Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Journal yanks anemia paper over duplicate data

without comments

Blood Cells, Molecules, and Diseases (that’s one title) has retracted a 2011 paper, “Comparative proteomics reveals deficiency of NHE-1 (Slc9a1) in RBCs from the beta-adducin knockout mouse model of hemolytic anemia,” after learning from a reader that the data it contained were previously published by a competing publication.

As the notice explains:

This article has been retracted at the request of the editor as the data in the paper are largely duplicated in a paper entitled “Comparative proteomics reveals deficiency of SLC9A1 (sodium/hydrogen exchanger NHE1) in β-adducin null red cells” that had been accepted for publication at the time it was submitted to this journal and, subsequently, was published in Br. J. Haematol., 154 (2011) 492–501, doi:10.1111/j.1365-2141.2011.08612.x. One of the conditions of submission of a paper for publication is that authors declare explicitly that the data in the paper is not under consideration for publication elsewhere. The republication of the same data in two journals is inappropriate and further burdens the scientific community, given the already vast amount of original material with which it is confronted.

We’re not sure we’ve seen the “give the readers a break” motif before — and we suspect the scientific community in this case is meant to be read as “editors, reviewers and publishers” — but it’s certainly appropriate.

We emailed the first author, Diane Gilligan, of Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, for comment and will update this post if we hear from her. Meanwhile, we spoke with Marshall Lichtman, editor of BCMD, who told us that he’s satisfied that the duplication stemmed from “naivete” rather than misconduct.

I think this was innocent …  One of the members of our editorial board was at a meeting where [Gilligan] presented this paper and suggested that she should consider publishing it [in BCMD]. When she submitted the paper she did indicate that the figures and tables had been published elsewhere. There was an indication of that in the paper when it was submitted. We didn’t fully appreciate the degree to which it was duplicated; the reviewers didn’t fully appreciate that.  I think [Gilligan] just didn’t understand this was improper.

Hat tip: Clare Francis

  • Amy Moore March 8, 2012 at 9:40 am

    Would this be considered a case of self plagiarism?

    • ivanoransky March 8, 2012 at 10:16 am

      Yes, although these are usually referred to as duplication retractions: Journals bar such duplication in various ways; the Elsevier boilerplate in this notice is typical:

      One of the conditions of submission of a paper for publication is that authors declare explicitly that the data in the paper is not under consideration for publication elsewhere.

      • Amy Moore March 9, 2012 at 10:14 am

        I’m attempting to compile some statistics on plagiarism in the medical literature using your website (which is completely wonderful–thank you for doing this!!!!), but I am having a hard time trying to differentiate self plagiarism from duplication. In other words, why are some items that report on an author who has published data/text more than once referred to under the category of self plagiarism and others are included under the category of duplication? Thank you.

  • MM March 8, 2012 at 11:58 am

    “When she submitted the paper she did indicate that the figures and tables had been published elsewhere. ”

    If this is true, then it seems like the editors were trying to get away with something (i.e. knowingly publishing duplicated data) in order to get enough content for their journal. If it wasn’t for those darned readers, they would have gotten away with it.

  • mathguy March 8, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    “Innocent” duplication out of “naivete”? Or author (Gilligan) and editor with somewhat impaired ethics?

  • Pedro Toth March 8, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    What on earth is going on at SUNY Upstate? Although a small institution, of late it has emerged as a national leader in the field of Academic and Scientific Scandals:

    what can charitably be described as “impaired ethics” on the part of Diane Gilligan, as presented above;

    multiple examples of scientific misconduct, including paper retractions, committed by a senior department chair;

    misconduct by a graduate student that resulted in, among other things, the retraction of a submitted paper;

    the firing of a whistle-blower physician who criticized the institution;

    placed on probation by LCME because of more than a dozen accreditation compliance failures;

    a major cheating scandal last year by dozens of fourth-year medical students;

    patients put at risk because of a failure to follow state regulations regarding surgery;


    • Toby White March 9, 2012 at 12:51 pm

      @Pedro Toth: Thanks for pointing out a fascinating little puzzle! FWIW, Doc White’s Dx is this: it looks like the place has suffered from a lack of internal leadership for about 10 years, so that departments, then projects, then eventually individual profs have wandered off on their own. In an organization like that, a certain number of people will gradually lose touch with community and professional standards, as they find that nothing they do has any consequences for them, or for their standing in their working community. Notice the strong sense of deteriorating morale among students reflected in the news articles and LCME evaluation, particularly the repeated formless complaints of inconsistent and “discriminatory” treatment. This malaise is combined with the sense that there’s nobody responsible for fixing any perceived problems. Then, look at the number of things the former dean is involved in, other than university admin. Rx: IMHO (OK, maybe not so H) it doesn’t sound too serious. Give them a powerful outsider dean everyone can dislike for a few years and some initially useless, but team-building, faculty committees.

  • JudyH March 8, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    Sounds like there was a misunderstanding, or maybe two misunderstandings. Maybe the author thought the editorial board member was so bowled over by the research that s/he was “inviting” a paper regardless of previous publication elsewhere. And maybe staffers at the journal believed that also. If there was any discussion of the manuscript being the one that editorial board member X invited an author to submit, there may have been a feeling that the normal rules were suspended. At least the author can’t be accused of trying to hide the previous publication. It’s the journal that erred by accepting a manuscript that contained “an indication” that “the figures and tables had been published elsewhere,” as the journal editor puts it.

    • Karen Shashok March 9, 2012 at 3:51 am

      Agree completely with JudyH’s reconstruction of the events — although of course we need to wait for the whole story to come out.

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