Should journals ban researchers found guilty of fraud from publishing?

Photo by Roshan Vyas via Flickr http://bit.ly/9VS0Fx

Over the past 14 months, we’ve covered several cases of retractions that were punished with publishing bans:

  • Serial image manipulator Naoki Mori was slapped with one by the American Society of Microbiology (ASM) – which publishes Infection and Immunity, The Journal of Clinical Microbiology, and others
  • The ASM banned another author, who plagiarized and did some not-so-legit fussing with his alleged co-authors
  • The Indian Journal of Dermatology won’t accept papers by three Tunisian authors after they were found guilty of plagiarism

That led us to ask the question that’s the title of this post, as well as of our newest column for Lab Times. We spoke to a few people with expertise in the ethics of publishing, including Committee on Publication Ethics chair Liz Wager. Not everyone thinks such bans are a good idea. See if you agree with our conclusions.

61 thoughts on “Should journals ban researchers found guilty of fraud from publishing?”

  1. The problem is that many of the journal editors for the major publishers are just as corrupt, if not more so, than the authors they would be santioning. Thus, we have the ‘pot calling the kettle black’ issue.

    I have had ridiculous and repeated problems with several editors from American Chemical Society journals (the journal “Environmental Science and Technology” is a notable offender [Schnoor as editor], as is “Energy and Fuels” [Weber] and the “Journal of Physical Chemistry” series [i.e., A, B, C, and Letters; with Schatz]), as well as a couple Elsevier journal editors (at “Fuel” [Suuberg] and “Bioresource Technology” [Pandey; who is also notable for his plagiarism escapades, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_plagiarism_in_India#Prof_Ashok_Pandey_controversy%5D and “Food Chemistry” [Birch]).

    There is probably less of a problem in scienc with corrupted and unethical authors than with corrupted and unethical editors.

  2. One also has to note the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (another American Chemical Society journal) with Sieber as Editor as an additional problematic journal.

    Unethical editors promote unethical authors, so the problems need to be fixed from the top down. It is analogous to the ethical problems with many faculty in Canadian and American universities and colleges. How can you fault students for cheating, when many faculty and administrators are even bigger cheaters?

  3. In my opinion, it is unhelpful to name so exhaustively and specifically all these journals and their editors, yet provide no description of what is supposedly the unethical behavior taking place.

    This is not to say that I don’t completely agree with you.

    In my line of work, there are many editors that want to sweep misconduct under the rug. I keep running into a group of authors that mass produce papers by copy-and-pasting from each other, changing at most a variable here and there. Dozens of such papers have been appearing each of last few years in various supposedly good journals at Springer and Elsevier. Pointing out the wholesale copy-and-paste to the respective editors only got me demeaning remarks such as “What do you have to gain from this?”–attack the messenger, a classic tactic. Of course, no one who knows how to use Google is fooled by this.

    1. Regarding names, one can readily search my blog (http://sierra-rayne.blogspot.com/) for most of these journals/editors, and forthcoming entries on “Fuel” [Suuberg] (the paper in purported peer review now for >18 months and the editor refuses to answer e-mails as to its status, thereby playing the ‘hold it in peer review limbo among Elsevier journals’ game) and “Food Chemistry” [Birch] (we’re just really having trouble finding reviewers for your manuscript, so it will be under review ‘ad infinitum’) will be posted soon. That is why I posted my web link, as it doesn’t make sense to repost all my blog entries documenting various issues on this site. If anyone doubts my capacity to document these types of issues, read the blog in detail. And if the individuals don’t like being named, and feel they shouldn’t have been named, they are welcome to discuss their concerns either here or on my blog.

      There are far more incidents of misconduct and other nonsense arising each day than I can keep up with, so at present, it is a race to outrace the garbage in our disciplines.

      In particular, Jerald Schnoor from Environmental Science and Technology is welcome to come on either this website, or my blog, anytime and we can discuss the slop ethics and slop science his journal continues to publish, and then he and his editorial board and I can discuss not only publishing ethics, but issues of academic blacklisting as well. The Pandora’s Box should be opened wide for all to see.

      1. Sorry to be disparaging, but that’s just silly. If you send a paper to a journal and they don’t peer review it within 2 months, yank it from the journal and send it elsewhere. Waiting any longer is dumb, since everything is done online these days. It’s not corrupt or unethical behavior by the journal, its lunacy on your part for putting up with this kind of thing. This kind of behavior is what is driving the move to open access journals outside the realm of the big publishing houses. If you just sit back and play their game (i.e. wait for them to review on their own timetable), you merely facilitate the process.

      2. In reply to Virgil, I’ve written to some journals telling them to ‘yank it’ from the online system (i.e., an unsubmission – the journal “Fuel” is notable here again), and they refuse to do it. Ergo, it stays as ‘submitted’ in perpetuity, which will then likely flag the paper when I try to submit it to another journal.

        And I’m not naive, these issues are nothing more than unethical politics at play – it has nothing to do with the publisher and everything to do with unethical editors. If a journal’s editorial board was ethical, they would ensure all submitted papers are reviewed promptly, even if external reviewers cannot be found in a timely fashion. In other words, all journal editorial boards contain at least two members with expertise in effectively any topic that gets reasonably submitted to a journal. Thus, they can review the paper themselves if they see a range of reviewers declining invitations for review for no good reason. If they want to wear the big shoes, then do the ethical work that comes with this task.

        And in my experience, I have had only excellent relationships with the staff members at major publishers. Not one unethical experience. As for the editors and editorial board members – I have had more goofy experiences than could be reasonably listed here. The problem is not the major publishers, it is the editors and editorial board members, and general politics in science. Staff the editorial boards with ethical people, and the current publishing system would work like a charm.

        Open-access journals are only an option for individuals who obtain large research grants that cover the ridiculously high (read: wasteful) costs of publishing in such journals. Not having $50,000/year to waste on open-access publishing, this option is useless to me and many other scientists.

      3. At Elsevier it is very easy to take care of unresponsive editorial staff with regards to submissions. Simply call/email/live chat with the Elsevier customer service folks http://support.elsevier.com/app/ask_aer/c/6261 . They will manually remove the paper from the editorial system (‘unsbumit’) if they have to. I’ve used their services once before when dealing with a poorly-managed journal. It took less than 24 hours for them to ‘unsubmit’ my paper.

    2. Reply to N/A:

      Regarding your statement that “In my line of work, there are many editors that want to sweep misconduct under the rug. I keep running into a group of authors that mass produce papers by copy-and-pasting from each other, changing at most a variable here and there. Dozens of such papers have been appearing each of last few years in various supposedly good journals at Springer and Elsevier. Pointing out the wholesale copy-and-paste to the respective editors only got me demeaning remarks such as “What do you have to gain from this?”–attack the messenger, a classic tactic.” I’ve received the same reply from some editors. Of course, my response to their response is “who cares?”. The source of the information is irrelevant, even if it is a competitor group. The issue is whether the charges are true.

      As for the unsubmit option at Elsevier, I know how that works, and have successfully used it. However, ‘Fuel’ is a mysterious entity on this front. I’ve been dealing with the managing editor at Elsevier, and the manuscript stays under review. I’ve stopped really caring, as the manuscript is online now at a preprint server. That said, it’s a classic unethical immature game the editor is playing, and I’ll keep playing it with him and will just continue to expose his nonsense publicly so other scientists can read about his little games for as long as he continues to play them.

