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Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Math paper retracted because it “contains no scientific content”

with 81 comments

Have a seat, this one’s a howler.

According to a retraction notice for “Computer application in mathematics,” published in Computers & Mathematics with Applications:

This article has been retracted at the request of the Publisher, as the article contains no scientific content and was accepted because of an administrative error. Apologies are offered to readers of the journal that this was not detected during the submission process.

The entire abstract of the paper, which was submitted on April 15, 2009, accepted on July 20, 2009 and published in the January 2010 issue of the journal, reads:

In this study, a computer application was used to solve a mathematical problem.

Its conclusion is similarly opaque, but has the added bonus of being nonsensical:

Computer magnification is a Universal computer phenomenon. This technique is applied in physics, astronomy, biology, medicine, architecture, particle physics, genetics, microbiology and in chemistry. Without magnification, deep studies and research are impossible. For the first time in the history of mathematics, the authors applied magnification technology and obtained a solution for a nearly 4300 year old parallel postulate problem. In brief an impossible proposition was proved as possible. This is a problematic problem. Further studies will give birth to a new branch of mathematical science.

Look, this “a problematic problem,” OK? One that is likely to be solved, perhaps, by a co-author, S. Kalimuthu, whose email address is “ohm@budweiser.com.”

Really.

How on Earth does this stuff get past editors, peer reviewers, and publication staffs? And how did it remain in print for two years?

We think we may have a clue. Until the end of last year, Computers & Mathematics with Applications, an Elsevier title, was edited by Ervin Rodin. (The journal’s new editor is Leszek Demkowicz.) Rodin was also editor of Elsevier’s Applied Mathematics Letters, which retracted two bizarre papers last year, one of which was written by one of the co-authors of this latest retracted paper, and the other of which cost the publisher $10,000 when the author — an intelligent design advocate — sued. Rodin has also been replaced at Applied Mathematics Letters, by Alan Tucker.

And he was editor of Mathematical and Computer Modelling, which now says this at its website:

Due to an editorial restructuring, Mathematical and Computer Modelling is not accepting any new papers at the moment.

Elsevier declined to comment on Rodin’s departure from the journals.

Update, 3 p.m. Eastern, 4/24/12: Computers & Mathematics with Applications editor Leszek Demkowicz tells us he doesn’t remember the particulars of this paper, but that:

Upon taking over the journal, we inhereted a lot of past contributions that had not been checked carefully for plagiarism.

We have now a new system in place within which each submission is carefully checked using Elsevier provided software against practically everything: our own journal, other Elsevier journals, other journals and even web pages…

I hope cases like this will not occur in the future….

Hat tip: Marco van de Weert

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Written by Ivan Oransky

April 17, 2012 at 9:30 am

81 Responses

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  1. For those of you who have access to Elsevier Journals, the whole (very short) paper is really hilarious and you won’t need a university degree in maths to understand it :-)

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0898122112003008

  2. Unfortunately not being a subscriber to this Journal, I can’t even read the retraction because it too is considered an “article” in the Journal and is available to non-subscribers only after paying $39.95 to purchase the retraction “article”, By hiding the retraction notice’s full text behind this screen, the publisher is attempting to limit the damage to its reputation by hiding details of its incompetance.

    Norman Dresner

    April 17, 2012 at 9:54 am

    • Yes, I find this really outrages – that Elsevier charges $ 39.95 for access to the retraction notice!

      The right thing for Elsevier to do is to REFUND all those who did pay to read the paper on first place.

      How would you react, if you have paid for a “new” expensive dish in a restaurant, which as you understood later shouldn’t be there, and then instead of getting refund they charge you again to take it out?

      OUTRAGES!!!

      Shame on Elsevier!

      YouKnowBestOfAll

      April 18, 2012 at 12:44 am

  3. Let us call this new branch of mathematics, postulated probable problematic problem production. It is based on the premise that when some reviewers are confronted with a sufficient number of symbols strung together, whether they are words, numbers or other elements, reviewer eyes glaze over and their minds surrender to the onslaught. The problems to be generated or perhaps solved by this branch of mathematics are not isolated to the field but are found in all areas of academia and society, in general. Consider the simple example of governmental oversight of financial and banking industries as one reason why this field will expand in importance, perhaps more than even the unwitting authors thought it might.

    omg@shinerbock.org

    PS. This retraction highlights why we need even more journals for unpaid, under-appreciated and insufficient number of volunteer reviewers to steer the course of science.

