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Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

“Additionally, the authors were unable to identify” co-author: Another retraction for Lemus

with 8 comments

env microWe’ve been following the case of Jesús A. Lemus, the Spanish veterinary researcher with five retractions and two expressions of concern under his belt so far for suspected data fabrication and including a fake author on his papers.

Yes, a fake author. When this story first broke, El Pais called Javier Grande a ” ghost with a good academic background with at least six scientific publications in international journals.”

Grande’s — and Lemus’s — publication count declined by one more yesterday, as Environmental Microbiology retracted a 2007 paper:

The following article from Environmental Microbiology, ‘Geographical variation in cloacal microflora and bacterial antibiotic resistance in a threatened avian scavenger in relation to diet and livestock farming practices’ by Guillermo Blanco, Jesús A. Lemus, Javier Grande, Laura Gangoso, Juan M. Grande, José A. Donázar, Bernardo Arroyo, Oscar Frías and Fernando Hiraldo published in Environmental Microbiology 9(7): 1738–1749, and online ahead of print on 25 April 2007, doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2007.01291.x, has been retracted by agreement between Guillermo Blanco, José A. Donázar, Fernando Hiraldo, Óscar Frías, Laura Gangoso, Juan M. Grande, Felix Martínez, Bernardo Arroyo, the journal Editor-in-Chief Kenneth N. Timmis, and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

The retraction has been agreed because:

There are doubts about the validity of the results on bacterial flora composition and antibiotic resistances (Table 1, Fig. 1–6), on which the main conclusions of the article were based. The authors were unable to repeat the analyses presented in the article with the same cloacal swab samples, given the likelihood of changes in the microbial compositions of the samples with time. Additionally, the authors were unable to identify Javier Grande. The authors hope to attempt determining the reliability of the results and hypotheses stated in the paper by using additional samples collected in the future. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience to the readership of Environmental Microbiology.

The paper has been cited 26 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

Hat tip: @andanin, @wvschaik

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Written by Ivan Oransky

December 5, 2012 at 8:14 am

8 Responses

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  1. What are the benefits for creating an imaginary co-author?


    December 5, 2012 at 9:19 am

    • One benefit might be having someone to blame for mistakes. According to El Pais, Javier Grande is the researcher who identified the pathogens in the samples. So if there are errors, Grande takes the blame. Grande was supposedly affiliated with other institutions than the one where Lemus worked. So maybe he provided the multi-institutional component of the grant application. Having Grande at another institution is convenient when Lemus needs to explain where he has gotten his lab results. A deception about an imaginary fellow researcher within his own institution wouldn’t hold up for long at Lemus’s department. The guy wouldn’t be in the phone book, wouldn’t be listed with the personnel office, and so forth.


      December 5, 2012 at 10:08 am

    • Another benefit is that sole authorship often looks suspicious.
      Few people publish original research on their own.

      allergy researchers

      December 9, 2012 at 4:18 pm

  2. Javier Grande should be fired!

    Chris Bindman

    December 5, 2012 at 2:17 pm

  3. But on this paper there are researchers from the same institute as Javier Grande: surely they must have noticed that there would be no such person working in their department?


    December 5, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    • Good point. My earlier comment was defective. I apologize and submit corrections (below) for the defective sentences, although my conclusions are not affected by the erroneous data. I hope this won’t reflect negatively on my illustrious career. I really want and need a raise, and the fact that I do want and need it is the best reason for letting me have it, regardless of whether my performance merits it.

      I went back to check the lists of authors, and there always seems to be another author as well as Javier Grande at each institution where he supposedly worked. And in some cases it was indeed the same institution where Jesus Lemus was working. Grande was never needed to provide multi-institutional collaboration. There was always someone else who could serve that function.

      I wonder if Lemus was concocting some creative excuses — like, he used to work at institution A so that’s why he is listed on the paper as being affiliated with them, but he has a new job elsewhere so that’s why he doesn’t appear in the personnel listing at institution A, and he was there only a short time so that’s why you never met him. Or maybe this is one of the clues that led to his exposure. A couple of his co-authors seem to have gotten suspicious.


      December 6, 2012 at 12:04 am

  4. It’s almost like the guy wanted to get caught, and left this as a clue!


    December 18, 2012 at 4:16 pm

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