  4. Absolutely agree with Sierra Rayne. It is common practice of editors and reviewers to be biased and cheating. We have faced several times this issue. Papers from few groups can always get published in high impact journals whatever their work is. A similarly quality research paper from another cannot be even considered for sending for review. Even Cancer Research started blacklisting authors – I feel – none of my papers are getting even pass through the editorial office. This is frustrating because similar manuscripts are easily getting published. Back scratching continues in science – we cannot avoid this, unfortunately. Lets survive and not perish…

    1. Agreed. I’m on the ‘nonsensical treatment’ list for several journals (notably the American Chemistry Society journals), just based on how the editors either don’t send the work out for review (probably falsely claiming they cannot find reviewers – see my points above regarding ‘Fuel’ and ‘Food Chemistry’), ignore highly positive reviews (journals such as Energy and Fuels, Journal of Physical Chemistry A, etc.) and have the editors either manufacture jibberish concerns to prevent/delay/frustrate publication, or various other well-honed tactics.

      A common game by editors nowadays is to manufacture silly concerns about a work (above and beyond what any reviewers have), take forever in the review process, and then feed the ideas to competing groups so they can publish first (or at the very least, simultaneously or soon after, thereby allowing the other groups to – at least partially – share in the credit for the discovery and/or avoid being embarrassed). As an author, the only way out of this dilemma is to withdraw the paper and either submit it to another journal, or to post it online in a pre-print forum (and then watch other groups rip off the ideas and try to claim that since the work wasn’t formally peer-reviewed, it need not be cited – again, I have pointed to a number of such studies on my blog that various environmental science journals have unethically published), both ‘fall-back’ tactics which I have unfortunately had to take a number of times.

      It’s easy to trace the causes of this, as one can see individuals I have taken ethical and/or scientific issue with on the editorial boards of the problematic journals (again, the journal “Environmental Science and Technology” is a classic repeat offender on this front), so publishing in these journals is effectively a ‘no-go’ for my group.

  5. Technical comment. Liz Wager is worried about a “restraint of trade” problem. That phrase is usually a reference to the very broad language of the Sherman Act, one of the two fundamental US antitrust laws. There’s (perhaps) a legitimate question whether a publication ban instituted by a trade association or similar horizontal combination, like COPE, could have antitrust implications. That is, a COPE-imposed ban is conceivably a “boycott” for antitrust purposes. A ban by an individual editor or publisher, particularly based on a violation of its own settled rules, doesn’t really have those implications. It’s a refusal to deal, but not a “concerted refusal to deal.” Even if the ban were a boycott, the claim would clearly fall within the “rule of reason” defense (for at least two, quite separate, reasons). Finally, any potential claim would fail under the Noerr-Pennington doctrine — essentially the rule that antitrust law can’t be used to defeat First Amendment freedom of speech, including the publisher’s right not to be compelled to speak. Bottom line: I seriously doubt any individual publisher’s or editor’s publication ban could ever constitute an actionable restraint of trade.

    I’m supposed to add a disclaimer here that this isn’t legal advice and that you need to spend at least $500/hr on someone (preferably me) before it counts as advice. Consider that said. European antitrust law can be quite different.

    1. I don’t see any distinction between a ban based on fraud, to one also based on plagiarism, to one based on any other range of ethical transgressions. Either all ethical issues get dealt with simultaneously and equally, or don’t single out just one type of issue (i.e., fraud, which is actually probably a minor issue in science – honestly performed junk science is a larger problem, as is ripping off other people’s ideas [a massive problem that needs correction], as is a range of other unethical behavior among editors, editorial boards, and reviewers).

      Failing to accord proper credit for the source of your ideas is just as bad as faking your data, as is the use of political connections to suppress the publication of another scientist’s work.

    2. That’s interesting — thanks! But, just for clarification, COPE doesn’t publish a peer-reviewed journal or investigate cases so we certainly aren’t in the business of banning anybody! We are simply passing on some advice we got from another lawyer about journal (or publisher) bans. However, even if the legal argument is not sound (or at least not everybody buys it) I still think journals should not ban authors. Journals are simply not set up to investigate cases of serious misconduct — that should be the institution or employer’s responsibility. Therefore, disciplining errant researchers should also be the institution’s responsibility, not the journal’s. But I know not everybody agrees!

  6. “N/A” makes a good point above regarding his/her statement that “In my line of work, there are many editors that want to sweep misconduct under the rug. I keep running into a group of authors that mass produce papers by copy-and-pasting from each other, changing at most a variable here and there. Dozens of such papers have been appearing each of last few years in various supposedly good journals at Springer and Elsevier. Pointing out the wholesale copy-and-paste to the respective editors only got me demeaning remarks such as “What do you have to gain from this?”–attack the messenger, a classic tactic.”

    I’ve give some actual evidence of this type of editorial reply. On July 13, 2009, I wrote the following e-mail to Prof. Kelvin J. A. Davies, Associate Dean and James E. Birren Chair of Gerontology, Professor of Molecular & Computational Biology, University of Southern California:

    “Dear Dr. Davies,

    Upon our review of an article in Free Radical Biology and Medicine entitled “Evidence for a-tocopherol regeneration reaction of green tea polyphenols in SDS micelles” (Zhou et al., Free Radic Biol Med, 38, 2005, 78-84), we found that a substantial portion of the data in this paper had been duplicated from the following manuscript: Zhou et al., “Synergistic antioxidant effect of green tea polyphenols with a-tocopherol on free radical initiated peroxidation of linoleic acid”, J Chem Soc, Perkin Trans 2, 2000, 785-791.

    Both papers are attached in .pdf format, and I have cc’d the corresponding authors of both papers on this e-mail. I will also send this e-mail to the Editor of the RSC journal Organic and Bioorganic Chemistry, which has taken over publication of Perkin Trans 2.

    In particular, the given in Table 1 of Zhou et al., Free Radic Biol Med, 38, 2005, 78-84 has been taken directly from Tables 1 and 2 of Zhou et al., J Chem Soc, Perkin Trans 2, 2000, 785-791 without attributing the data to this source. Since the data presented in these tables are taken from some of the figures in each publication, this necessarily implies the duplication of data in figures from the two papers in question. The Materials and Methods section of Zhou et al., Free Radic Biol Med, 38, 2005, 78-84 also suggests the data was new and original, although upon closer inspection, this section in Zhou et al., Free Radic Biol Med, 38, 2005, 78-84 is very closely written to that provided in Zhou et al., J Chem Soc, Perkin Trans 2, 2000, 785-791. As a result, readers are being misled into thinking more experimental work was performed for Zhou et al., Free Radic Biol Med, 38, 2005, 78-84 than was actually the case, since the authors have plagiarized some of the work given in Zhou et al., J Chem Soc, Perkin Trans 2, 2000, 785-791.

    We do not believe an article put forward as an “Original Contribution” in Free Radical Biology and Medicine should contain this level of data duplication.

    These issues came to our attention because we were investigating other cases of similar data duplication by this research group (e.g., http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18983156 and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12298009; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18554517 and other data from J Chem Soc, Perkin Trans 2, 2000, 785-791).

    Sincerely,
    Sierra Rayne, Ph.D.”

    On July 13, 2009, Dr. Davies wrote the following back to me:

    “Dear Dr. Rayne,

    Thank you for your notification. We are now taking your suggestions under consideration. You will appreciate that you have raised very serious charges that must be carefully reviewed and considered.

    Your e-mail does not list any address or affiliation, which is quite unusual. Are you prepared to identify yourself and to detail your interest, and or, involvement in this matter?

    Sincerely,

    Kelvin Davies
    Editor-in-Chief, Free Radical Biology & Medicine”

    On July 13, 2009, I wrote the following back to Dr. Davies:

    “Dear Dr. Davies,

    Of course I am prepared to identify myself – I already did.

    A search of the peer-reviewed literature will reveal that I am a bond-fide scientist with a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Victoria and postdoctoral experience, and a number of publications in environmental chemistry. I am currently an independent consultant in Penticton, British Columbia, Canada.

