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Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Two murky retractions in Chemosphere for authorship issues

with 3 comments

The journal Chemosphere has retracted two papers over authorship concerns. The problem is, we don’t really know what those concerns are.

Here’s one notice:

Retraction notice to “Particle-associated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons near power plants as determined by large volume injection – GC/MS, Chemosphere 80 (2010) 235–240”

Chemosphere, Volume 86, Issue 2, January 2012, Page 216,
V. Evagelopoulos, T.A. Albanis, El. Kodona, S. Zoras

This article has been retracted: please see Elsevier Policy on Article Withdrawal (http://www.elsevier.com/locate/withdrawalpolicy).

This article has been retracted at the request of the Editor. Serious concerns were raised about the authorship of the article, which have not been sufficiently disproved by the authors. They have not been able to clarify who contributed to the article.

The paper has been cited twice, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge, including once by another paper in Chemosphere.

This may be a case of the Greeks having too much to worry about on the home front to deal with queries from editors. After all, what are a few polycyclic hydrocarbons compared to the fate of Europe?

Here’s the other notice, for “An investigation into the impact of CO2 co-feed on pyrolysis and gasification:”

This article has been retracted: please see Elsevier Policy on Article Withdrawal (http://www.elsevier.com/locate/withdrawalpolicy).

This article has been retracted at the request of the Editor-in-Chief and Authors.

This article has been retracted due to incorrect authorship. Furthermore, data in the article have been used inappropriately.

The study has not yet been cited.

Both of these notices beg for a little more information. Are we supposed to infer that one or more of the authors’ names was forged? Or that other authors contributed but weren’t named? What does it mean to use data “inappropriately?” And who raised the questions, readers or an author?

Elsevier told us they didn’t have anything to add, and suggested we contact the authors. We’ve tried that, to no avail, and update this post if we learn more.

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3 Responses

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  1. It think it’s rather funny that publisher had no idea and referred you to the authors.

    It seems they [the editors] have no clue at this point other than what they included in the notices. Or, they do, but they’re just not saying.

    Brad Casali

    December 6, 2011 at 10:35 pm

  2. I think it is option B: they know, but they aren’t telling. Based on this blog, it appears this is common practice. I wonder what “confidentiality” the editors believe is owed to authors… it certainly seems that they *do* feel an obligation, but is this an ethical obligation??

    Personally, I feel that if authors have committed fraud in some way, there is no longer an obligation towards confidentiality; editors should freely discuss the case. But perhaps there is some legal issue I am not aware of that could prevent this??

    LNV

    December 7, 2011 at 8:59 am

    • Once we reach the retraction stage, I believe the matter should be made open. I can accept withholding some information in an “expression of concern”, as there is not yet a certainty of of wrongdoing in such a case.
      However, I suspect many countries do not regard researchers as public figures, or at least do not have a judicial tradition for doing so. Local law might protect the interests of a private person, meaning that full disclosure about scientific fraud could violate the law. Assuming the owner of the journal would like not to get fined for invasion of privacy, slander, or whatever else an outed fraud might try to sue for, of course. Moving carefully would be prudent for the journal, if somewhat frustrating to the audience.

      Kasper

      December 8, 2011 at 7:04 am


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