Here’s a tip: If you’re going to claim you were first to discover something, even though you know you weren’t, don’t publish your claim in the same journal where the first finding appeared. Oh, and don’t ask the researchers who made the first discovery for help along the way.
Those, perhaps, are the cynical lessons from a retraction notice that appeared last week in the Journal of Chemical Physics:
The authors wish to retract the article1 because the CN(X2Σ+) + He potential energy surface utilized for the cold collision studies was misrepresented as having been newly developed in this laboratory. The potential energy surface for this system was originally calculated and published by Lique et al.2 We apologize for not properly referencing the previously published findings of Lique et al. or obtaining the necessary permissions to reproduce their potential energy surface in the text or caption to Fig. 1.
1. E. Feng, X. Shao, C. Yu, C. Sun, and W. Huang, J. Chem. Phys. 136, 054302 (2012).
2. F. Lique, A. Spielfiedel, N. Feautrier, I. F. Schneider, J. Klos, and M. H. Alexander, J. Chem. Phys. 132, 024303 (2010).
The paper has been cited just once, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.
François Lique, first author of the original paper, tells Retraction Watch he became aware of the duplication because he reads the Journal of Chemical Physics and thought the paper had results that would be of interest to his research. When he read it, he realized it was the same work he’d done two years earlier. Even worse, he remembered that the authors had contacted him for some help — which he and his co-authors were happy to give.
If the publication had been in a journal that he didn’t read, “maybe I would not be aware of the duplication,” he wrote in an email.