    The issues in these papers speak for themselves. Some data in the two papers is equivalent. You and the publishers of these journals can decide for yourselves on how to proceed. Is there a need for identification and affiliation when bringing such issues to your attention? It is irrelevant. The issue is the apparent data duplication in these two papers, not the identity, background, etc., of the individual who brought the matter to light for your investigation.

    My collaborators and I are performing revisions on a paper that reviews the antioxidant activity of resveratrol and other hydroxystilbene derivatives, and we initially found data duplication between two other papers of these researchers. When we brought this matter to the attention of the authors and the editor of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Dr. Zhou admitted the data duplication. We assume ACS is investigating these matters further, as it appears they are from the e-mails I received this morning. Upon finding the data duplication in the JAFC article, we began a further probe into the publishing history of Dr. Zhou and his colleagues, and have now found at least 5 examples of such duplication. Ergo, once we saw the article that involved your journal, I e-mailed you accordingly.

    I have no personal or financial or professional interest in this matter other than publishing ethics. Most of us scientists find it challenging to publish work in high-quality journals, and it is quite annoying to see other groups getting high-profile publications by duplicating datasets across different journals or publishers.

    Please let me know if you have any further questions.

    Sincerely,
    Sierra Rayne, Ph.D.”

    1. Why should you need an address of affiliation? Why can’t Prof. Kelvin J. A. Davies simply read what you have written and make a decision?

      Are only people who are part of the system allowed to point out when things do not fit?

      Is the professor trying to imply that people without an affiliation are somehow chridren of a lesser god?

      What does not having an affiliation being “unusual” have to do with the claims?

      1. Simple answer: people like to know who is making the accusations. It would not be the first time someone is accused of wrongdoing by somebody with an axe to grind, nor would it be the first time people are sent on a wild goose chase (and note that I am not accusing Sierra Rayne of that).

        1. Affiliation is irrelevant for meeting the criteria of ‘knowing who your accuser is’, only a name is required. Proof in point is that I had no ‘formal affiliation’ at the time I made the accusations. Ergo, if you needed some affiliation (other than as a private citizen) to make accusations, my accusations would have been ignored. Davies was likely trying to intimidate me and ‘shut me up’, as such issues embarrass (and create work for) the editor and publisher, as his questions had nothing to do with the substance of the allegation. Indeed, as readers can see in my e-mail, checking my accusation is literally a 5 minute job for the editor. It took him longer to write the ‘goofy’ e-mail back to me than it would have taken him to check the accusation quickly to see if it had merit.

          And, of course, my accusations were proven to be correct. During a short period in the summer of 2009, since I was already working in the resveratrol field (resveratrol is a well-known compound with a range of promising biological activities), I read a couple papers by this research group in question (Bo Zhou at Lanzhou University), and found data and text duplication. I then ‘smelled a rat’, and read most of his other works (largely related to antioxidant activities of various polyphenols).

          This investigation of mine led to a substantial number of papers of Zhou’s with major problems regarding data duplication and self-plagiarism (i.e., reproduction of large swaths of text between papers). I then sent a number of e-mails (of the form I sent to Kelvin Davies above) to various editors (and cc’ing all other relevant editors and publishers) detailing the issues and any related papers that are affected. I have not yet constructed a narrative for the entire escapade and placed it on my blog, but needless to say, my findings have been proven correct. Zhou’s group has been forced to issue several Errata/Corrigenda (e.g., Chen et al., Free Radical Biology & Medicine 50 (2011) 484; Chen et al., Free Radical Biology & Medicine 50 (2010) 218; Dai et al., Biochimie 91 (2009) 1535; Fang and Zhou, J. Agric. Food Chem., 2010, 58 (3), 2054-2054) as well as a retraction (Qian et al., J. Med. Chem. 2009, 52, 6504–6504). Not all the issues regarding Zhou have been dealt with by the respective journals (and journal editors with Zhou’s work in it and who did not address my concerns can read about the issues in full – including e-mails they would have received from me and failed to act on appropriately – in future postings on my blog, but if readers are examining his recent record in the literature and wonder who ‘caught him’, that would be me. After reading his papers, I found it hard to believe his nonsense passed by the reviewers and editors, who must have been entirely unfamiliar with the field of research (because if you had read one of Zhou’s prior papers in a field, then you would have found it impossible to ignore that he was duplicating his work over time).

      2. I have to disagree, Sierra. I would have asked for an affiliation, too, just to know who I am dealing with. A name is not enough to identify anyone.

        In science, accusations are usually made “in the open”. Moreover, in communications in science most of us clearly show our affiliation. Common practice. It thus is out of the ordinary to get an e-mail from someone with an accusation, and only have a name. Does it matter for the substance of the accusation? No, but it still is something out of the ordinary. That you translate Davies’ (IMHO normal) request for more information as an attempt to silence you is thus not warranted.

        It might benefit you if you would consider the option of absence of malicious intent.

        1. Well, since we are all advocating transparency, why don’t you give us your full name and affiliation? Do you have any connections to any individuals named here, or on my blog? It’s hard to take your views seriously when you are hiding behind either an alias or an incomplete name.

          And your argument is nonsensical. As I noted above, it would have taken less time for Davies to evaluate my accusation than it took him to request some affiliation from me – for which I gave him none anyway. So at the end of the day, Davies’ request for affiliation wasted his time and mine – as he didn’t get one – and he needed to investigate the accusation anyway, and for which I was proven right.

          The simple fact is that science today is more politics than science, as evidenced on my blog. I expect supporters of such corruption (either completely, or in part) will be active in defending this type of behavior.

        2. Actually Marco, I think I know who you are. My LinkedIn profile shows that someone named “Marco van de Weert; Associate Professor – Biomacromolecular Drug Delivery; Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Copenhagen” viewed my profile in the last 24 hours. Seems like an odd coincidence if the “Marco” on this page isn’t the Marco from the University of Copenhagen.

      3. Sierra, I offered you the suggestion to consider the absence of malicious intent. If you are not willing to take that suggestion and try it out, there’s little I can do but shrug my shoulders; *shrug*.

        1. Marco, there is stuff going on in science that is very serious, and I take it seriously. Editors should be more receptive to such inquiries, and ensure their responses cannot in any reasonable way be interpreted as a ‘go away’ effort. In fact, I should probably be paid for doing the Editor’s work for him. Affiliations are irrelevant, as they should not be used to assess the validity of any criticisms of a published work (and I’ve debunked the ‘affiliation’ test above anyway, to which no one has responded with any coherence). And Zhou’s papers should have been retracted, not ‘corrected’, so Davies’ response to the issues was unsatisfactory and serves to promote further unethical behavior, not deter it.

          I also find the choice of who is being publicly sanctioned and who is not (including who is profiled and who is not on various web pages) very interesting. Funny how many of the players being sanctioned are often researchers from Asia and the Middle East and/or graduate students, postdocs, and young independent researchers from the western countries. The problem starts at the top (i.e., senior researchers) and comes down from there. There is no doubt that ethics needs to be enforced for all researchers from all countries, but I see a preference to ‘pick on the easy targets’ (and also left/right political spectrum influences). Why not tackle a few of the big players? I’ve listed them on my site (e.g., Wania from the University of Toronto, Mazza [who is on the ISI most cited list] and Oomah from Agriculture Canada, etc.).

          I see on a related Retraction Watch story (http://www.retractionwatch.com/2011/05/17/three-more-chemistry-papers-fall-to-serious-errors-of-unknown-nature/) you received a ‘hat tip’ for some theoretical chemistry papers from Iran that were retracted. Why don’t you express more support for individuals working to expose the equally serious problems we have in North American and European universities and colleges?