    Rich

    April 17, 2012 at 10:01 am

  4. Retractions should never be behind a paywall.

    PalMD

    April 17, 2012 at 10:16 am

    • Yes, he authors of the article should have to pay the readers, not the other way around.

      Rich

      April 17, 2012 at 1:00 pm

  5. At least two of the references are to stores that sell mathematical games (e.g. http://www.cut-the-knot.org). The first author has several other papers:

    1) http://gsjournal.net/physics/kalimuthu14.pdf — ” From equation (10) we get that all the four known forces of Nature are different forms of one force only. This is only an elementary attempt.”

    2) the fourth box down on this page http://docs.ma3hd.net/search/pdf/ARCHIVE++++@yahoo.com++++/

    3) http://icoci.org/index.php?journal=ijpms&page=article&op=viewFile&path%5B%5D=14&path%5B%5D=25

    Carrie

    April 17, 2012 at 10:18 am

  6. Apart from the editorial eccentricities, this gem was presumably “peer-reviewed”.
    Timothy Gowers will surely get more support for his Elsevier boycott in the UK. http://www.nature.com/news/elsevier-boycott-gathers-pace-1.10010

    Krishna Pillai

    April 17, 2012 at 10:31 am

    • Yes, reviewed by the “peers” of authors…

      * Peer: a person who is equal to another in abilities, qualifications, age, background, and social status (Dictionary.com).

      2 x 2 = ?

      April 18, 2012 at 2:38 am

      • Peer (often “pīr”) is also a title used for Sufi mystics. This article may well have been submitted for pīr review.

        Toby White

        December 17, 2012 at 2:44 pm

  7. These two authors seem to have about 10-12 nearly identical publications, all incoherently claiming to deduce Euclid’s fifth postulate from the other four, citing random books and urls.

    Journal of Mathematics and Statistics, “On the New Branch of Mathematical Science”: http://thescipub.com/issue-jms/4/2, http://thescipub.com/issue-jms/4/3 (these seem to be the oldest)
    “The authors do not make any top claim but politely state that their result is consistent. There is a hidden treasure. Further studies will definitely unlock this problematic problem and definitely give birth to a new branch of mathematics.”

    Applied Mathematics Letters, “For the origin of new geometry”: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S089396591000265X
    “This is a problematic problem. … Further studies will certainly unlock this mathematical mystery.”
    “The author wishes to thank the anonymous referees for their suggestions for the revision and refinement of this paper.”

    Advances in Natural and Applied Sciences, “Beautiful Algebra”: http://www.aensionline.com/anas_may-august_2009.html
    which concludes “Only God is the Number One expert.The almighty reveals some message through (21).We have to probe into (21) which will definitely give birth to a new field of science.”

    and depressingly many others.

    Sander

    April 17, 2012 at 10:33 am

    • Next time I hear a mathematician say that biology isn’t a proper science I will quote these papers!

      Sebastian

      April 18, 2012 at 4:17 am

    • Most of the Beautiful Algebra paper is word-for-word plagiarized from online sources. There is nothing in that paper that advances natural or applied science. Just copy any arbitrary block of text from the article and paste it into google. It throws up a link to a number of different pages. Usually webpages of math professors from different universities. Either this is an elaborate joke/commentary on the peer review process, or it is a charlatan trying to fulfill his yearly publication quota.

      karth

      April 19, 2012 at 11:07 am

  8. I told Rodin (the EiC) about this almost a year ago, he sent me a canned reply and, obviously, no action. But now with the Elsevier mathematics boycott, I guess it’s worthwhile shaping up appearances at these abysmal journals?

    Anonymous

    April 17, 2012 at 11:02 am

  9. There are always going to be manuscripts like this, one can only feel sorry for the authors. It’s the reviewers and the editors who need to shoulder the blame here.

    • Do you really feel sorry for the authors? One had an email address from budweiser.com. Are we sure this isn’t completely a prank?? Yes, blame should be placed square on the shoulders of the editors (and the reviewers, if they exist.) But it is hard to feel sympathy for authors that included citations of websites to mathematical toys in their manuscript. I’m just baffled.

      LNV

      April 17, 2012 at 11:26 am

      • True, I meant that in the context of their prior publication record, I think it’s clear they’re not entirely compos mentis. This has been going on for years, too long to be a prank, they really believe this stuff, and that makes me sorry for them.

      • LNV: Surely, It feels like a prank !

        Climatechange

        April 17, 2012 at 2:01 pm

      • Well… I’m not a mathematician, but ‘Mahalingam College’ is the sanskrit equivalent of what in Monty Python’s Latin would be Biggus Dickus… So they probably have other names and whereabouts.

