Here’s the Expression of Concern:
In the December 2011 issue, the Brazilian Journal of Rheumatology published the article: “Anticitrullinated peptide antibodies and rheumatoid factor in Sudanese patients with Leishmania donovani infection” by E. Ahlin, A. Elshafei, M. Nur, S.H. El Safi, R. Johan, and G. Elghazali. [Revista Brasileira de Reumatologia 51, 6 (2011)]. On January 2012, the BJR received a claim from one of the authors, questioning the authorship of the corresponding author, and informed that the article was under submission to another journal, by E. Ahlin, A.I. Elshafie, M.A.M. Nur, and J. Ronnelid. This submission is on hold, the authors were all informed of the claim and the case was submitted to the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), which gave some recommendations. The investigation has not yet reached a conclusion. Pending the results of the investigations, BJR is publishing this Editorial Expression of Concern to alert our readers to the fact that serious questions have been raised about the authorship in the Ahlin et al. paper.
Paulo Louzada-Junior and Max Victor Carioca Freitas
Editors-in-chief – Revista Brasileira de Reumatologia
COPE posts some of its cases online anonymously, and they have good reason for that. But there’s a case posted this year that has striking similarities to this one. One detail in particular in the Expression of Concern — the fact that Elshafie’s name is spelled two different ways — seems highly likely to be reason four in the COPE writeup:
A manuscript was published by journal X and submitted by author A (last author). Author B claims that fraud occurred in relation to authorship for the following reasons.
(1) Author A did not take part in producing the data for the paper and has never been a co-author on any version of the manuscript.
(2) A paper with very similar content ,which was part of the PhD thesis of author C (first author), was accepted for publication in journal Y.
(3) The figures in the paper published in journal X were identical to the figures in author C’s PhD thesis.
(4) The name of author B was misspelt in the paper published in journal X to avoid identification of the article search in PubMed.
The editor of journal X contacted all of the authors by email and they responded as follows: author C (first author), author D and author E agreed with author B (claiming author). Author F did not respond, despite receiving five emails.
In addition, author B sent us a letter signed by the Vice-Rector at his University, agreeing and supporting the point raised by author B.
Author A (last author) disagreed with all of the allegations and pointed out the following.
(1) Author A declared that he was the principle investigator of the project in country Z during 2004–2009, and the role of author B was to help in the analysis of the samples in his laboratory, located in country W.
(2) Author A submitted an official complaint to author B’s university, alleging that they (authors B, C and D) had no right to use data without notifying or asking his permission. In addition, they did not have any patient consent.
(3) The paper published in journal X was the original manuscript and it was circulated to all of the authors.
(4) The name of author B was misspelled in journal X by mistake.
Author B requests that the paper must be retracted from journal X, and he also demands that the editors ensure that the paper will disappear from PubMed.
In summary, all of the authors confirm that the data are correct but they disagree regarding the issue of authorship?
You can read the rest of COPE’s advice on the case here, along with the follow up:
The editor published an expression of concern in his journal, stating that one of the authors had questioned the authorship of the corresponding author. The submission is on hold and the authors have been all informed of the claim. The investigation by the journal has not yet reached a conclusion. Pending the results of the investigations, the journal decided to publish an expression of concern to alert readers to the fact that serious questions have been raised about the authorship of the paper.
We’ve tried contacting Elshafie, who according to the paper has affiliations in Sweden and the Sudan, as well as Freitas and corresponding author Gehad Elghazali, of King Fahad Medical City in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for more information, and will update with anything we learn.
Update, 3 p.m. Eastern, 10/29/12: Elghazali tells us that his name was removed from the authors’ list without his knowledge, after he “expressed serious ethical concerns about taking skin biopsies from patients and healthy controls” without their written consent. He also said that written consent was unnecessary to obtain skin biopsies from Sudanese patients and healthy subjects.