The Annals of Thoracic Surgery has retracted a 2004 article by a group of Florida researchers who were found by their university to have misrepresented the provenance of their data.
If that construction sounds a trifle precious (er, weasel-y), that’s because the retraction notice does, too:
The Annals of Thoracic Surgery retracts the article … following an investigation by the University of Florida, which uncovered instances of repetitious, tabulated data from previously published studies.
Tabulated we think we get: The paper, “Effects of a new phosphodiesterase enzyme type V inhibitor (UK 343-664) versus milrinone in a porcine model of acute pulmonary hypertension,” does contain a lengthy table purporting to compare the new compound (an IV cousin of Viagra) with milrinone, an approved drug for heart failure sold as Primacor, in various measures of fluid and cardiac status. It’s been cited four times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.
But what’s the definition, exactly, of “repetitious data”?
The qualifier of “previously published studies” suggests plagiarism, as does the university inquiry. Again, however, without more information we’re left to assume.
We have reached out to the editor of the journal for answers to these questions, and we have tried to contact two of the paper’s authors. We’ll update this post when we learn more.
Meanwhile, a humble suggestion to journals: Fuzzy language in retraction notices doesn’t serve anyone’s interest — particularly not the readers. As we saw recently, a particularly vague editor’s letter can make people angry and damage the standing of the publication.
Please see an update with comments from the journal’s editor, and one of the retract study’s authors.