Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Need more material for your paper under review? Just take it from someone else’s conference presentation

with 43 comments

ijmsLet’s say you’re a researcher who’s just gotten reviews back from your latest manuscript, asking for some revisions. Luckily, you find yourself at a conference and spot a presentation that’s related to your work. So you use a bunch of that presentation material in your paper.

Unfortunately for you, the guy who gave that conference presentation sees your paper when it’s published — and he’s justifiably unhappy enough to contact the editors.

Well, that’s what happened when two Australian researchers, Kristine Deray and Simeon Simoff, published a paper in the International Journal of Medical Informatics. Deray was at a conference where Andrew Lucia was presenting work titled, perhaps ironically in hindsight, “Memory, Difference, and Information.”

Here’s the February 15 notice for “Designing for healthy living: Supporting reflectivity on interactions in healthcare,” which originally appeared in December 2011:

This article has been retracted: please see Elsevier Policy on Article Withdrawal (http://www.elsevier.com/locate/withdrawalpolicy).

This article has been retracted at the request of the Editors.

This paper has been retracted as it substantively plagiarizes the work of Andrew Lucia and colleagues Lucia, Jones, & Sabin. “Memory, Difference, and Information: Generative Architectures Latent to Material & Perceptual Plasticity” Proceedings of the 15th International Conference on Information Visualisation, IEEE Computer Society. London. pp. 379–388: http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/IV.2011.54.

The offending paper was published in a special issue of IJMI and the guest editors and original reviewers were unaware the work of Lucia and colleagues. In February 2012, Lucia contacted the editors highlighting 13 instances of potential plagiarism. Upon review the text in question in each of these 13 cases was introduced into the manuscript during the revision process after initial peer review. The revision was submitted after the paper by Lucia had been presented at the conference on Information Visualisation

The editors of IJMI in consultation with the resources provided by our publisher have determined that Delray and Simoff did in fact substantively plagiarize the work of Lucia. The IEEE Computer Society “found that there was level four plagiarism,” and requested and received a letter of apology from Deray and Simoff.

The lack of attribution to another scientist’s work is among the most egregious problems we face as editors because this problem is not necessarily self-correcting. Without the diligence of the offended author, the editors of IJMI might have never known of this publication misconduct. Moreover, it has taken almost a year from the date of initial publication to partially rectify this wrong. We also apologize to Andrew Lucia and his colleagues for not reacting sooner.

Lucia tells Retraction Watch:

Ironically, the only reason I ever noticed the plagiarism in the first place was due to the fact that Deray and Simoff had cited a figure from my paper in theirs.  I was intrigued and decided to read their article.  To my astonishment, many portions of the article read entirely too familiar … they were my words or very nearly (without citation).

While Lucia called the apology letter from Deray and Simoff “rather insincere” — we’ve tried them for comment — he’s satisfied with the retraction itself:

The editors at IJMI acted in an extremely professional and attentive manner throughout the process, including giving the offending authors ample opportunity to correct the situation, which they chose not to.  In the end it was decided by the editors of IJMI that a retraction would be the appropriate course of action.

This is one of the most detailed retraction notices we’ve ever seen. Kudos to the editors of the journal.

Hat tip: Maria Wolters

Written by Ivan Oransky

March 1st, 2013 at 11:30 am

Comments
  • Schmuck March 1, 2013 at 11:53 am

    An interesting editorial from the Mole in J Cell Sci
    http://jcs.biologists.org/content/125/24/5907.full.html?etoc

    • FigureSleuth March 1, 2013 at 12:53 pm

      Ha Ha, funny stuff… that hits really close to home !

    • fernando pessoa March 1, 2013 at 1:52 pm

      Referring to editorial from the Mole in J Cell Sci.

      It is deeply cynical and is still in credulous world.

    • Stephen Wood March 1, 2013 at 5:11 pm

      I think that editorial reads like someone was a bit upset that someone had the audacity to question their results after publication, more than anything. Technology has basically allowed an expanded role for post-publication peer review so, Mole (whoever you are), suck it up buttercup and keep your results and image copies because it isn’t going away and it is all to the good.

