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Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Authors retract nutrition review that plagiarized deceased researcher

with 24 comments

A pair of authors have retracted a paper in Nutrition Reviews after it became clear that parts were plagiarized from work by a nutritionist who had died in an accident just weeks after writing the material.

The retraction reads in full:

The following article from  Nutrition Reviews titled “Alpha-lipoic acid supplementation and diabetes” by Uma Singh and Ishwarlal Jialal (1) published online on 27 October 2008 in the Wiley Online Library (www.wileyonlinelibrary.com), DOI:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2008.00118.x, has been retracted by agreement among the article’s authors, the journal’s Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Naomi Fukagawa, and Wiley Periodicals, Inc. because segments of unattributed text were found to be identical to those in a previously published article. (2) The authors sincerely regret the unintentional error and welcome this opportunity to correct the scientific record with the following explanation:

In this case, a junior author, who is also a non-native English speaker, was unfamiliar with appropriate referencing procedures for material from online sources and neglected to cite the source in the reference list or to appropriately incorporate the ideas from that source into original text of this review article. Since the source was not cited in the manuscript as it was developed and discussed by the authors, the senior author, Professor Jialal, was unaware that such a breach had occurred.

REFERENCES

1. Singh U, Jialal I. Alpha-lipoic acid supplementation and diabetes. Nutr Rev 2008;66(11):646–657.
2. Higdon L. Lipoic Acid. Available at: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/othernuts/la/. Accessed May 2, 2012.

Reference two is a post written by Jane Higdon, of the Linus Pauling Institute, a micronutrient research arm of Oregon State University. Higdon, it turns out, was an avid cyclist who died just weeks after writing the post, on May 31, 2006, when a truck hit her during cycling training.

Institution officials noted the similarities between the Nutrition Reviews paper — which has been cited 41 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge — and Higdon’s work. They notified Fukagawa, who contacted Jialal, the senior author and a nutrition and metabolism researcher at the University of California, Davis. Jialal told Retraction Watch:

I’m very upset about this, I don’t condone this behavior. Getting this paper out of the way was the best solution instead of fighting with the editor.

It’s not clear what Jialal and the editor would have been fighting about, and we haven’t been able to talk to Fukigawa. Jialal signed off on the review, but wasn’t much involved in it, an issue with busy professors and P.I.s who might be managing two or three postdocs and two or three research grants.

I do have a responsibility, but I have to trust a human being. I feel like a jilted lover.

Jialal met Uma Singh, the junior author, at an international artheriosclerosis meeting in Kyoto and she joined the lab shortly afterward as a postdoc. The two researchers co-wrote seven reviews along with 17 original research articles between 2005 and 2010.

Singh is now an instructor at Seminole Sate College of Florida and Valencia College. She did not respond to email requests for comment.

Jennifer Beal, global publicity manager at Wiley, which publishes Nutrition Reviews, sent us this email explanation:

Content within the article was clearly copied from an outside source and was not cited by the Nutrition Reviews authors. Following COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics) policies and Wiley-Blackwell guidance on publication ethics, retraction was the appropriate action. Both authors were given the opportunity to comment on the wording of the retraction.

We note that Higdon’s friends formed a foundation that so far has raised $18,900 for:

  • Scholarships and grants to encourage and empower girls and young women to pursue healthy and active lifestyles and academic excellence
  • Donations to non-profits that advocate and work for bicycling and pedestrian safety in Lane County, Oregon.

We could think of a few people who might want to make donations.

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Written by trevorlstokes

August 14, 2012 at 9:30 am

24 Responses

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  1. “Jialal signed off on the review, but wasn’t much involved in it”.
    So why was he the co-author, let lone the senior author, of this thing? Is he at the stage when writing reviews is beneath him and the aura he radiates is considered a valid contribution instead? He should not feel like a jilted lover, more like a peeping Tom.

    chirality

    August 14, 2012 at 11:50 am

    • I don’t understand the “let alone the senior author” comment — “senior author” is a designation that very explicitly is not about the direct contribution to the work (in the sense of who did the experiments, or wrote the text). Instead, it tells you something about the relationship between the authors — who is working in whose lab, who is supervising whom, whose grant money is paying for experiments, etc.