        Pieter

        April 18, 2012 at 2:44 pm

      • @Pieter : While what you said about the meaning of “Mahalingam” is true, that doesn’t preclude it from being a moniker of a real college (or of a real person, or of anything else for that matter). Here is the homepage of the college in question : http://mcet.in/mcet_alpha/index.php .

        (Just clearing up that misconception.)

        AnIndian

        April 27, 2012 at 2:54 pm

  10. And some of my oversight boards want us to follow the Elsevier model of review and copyedit. I don’t think so.

    Angela

    April 17, 2012 at 12:39 pm

  11. Thanks Sander, this is truly amazing, it’s like Elsevier journals have been hacked and nobody reads the electronic versions. This is a kind of Super-Sokal case, for example : “For the origin of new geometry”

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S089396591000265X

    “Discussion
    Our constructions and proofs are consistent. We have not introduced any new hypothesis in this work. So, the author’s findings are consistent. [...]

    There are many challenging and unsolved physical problems such as quantum gravity, understanding the nucleus, fusion energy, climate change, turbulence, glassy materials, high-temperature superconductivity, solar magnetism, complexity, gravitational waves and their detection, neutron stars and pulsars. [...]

    In order to solve and to know the ultimate reality of Nature, the creation of new mathematical fields are needed. Further probes of our negative but consistent results may explore new fields of mathematics.

    Let us recall the following famous quotations:
    “The first test of potential in mathematics is whether you can get anything out of geometry”. Quoted in D McHale, Conic Sections (Dublin 1993).
    “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them”. – Einstein.
    “If you have not enjoyed Euclid in your youth, you are probably not made for a scientific career” Einstein.”

    And then, the quote which thanks the anonymous referees !!!

    At least, it was not cited since its publication in December 2010.

  12. This sounds like a manuscript produced by the “Automatic Computer Science Paper Generator”:

    http://pdos.csail.mit.edu/scigen/

    Sadly, a number of these have been accepted and published.

    Apollo11

    April 17, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    • This “Automatic Computer Science Paper Generator” is just incredible! This is really nuts!

      Lilly

      April 17, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    • Thank you so much for the link. I spotted that file is named “funnyarticle11″. That means that you have 10 (or more) articles like this one? In such a case, please share the files!

      Sylvain Bernès

      April 17, 2012 at 11:08 pm

  13. E. Rodin was one of my undergrad professors 20 years ago. I haven’t been in contact since, but it’s either his idea of a joke, or the poor man is getting senile. He was a joy and an inspiration to have as a professor.

    Keith Leffler

    April 17, 2012 at 3:28 pm

  14. Come on folks!

    Of course this was a prank–probably written after several Budweisers.

    Poor reflection on the journal, the reviewers (if indeed they exist) and the editor.

    Ralph

    April 17, 2012 at 5:11 pm

  15. Heavy blow on Elsevier. Wish I was responsible. Really nice!

    Rafa

    April 17, 2012 at 6:11 pm

  16. Poor guy, its not his first retraction…

    http://tinyurl.com/cjxpf7c

    Thank goodness this gem remains untarnished
    M. Sivasubramanian and S.Kalimuthu. A Simple Experimental Verification of Einstein’s Variance of Mass with Velocity Equation. Researcher, 2009;1(5)

    http://www.sciencepub.net/researcher/0105/07_0870_Kalimuthu_pub_research0105.pdf

    Quoting from the experimental design:
    “Choose an 1HP (one horse power) electric motor
    whose RPM is 1440. Take two single cell torch lights
    made by one and the same company. Take two single
    tiny 1.5volt battery cells made by one and the same
    company. Fix one of the torches to a wheel of the motor.
    Let the second torch light be at rest. Now switch on the
    torch lights simultaneously and switch on the electric
    motor at the same time. In our experiment the torch
    light at rest gave light only for 90 minutes where as the
    torch light in motion emitted light for 111 minutes. That
    is, the torch light at motion gave light more than 11
    minutes than the torch light at rest. From this, we get the
    moving mass (the torch light in motion) is greater than
    the rest mass.(the torch light at rest) And hence the
    proof for Einstein’s mass-velocity equation.”

    Quoting from the conclusion:
    “Needless to say, novel ideas rule the world. In
    science, the statements which are initially rejected are
    normally accepted later. Similarly the authors believe
    that their findings will be welcomed by the physics
    community. Guye and Lavanchy carried out their
    experiment 2000 times. Keeping this fact in mind, the
    authors also repeated their experiment for 700 times and
    the result was consistent.”

    Who says physics needs to be complicated ?

