Received a query about scientific literature and our professional
responsibility. In our peer review scheme, it is unfortunate
when it happens but errors in presentation and accepted
interpretations can enter. They occur and when they do
what is your responsibility.
“I have come across a paper published in a reputable journal,
[left out], in my research field….I noticed poor quality of the
paper, including lack of understanding of the literature, as well
as obvious, wrong conclusions which contradict the author’s
own figures…I think the peer review of this paper was not
“Should I write to the journal editor…Do I have a responsibility
as a scientist.?”
The general rule of thumb for publications which you disagree
with like you apparently have is “Praise in public; criticize in
private.” If this is done then the group who is responsible for
the inaccuracies or misjudgments can publish a retraction.
In science we find disagreements based on our understanding many
times. Science is supposed to be self-correcting in that correct
literature is cited many more times than incorrect literature.
Thus, often citated work is the bases for common understanding and
leads to acceptance.
Then your responsibility is to NOT CITE the work in question.