          1. Thanks for the question about our hat tips, Sierra. We offer them to anyone who gives us good story tips, and who wants to be identifed, either by his or her name, by a pseudonym, or anonymously. We rely heavily on such tips, and really appreciate them. A search of the site for “hat tip” demonstrates that North America and Europe are well-represented in posts in which we give hat tips: http://www.retractionwatch.com/?s=%22hat+tip%22

            You might also find it worthwhile to use our category dropdown menu in the right-hand column, which classifies posts by journal, country, author, reason for retraction, and more. As of today, the top three countries by number of posts are the US, Germany, and the UK.

          2. As I read your dropdown bar, there are 91 stories on retractions from Europe, 83 stories on retractions from N. America, and 50 stories on retractions from Asia (everywhere else are just minor players in terms of stories on your site). I did use the phrase “authors from Asia, the Middle East, and Africa and/or junior researchers from N. America and Europe”. Based on what I am seeing in the disciplines I am most familiar with (Chemistry and Environmental Science and Engineering), the ‘big fish’ are being ignored, and these are the senior researchers.

            Your site also does not individually catalog all retractions in all publishers, and thus such statistics in your dropdown bar are heavily skewed towards the stories you choose to profile. Furthermore, you only list a country once per story, even if the story contains multiple retractions by an author from a country. As an example, your dropdown bar only lists Brazil with a number “3”, yet one of your single stories (http://www.retractionwatch.com/2011/03/28/hazardous-materials-elsevier-retracts-11-chemistry-papers-from-brazilian-group-citing-fraud/) cites 11 papers from a single Brazilian group that are being retracted.

            What we need are year-by-year total retraction statistics by country and position of the author who committed the indiscretion. Your dropdown bar is not a reliable indication of either of these statistics, which are the ones we really want to be discussing.

          3. Thanks for the feedback, Sierra. I was responding to your question “Why don’t you express more support for individuals working to expose the equally serious problems we have in North American and European universities and colleges?” by giving you plenty of evidence that we give hat tips to people in North America and Europe.

            Your point about what the numbers in our categories shows is well-taken, but we have never claimed to be comprehensive; we’re simply trying to shed far more light on retractions. (And the example you give about Brazil can be more than matched by Joachim Boldt, who has retracted about 90 papers, even though Germany shows up with a far fewer number of posts than that.) Also keep in mind that we are only categorizing retractions since we started Retraction Watch in August 2010.

            We’d welcome anyone who wanted to go through our archives to categorize posts in terms of “year-by-year total retraction statistics by country and position of the author who committed the indiscretion.” Again, we’re doing what we can to shed light on the hundreds of retractions every year that don’t get any attention, and we have to make choices given our resources, both in terms of what we cover — driven in many cases by what people send us — and what we can index.

            We would also welcome tips about the specific retractions to which you allude in chemistry, environmental science, and engineering, so please send those notices along.

          4. Ivan: I think we’re talking at cross-purposes here. First off, I strongly support your site, but it is a subjective view of retractions, not objective, since it is not all-inclusive (that’s fine, as it serves an important role).

            More importantly, I was replying to Marco with statements such as “Why don’t you express more support for individuals working to expose the equally serious problems we have in North American and European universities and colleges?”, not your site. I want to see professors such as Marco who are in the N. American and/or European academic systems come out in support of individuals such as myself who highlight the flaws in our systems. To date, the silence is deafening, and speaks to the rampant corruption in our systems (which is, unfortunately, supported by taxpayer dollars).

            Your site has utility, but it cannot be used to assess whether there is bias in the retraction/correction system that is based on either geographic location or seniority.

            As for retracted papers in my disciplines, I don’t ‘pass them along’ to your site because that would result in a subjective bias on your site towards the journals I review regularly, and towards journals that act ethically and actually retract/correct the papers they should. As I noted above, publishers such as ACS are notorious for not retracting/correcting papers they should (good god, the purported ‘leading journal’ from this publisher, “Journal of the American Chemical Society” doesn’t even allow ‘notes’ or ‘comments’ to be published, as the author guidelines bizarrely read “Articles, Communications, Perspectives, Book Reviews, and Computer Software Reviews are published. “Notes” and “Comments” on earlier work are not considered or published” (http://pubs.acs.org/paragonplus/submission/jacsat/jacsat_authguide.pdf); and what, pray tell, is the silly rationale for this?). The retractions are fairly numerous in some other journals. For example, the Journal of Hazardous Materials had 3 retractions in the last issue alone: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/03043894/194. This doesn’t mean J. Haz. Mat. has more ethical problems than JACS, only that J. Haz. Mat. appears to at least deal (potentially only partially) with the problems.

            I’m less worried about the retractions/corrections that exist in the literature than I am about the ones that aren’t published but should be, and how this skews academic hiring and grant selections in N. America and Europe (and elsewhere).

          5. Thanks for the clarifications, Sierra. We recognize that our priorities are not the same as everyone else’s and continue to be gratified by those who find us useful and support the site. We should also note that we don’t think retractions are evidence of unethical behavior among editors, and are quick to praise those who act quickly and transparently.

        2. I will add a follow-up. I will stop assuming ‘malicious intent’ once I start to see editors take universally appropriate actions. If authors from Asia, the Middle East, and Africa and/or junior researchers from N. America and Europe are forced to retract and/or seriously correct their flawed works, then so should (without bias) the so-called senior researchers from N. America and Europe. Otherwise, we have ethical standards discrimination based on geographical location and/or seniority. Either the ‘law’ applies to all equally, or it applies to none. All articles with ethical and/or scientific issues get retracted/corrected, or none do. It is a binary choice.

          That is exactly why I want to speak with Jerald Schnoor, the editor of the American Chemical Society (ACS) journal “Environmental Science and Technology” about the numerous seriously flawed articles in his journal and the unethical behavior of reviewers for his journal as well as members of his editorial board, all of which he has entirely failed to address in any way and which are documented on my blog. We can discuss the issues either here, or on my blog. Given how several individuals from IP addresses at ACS were reading my blog intensively on Friday, they are clearly aware of my concerns, so let us discuss them openly in a transparent forum rather than always trying to hide and/or shove things ‘under the carpet’.

    2. Sierra, the supposed absence of support for individuals like you is not absent. Support for *you* is a different story: I noted that Davies e-mail to you could be read in a completely different matter, but you are sure it should be read in the most negative way possible. Then my support for that individual (=you) dwindles, as I do not consider such behavior constructive. Take it or leave it.

      I also have no trouble reporting European or American scientists, nor do I agree with your contention that the big fish are left alone. Ivan already mentioned Joachim Boldt, Bulfone-Paus isn’t a small one either, and neither is Carsten Carlberg. I do tip Ivan about retractions, though they don’t always make it onto the homepage (and sometimes Retractionwatch is actually already ahead of me), since I do think retractions often make an interesting story. Just not always a story of fraud.

      1. Marco: Your replies tell me as much about you as you feel my replies tell me about me. You appear to layer over facts with personal feelings about whether you ‘like or dislike’ an individual and/or their attitude/approach when making assessments of what should be done. It is very much the same as Chris’ ‘attitudinal’ discussions below. Individuals who always talk in terms of such emotions most often do so because they have no more fundamental level on which to stand (i.e., the ‘baffle them with BS’ approach). This increasing ’emotionalization’ of science is at the heart of problems in the field, and explains the public’s ever-diminishing trust in scientists (and the scientists desires/demands for self-regulation) and the findings they report on issues that have a policy outcome. Many people, including myself, now recognize science to have evolved into more of a political endeavor than an objective examination of the world around us. Oh, there are many good scientists still out there, but they are being ever-increasingly diluted with subjective ‘twits’, self-promotional activities, and personal ‘branding’ (we see many major journals even supporting openly such silliness).

