth. Editors have personal and professional incentives not to look foolish or be shown up for the failure of peer review or editorial quality control. Critics may suspect that in the moderation process, editorial judgements of criticisms will be pedantic and be more concerned with the reputation of authors and the journal and be less concerned with an accurate reflection of the views of critics.
3. Style and expression
Many people prefer to communicate in their own style and not adopt the convoluted and opaque vernacular of science journal writing. They may have different types of knowledge and experience and wish to communicate in their own way. They may wish to adopt a more journalistic style or write in a way that encourages understanding. They may wish to be funny, satirical and engaging as well as rigorous. It may be a false perception that their voice is unwelcome, but it is not a surprising one. They may have their own audience which follows their commentaries, and they may wish to write for that audience.
4. Substantive reactions
Critics may wish to write at greater length and with more sophistication than a rapid response allows for, but not submit a paper for publication and wait months and spend many hours responding to poorly conceived or tactically obstructive questions from reviewers. They may not wish to have their work locked behind a paywall. They may wish to include graphics or formatting. In my own case, I wrote a comprehensive critique on my blog of the ['tobacco endgame' proposals published in 2013. There is no way I could spend months writing that up for publication in Tobacco Control, and the end result would have been a pale imitation of the original had I done so.
Critics may be responding to 'moral panics' or media frenzies created by over-hyped science published in the journal. In this case, they need to respond rapidly and have the means to compose and publish according to their own timetable. They may wish to provide an initial reaction and then update it or add in other reactions. The "within 7-14 days" response time promised for publishing 'rapid reactions' is not consistent with the way news is consumed and commentary produced in the present era.
Other concerns include the following:
1. Wrong criteria for assessing the value of challenge
The dismissal of media other than the one preferred by and controlled by the journal's editors is disappointing. Surely, in public health, it should be the 'public' that decides where the debate is held? If criticism or insight is serious and thoughtful, then academics or editors should engage, because that's where the discussion is taking place. The journal has applied the wrong criteria by picking what sort of platform it is prepared to engage on. The decision should be based on the quality and seriousness of the criticism, not where it is produced or who produces it.
2. Self-limiting access to knowledge and insight
There is much high quality and readable analysis that is at least as valuable in intellectual depth, insight and accessibility as much formal publishing in this field  below. There are also trenchant and valid criticisms about motivation, ethics, intellectual quality, framing, inexperience etc on many other blogs that are well worth engaging with for anyone who wishes to - often these are opinion-formers. It is a mistake to believe that the real debate takes place in journals and everything else is just ignorant noise - it is a place to look for different insights. A bigger mistake is to disengage from 21st-century ways of communicating and sharing public knowledge. In other fields, this type of discourse is flourishing.
3. Where is the driven curiosity?
This is a critical field in which hundreds of millions of lives are at stake, and the pursuit of insight and the right thing to do should be relentless. I find it inexplicable that anyone involved should wish to shut themselves off from any form of engagement that that offers any useful insight. Where is the hunger for knowledge, the curiosity, the willingness to understand the views of people who are often the subject of study and often know far more than those doing the studying? Why would editors not want to be exposed to the feelings and adverse reactions to the research that is published in this journal? Why would they not engage more, instead of withdrawing?
Personally, I am committed challenging poor quality papers in whatever forum I can. I will continue to blog about them and expand my use of PubMed Commons, a neutral space for informed criticism. If Tobacco Control's rapid response platform provides a richer exchange, then I will try that.
 See for example:
Mike Siegal http://tobaccoanalysis.blogspot.com
Brad Rodu http://rodutobaccotruth.blogspot.com
Carl V. Phillips https://antithrlies.com
Chis Snowdon http://velvetgloveironfist.blogspot.com
Konstantinos Farsalinos http://www.ecigarette-research.org
Jaques Le Houeze http://jlhamzer.over-blog.com
My own: Counterfactual http://www.clivebates.com
NOT PEER REVIEWED The authors of this editorial assert that a journal article’s authors are “entitled to be aware of and respond to critiques”, and imply that this is only possible if critiques appear in a forum attached to the journal. Setting aside the fact that authors can easily become aware of and respond to critiques on other forums, I am curious if the authors could offer some basis for claiming such an entitlement? It seems quite contrary to all existing laws, principles of ethics, cultural norms, and standard practices that relate to commentary about published work. Moreover the behavior of many of these very authors suggests they are willing to go to great lengths to avoid being made aware of critiques.
It seems safe interpret the statement as saying that at least these particular authors would like responses to their work to appear on this page. And so, I am fulfilling their request. (Assuming this is allowed to appear, that is. I say that not because I believe there is anything in this comment that would warrant censorship, but to emphasize the blindness of this process. That is, the commentator really has no idea what will be allowed to appear.) I call the authors’ attention to two blog posts I have written critiquing this editorial to ensure they have the requested opportunity to be aware: https://antithrlies.com/2017/02/20/editors-of-t...
It seems safe interpret the statement as saying that at least these particular authors would like responses to their work to appear on this page. And so, I am fulfilling their request. (Assuming this is allowed to appear, that is. I say that not because I believe there is anything in this comment that would warrant censorship, but to emphasize the blindness of this process. That is, the commentator really has no idea what will be allowed to appear.) I call the authors’ attention to two blog posts I have written critiquing this editorial to ensure they have the requested opportunity to be aware: https://antithrlies.com/2017/02/20/editors-of-tobacco-control-admit-they... https://antithrlies.com/2017/02/22/more-on-tobacco-controls-stop-talking... . In those posts I expand a bit on what appears in this submission. I welcome responses to anything in them, either here, in the blog’s comments sections (I promise their comments will not be censored), or wherever else. However, no familiarity with those posts is necessary to respond to the following questions.
