Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Pair of graphene papers retracted

with 8 comments

Graphene has been hot for several years. Here’s what the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences had to say about it in 2010 when awarding two researchers the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work:

Graphene is a form of carbon. As a material it is completely new – not only the thinnest ever but also the strongest. As a conductor of electricity it performs as well as copper. As a conductor of heat it outperforms all other known materials. It is almost completely transparent, yet so dense that not even helium, the smallest gas atom, can pass through it. Carbon, the basis of all known life on earth, has surprised us once again.

But one researcher may have allowed his enthusiasm for graphene to get ahead of him. He and his unwitting co-authors have now lost two papers thanks to that enthusiasm.

Here’s the retraction notice for “Graphene magnet realized by hydrogenated graphene nanopore arrays,” published in 2011 in  Applied Physics Letters, which went online on March 1:

Although the scientific content of the paper mentioned above is fully approved by all authors, we hereby retract this article, because it has been published in almost identical form in Phys. Rev. Lett. 107, 217203 (2011). Due to a fault of the corresponding author, the submission to Phys. Rev. Lett. took place without the knowledge of some of the co-authors. The corresponding author apologizes to the co-authors, the journal editors and publishers, and the scientific community for this serious breach of the accepted protocol for scientific publications.

And here’s the Physical Review Letters notice, from the week of March 16:

This Letter has been retracted by the corresponding author due to an instance of duplicate publication noted by a reader. The overlap with Ref. [1] is clearly excessive with identical figures and text. The corresponding author regrets allowing this duplicate publishing to occur without permission of the co-authors and apologizes to the readers and editors of Applied Physics Letters and Physical Review Letters.

We’ve contacted corresponding author Junji Haruyama, of Aoyama Gakuin University in Japan, and will update with anything we hear back.

  • R. Grant Steen April 30, 2012 at 10:14 am

    Both versions of the paper were retracted? Shouldn’t the first of them published remain in the literature? Unless there was something else more nefarious going on….

    • chirality April 30, 2012 at 1:19 pm

      Maybe the corresponding author mistakenly submitted two different papers twice each, that is, maybe the two retracted papers are not related at all.
      By the way, I am worried that graphen is just a hype. I remember a Noble Prize for C60 and a lot of noise about nonotubes. With graphen, a lot of people who lack true scientific imagination (I know, I know… it is harsh) jump on yet another bandwagon to milk funding agencies out of millions.

  • Anonymous April 30, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    This is a great example of how this should be done. Though COPE suggest one paper should remain the “paper of record”, that approach is not always a reasonable course of action. You see here that the PRL was submitted first (Jan 22 vs Feb 10), but the APL was published first (March 1 vs March 12). So, the authors lied about prior submissions when they sent the paper to APL. Hence, retraction is due at APL due to falsification of the legal author submission agreement. Meanwhile, when PRL published the paper it was already published at APL. Hence, retraction is also due at PRL due to prior publication of the manuscript.

    It strikes me as quite suspicious that it took APL 3 days to review and accept the paper…

    • JudyH April 30, 2012 at 10:43 pm

      Thank you for explaining why both papers were retracted. Along with R. Grant Steen, I too was wondering why one was not kept as the original publication and the other retracted as the duplicate. But they both were improperly submitted (in different ways) and therefore deserve to be retracted. Thanks again for making that clear.

      • Anonymous April 30, 2012 at 11:46 pm

        Well, that’s just my interpretation of why both articles should be (have been) retracted. 🙂 I tried to articulate this argument to the Elsevier Applied Physics publisher one time regarding a similar case in their journals, but 4 months and many emails later, I gave up. I’m glad the argument makes sense to a sensible person!

    • genetics May 4, 2012 at 6:03 am

      I don’t really agree.

      Submission of the APL was obviously wrong, as the same thing was already submitted to PRL which is a breach of the submission agreement. So the APL paper should have never existed and the retraction formally makes it a non-existant paper. A retraction formally erases a paper from the literature. Therefore, the PRL need not be retracted on grounds of prior publication, once the APL is retracted.

      Submission date should really be the only timepoint that counts. Actual publication date is out of control of the authors and depends on so many circumstances.

    • Bernd May 4, 2012 at 11:07 pm

      The dates you mention refer to the retraction notice, but not to the article itself. The PRL was submitted on August 4, 2011, and published on November 15, whereas the APL was submitted on August 7 and published on November 3.

      • Anonymous May 5, 2012 at 12:56 pm

        Huh. You’re right. It was a bit confusing. I hadn’t seen retraction notices with submission and acceptance dates before. Nevertheless, the ordering of the dates still agrees with my suggestion above. PRL submitted 8/4/11, APL submitted on 8/7/11 => falsified author’s agreement at APL. APL published on 11/3/11 => a PRL should not have been published on 11/15/11 after this paper had already appear in another journal.

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