        I have already dealt with the nonsensical logic behind your points, and that of Davies. The issue I raised to Davies is a purely factual issue – no ‘wishy-washy’, ‘touchy-feely’ emotional baggage is, or was, required to assess the merits of my points. In my e-mail to Davies, I pointed out the problems in clear and no uncertain terms and attached the corresponding papers. It should have taken Davies less than 1-2 minutes to assess the reasonableness, and likely even the veracity, of my factual claims about the papers (which is less time than it likely took him to write back to me). Consequently, there was no need for Davies to write anything back to me other than “thank you, we are investigating the situation”. My name, affiliation, whether I stand to lose or gain from the issue, is all entirely – and without reservation – irrelevant. This was, and is, a purely factual issue with respect to publishing ethics that is unrelated to the personalities involved. If you feel ‘personalities’ and ‘identities’ matter in such simple situations, then you are part of the problem, not the solution, and – in my opinion – should not be part of the editorial/reviewing process at peer-reviewed journals. We need less ‘subjectivity’ in publishing, not more.

        As an example of a more appropriate response by a major editor (who also happens to be at an American Chemical Society journal), the following is my e-mail (from July 13, 2009) to Philip Portoghese at the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry regarding more Zhou articles, and his excellent reply which should serve as a model for other editors (particularly Davies):

        “Dear Dr. Portoghese,

        Upon our review of an article in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry entitled “Antioxidant-Based Lead Discovery for Cancer Chemoprevention: The Case of Resveratrol” (Qian et al., J Med Chem 2009, 52, 1963-1974), we found that a substantial portion of the data in this paper had been duplicated from the following manuscript: Zheng et al., “DNA damage induced by resveratrol and its synthetic analogues in the presence of Cu (II) ions: Mechanism and structure-activity relationship “, Free Radical Biology& Medicine, 41, 2006, 1807-1816 (Zheng et al., Free Radic. Biol. Med. 2006, 41, 1807-1816).

        Both papers are attached in .pdf format, and I have cc’d the corresponding authors of both papers on this e-mail.

        In particular, Figure 4 in Zheng et al., Free Radic. Biol. Med. 2006, 41, 1807-1816 has been duplicated as Figure 5 in Qian et al., J Med Chem 2009, 52, 1963-1974, with the exception that the data for the compound 4,4′-DHS has been removed from Figure 5 in Qian et al., J Med Chem 2009, 52, 1963-1974. Figure 5(a) in Zheng et al., Free Radic. Biol. Med. 2006, 41, 1807-1816 has been duplicated as the inset in Figure 6(a) in Qian et al., J Med Chem 2009, 52, 1963-1974. Figure 5(b) in Zheng et al., Free Radic. Biol. Med. 2006, 41, 1807-1816 has been duplicated as the main figure in Figure 6(a) in Qian et al., J Med Chem 2009, 52, 1963-1974. Figure 6 in Zheng et al., Free Radic. Biol. Med. 2006, 41, 1807-1816 has been duplicated as Figure 7 in Qian et al., J Med Chem 2009, 52, 1963-1974.

        The Materials and Methods section of Qian et al., J Med Chem 2009, 52, 1963-1974 suggests the data was new and original. As a result, readers are being misled into thinking more experimental work was performed for Qian et al., J Med Chem 2009, 52, 1963-1974 than was actually the case, since the authors have plagiarized the work given in Zheng et al., Free Radic. Biol. Med. 2006, 41, 1807-1816.

        Based on this level of plagiarism, this article should be retracted.

        These issues came to our attention because we were investigating other cases of similar data duplication by this research group (e.g., http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18983156 and
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12298009; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15589374 and
        http://www.rsc.org/publishing/journals/P2/article.asp?doi=a908084h; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18554517 and http://www.rsc.org/publishing/journals/P2/article.asp?doi=a908084h).

        Sincerely,
        Sierra Rayne, Ph.D.”

        and Portoghese’s reply the same day:

        “Dear Dr Rayne,

        Thank you for calling this to our attention. We shall act upon this information immediately.

        Best wishes,

        Philip S. Portoghese, Ph.D.
        Distinguished Professor
        Department of Medicinal Chemistry
        College of Pharmacy
        University of Minnesota
        308 Harvard St SE, 8-114 WDH
        Minneapolis MN 55455
        612-624-9174 telephone
        202-513-8609 fax”

        and my reply back to Portoghese, also on the same day:

        “Dear Dr. Portoghese,

        Thanks very much for the update. Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance.

        Best regards,
        Sierra Rayne, Ph.D.”

        I had no further communication with Portoghese (nor was there any need for, or desire for), and I saw later that Zhou’s article had been retracted in J. Med. Chem. 2009, 52, 6504–6504 with the following note:

        “Withdrawal of Antioxidant-Based Lead Discovery for Cancer Chemoprevention: The Case of Resveratrol [J. Med. Chem. 2009, 52, 1963. DOI: 10.1021/jm8015415]. Yi-Ping Qian, Yu-Jun Cai,* Gui-Juan Fan, Qing-Yi Wei, Jie Yang, Li-Fang Zheng, Xiu-Zhuang Li, Jian-Guo Fang, and Bo Zhou*
        Pages 1963-1974. The Editor-in-Chief of this Journal has withdrawn this manuscript due to violation of the ACS Ethical Guidelines for the Publication of Chemical Research.
        DOI: 10.1021/jm901413p
        Published on Web 10/15/2009”

        So, Marco, there are major editors who know how to communicate appropriately on these issues, and in turn, I communicate appropriately with them, and situations are resolved appropriately. The ‘muddling’ emotional nonsense appearing on the discussion on this site over the past couple days is neither the way science should operate, nor the way the editors, reviewers, and authors who do it right operate (and these types of individuals do exist, despite immature and superficial claims on this page that I am somehow ‘paranoid’, etc. – please keep writing this nonsense, as you are just digging a bigger public hole for science that effectively justifies many of my other concerns).

  7. Amazing… Please Sierra have us posted on what comes out of this. Maybe this would fit the Abnormal Science Blog?

    Dr Oransky, this seems as a very interesting topic, maybe this blog would deserve a section on something like “how journals react to allegations of misconduct”?

    And even, maybe a section discussing experiences with different journals/editorial boards. These people have to be exposed.

    1. Paulo, I’ve included some more of the details regarding the Zhou case above in a separate reply, and I’ll be posting all of the Zhou e-mails I wrote to various editors in 2009 on my blog with the respective ‘Comment on “xxx”‘ title system and, of course, providing interlinked “Bo Zhou” labels for readers to readily piece together his most interesting ‘publishing history’.

      The Zhou issue is but one of literally hundreds I have documented on my site. And to date, the journal editors and authors have largely done nothing in response, other than intensify the blacklisting against me in the Canadian academic establishment (I document the hiring and other employment irregularities I’ve seen at institutions such as Okanagan College, University of British Columbia – Okanagan, Thompson Rivers University, Grant MacEwan University, etc., on my site). This blacklisting proves the systemic corruption in science, as I have not seen a single Canadian faculty member or administrator step up in support my efforts (or me) – all I have seen is a ‘closing of ranks’ around the corruption.

      Indeed, the Dean of Arts at Thompson Rivers University (Michael Mehta) recently attacked my efforts on his blog (http://mehta.blog.mytru.ca/tag/sierra-rayne/), calling me a ‘safety threat’ to the Canadian post-secondary system and writing that I am a “disgruntled new PhD who can’t seem to land a tenure-track job” (this issue can be dealt with later) and that he “would never recommend hiring such an individual, would you? Anyone asked to provide a reference for such a person should also think twice.” How is that for how academic administrators publicly behave in Canada? Anyone here support this overt ‘blacklisting’ effort by Michael Mehta? See anything wrong in academia? Mehta should be immediately fired with cause and without severance from Thompson Rivers University for making such statements on an ‘official blog’ hosted on a Canadian university website.

