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From Tweets to Concern and Disagreement

PLOS Genetics has issued an expression of concern for a June 2019 paper based on a series of critical tweets, a move the papers' authors disagree with, Retraction Watch reports.

The paper from the University of British Columbia's Carles Vilariño-Güell and his colleagues reported on an exome sequencing analysis of 34 families affected by more than one multiple sclerosis case and implicated a dozen innate immune system genes in MS development in these families.

But as Retraction Watch reports, the Broad Institute's Daniel MacArthur criticized some of the paper's language in a tweet, which led to a Twitter thread that has since disappeared. MacArthur tells Retraction Watch that he objected to "inappropriately strong causal language in the paper."

This prompted PLOS Genetics to issue an expression of concern, according to Retraction Watch. While the notice says the journal found no evidence of scientific misconduct or conflicts of interest, it did uncover some discrepancies between the papers' findings and some of its claims, and that the journal has urged the researchers to issue a correction. But, the notice adds that, Vilariño-Güell, on behalf of his colleagues, declined to agree to those corrections.

In an unpublished paper posted at ResearchGate, Vilariño-Güell says they offered an alternative erratum, and further argued that Twitter is not an appropriate forum for scientific review. "Applying pressure to authors with the goal of forcing them to publish an unnecessary Erratum in response to unsupported [T]witter criticism is an unethical practice that undermines the entire scholarly peer-review process," he writes.