    FigureSleuth

    April 17, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    • I hope that disposal for the 1400 batteries used for the experimental work has been done properly.

      Sylvain Bernès

      April 17, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    • LOL! Thats’ complete nonsense. How did that get past the editors?

      Mini Physics

      April 17, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    • !!!! How did THAT get past the editors? Its hilarious though.

      Mini Physics

      April 17, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    • “In our experiment the torch light at rest gave light only for 90 minutes where as the torch light in motion emitted light for 111 minutes. That is, the torch light at motion gave light more than 11 minutes than the torch light at rest.”…
      If I understand correctly: 90 + 11 = 111.
      This paper is about a new arithmetic, not relativity.

      Justin Peucon

      April 18, 2012 at 12:11 am

      • Believe it or not, at speeds close to the speed of light (the torch must have been moving at a speed of at least 0.99 c) 111-90=11.(!!!). Of course the extra light-emitting time might have been due to Tscherenkov radiation as I do not believe the torch was moving in vacuum.

        chirality

        April 18, 2012 at 9:11 am

      • Very well spotted, Justin!

        But you know… 111-90=21, not 11 – this is a big mistake for a first-grader or pre-schooler, but it is a minisque experimental error for a leading scientist mathematician making global discoveries and dealing with relativism.

        In fact, his ingenuity is at the range of Einstein, because he was able to demonstrate in a very simple and clear experiment the theory that Einstein made so complicated. The torch appeared to work longer, because the time was slowing down as the speed of light. He unlikely moved his torch at the speed of 300,000 km/s, but because the torch had its light on whatever speed it had he considered it the speed of light.

        2 x 2 = ?

        April 19, 2012 at 2:16 am

      • “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” – this is a quote from Albert Einstein and it clearly defines who these guys are…

        2 x 2 = ?

        April 30, 2012 at 12:52 am

    • It seems that Marsland Press has plenty of more gems to offer:

      http://www.jofamericanscience.org/journals/am-sci/am0610/55_3443am0610_465_469.pdf

      A vanity press, I guess?

      Geir K.-A.

      April 18, 2012 at 4:05 am

      • The quote-du-jour:
        “There were two totally different types of evolution. The evolution that Darwin detected and wrote about was actually the second evolution. He never knew the first evolution existed. In this the 21st century, the first evolution still remains undiscovered and unreported by the scientific community. The first evolution made it possible for the second evolution to occur”.

        And what did Marshland Press do? It had a press release on its site that claims new theory proves creation…

        Marco

        April 30, 2012 at 2:54 am

  17. I can not believe that these papers were checked and approved by Elsevier Editorial Office for processing! I heard that They don’t even send the manuscript to the handling editor if there is a spelling mistake….

    Ressci Integrity

    April 17, 2012 at 10:28 pm

  18. A joke, or may be NOT.

    Now, after I have read the paper (thanks to Oliver) I know more about the successful business model of Elsevier:

    1) publish a prank and charge for accessing it $ 39.95
    2) when the number of pay-per-view visits drops, publish retraction notice and charge for the access to it $ 39.95

    Assuming that at least 50 % of the first readers will be outraged (that such a piece – in total 347 words – has been published in a peer reviewed journal) to the degree that they will want to read the retraction notice, makes already 150 % sales.
    However, due to some interest in the retraction notice even from those who did not read the paper (as some of the readers of this blog) Elsevier could expect to increase the sales (related to publication of 1 piece of prank) to 200 %, or even more.

    Obviously, such business model generates huge profits. According to TheScientist http://the-scientist.com/2012/03/19/opinion-academic-publishing-is-broken/ Elsevier “reports a 2011 profit of £768 million on revenue of £2,058 million, an astonishing 37.3 percent, compared for example with Apple’s 24 percent profit margin ”.

    Well done, Elsevier!

    YouKnowBestOfAll

    April 18, 2012 at 1:40 am

  19. Finally, something really funny for our community. Until then it had been so sad to learn about fraud, misconduct, falsification amd other crime in science.

    Thank you to all who has contributed by supplying links.

    But I still feel surreal, still can not believe this is all real – those papers, those authors and those journals.

    At least one clear advantage of those papers: you do not need long time to read it through and get to conclusions (ie. “conclusions”). On the other hand… “Brevity is the soul of wit” (William Shakespeare) and “Shortness is the sister of talent” (Anton Chekhov)

    2 x 2 = ?

