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Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

In detailed notice, radiology journal retracts lung cancer paper for likely plagiarism

with 4 comments

The editors of Acta Radiologica have retracted a study of patients with lung cancer, with a notice that tells the whole story:

The manuscript “Measurement of tumor volume by PET to evaluate prognosis in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer treated by non-surgical therapy” was submitted to Acta Radiologica on November 3, 2010 and, after a review, accepted for publication on February 26, 2011 (1). The article was published in Acta Radiol 2011;52:646–50. Authors were: Honjiang Yan, Renben Wang (corresponding author), Fen Zhao, Kubli Zhu, Shumei Jiang, Wei Zhao, and Rui Feng, from the Department of Radiation Oncology and Department of Nuclear Medicine, Shandong Tumor Hospital, Jinan, China.

After the publication of this article, we have been made aware of a very similar publication originally published in Annals of Surgical Oncology (Chung MK, Jeong H-S, Son Y-I, et al. Prognostic value of metabolic tumor volume measured by 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography in patients with esophageal carcinoma. Ann Surg Oncol 2010;17:115–22) (2). After a detailed survey of the two articles a most likely plagiarism was detected. It is most likely that the authors of the article in Acta Radiologica wrote their manuscript based on the article in Ann Surg Oncol. More than half of the sentences are exactly identical to those in the article published in 2010, and there is no reference to the 2010 article. In particular, some numerical results data are identical, in spite of different subjects and cancer type.

After having confronted the corresponding author of the 2011 article in our journal, we received the following response: “We would like to apologize sincerely to readers, reviewers and editors for this serious error on our part and the article therefore should been withdrawn. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.”

Based on our investigations and the statement from the corresponding author of (1), the article is hereby retracted.

© 2012 The Foundation Acta Radiologica

REFERENCES

1. Yan H, Wang R, Zhao F, et al. Measurement of tumor volume by PET to evaluate prognosis in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer treated by non-surgical therapy. Acta Radiol2011;52:646–50

2. Hyun SH, Choi JY, Shim YM, et al. Prognostic value of metabolic tumor volume measured by 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography in patients with esophageal carcinoma. Ann Surg Oncol2010;17:115–22

The study has been cited five times, according to Google Scholar, and the notice is among the most detailed we’ve seen for likely plagiarism, which we of course appreciate. Our only bone to pick is with the fact that it’s behind a paywall, which goes against guidance from the Committee on Publication Ethics.

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Written by ivanoransky

October 17, 2012 at 9:30 am

4 Responses

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  1. It seems that Acta Radiologica should be more frank than to say, “a most likely plagiarism was detected.”

    Either it’s plagiarism or not, and we probably need to standardize a definition as to what degree of copying rises to the level of plagiarism. Certainly, if “more than half of the sentences are exactly identical to those in the article published in 2010, and [if] there is no reference to the 2010 article [and if] some numerical results.. are identical,” then this is plagiarism and should be called such.

    But what if the overlap between sources was 10% or 2%? What if the source was another paper by the same authors? What if plagiarism only occurred in the Methods section? Should non-English speakers be cut more slack than nativie English speakers?

    R. Grant Steen

    October 17, 2012 at 10:02 am

  2. Is there not also a concern about data fabrication if numerical results are the same? Is that just assumed to be extra-sloppy plagiarizing?

    Carrie

    October 17, 2012 at 10:08 am

  3. “some numerical results data are identical, in spite of different subjects and cancer type.”
    This is not plagiarism, but scientific fraud – a far more serious crime.

    Michael Kovari

    October 17, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    • I agree.

      I distracted myself with a theoretical discussion but Carrie and Michael nailed it. This seems like fraud, not mere plagiarism.

      R. Grant Steen

      October 18, 2012 at 10:28 am


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