      JBL

      August 14, 2012 at 10:06 pm

      • “[W]ho is working in whose lab, who is supervising whom, whose grant money is paying for experiments”. Providing space, money, supervision does not make you worthy of co-authorship. Besides, you realize this is a review, right? He claims he did not write it. So, at best, he deserved to be mentioned in the acknowledgement section alongside the funding agency. Nowhere else. I know that reality is very different in science in general but people should refrain from so casually reveling their exploits even if the sole purpose of this exercise is to deflect the charge of plagiarism onto the actual author of the review. I am 10% sure this was the first review he did not write but yet considered himself its author.

        chirality

        August 15, 2012 at 5:15 am

      • Please read what I wrote — your entire comment appears to be directed at statements I haven’t made. To repeat, at greater length: Your comment includes the implicit view that it would be more unusual for a “senior author” to be not involved in a work than for another (i.e., not specifically designated “senior”) author to be not involved in a work. I am merely pointing out that this doesn’t make sense: the designation “senior” doesn’t say anything about actual direct contribution, so there is no reason for it to be more surprising. (And, of course, anyone who knows about how author assignments work in practice would be *less* surprised to hear that a senior author was not directly involved, regardless of whether one thinks this is a good system.)

        JBL

        August 15, 2012 at 11:37 pm

      • Chirality, I have written a few reviews as a “senior author” where I “did not write the paper”. That is, the foundation for the papers where made by others, and my input was to fill gaps, improve presentation and descriptions, suggest literature that was missing, etc. etc. It appears Jialal did the same and he just didn’t notice that some sections were direct copies from another paper. I don’t think any of us would have noticed, unless we by chance knew that paper.

        Marco

        August 16, 2012 at 1:34 am

  2. We did not mention the CNN story on plagiarism !!!!

    roy

    August 14, 2012 at 11:56 am

  3. what CNN has to do with this issue? can you elaborate a bit?

    Ressci Integrity

    August 14, 2012 at 6:28 pm

  4. LOL at the “jilted lover” quote. Oh yeah, Jialal is the one who has been taken advantage of in this situation. Riiight.

    I’m more conflicted about the “having to trust a human being” quote. Claims by advisors that “at some point I have to trust the graduate student” are often excuses for not supervising adequately. On the other hand, it can be tough to spot every instance of plagiarism. A sudden burst of well-worded sentences appearing in the midst of awkward paragraphs is a tip-off. But sometimes you spend all of your available effort and time on the awkward parts and you gratefully accept the parts that don’t seem to need corrections.

    Just one more example of inadequate training combined with pressure to amass a long list of publications. Seven reviews and 17 original research articles over the course of five or six years? That is a ridiculously large output for two people. Or is it just one person doing the work and the other person getting a free ride?

    JudyH

    August 15, 2012 at 10:38 am

  5. @JudyH
    Check this out…http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=sethi%20gautam
    >26 papers in the last 12 months by this investigator. More than 50 papers in the last 3 -4 years. Do you think this is reasonably good productivity? His case was discussed somewhere on abnormal science earlier. But nothing is going to happen. He just got an award for outstanding research scientist.

    why_T

    August 16, 2012 at 2:09 am

  6. JBL: I do get the point you are making. While you are correct, this is not at the core of this case. To be a regular author of a review you have to write it. To be a senior author of a review you have to BOTH write it AND be the one who secured funding, etc. The two conditions have to be met concurrently. The guy in question did not write the manuscript, so he cannot be an author of any sort.

    chirality

    August 16, 2012 at 6:29 am

  7. Marco: “and my input was to fill gaps” – did you fill the gaps with plaster or text? If the latter, you did indeed write the manuscript. “Writing a manuscript” in this context implies creating it, and not necessarily by putting pen to paper. Similarly, mere typists cannot be considered deserving authors. Of course, the creative contribution needs to be significant – very often superiors contribute very little (so, formally they “contributed”) knowing full well that others will not be willing to openly question this practice.

    chirality

    August 16, 2012 at 6:49 am

    • Chirality, there’s loads of semantics going on here. It’s Trevor Stokes that makes the claim that Jialal was not much involved with it. Possibly this is what Jialal stated verbatim, but it’s not in quotes, so for now it’s Trevor’s claim, not Jialal’s.

      But if it were Jialal’s words, we still have “not much involved”. This simply is not the same as “did not write”, which is what you ultimately claimed. Some people may even use “did not write” without meaning that they did not write the paper, because they interpret “did not write” in a different way. As I just did in my previous reaction (albeit slightly in jest).