    April 18, 2012 at 3:06 am

  20. Also have to love the Acknowledgements:

    “[...]l for their encouragement for the preparation of this paper”

    Sebastian

    April 18, 2012 at 4:42 am

  21. Reblogged this on In the Dark and commented:
    Ah, the power of peer review…
    This is so hilarious, I couldn’t stop myself from reblogging it…

    telescoper

    April 18, 2012 at 12:16 pm

  22. yes, I blogged about it as well ( http://math-frolic.blogspot.com/2012/04/retract-this.html )… too good to pass up. Some of us would like to think that math and physics are a tad more immune to this sort of thing than biology, medicine & the life sciences… but this gives pause to wonder!

    Shecky R

    April 19, 2012 at 3:05 pm

  23. Ok, not only is this guy completely inept at math/science, he is also a serial plagiarizer. I posted this on a couple of other blogs, but the word needs to be more widely spread.

    Almost the entire introductory text of this paper – http://www.sciencepub.net/nature/0706/12_0822_HANDSOMEHANDSOME_ns0706.pdf by the same author has been plagiarized verbatim from Alexander Bogomolny’s cut-the-knot – http://www.cut-the-knot.org/triangle/pythpar/Attempts.shtml .

    Nearly all his papers are the same. The Beautiful Algebra paper from here – http://www.aensionline.com/anas/2009/216-223.pdf is also almost completely plagiarized from various sources online. A simple copy-paste of text from the paper into google throws up another site with the same text verbatim (sometimes from such academic authorities as Yahoo Answers ). Just boggles the mind these supposed peer reviewed journals don’t even do a cursory check for plagiarism in place in almost all high schools.

    In addition, apparently this man is a multi-disciplinary genius. I highly recommend reading his paper on relativity – http://www.sciencepub.net/researcher/0105/07_0870_Kalimuthu_pub_research0105.pdf . Again the introduction is partially plagiarized from http://www.black-holes.org/relativity3.html, and the entire abstract from the relativity paper is a cut-paste job from http://science.jrank.org/pages/5797/Relativity-Special-Experimental-verification.html . But the experiment and conclusions drawn are truly extraordinary. Mind boggling that someone read this and decided it was worthy of publishing in an academic journal.

    If this is a troll job, it is outstanding. But having gone through the Indian education system, part of me is actually worried that this might be real. The system is full of charlatans with bogus degrees getting real teaching jobs. Unfortunately these journals are doing a huge disservice by publishing this rubbish. It adds a veneer of legitimacy to these frauds making them even harder to detect.

    karth

    April 19, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    • Plagiarism of the Bogomolny’s web page you mention in the 1st section of your comment is particularly offensive, first because of his length, but also because a careful check shows that it was realized with a single copy/paste of the source: even typos in the Bogomolny’s text have been transferred to the Kalimuthu’s paper. For example, the infamous book of Legendre is not “Éléments de Géométry” but rather “Éléments de géométrie”. A scan of the 1823 edition is available here: http://archive.org/details/lmentsdegomtrie10legegoog

      At least for me, the reputation of Marsland Press is totally ruined.

      Sylvain Bernes

      April 19, 2012 at 6:52 pm

  24. This might be the best one yet, they have come up with an experiment to prove the existence of dark matter – http://www.sciencepub.net/nature/ns0712/05_2012_easy_ns0712_31_32.pdf

    What the hell?!?!

    karth

    April 19, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    • Dr Mahalingam College of Engineering and Technology (MCET) appears to be a real place, or at least, it has a website.
      Search for “Sivasubramanian” finds:

      M.Sivasubramanian
      M.Sc., M.Phil., PGDCA., (P.hD) SLET [I think the (PhD) means he’s working on one)
      06-07-2005
      16 Yrs
      Senior Lecturer
      Topology

      His Dept Head appears to be:
      Dr.G.Arulmozhi
      M.Sc., M.Phil., Ph.D
      17-02-2010
      33 Yrs
      Professor & HOD
      Soft Computing, Optimization Techniques, Applied Statistics

      John Mashey

      April 19, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    • Now everything has become clear to me, after reading this article. They are not at all the people lacking any grey matter (as most of us, including myself, try to present them here) talking about the dark matter. They are just two funny, witty guys, who enjoy a few healthy shots of Budweiser and who are having fun creating those “scientific” papers and publishing them in scientific journals.

      Have a read of the Conclusions in this paper! Isn’t it clear that they are just making fun of everyone who reads this paper and takes it seriously?

      2 x 2 = ?

      April 20, 2012 at 4:28 am

  25. “How on Earth does this stuff get past editors, peer reviewers, and publication staffs? ”

    1) I’d speculate that production staffs may not have the domain expertise.