  8. Re: Sierra Rayne.

    Not knowing you or Zhou in person, I can merely comment on the overall impression given by your postings here… that is, one of an incessant whiner. Any time you openly criticize a blog on which you are given privilege to comment, you’re on shaky ground. Ivan’s responses have been very civil, considering you are bordering on troll status in some comments. You should save your criticism of this blog for your own blog pages.

    1. Well, first off Virgil (or whatever your real name is), it is hard to take anyone seriously who doesn’t have the courage to use his/her full real name. For all we know, you could be one of the unethical researchers or editors under scrutiny? And this could just be another weak attempt by these individuals to attempt to discredit and/or undermine their opponents.

      And you sound like a typical uninformed corrupt blowhard who generally can’t discuss specifics, but just rambles out mindless insults like a baby. Let’s talk specifics, my friend. Do the research and let’s chat about the details. What specific problems do you have with my postings on this site?

      And Ivan is welcome to delete all my postings and ban me from this site as he sees fit.

  9. Sierra, I have to say that your overall theme simply doesn’t ring true in my experience. I’ve published in ACS journals for 30 years (around 30 papers in JACS, J. Phys Chem B,, Biochemistry amongst others). I’ve never had any inkling of poor practice, bad faith (let alone “corruption” and “unethical” behaviour). I’ve never heard of such a thing from any of my colleagues [*].

    That’s not to say that I haven’t had some tedious experiences with rejections, annoying referees etc.; but that’s par for the course. Of course you may have had different experiences. However I have just had a look at your blog and it makes me wonder whether your attitude is a major part of the problem.

    Your two most recent blog posts are what seem to me to be entirely unnecessary attacks on the editor of Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology (a certain Daniel Doerge; I’ve never heard of him or his journal before). Your first post is a complaint that while you agreed to review a paper for the journal, the editor subsequently emailed you to say that they’d already made a decision and so your review was’t required (though you could send your review if you’d completed this). Is that really worth making a public attack on Dr. Doerge over? Your second post is a pretty nasty snipe at Dr. Doerge that he didn’t address you correctly.

    Is that your notion of “corruption” or “unethical behavior”!? I’ve had this happen to me a couple of times (i.e. some time after being asked to review, an email fom the editor that my review wasn’t actually necessary). It really doesn’t seem that big a deal. In my opinion the editor should actually inform you the reason (i.e. they’d already obtained three reviews all of which recommended acceptance with minor changes/rejection or what ever). But it doesn’t seem like something to make a major whinge about..I certainly can’t fathom your insinuation in your response to Dr. Doerge that he’s “playing games and politics with the peer review process”. Surely all that’s happened is that he needs 3 reviews, asked for 5, and amazingly he got the three he needed quite quickly….

    [*} Actually, as I was writing this I did remember a disgraceful paper by one of those climate science misrepresenters that was allowed to be published in the ACS Journal “Energy and Fuels”. Something clearly went wrong with the revew/editorial process there..

    1. Chris, care to leave your full name? Or is this another one of the attempted ‘smear the messenger’ issues by an individual without the courage to stand up publicly? Don’t worry, I expect dozens of your kind to write in and attack me (and fail to address anything I have written above – which pretty much tells the audience you are biased and just trying to protect your own), and I’ll keep fighting the good fight and individuals such as you will continue to try to protect your corrupt little world. It’s the human condition, and on we go …

      And, yes, I do stand by my blogs about Doerge. You may disagree, and others have agreed … these issues are not going to be solved unanimously.

      Did you review my entire blog? Did you review all my junk science and publishing ethics postings related to the journal Environmental Science and Technology? What about the ones regarding the Journal of Physical Chemistry? There are many dozen. Or did you just read the couple entries on my blog and leave it at that? Now, now, scientists must fully examine the whole story, not just be superficial. And if getting the correct science out there is so important, why doesn’t JACS allow ‘Comment’ papers?

      Climate science misrepresenters? On which side?

      What’s your full name again?

      1. Fair enough. However, your public attack on Doerge for something that is not a big deal (IMHO) seems completely unnecessary and unwarranted and suggestive of a bad attitude, particularly your insinuations of game playing and politicking simply because he emailed you that your review wasn’t after all necessary (surely if he was politicking/game playing he would have left out asking for your review altogether). But that’s just my opinion as you say!

        I haven’t reviewed your other posts and have no reason to doubt your sincerity on other specific issues. It’s just that your theme seems completely at odds with my personal experience. Since I’ve published quite a few papers in J. Phys. Chem. B. why don’t you direct me to a couple of specific blog posts on your site that address your problems with the editor of that journal? I’m genuinely interested and curious.

        You insinuations/presumptions that I am “corrupt”, “biased” and trying to protect “my corrupt little world” just because my experience doesn’t accord with yours, suggests to me a lack of proportion on your part (bit like your overblown insinuations against Dr. Doerge)!

        Don’t know why JACS doesn’t accept comments. Many journals don’t (e.g. I’ve never seen a comment in Biochim Biophys Acta, J. Mol. Biol. and several other journals I publish in); I’m sure it’s not a conspiracy. I have seen a comment in J. Phys. Chem. B, I’m pretty sure, so presumably under some circumstances a comment is allowed.

        The dodgy paper in “Energy and Fuels” was by a certain Robert H. Essenhigh [E and F vol 20, 1057 (2006)], in which the ludicrous conclusion was made that enhanced CO2 isn’t the cause of global warming, but rather that the massively enhanced atmospheric [CO2] is the result of temperature-induced outgassing of Co2 from the oceans… that (at least the illogical conclusion) shouldn’t have been published. Don’t know whether any comment(s) on this paper were subsequently published…I’ll have a look later.

        1. Chris: If people have an open mind, then I respect their opinions. But on the scale of 1-100 on my blog, my annoyance with Doerge is near 1. And, yes, I do expect an answer from an editor when I ask him what is going on with a manuscript that is dealt with in such a fashion (and Doerge refused to tell me, which is wrong). I spent time reviewing it for no charge, and expect to be treated professionally and with courtesy. If courtesy is not shown to me, I will fail to show it in return.

          And I have reviewed manuscripts for many journals (including several ACS publications), and have never seen that ‘here review it’ (which I accept) followed by subsequent ‘nevermind, I’ve got what I wanted’ stuff. If you’ve seen that elsewhere, so be it. I just don’t think it is the way to conduct business. Reviewer invitations should get sent out to the desired number of reviewers, and if they accept immediately (which I did), then allow the process to proceed. If this was a case of ‘shotgun reviewer invitations and a first-past-the-post’ review structure, then I want no part of this journal reviewing process, which is what I indicated to the editor and posted on my blog (as that is unethical to the reviewers, in my view).

          There is a lot of good science in ACS journals, and some junk. I will say that (after I had a number of ACS publications during my early career) over the past three years, I have had papers at several ACS journals be treated in what I would consider an unfortunate manner. I don’t see conspiracies everywhere … one will note my blog tends to concentrate on a group of individuals that can be clearly linked together.

          I’ll highlight in my next reply what I see as some issues closer to ‘100’ on the concern scale (at least in my rating) – some of which will likely be from various publishers – and post the links here so you and others can read them if you wish, and let me know of your agreements/disagreements if you like in a public forum (alternatively, anyone can leave comments on my blog, I do not delete comments that are unfavorable).

          Last but not least, this ‘attitude’ assessment thing has got to get tossed out of science. We’re supposed to be objective scientists, not politicians. Yes, we all have emotions, etc., but I see far too much emphasis placed on subjective ‘attitudinal’ nonsense – that is most often used to dismiss valid critics – in science nowadays than is healthy. Such assessments can be used to justify corruption (the ‘he can’t play well with others stuff’ that is impossible to prove or disprove, it just sits there in the ether).