The authors declare “a policy that editors will not respond to external blog posts or social media messages about specific studies.” This statement implies that in the past they have provided such responses. However, I am quite familiar with the scholarly blogs (my own and others’) that often criticize papers that appear in Tobacco Control, and cannot recall a single occasion in which an editor of this journal responded. With the exception of the editorial’s last author occasionally engaging in Twitter conversations about articles — a format which precludes serious debate — I am not aware of any social media engagement. Thus I would like to ask the authors to support their implication by characterizing how often actions that are precluded by this policy actually occurred in the past, and to provide a few examples.
The authors state, “Occasionally, an individual who has written a postpublication critique has declined invitations to review similar papers prepublication.” I am one author of such critiques, and highly qualified to review research papers, but have never once been invited to review for Tobacco Control. I am in close communication with other such individuals, and would be surprised to learn that they have received any such invitation. So I would like to ask for clarification: Is the claim here that on a single occasion, Tobacco Control asked someone to review a paper, but s/he declined, and then wrote a critique after it was published? Or did that happen twice, three times, or more? Or does this merely mean that someone who was once invited to review *some* paper at the journal, and declined, later write a critique of another paper the journal published (thus the use of the word “similar”)?
The authors state: “As noted above, the Rapid Response process provides a forum for exploring such issues. In contrast, placing personal blog posts or social media messages complaining about a study, alleging flaws in the review process, or making ad hominem attacks on authors or editors do not advance the field or allow an appropriate scientific dialogue and debate.” I have several questions about this:
Should we interpret this to mean that the Rapid Response process will censor any attempt to post something that “complains” about a paper or identifies flaws in the review process? Taken on its face, this seems to preclude literally any important criticism. If a commenter observed, say, that a causal inference suffers from enormous residual confounding, which was not acknowledged by the authors, and which renders the conclusions in the paper unsupported, how is that not a “complaint” about the paper? If the identified flaw is apparent to the reader, how is that not also an allegation of a flaw in the review process that allowed the paper to be published with that flaw? Some clarification is needed.
Are the authors of the editorial simply saying they object to *explicit* statements about the failures of the review process, and are saying that these are forbidden from this page? And thus the implicit indictment of the review process from noting there is a major flaw in a paper is acceptable? But would noting a major flaw still constitute a “complaint”? If not, what does?
I am also curious about what ad hominem attacks the authors are referring to. Those of us who criticize tobacco control are quite familiar with the experience ad hominem attacks on our analyses (or, more often, as rationalizations for simply ignoring our analyses). Indeed, such attacks are far more common than substantive criticisms of our work. By contrast, I cannot recall any cases of scholarly blogging critics of a paper in Tobacco Control or other tobacco control papers who have descended to ad hominem attacks. I would like to ask the authors to provide examples to support this allegation. (I will offer the reminder that drawing conclusions about an author or journal based on a paper is, roughly speaking, the opposite of an ad hominem attack. An ad hominem attack would consist of criticizing or dismissing a paper based on the identity or characteristics of the authors or journal.)
Finally, the authors state: “Our role is to facilitate the processes of peer review, transparency and accountability which underpin the legitimacy and independence of academic research.” I am curious about what transparency they are claiming. It appears to me that the journal (in keeping with common practice in this field) sends out papers to reviewers who are chosen based on a non-transparent basis, keeps those reviewers anonymous and the reviews secret, and then makes a decision to publish based on non-transparent criteria. Yes, there are some published statements about what is considered in this process, but they are sufficiently vague that they seem to preclude or guarantee nothing. Am I wrong about this? If not, what transparency is the editorial referring to?
More immediately relevant, there is no apparent transparency in the decision about whether to publish a particular Rapid Response submission. Again, there are guidelines which seem sufficient vague that they would allow an ad hoc decision in either direction about most any submission. It seems rather unreasonable to ask commentators to take the time and effort to submit to a system with vague requirements, particularly given the suggestion that merely “complaining” about a paper is grounds for censorship. Again, clarification is needed if, as the editorial claims, this page is a legitimate forum for serious debate.
I will suggest that a genuinely transparent rule would take a form like the following: Should a reader wish to post a comment on my blog, it will appear, unedited, so long as it is on topic. I suppose I would refuse to post a comment that was utterly outlandish — that, say, ranted about the sexuality of a paper’s author, or alleged criminal behavior — but I have never been forced to make such a decision. I will further note (as I have stated previously) that if authors or editors of a paper that I am criticizing wish to comment, I will allow them to say literally anything they want. I suspect the same transparent rules apply to my fellow scholarly bloggers.
NOT PEER REVIEWED
While I would agree that comments that are directly applied to the article in question are better than blogs scattered across the internet, this policy is entirely dependent on the willingness of editors to publish critical comments that may not be formatted or composed in a style that they are entirely comfortable with. Will editors provide feedback to, for example, citizen activists on why their comments were not published, and how they could change them to make them more acceptable? This seems unlikely, and will only reinforce the perceived inequality of position.
I would also be moved to wonder how editors will deal with rapid responses that link to lengthier works elsewhere? For example, the format of the rapid response does not lend itself well to appending images, which can often be useful to highlight problems.much more effectively than text.
A more likely outcome of this policy is, I fear, an increasing separation into two echo chambers with no overlap, and with far too little exchange of thoughts between the proponents and opponents of vaping, to the detriment of the vast majority who are neither,