    2) A publisher might provide quality control by routinely sampling the review processes, selcting a few papers and:
    a) Looking at the reviews.
    b) Contacting the reviewers and asking them to comment on the process.

    3) I’m not sure anyone does that, without strong external pressure.
    Even then, it may be insufficient, because an editor can easily select friendly reviewers. Here are 3 examples where editors seem to have bent/broken the rules:

    a) Skeptics Prefer Pal Review Over Peer Review: Chris de Freitas, Pat Michaels And Their Pals, 1997-2003.” A notably-bad paper was published in 2003, there were many complaints, an E-i-C was appointed (there had been none). He wanted to retract the paper, publisher refused, he quit. The editor who was the cause quit later, but only last year did we figure out how many papers had gotten through.

    b) RW covered retraction of Said, Wegman, et al(2008). The E-i-C Stanley Azen, an old friend of Wegman’s, had accepted the paper in a week with no revisions, although the social network analysis topic was outside his own expertise and generally not covered by that journal. See Strange Tales and Emails, p.12 for odd emails and excuses.
    George Mason University had to admit the plagiarism there, although somehow ignored it everywhere else.

    c) An ongoing case is that of Wiley WIREs:CS, where Wegman & Said wrote 2 (mostly-plagiarized) article for the journal they edit with (long-time associate) David Scott. Complaints to the publisher induced no retractions or resignations, just quiet reworks of the online articles. See WIley Cover-up … How much “peer review” ever happened?

    BOTTOM LINE: out-of-control editors can pretty much bypass peer review or guarantee favorable reviews if they wish. After all, editors legitimately have the power to make decisions, just like corporate CEOs. But, like Boards, publishers need to fire editors sometimes.

    John Mashey

    April 19, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    • Completely agree that “editors legitimately have the power to make decisions, just like corporate CEOs”.

      However, while the corporate CEOs are held accountable, the editors are NOT.

      This is precisely my point on RW, especially when (on a friendly basis) the editors give their blessing for publishing misconduct/fraud, and then cover it up when inevitably the misconduct/fraud is revealed.

      IT’S TIME TO HOLD EDITORS ACCOUNTABLE for the decisions they make!

      There should be appropriate mechanisms to discipline those editors who refuse to do the right thing. A step in the right direction is DEMANDING that the publishers are doing the right thing.

      COPE and RW play important role for this. They should expose ANY misconduct/fraud and constantly remind publishers to adhere to the Guidelines and DO THE RIGHT THING.

      YouKnowBestOfAll

      April 19, 2012 at 10:22 pm

      • Agree entirely about holding editors accountable, but the mechanisms to do this are still being worked out. Meanwhile, editorial boards, publishers and institutions tend to remain unresponsive to complaints against editors.

        COPE just posted a revised flowchart at http://publicationethics.org/resources/flowcharts
        to explain how they now handle complaints against editors. Before you contact COPE with a complaint you should go through the journal’s own complaints or appeals procedure (assuming there is one — somethimes there isn’t even at journals that are members of COPE), and you should make sure to document everything in detail to support your complaint.

        Karen Shashok

        April 20, 2012 at 3:38 am

      • +1 for holding editors accountable. A couple of examples from my own experience…

        (1) Reviewed a paper for a prominent European biochemistry journal (by Elsevier). Rejected it. Paper came back 2 weeks later with pissy responses and minor changes. Rejected it again. Notably on the 2nd round of review I was the sole reviewer. Editor sends me a copy of letter to authors, indicating rejection. 3 months later I see the paper in the journal, with an acceptance date 5 days after the editor’s email telling me it was rejected. ALL atempts to get to the bottom of this have been met with absolute resistance by the journal. Notably about a year late the work underlying the paper was retracted, and the authors were forced to write a corrigendum to their paper.

        (2) Reviewed a paper for a US biology journal (Elsevier). Rejected it, asking for more data. Paper came back with clearly faked data. Alerted editor. An investigation was launched, the result of which was “the figures check out OK”. I protested, and was told “drop it”. The paper is out there today, with clearly faked data. All attempts to retract it have been met with resistance (despite the same group having 2 other papers retracted recently).

        (3) Reviewed a paper for a top US cardiovascular journal. Found evidence of image manipulation. Alerted editor and wrote a very succinct and polite series of comments to the authors, as well as text for the editor to use in their author response letter (FYI, I also passed on the offending paper to the US office of research integrity since the author was NIH funded). The paper was rejected, but the author response letter contained absolutely NO allusion to the fact that data fraud had occurred. In effect, the authors are free to send the paper anywhere else, and probably will. I think it’s an editor’s job to send a strong message, “we’re onto you”, but they seem to have ignored that responsibility here.