      Marco

      August 16, 2012 at 10:53 am

      • Of course, he wrote the paper. And out of sheer modesty he claims not to be much involved in it. I, for one, always belittle my own contribution to publications. I am sure you do too. Moreover, he is not a plagiarist, just a jilted lover. He would have been a plagiarist had he been much involved in writing the manuscript. I mean, he was and, at the same time, was not involved in writing this manuscript.

        chirality

        August 16, 2012 at 11:34 am

      • Marco,
        Thank you for pointing this out. During my conversation with Jialal, he said that Uma Singh elected to write the review, which lead to my statement that he was “not much involved.” Jialal said that in original articles, any misconduct is easily managed because of their weekly lab meetings. However, with review articles, he said he had to put his trust in the writer, in this case Singh. Jialal said after he received the retraction notice from the editor, he visited the Linus Pauling Institute website for the first time.
        Hope this clears up the matter.

        trevorlstokes

        August 16, 2012 at 11:46 am

      • Chirality, there’s a paper where I’d happily say I was “not much involved” simply to give the main author the credit she is due for the enormous work she did. And yet I added a section, helped rewrite the paper in multiple papers, and provided relevant references. That is, there is no doubt I provided an important intellectual contribution to the extent that the others are unlikely to doubt my qualification as a co-author on that paper. Did I belittle my contribution by saying “not much involved”? Or did I put things in perspective by saying that?

        Also, in this case, remember the simple psychological aspect of finding yourself in a situation of being confronted by misconduct of your co-author. Even the most empathic person in this world would likely have a knee-jerk reaction to distance himself from that situation and “belittle” their involvement.

        Marco

        August 17, 2012 at 1:29 am

      • Thanks for the clarification, Trevor.

        Marco

        August 17, 2012 at 1:30 am

  8. Dr Singh has adnmitted to her error in writing this review article with me.
    I had no knowledge she engaged in this activity.
    However, whilst you are making a big deal of this issue I need to point out that this taken not from an article but a web page with no disclaimer in 2007. It is easy to criticize this in 2012 when everybody is so sophisticated and savy .
    We in concert with the journal did the right thing although unlike us Higdon had never published an original article or review on LIPOIC ACID. Maybe somebody should find out which textbooks she used to write this piece for the web page.
    Thanks Kenny Jialal

    kenny jialal

    August 16, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    • This is a rather disturbing clarification. The only charitable way to interpret it is “It would have been easier for the senior author to spot the plagiarism if the text were stolen from a journal paper rather than a website”. Alas, it seems that Dr. Jialal means something else. His implication seems to be that

      1) publicly accessible website materials can be legitimately used without attribution;
      [or at least that such was the "normal" behavior back in 2007]

      2) Higdon might have (or likely had ?) plagiarized some textbooks in writing her webpage posts.

      The first is simply B.S. (regardless of presence of “disclaimer” or copyright on any given webpage).

      The second seems unsubstantiated, rather offensive (given that the author of this webpage is deceased and cannot defend herself), and completely irrelevant in discussing the originality of their review article.

      If the above post was actually left by Dr. Jialal, he should be really ashamed of himself.

      someone_somewhere

      August 16, 2012 at 4:58 pm

      • I am Dr Jialal and wrote the above because of the dramatic headline of deceased author .
        I am stating facts and identifying myself since Iam not condoning what happened . The late Jane Higdon did not publish a single paper leave alone original paper, unlike me.on LIPOIC ACID
        Those are the facts and Iam sorry you find it offensive.
        Thanks

        kenny jialal

        August 16, 2012 at 5:33 pm

  9. What is shocking in this story (apart from robbing a deceased person) is the attitude of Dr. Jialal, which is also rather common among academics — that Plagiarising from material which is not in a peer reviewed journal and/or the author is not in an academic institution is not plagiarising (?!?) and is perfectly OK!
    This is pure DISCRIMINATION !!!

    Shame on Dr. Jialal!
    Shame on all other academics and institutions who commit/tolerate plagiarism from any material which is not in peer reviewed journals!!!

    YouKnowBestOfAll

    August 19, 2012 at 11:40 pm

  10. At Queen’s university in Ontario, Canada, two researchers took the previously published work of a former student and republish the work under their names in Canadian Metallurgical Quarterly without informing the former student (http://littleofficeofintegrity.org/case_studies_iii/smith__mckay_queens_university). Queen’s University believes that this is not misconduct: “there needs to be evidence of wrongdoing”!

    mort shirkhanzadeh

    August 20, 2012 at 9:38 am

  11. Can there be a “legitimate plagiarism” as Dr Jialal suggests?

    Such attitude of the Academia resembles the Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape”.
    However, while the President Obama condemns such attitude by clearly stating that: “Rape is rape”,
    academic Presidents/Vice_Presidents_Research do not say that
    PLAGIARISM IS PLAGIARISM, but look for excuses in order to cover up the misconduct of their Faculty members. What a shame!

    How very sad and disappointing !!!

    YouKnowBestOfAll

    August 20, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    • My very thought! Dr Jialal now plagiarising Congressman Akin!!! Unbelievable!!!!

      Toby Esterhase

      August 22, 2012 at 10:27 am


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