      • fernando pessoa March 1, 2013 at 8:37 pm

        I believe that Mole is an editor-in-chief.

    • Average PI March 2, 2013 at 7:40 am

      Outstanding piece!

      • ferniglab March 4, 2013 at 3:47 pm

        Either an outstanding piece or an apologist who has been featured on Science Fraud – I find it difficult to tell. For me the text does tend to veer away from satire to suggesting, as have many apologists on Science Fraud, here and elsewhere, that tracking down dodgy work is a waste of time and that we would be better employed getting on with our work; scrutinising that which is published is a waste of time.

        • fernando pessoa March 4, 2013 at 4:17 pm

          Just a feeling that it is the latter. Somebody who was not the direct subject, but who was mentioned in the background story. The mentor of somebody who was given centre stage.

    • Ouch March 2, 2013 at 9:17 am

      U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant”. Those that find sunlight repulsive, might be able to deduce their own existence with this quote.

      Personally, if I were to find myself on one of these websites, I would not respond to the scientific questions on the accusing website. I would rather post the questions and answers on my own site or simply answer the questions over email. As scientists, imho, we are required to answer such questions, no matter how many and time consuming it may become. I would prefer to do it through my own communication or through a journal, something more controlled than a website owned by someone I do not know nor trust.

      • Stewart March 2, 2013 at 12:52 pm

        Ouch,

        Science should always be transparent.

        Your wish for personal communications may well put the whistleblowers future at risk. We have to remember whistleblowers are responsible for shining a light on science-fraud. Not professors, not heads of departments, not Deans and as such the whistleblowers need protection, and as I am sure you may well be aware, whistleblowers are not protected. They need protection from the science-fraudsters in positions of considerable power and influence.

        Any data that is held within the shadows of a professors desk, or head of departments drawer, should be open to question in an honest and transparent manner. If the data is genuine, it is easy to demonstrate that on any blog or website, if not….then such individuals may wish to keep it from the light for all to see.

        I think the future of science is more important than that of a few presently powerful individuals with questionable morals.

        Lets shine a light on the data fraudulent individuals have published, not on the individuals themselves. As such, they are irrelevant and temporary.

        We must also remember when science-fraudsters have a light shone upon their work, they often wish to find whom the whistelblowers are – not to thank them, but quite the opposite, as has been demonstrated recently.

        • Average PI March 2, 2013 at 1:40 pm

          There is also the possibility of some scientists throwing mud on other scientists as part of a strategy to be more competitive: if your competitor’s reputation is tarnished (public accusations, no matter how unfunded, tarnish reputations), then your own reputation is automatically enhanced by comparison. I would not underestimate the frequency of this strategy, and I’m pretty sure documented cases will emerge in the near future.

          • Stewart March 2, 2013 at 3:52 pm

            Average PI wrote “…..I’m pretty sure documented cases will emerge in the near future.”

            Thats interesting.

            Do you have any examples to justify your position?

            If anyone spreads false information publicly about anyone else, be it a scientist or not, that may be construed as Defamation, and there are laws to deal with such criminal offences.

            Or are you suggesting that whistleblowers documenting scientific fraud are commiting defamatory offences?

          • Average PI March 3, 2013 at 6:14 am

            The next stage (already under way) will be to use anonymous accusations of fraud for competitive advantage against honest scientists. The next big thing will be documented cases of this, high profile lawsuits and associated subpoenas to identify these individuals, and the subsequent loss of credibility of this entire issue. You read it first here.

          • Stewart March 3, 2013 at 9:51 am

            Average PI wrote:
            “….The next stage (already under way)…….”

            Any examples?

            Surely the data of honest scientists is there for all to see, and any suggestion of fraud quickly quashed.

            Without evidence of science-fraud how do you envisage honests scientists being tarnished?