        Bottom line, regardless of how vigilant you are as a peer reviewer, the editorial office is a black box.

        vhedwig

        April 20, 2012 at 9:12 am

      • Actually, while CEOs are indeed accountable to Boards, not all Boards are very good at counting, especially those packed with CEO’s friends. But Boards can generally be reluctant to fire CEOs, although I have seen it happen.

        John Mashey

        April 20, 2012 at 5:45 pm

  26. @ vhedwig , April 20, 2012 at 9:12 am

    The examples you provide are clear EVIDENCE for ORGANIZED INTERNATIONAL CRIME.

    While most reviewers (working for no pay) do their best to keep integrity and quality of academic publications, some authors CONSPIRE with friendly editors to get their papers published with the ONLY goal to register more publications in order to GET MORE PUBLIC MONEY (in the form of grants).

    This is per se a conspiracy to obtain public money by deception.

    However, in the era of internet, sooner or later the misconduct/fraud INEVITABLY is revealed.

    Then, the editors are asked by members of the public to do the right thing, i.e. to retract the paper.

    Now COPE provides detailed Flowcharts “What to do in cases of misconduct”.

    Should the editors/publishers/institutions decide to turn a blind eye, they become associates in the conspiracy to obtain public money by deception.

    IT’S TIME TO OUTLAW PUBLICATION FRAUD!

    YouKnowBestOfAll

    April 21, 2012 at 5:35 am

    • @YouKnowBestofAll
      Not so sure about a planned conspiracy, but is it recklessness nonetheless. Totally agree with 0 tolerance to publication fraud. But someone has to be in charge. Who will punish an author, editor? Not their friends, but assured. Problem is: Science has no cops. And the day it does, we will regret that decision.

      Rafa

      April 23, 2012 at 3:18 pm

  27. Apparently we’re living in an age in which no one can take, or even racognize, a joke.

    Roy Lisker

    April 23, 2012 at 10:10 am

    • Or even a spelling mistake, apparently, Roy.

      Chris C.

      April 23, 2012 at 1:19 pm

  28. @ Rafa, April 23, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    Of course, we do not want to put innocent people in jail (jails are already overfull). Therefore, first, we’ll give the authors opportunity to acknowledge their mistakes and do the right thing. As you know there is a proverb: “Confessed sin is not a sin”. However, the problem is that MOST of them stubbornly REFUSE to admit that they have committed misconduct/fraud (I do say that this is due MAINLY to absence of any consequences). Then, we’ll give them a second chance by asking the editors/publishers/institutions to do the right thing instead. Regrettably, these are often linked to the offenders and consequently ALSO refuse to do the right thing.

    What I suggest is that in cases when editors/publishers/institutions also FAIL to do the right thing, only then as LAST resort the District Attorney (or whatever the title of the local public Prosecutor is) should hold the above mentioned parties ACCOUNTABLE for conspiracy to obtain public money by deception. Once becoming a law, this will have immense moralizing effect to all involved in academic publishing. Ultimately, this will be beneficial for everyone: for tax payers, honest researchers, academic institutions, reviewers, honest editors, honest publishers, ALL USERS of peer reviewed publications, and in long-term even for the potential offenders as well.

    Therefore, I repeat on RW as Cicero (“Cartage must be destroyed!”), that
    IT’S TIME TO OUTLAW PUBLICATION FRAUD!

    YouKnowBestOfAll

    April 24, 2012 at 9:31 am

    • @YouKnownBestofAll
      I agree with you in the general terms, but the problem is, the described picture does not take into account basic features of the reality behind the facts. In a word, it is a very very naive way of approaching the issue.

      1) “A confessed sin is not a sin” is certainly not any worldwide proverb. In my country you only get punished if proven guilty (usually by political power instead of factual evidence) or if you openly admit guilt. That is why they will not admit fraud — they will only get punished if they do. Thus in many places a confessed sin is a legal offence.

      2) Editors will more than often not get the burden of punishing authors (especially if authors who claim innocence = not guilty) because they do not want trouble. They can get political retaliation, other authors refraining from submitting to that journal (WOW what if this happens to me too), and also get sued by the innocent-pleading authors. One day, stand in their shoes in charge of some low-profile magazine, and try retracting a fraudulent paper of someone you know. You will get the picture.

