About these ads

Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

“Administrative error” leads to duplication retraction

with 8 comments

Forgive us if we’re a tad skeptical here, but we’re not convinced about the, um, sincerity of the following retraction notice.

The International Journal of Biological Macromolecules has retracted a paper it published earlier this year by a group of Canadian researchers who had already published the same paper in a different journal.

The article, “Spectroscopic investigation of collagen scaffolds impregnated with AgNPs coated by PEG/TX-100 mixed systems,” came from researchers at the University of Saskatchewan and appeared in the April issue of the IJBM.

But according to the notice:

The article was a duplication of a paper that had already appeared in COLSUB 4819 “Synthesis, characterization and comparison of antimicrobial activity of PEG/TritonX-100 capped silver nanoparticles on collagen scaffold”, Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces 90 (2012) 191–196. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.colsurfb.2011.10.021. The authors would like to apologize for this administrative error on their part.

That paper was published in February 2012. What makes us raise an eyebrow or two? For starters, the titles are different. How, exactly, is that an administrative error?

More concerning, however, is that the roster of authors for the two articles differ, too: A. Mandal, V. Meda, W.J. Zhang, K.M. Farhan, A. Gnanamani for the original article, A. Mandal, V. Meda, W.J. Zhang, A.K. Dalai for the retracted paper. Was it an administrative error to change the names as well?

Finally, there’s this: The original paper was itself fraught, as the following, and impressively long, correction notice indicates:

The author would like to bring to your attention that there are a couple of places of incomplete or incorrect citing of sources of references in the paper, and these are listed below:

Page 191

• “Collagen is widespread in nature and plays an important role in the formation of tissues and organs. The ease of preparation has made it the most widely used biomaterial [1].”

The above should be written as “Collagen is widespread in nature and performs a vital role in the tissues and organ formation [1]. The ease of preparation has made it the most widely used biomaterial.”

• “Scaffolds made of collagen are distinct from those of synthetic polymers mainly in its mode of interaction in the body [4]. Collagen is a good surface-active agent and its ability to penetrate a lipid-free interface has been demonstrated [5]. Compared with other natural polymers such as, albumin and gelatin, collagen exhibits superior biodegradability, biocompatibility and weak antigenecity [1, 6, 7]. In addition to the above mentioned advantages, collagen is non-toxic and has a good safety profile as a scaffold in the biomedical application such as tissue regeneration.”

The above should be written as “Scaffolds made of collagen differ from that of synthetic polymers in the manner they interact within the host body [4]. Collagen (M.W. 50,000) behaves as surface-active agent and is permeable through interfaces devoid of lipids [5]. In comparison to some of the existing natural polymers namely albumin and gelatin, collagen shows better biodegradability, biocompatibility and also reduced antigenecity [1, 6, 7]. In addition to the above mentioned advantages, collagen is non-toxic and has safety profile suitable enough to be used as a scaffold in the biomedical application such as tissue regeneration [7].”

• “In recent years, silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) have attracted much attention and have been widely used in biomedical research. Synthesis of AgNPs has been of considerable interest during the past few decades as they exhibit better antimicrobial activity compared to metallic silver.”

The above should be written as “Silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) have gained much attention and have been widely used in biomedical research. Synthesis of AgNPs has been of considerable interest during the past few decades as they exhibit better antimicrobial activity compared to metallic silver [8, 9].”

• “The high surface to volume ratio of AgNP enables the nanoparticles to better fuse with the bacterial cell membranes [11].”

The above should be written as “The high surface to volume ratio of AgNP enables the nanoparticles to better fuse with the bacterial cell membranes [11, 12].”

Pages 191–192

• “Surfactants have been widely used to modify the surface chemistry of colloidal particles [13, 14] and to impart extra stability to dispersions [15–17]. In addition, they are known for tuning colloidal interactions [18, 19]. The interactions of ionic surfactants, their micellar solutions or mesophases with charge-stabilized colloidal particles are too strong, leaving limited regions of miscibility [20–23] and these problems may be overcome when nonionic surfactants are used. Therefore, in this context, the role of nonionic surfactants is important. The small colloidal particles can be embedded in solutions of nonionic surfactant, even fairly concentrated ones [22, 24–26] and such nonionic surfactants are relatively insensitive to ionic strength and pH which provide sterically stabilizing colloidal particles through adsorption [27–30].”

The above should be written as “Surfactants are well known to alter the surface chemistry of colloidal particles [13, 14] and to provide added stability to the dispersions [15–17]. In addition, they are known for tuning colloidal interactions [18, 19]. The interactions of ionic surfactants, their micellar solutions or mesophases with charge-stabilized colloidal particles result in partial miscibility [20–23] and these problems may be overcome when nonionic surfactants are used [15]. Therefore, in this case, the role of nonionic surfactants is essential. The small colloidal particles can be entrapped in concentrated solutions of nonionic surfactants [22, 24–26], which are insensitive to ionic strength and pH, leading to sterically stabilized colloidal particles via adsorption [15, 27–30].”

The minor modifications, plus the addition of references to previously un- or under-cited passages, surely suggest that the authors had borrowed too liberally from the works of other scientists. That’s plagiarism, not duplication.

We’ve contacted the journal’s editor for more details, and will update with anything we learn.