          • Average PI March 3, 2013 at 10:32 am

            If one assumes the field is so full of unethical and unscrupulous individuals, then it is only logical to expect these individuals to start accusing others of fraud to deflect attention away from themselves. History teaches that often, those who scream the loudest against other people’s ethical failures do so only to compensate for their own major ethical failures. Cheating is always a matryoshka doll type of game: accusing others of cheating is the next level up. In other words, being on the “fraud-busting” team does not make one immune from suspicion. If anything, the opposite is true, since being on such a team would be a good strategy for a cheater.

        • fernando pessoa March 2, 2013 at 1:48 pm

          In reply to Stewart March 2, 2013 at 12:52 pm

          “Lets shine a light on the data”.

          We should remember the figures are the data and are meant to be looked at. I think that any scientist wants people to look at their data. Here is an example like any other.

          J Neurosci. 1997 Aug 15;17(16):6165-78.

          http://www.jneurosci.org/content/17/16/6165.long

        • Ouch March 3, 2013 at 9:11 am

          Stewart, I am coming from the point of view of someone that has nothing to hide, yet does not want to put themselves out there for constant attack. Once you respond to an inquiry on a site, there is an expectation that you will continue to do so on that site. Not responding can quickly be considered an admission of guilt.

          Loved this line:
          “Lets shine a light on the data fraudulent individuals have published, not on the individuals themselves. As such, they are irrelevant and temporary.”

          • stewart March 3, 2013 at 11:18 am

            Ouch, If potential science fraud has been proposed, then surely putting evidence that the proposal is incorrect on that very site is appropriate.

            Unless, of course, the proposal of science fraud is not incorrect.

            I dont see putting rather odd western blots and dubious FACs traces that have been published can be interpreted as attacks. It is nothing personal.

            For example, in the case of tracking retractions, this is based upon facts, nothing else.

          • Ouch March 3, 2013 at 1:05 pm

            Stewart, I think we will just have to disagree. I personally do not want to spend my end days chasing around accusations on every site from here to Timbuktu. I support all of the sites and people that are finding fraud, but I would prefer to deal with accusations or even just questions, on my own terms or with an editor or ORI officer as a go between.

            RW is a great blog, but I would never answer accusations in the comments section. I would do it with the webmasters as go-betweens…as many scientists that have found themselves on here have done.

    • blatnoi March 2, 2013 at 1:39 pm

      “Take any scientific paper and carefully extract the figures. Point out that the error bars look similar between two graphs. Point out that the backgrounds look ‘too clean’ or that there’s a smudge on one edge. Make fun of everything else. Cast doubt. If anyone criticizes you, do the same for their papers. Mix well. Serve cold. Enjoy with a glass of schadenfraude.”

      Why do so many people misspell shadenfraude (sic)? It’s an easy enough word to look up as it’s probably one of the few that don’t appear in the spell-checker. I always question the accuracy of the science of people who write sloppily like that. (Kidding…)

  • stpnrazr March 1, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Given the lows one routinely finds on this site, I am not sure if this is really an all-time low, but it is about as sleazy as anything I can remember. Remember the good old days when we would go to meetings and worry that someone might steal our ideas, do the experiments and beat us to publication? These guys just came up with a way of skipping the intermediate steps and stick someone else’s data and text into their own paper. I wonder what it must feel like to do that and then get caught.

    • Booker March 3, 2013 at 4:55 pm

      “Remember the good old days when we would go to meetings and worry that someone might steal our ideas, do the experiments and beat us to publication?”

      those were ‘good old days’!? Actually, this happened to a colleague of mine just a few years ago. I’ve also been reticent about presenting some of my work at conference lest a better funded lab can continue with the obvious line of thought it raises and beat me to the post… but I’m not happy about it, what’s the point of science if you can’t communicate your ideas? but on the other hand, in the current environment ‘being first’ and having ‘high impact papers’ are what counts, so I’m in a Catch 22 situation.