      3) District attorney judging a case of scientific mischief? This is rich, I would like to see that. Most governments invest in science because they were forced to do so (public opinion, international pressure, etc) and do not care much what becomes of it. It is some little wasted money (usually less than 1% of National Budget) from the beginning. Also the attorneys and general public do not understand scientific system and fraud. And also there is a general lack of specific laws pertaining alleged editorial fraud in our scientific universe, what to say about alleged fraud committed overseas in some foreign idiom (demanding international legal representatives and evidence, legal translation, etc).

      The takehome message is, scientists are alone in their world and have to solve this alone. We can elect some scientific commitee, science laws, science penalties, as COPE has done. But what if COPE is corrupted? Or is not respected, let us say, in Brazil or in China, fraud champions? I think the whole system has to be reformulated.

      Rafa

      April 28, 2012 at 10:48 am

      • I see your point and I’m with you, however, we should start from somewhere, otherwise the crooks will continue to steal our work (will plagiarise) and our money (the taxes that we work hard to pay), and will laugh at us.
        No, this should STOP.
        IT’S TIME FOR A CHANGE!

        YouKnowBestOfAll

        April 29, 2012 at 8:25 am

      • It is time for a change. NOW. I agree. I have good scientist friends depressed because of science corruption. Fraud is killing them.

        However one must have a good idea, and a starting point. Please what do you think you can do?

        Rafa

        April 30, 2012 at 9:42 am

    • It is not Cicero but Cato the Elder who used to finish his Senate speeches with Carthago delenda est.

      mathlight

      December 24, 2013 at 12:27 pm

  29. I don’t know if anybody mentioned this, but the boards of both journals turned over!

    Benjamin Steinberg

    April 26, 2012 at 1:38 pm

  30. As an editor on 3 math journals my feeling is that it is absolutely safe to say there were no referees for the paper and the editor is at fault. When I get a paper I make a precursory scan of the paper. If it is clear that the paper is unsuitable (for a variety of reasons) I immediately reject the paper to not even waste a reviewer’s time. Anybody could tell in 5 seconds that the paper on question is a fraud.

    Benjamin Steinberg

    April 26, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    • Apparently not! The main question revolves around the corresponding editor. Was he just a prankster, a guy going through a terrible divorce or a Piltdown man trying to prove a self-fulfilling prophesy? I would hope this event has some blow-back on his career, especially since there was no effective mea culpa.

      Rich

      April 26, 2012 at 2:16 pm

      • The journal does not mention corresponding editors on the paper. So I can’t even tell you who was the editor. Quick browsing shows few if any articles submitted by people with US affiliations, which is also odd. I had never heard of this journal.

        Benjamin Steinberg

        April 26, 2012 at 3:41 pm

  31. I wrote to the journal as soon as I saw the paper published online (I happened to visit the ‘Article in Press page’ on that particular day it came online). I also did bit of googling and found similar ‘articles’ mentioned above by other people. But I got a reply from the journal saying the authors have removed one such similar article and Mr. Rodin (EiC) accepts the authors answer. Now there are coupled of main points I would like to mention: (1) the institution of one of the authors exist and real (2) that journal has a system of asking for potential reviewers (upto 8!) from the authors when they submit an article.

    disillusionedacademic

    May 2, 2012 at 2:53 am

    • This is now widespread. Ellecting potential reviewers has become a common practice. Those can be close friends, and who knows, even the main author himself behind a fake email address. This is a corruption of the peer-review system and has taken over.

      Rafa

      May 2, 2012 at 9:14 am

    • That means we should be concerned about who the peer reviewers are because they are not doing their job in these cases.

      And the reason they may not be doing their job may be that they have been hand-picked by the author.

      G Knight

      December 15, 2012 at 5:54 am

  32. Haaaaaa. I just joined the community here and enjoyed reading this. This article made me laughing such that i had to take the day off as my fellow post doc thought i am acting little strange. I am just going to share this in my face book account!. These guys are now so popular !.

    xyz

    May 9, 2012 at 5:07 pm

  33. Accepted “because of an administrative error”?

    That seems to imply it never passed the peer review process, rather than peer reviewers failed to spot the error.

    G Knight

    December 15, 2012 at 5:52 am

  34. Seems like an ongoing joke. Retraction Watch reported on Sivasubramanian last year. This new paper cites his two other apparently fake articles. See…

    http://retractionwatch.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/faked-data-unsubstantiated-claims-and-spirituality-add-up-to-a-math-journal-retraction/

    Christopher Wanjek

    December 17, 2012 at 11:07 am

  35. It looks like a randomly generated paper (http://thatsmathematics.com/mathgen/).

    meme

    November 12, 2013 at 7:38 am


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