        2. Chris:

          Here is a problematic manuscript at J. Agr. Food Chem.:

          http://sierra-rayne.blogspot.com/2011/04/comment-on-lignin-extraction-from-straw.html

          (and a counterpart at another journal, http://sierra-rayne.blogspot.com/2011/05/comment-on-aqueous-ionic-liquid.html, with related discussions http://sierra-rayne.blogspot.com/2011/09/conversations-with-problematic-journal.html and http://sierra-rayne.blogspot.com/2011/10/how-do-you-get-to-be-editor-in-chief-of.html)

          another one

          http://sierra-rayne.blogspot.com/2011/04/story-of-jf0733261-solid-state.html

          The following paper was rejected as a Comment at J. Agr. Food Chemistry, with Seiber (the Editor) telling me in writing that he agreed entirely with my Comment, and that the other authors were publishing a correction admitting the duplication (this “Correction” by the other group was never published):

          http://sierra-rayne.blogspot.com/2011/01/comment-on-multielement-analysis-of.html

          Here is an interesting story at the journal Food Chemisty:

          http://sierra-rayne.blogspot.com/2011/04/whatever-happened-to-foodchem-d-09.html

          Here’s an interesting e-mail conversation with David Schindler (a well known aquatic ecologist at the University of Alberta) regarding a paper in PNAS that I subsequently found significant errors in once I pried the supporting data from Schindler:

          http://sierra-rayne.blogspot.com/2011/04/conversations-with-dr-david-schindler.html

          Here’s a paper in the journal Science from the groups of Gobas (Simon Fraser University) and Ikonomou (Fisheries and Oceans Canada) that should probably be retracted:

          http://sierra-rayne.blogspot.com/2011/04/comment-on-food-web-specific.html

          Here’s a nice review process for one of my papers at Environ. Sci. Technol.:

          http://sierra-rayne.blogspot.com/2011/04/manuscript-es-2009-02599p-at-journal.html

          Here’s a conversation with Heather Stapleton at Duke University (she’s also on the ES&T editorial board):

          http://sierra-rayne.blogspot.com/2011/04/conversations-with-dr-heather-stapleton.html

          Here’s some thoughts on a Perspective article published in the journal Science:

          http://sierra-rayne.blogspot.com/2011/10/comment-on-molecular-basis-for-wine.html

          And a number of papers by Frank Wania’s group at the University of Toronto that appear to be junk science and should either be retracted or seriously corrected:

          http://sierra-rayne.blogspot.com/search/label/Frank%20Wania

          And John Giesy (a Canada Research Chair at the University of Saskatchewan) has all kinds of weird affiliations and authorships, claims of fields of research he discovered, and some likely junk science:

          http://sierra-rayne.blogspot.com/search/label/John%20Giesy

          These are but a few representative issues.

  10. Earlier in this discussion I brought up the issue of geographical representation of retractions. A simple search of the Elsevier ScienceDirect system over the period 2009-present with the search term (retract*) in the title gives the following country of origin for authors (where multiple authors on a single paper had the same country of origin, the country of origin was only counted once):

    China: 58
    USA: 43
    India: 38
    Iran: 15
    South Korea: 14
    UK: 14
    Germany: 13
    Japan: 12
    Canada: 8
    Brazil: 7
    Egypt: 7
    France: 7
    Spain: 7
    Netherlands: 6
    Pakistan: 6
    Turkey: 5
    Australia: 4
    Mexico: 4
    Austria: 3
    Finland: 3
    Israel: 3
    Jordan: 3
    Malaysia: 3
    Russia: 3
    South Africa: 3
    Argentina: 2
    Greece: 2
    Indonesia: 2
    Italy: 2
    Luxembourg: 2
    Norway: 2
    Palestine: 2
    Taiwan: 2
    Algeria: 1
    Belgium: 1
    Denmark: 1
    Hungary: 1
    Ireland: 1
    Lebanon: 1
    Peru: 1
    Poland: 1
    Qatar: 1
    Saudi Arabia: 1
    Singapore: 1
    Sweden: 1
    Switzerland: 1
    Thailand: 1
    Tunisia: 1
    Ukraine: 1
    United Arab Emirates: 1

    Clearly a significant number of retractions from Asia. I will further summarize the data on my blog.

    1. Asia as well as Asian scientist in US or Canadian universities appear to be the biggest offenders also based on the coverage in retraction watch. I wonder if that is really true or due to some unintentional bias

      1. There is undoubtedly a political aspect of retractions that remains hidden, as it is difficult to get information on. We only see the results of the process, not the process itself. Thus, any analyses of the issue are biased before they begin (this does not diminish the value in still doing the analyses on such limited information, but we would not be acting as good scientists if we did not admit the lack of true foundational knowledge). Whether or not someone’s paper gets retracted is a result of a battle of political strength as much (if not more) than it is an issue of facts and ethics.

        Yes, some ‘big names’ in Europe and North America have been ‘taken down’ (Schon being the most notable among the general public, of course). But what is behind the decision to ‘take down’ some ‘big names’ and not others? Likeability plays a role, sadly enough, and introduces subjectivity into the decisions. This has even been brought up on this page with individuals such as Marco, Virgil, and Chris referring to me as a ‘whiner’ with ‘attitude’ issues, and other such banana republic grade three jibberish, and then linking such amateurish assessments somehow to the credibility of either my claims or whether major efforts should be employed to pursue such claims. Such comments are evidence in themselves of the inability of science to properly govern itself. Add onto this the layer of whether or not the author(s) of a paper that should be retracted (or corrected) is/are generally ‘liked’ in the field, and the whole system is rife with problems.

        In general, at many journals (particularly leading ones), authors from Asia have far less ‘political pull’ with the editor(s) than do authors from North America and Europe. I’ve had first hand experience on this front. Zhou (from China) was a case that most journals dealt with in some fashion. Other scientists from Canada (Wania, Mazza, Bowen, Ikonomou, etc., are of note) that I have raised issues over have not been dealt with in any reasonable form, because of their political connections to the journal editors and enmeshment in the self-supporting North American ‘web of science corruption’. Of course, there are also journals with dominantly Asian and/or Middle Eastern editorial boards, and one could imagine at these journals, authors from these regions may have more ‘political pull’ than those from North America and Europe. Last, but not least, I know of several excellent editors (at Elsevier, Springer, and Wiley journals) that appear to have no geographic and/or seniority (which is probably as important, if not more so, than geography) biases in how they deal with both good and bad papers.

  11. I think there are a few issues here. First, many of us choose not to use our real names because we are junior scientists, and we prefer to be able to speak openly about issues related to fraud and misconduct without fear for our future jobs. I do not think that is unreasonable. In fact, I think Dr. Rayne’s position, fighting against misconduct (whether it is true misconduct or perceived) provides a case in point. I believe it is unlikely that Dr. Rayne will be able to get a tenure track position, at least in Canada. I read Dr. Mehta’s blog about Dr. Rayne and did find it unprofessional and inappropriate. However, I think seeing conspiracies everywhere – and believing that people here that have been reading this blog since its inception and commenting regularly on articles are actually the few people that have caused ‘harm’ to the climate science community (or any other) is at best paranoid. Having been ‘abused’ in the past (by publishers, editors, advisors, those you ask to write you letters of recommendation, etc.) can lead you to have warped views of the world. Sadly, that colors your ability to communicate with other scientists.

    I do know Dr. Doerge, and his work. I do not agree with him, and in fact think his work is often poorly done. However, I don’t think his email was unethical. I have had exactly this experience – a journal letting me know that my review was not necessary. I did not care what decision the journal had made. My response was relief because I was over-booked.

    This blog has jumped the shark today – and while it has been plenty entertaining, I think the question of whether journals should ban ‘guilty’ researchers is equally interesting to ponder. Anyone care to do so?

    1. I understand your preference not to leave your name. That said, your comment was reasonably balanced and did not resort to simplistic ‘name calling’, etc., and I agree with much of what you say, and disagree with some of it. For those that come on this site to smear a reputation (be it mine or anothers), it is a basic standard of honor that you use your full real name. If the smearing is warranted, so be it, but at least ‘show your face’. We discussed above the right to ‘know your accuser’ with regard to accusations made to journal editors. The same standard should apply on this site.

      I also have never said that all editors, reviewers, scientists, citizens, etc., etc., are unethical, corrupt, etc. Science has the same population of problematic individuals as does regular society, and from our experiences and the sociological data, this means there are a number of corrupt individuals in science. I know a number of extremely ethical editors, reviewers, fellow scientists, and citizens. Unfortunately, there are clusters of corruption that are overwhelming the ‘good people’, and most of the ‘good people’ are not speaking up as they should for what is right.

      I have published in several sub-disciplines of chemistry. I have found the theoretical/computational chemists (and particularly the editors) to be very ethical. On the other hand, the environmental chemistry community is generally (but not entirely) a major ethical problem, perhaps because of the policy implications of the findings that simply are not present in many other areas of science. With over 360 entries on my blog, I document this in detail. The Doerge issue is minor – review the whole blog (or at least much more of it; I’ve highlighted things and people to look for above, and need not repeat them here) and then make a decision.

      You are right, I probably will never get an academic appointment in Canada (or elsewhere, given the inter-connectedness of science nowadays). My institutionally-based science career may have been terminated by my enemies several years back. But that attests to the problems in the system. I was blacklisted long before I started to speak out publicly. I now speak out publicly and often because I know I can’t reduce my employment prospects any lower (the probability of a job cannot go below zero), so I only hope my experiences being revealed will prevent other young, promising researchers and teachers from having to go through the nonsense me and my family had to go through. Academic freedom is a multi-directional street. Controversial individuals that can support their statements should be welcomed in the system, not shunned. The ‘mini-me’ culture of science is unhealthy, and quite frankly, embarrassing. Diversity in thought and opinion is warranted. The historical lessons of science should tell us this.

      1. The current numbers to Brazil based on this blog’s information should actually now be 11 + 3 = 14 retractions. Yet some of them may never actually come to be, as the main responsible people Dr Airioldi and Gomes have been doing whatever they can to stop the process. Yet the list only indicates number of (and links to) posts, as it claims to do.

        In my opinion every country should have their own local ‘Retraction Watch’ for a whole panorama.

      2. I can’t disagree with Paulo’s recommendation of various national retraction watch sites, but the interesting stuff happens well before the retraction occurs (or better yet, if it doesn’t occur but should). And as I note above, country statistics are not objective assessments of ethical problems, as politically powerful authors can block retractions. So all processes should be documented, whether they lead to a retraction or not.

        And as we see on this site, there will always be ‘doubters’ (whether they are real or fake in their so-called convictions) who try and muddy the waters and can’t discuss specifics and details. These are the individuals that really need to be blacklisted from science. Many scientists nowadays whine about the purported “climate-deniers”, and yet they adopt a “corruption-denier” position that is hypocritical to everything else they fight for.

        And for those that want to write in and trash and/or cast doubt on the search for ethical behavior, keep writing, my friends, (as some of you have above) as many others read this blog beyond just scientists (i.e., the public, law enforcement agencies, government bureaucrats, etc.), and if scientists want to be a self-regulating profession and yet vigorously try and suppress well supported accusations, then these external individuals and institutions will lose faith in science and defund it, or fail to take it seriously, etc., which will seal the fate of your profession. I believe there are some well-justified Senate hearings in the USA on this front that are about to occur (or occurring).

        And I did submit a detailed response with recommended postings from my blog for Chris to read; it is still sitting in the moderation queue for this site.

    2. And with regard to “uncomfortable leaving my name”, who states (presumably in response to my comments) that “However, I think seeing conspiracies everywhere – and believing that people here that have been reading this blog since its inception and commenting regularly on articles are actually the few people that have caused ‘harm’ to the climate science community (or any other) is at best paranoid.”

      I have no idea what you are talking about. My statement to Chris that “Climate science misrepresenters? On which side?” means that there is junk science on both sides of this aisle, and let’s face it, we really have no idea where the climate has been and is going, and what are the physical drivers are. This field is largely geofantasization, as evidenced by its lack of backward and forward predictability. So I guess my response to you is that you need to clarify what others are saying before you pronounce on their purported state of mind. Unfortunately, too many scientists suffer at reading comprehension, and then use their delusional interpretations to incorrectly attribute thoughts to other individuals.

  12. I have an idea, let me see if the others like it. This Sierra lad inspired me.

    The most common and efficient strategy adopted by journals and instutions nowadays to justify their negligency upon receiving claims of fraudulent publications is that they will more than often come from aliases and fake emails. They trust that the accuser will be afraid to show his face, and suffer political retaliation. Thus said, they will many times ignore anonymous claims of fraud/plagiarism and get away by doing that. No fuzz, everyone happy except the too-knowing accuser.

    I propose that we adapt to this strategy. Sierra is now well known in his field as a trouble-maker, and that makes his opponents happy. One way around this solution would be that he would fight corruption in a field away from his own. Political retaliation would then loose meaning.

    I say you write to the journals in my field using the evidence I provide and I write to your journal editors with the evidence you provide. If evidence is posted on a blog, say Sierra`s blog or the Abnormal Science Blog, then truly anyone can do it. Would Sierra be afraid of being jeopardized in Brazilian Maths departments? I dont think so.

    Did readers dig the scheme?

    1. Individuals need to stand up for themselves and what they believe in, and to do so publicly. Be a good scientist – gather the evidence, make the case, and stand by your convictions. There is no easy way around this, nor should there be. Be prepared for the long fight, and fight the good fight.

      If society, and particularly the community of science, is generally decent and honorable and seeks the truth, others will rally to support you (I’ve encountered plenty of good editors and reviewers and colleagues that do the right thing and appear to honestly want the best for science, and then we have the bad apples and/or the ‘muddlers’ – indeed, we’ve seen the latter appear in this discussion thread). If the community is almost wholly corrupt, then you will find that out as well, and it is better to know the truth than fantasize about a utopian lie. Your conscience is your guide. Most of all, try to act ethically yourself and set a good standard for your students and colleagues.

    1. As I read this issue, it is one of failing to cite, correct? Namely, there is a dispute regarding who came up with the idea first (Dr. Sklyar asserts he did and provides evidence to support his case), and the other authors are continuing to publish without citing Dr. Sklyar’s closely related work in any fashion, correct? So what you appear to desire is these authors to cite your prior work in their current and future studies?

  13. I have been conducting research on waste stream diversification for a university in Australia. I’m absolutely shocked and appauled to have found a particular paper by Adi & Noor (2008) in Bioresources Technology. Some of the issues I have found within 30 minutes of finding the paper:

    – Several of the papers referenced do not exist.

    – Obvious plagiarism in the introduction. The grammar doesn’t even make sense which flags it immediately. Word for word lines have been taken from the abstract in another paper in the SAME JOURNAL!

    – No p values are reported in the tables but referred to in the text (potentially a minor issue and just bad writing)

    Whatever ‘peer review’ occured prior to acceptance of this article must have been an absolute joke. It is like the authors aren’t even trying to disguise their sloppiness.

    The full citation:

    Adi, AJ & Noor, ZM 2008, ‘Waste recycling: Utilisation of coffee grounds and kitchen waste in vermicomposting’, Bioresource Technology, vol. 100, pp. 1027-1030.

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