      • Average PI March 3, 2013 at 5:10 pm

        True. The problem is that the same dilemma applies to grant applications… It is not easy to write a grant without giving away critical details that a reviewer could use to scoop you (after rejecting your grant). This is the kind of ethical behavior that is killing science, not the occasional plagiarist of fabricator…

        • Ressci Integrity March 3, 2013 at 5:29 pm

          i have additional experience. They might have reviewed my grant application – apparently did not like it and it was not funded. Couple of years later, a group requests me to be a collaborator on a similar research project – as they can not do some parts of the studies proposed. Though it is not exactly the same proposal, but the idea is there and objectives are somewhat similar. How do you feel?

        • aceil March 4, 2013 at 9:44 am

          I have always questioned the peer review, two ideas of mine were snatched by some reviewers, and due to the anarchy in this system, can any one tell me how would an author secure his/her ideas, collect evidence to support his case and then recover damages, given the fact that peer review is blind and that different laws apply to authors, reviewers and editors? I made the decision not to submit any work of mine, kept my results for my self and went to law school to learn more about securing ideas before they are published.

  • Alice Dreger March 1, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    This is a great story of justice and the editors really calling it. I had something like this happen to me in grad school — gave a paper by invitation at a nearby university. Someone in the audience took extensive notes apparently, b/c about a year later, he published a paper that looked amazingly like my presentation. I tried to appeal to the journals’ editors. They looked at his paper and mine and said yes, the data totally overlapped, but the text didn’t, and since we were in the humanities, that meant I had no case. It made me crazy, and made me publish a lot faster after that. Ironically, I later became a member of the editorial board of that journal.

  • Stephen Wood March 1, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    According to the link provided, Dr Simoff is Dean of School of Computing and Mathematics at the University of Western Sydney – Any information on how his institution is handling this or if they are even aware? This is inexcusable behavior for a scientist at any level but from one in a leadership position it is beyond the pale.

  • Ouch March 2, 2013 at 9:22 am

    As for this retraction and behavior….

    This is why my group rarely presents new data at conferences, just the stuff that takes a considerable amount of time and expertise to reproduce. Anything that is novel and quickly reproduced once the method has been discovered stays in the lab until it is in press.

    One exception are the Gordon Research Conferences. We present new data at those conferences. There is still a high level of trust within those communities.

    • Average PI March 3, 2013 at 12:40 pm

      Absolutely.

    • Buddy March 7, 2013 at 1:33 am

      It was in press at the time of conference.

  • sparc March 3, 2013 at 9:34 am

    This reminds me of an earlier case. See: labtimes

  • fernando pessoa March 3, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    In reply to Average PI March 3, 2013 at 10:32 am

    I don’t think it is the French Revolution. The sheep are not going to become cannibals, but people do want to root out fraud. Any deflections can go on until eternity, but there will be facts of the matter which should be dealt with.

    • Average PI March 3, 2013 at 12:47 pm

      You are right. And the facts will include the intentions of individuals who throw mud on honest scientists to try to gain a competitive advantage in the field. We have solid data from 3 such cases that will be released in due course.

      • fernando pessoa March 3, 2013 at 1:05 pm

        Average PI March 3, 2013 at 12:47 pm

        No,let’s just stick to the science.

        What do you make of J Neurosci. 1997 Aug 15;17(16):6165-78 ?

        http://www.jneurosci.org/content/17/16/6165.long

        • Average PI March 3, 2013 at 1:38 pm

          Nothing. If the work replicates, that’s all I care about.

          • fernando pessoa March 3, 2013 at 3:27 pm

            Average PI March 3, 2013 at 1:38 pm

            I suggest you take another look.

            What do you make of J Neurosci. 1997 Aug 15;17(16):6165-78 ?

            http://www.jneurosci.org/content/17/16/6165.long

            “If the work replicates, that’s all I care about.” is not proof that those authors got it to work.

          • michaelbriggs March 3, 2013 at 6:56 pm

            OK fernando, I’ll take the bait:
            Fig. 1b PARP the band in lane 3 looks remarkably similar to band in lane 7.
            Fig. 3A CPP32 the 2 bands in lane 7 look remarkably similar to the two bands in Fig. 8 CPP32 Post-mito last lane.
            Fig. 3A CPP32 lane 5 upper band, when flipped vertically, looks remarkably similar to Fig. 8 CPP32 lane 6.

            In reply to Average PI “If the work replicates, that’s all I care about” – it would take some effort to see what work can be replicated. It would be more efficient to spend time trying to replicate results that look genuine.

  • pyshnov March 3, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    At one point the number of people in science greatly increased. About the same time scientists stopped communications. That happened about 1970’s. Some groups of friendly people still convene, I guess, but most – do not. Before that time, the work was presented, first – informally, then – on seminars. In my experience, in Moscow, a work could be totally destroyed on a seminar by just one colleague who, incidentally, could be a friend of the author. The friendship would not not suffer in a long run. People who gathered there had done good work themselves, they had no envy, no stupid personal motives. They were genuinely happy to see good work of others. Their careers did not depend on their mistakes. It’s a good work that counted.

    Now, it looks like groups of conspirators work on submarines, with the motor silenced. They listen but not talk to others. From time to time they send out some product that was wetted only withing the group, or, we can say – within a private shop. A single doubt coming from outside is taken as incoming torpedo. And this, mind you – when nobody is talking about fraud yet. Normal discussion of work is not wanted by the authors, in no form or shape. The authors give press releases though.

    • stpnrazr March 3, 2013 at 2:56 pm

      Sounds like a nasty world. Not quite the one I live in. I may be a little more cautious, but continue to communicate and collaborate broadly. There are a few bad apples, but most are in it for the right reasons. The only time I have been scooped so far was when another lab came across the same phenomenon independently, and they got the paper out more quickly. We were both shocked to find we had been pursuing the same thing in parallel. It was a bummer for our group, but comforting that they got the same answer.

  • Booker March 3, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    Well I don’t read the Journal of Cell Science, despite doing biomedical research, and I’m less likely to now after reading that editorial… sounds like someone woke up on the wrong side of bed and left their ‘maybe I shouldn’t post this’ switch off. It really just reads like a vile attack on the Science Fraud website, and poorly masked at that.

    Completely agree with the points raised above – this is just part of wider post-publication review. The editor (or whoever the author is – ironically, no transparency there!) also seems not to take seriously the idea that fraud, or less extreme – but no more welcome – forms of conduct are likely more widespread than we realize. He also seems to think that just by raising the issue of fraud this in turn casts doubt on the whole enterprise of science, or will have the effect of doing so, whereas I think most would agree that doing nothing would be the worse of two evils, and if anything, taking fraud and misconduct seriously will aid in cleaning up the enterprise in the longer-term.

    Part of the issue is one at the heart of the philosophy of science – replication. So you don’t have the original gel blots from 10 years and four employment institutions ago – just say so. Part of the problem is that modern science has forgotten the necessity of replication to the validity of science, and it’s clearly very difficult to publish pure replication. Maybe the Journal of Cell Science could show some interest rather than whinging about someone actually reading articles in detail.

    • Ressci Integrity March 3, 2013 at 5:27 pm

      same here. Not inclined to read JCS but sometimes I do review articles for them. now a days, i started to decline their request to review articles.

  • pyshnov March 3, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    In that journal I read the review on mechanisms of telomere restoration (and loss). The author is listing some 40 papers, each discovering “factors” – molecules in these processes. There are some 15 factors now. It looks like there was one author responsible for the appearance of one factor on the scene. It is apparently a very privatised area, so to speak. I like it more when many people try the same, but then the flow of papers, factors and dissertations will be too slow. I am not talking here about any deception, but I believe the way scientists work now makes scientific results, well, I would say – uncertain. And, some day will come a disappointment.

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