About these ads

8 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. The language is in a constant flux. A few months ago this would be called “a clerical error”. K.M. Farhan and A. Gnanamani were probably not willing to partake in this administrative error, hence their exclusion from the second paper. I just wonder if people do not feel a little bit uncomfortable when two very similar sets of galley proofs land on their desk for a final review and approval. In normal circumstances a very strong sense of déjà vu would prevent a person from proceeding.
    Given the correction notice and the retraction, it is obvious that this research group has “an enemy” who scrutinizes their output. No more administrative errors to be expected.

    chirality

    November 16, 2012 at 2:58 pm

  2. Something I have been giggling over given the recent spate of Canadian retractions is how it goes against the national character. A few years ago someone was searching for the Canadian simile equivalent of “as amorous as a Frenchman” or as “hardworking as a German.” He held a contest, the winning entry of which was: “As cautious as a Canadian.” Apparently when it comes to scientific publishing, we must now change that to “as incautious as a Canadian.”

    stephenstrausss

    November 16, 2012 at 4:38 pm

  3. Nothing to do with topic, but I thought might interest readers. A link to an interesting discussion on science misconduct: http://www.nature.com/spoton/event/spoton-london-2012-fixing-the-fraud-how-do-we-safeguard-science-from-misconduct/

    Hibby

    November 16, 2012 at 4:56 pm

  4. Hibby: Seems to me that duplicate publication is the ‘forgotten misconduct’ actually. It’s very common (seems like half of all RW posts lately) but not as widely discussed as say data fabrication.

    Neuroskeptic (@Neuro_Skeptic)

    November 17, 2012 at 3:47 am

    • Agreed! In fact for those only seeking boosting their CVs, duplicate publication becomes thus the safest of misconducts. Not only few people discuss it: also journals refrain from retracting duplicate papers. I have exposed quite a few, and there is no response. Maybe because they cannot be sued (as in plagiarism) or exposed to ridicule (as in outright proven fabrication)… Somehow duplication becomes the most dangerous form of misconduct then?

      Hibby

      November 17, 2012 at 7:59 am

  5. Stephen, it’s not just the Canadians that have themselves in tangles. Here in Australia, our highest-profile “low GI” advocates also are in a bit of a tangle. They published the “Australian Paradox” paper – (falsely) claiming “an inverse relationship” between sugar consumption and obesity – and also operate a “low GI” business that endorses particular brands of (low GI) sugar and sugary products as “healthy”: p.10-11 of http://www.gisymbol.com/cmsAdmin/uploads/Glycemic-Index-Foundation-Healthy-Choices-Brochure.pdf

    The University’s undisclosed “lowGI”/fructose conflict of interest and all other aspects of the dispute are documented here: http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/22Slideshowaustraliangoestoparadoxcanberrafinal.pdf .

    I still laugh when I recall that the University of Sydney’s head of academic quality control and integrity – Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research, Professor Jill Trewhella – recently claimed with a straight face that quality control for the Australian Paradox paper involved “internationally accepted standard practice” (http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/Sept2012-Conversations.pdf ).

    In fact, in this Australian Paradox matter, the lead author – who loves the paper – and the Guest Editor – who published it – are the same person! Standard practice indeed. If that is the way Australian Group-of-Eight scientific quality control is supposed to work, we may as well all be publishing our mistaken opinions as scientific facts in obscure pay-as-you-publish E-journals.

    When I hear the words “standard practice” used to describe anything in the Australian Paradox episode, I think of Dr Evil’s childhood – described as “pretty standard really” – in the movie “Austin Powers”. (It’s here on youtube, starting from 32 seconds to 1.24 minutes at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTJj4wbmAhk . Caution: some bad language is used.)

    Anyway. the authors of Australian Paradox and Australian Paradox Revisited have since March 2012 refused to correct the obvious errors that dominate their papers. The dispute would end today – and we could be assured that scientific fraud is not an issue – if the scientists simply corrected the basic errors in their supposedly “peer reviewed” published papers, as they should.

    So I’m still arguing near and far for the correction or retraction of the deeply flawed Australian Paradox papers and their bogus conclusion of “an inverse relationship” between sugar consumption and obesity. Please alert me if you find any factual errors or unreasonable statements in my analysis.

    Interestingly, the Australian sugar industry recently funded – and framed – the results of a “new” sugar series that took the Australian Paradox scandal to another level: http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/New-nonsense-based-sugarreport.pdf

    The University of Sydney enthusiastically but unwisely embraced that bogus “new” series and declares victory in Australian Paradox dispute: http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/university-sydney-falsely-declares-victory.pdf

    Most recently, the Australian Paradox went to Canberra for the Discussion on “The place of sugar in Australia’s Dietary Intake Guidelines” at Parliament House on 29 October 2012. Here’s my “Opening Statement”: http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/23OpeningStatementinCanberrasugardebate.pdf

    The University of Sydney senior management’s disingenuous defence of the “shonky sugar study” ‘s misrepresentation of key facts is a disturbing part of the scandal, collapsing confidence in its academic and scientific integrity: http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/Sept2012-Conversations.pdf

    roryrobertsonformerfattie

    November 17, 2012 at 5:34 am

  6. This has happened to my group. One of our articles was published by a major publisher and then 3 months later the same exact same article showed up in a journal published by the same publisher. The editorial staff apologized and put out a correction. I have no idea how it happened and the publisher was not exactly forthcoming. Clerical problems do happen.

    Of course, this is a bit different… the title and authors list changes are suspicious. Not that I haven’t had editors ask me to change the occasional title.

    John

    November 20, 2012 at 4:49 am

  7. Administrative error, they mean, was the discovery of duplication by journal administration that led to retraction…

    Administrator

    November 21, 2012 at 3:01 am


We welcome comments. Please read our comments policy at http://retractionwatch.wordpress.com/the-retraction-watch-faq/ and leave your comment below.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 31,344 other followers

%d bloggers like this: