For the second time this month, Retraction Watch has been slapped with the threat of a lawsuit, this time Ariel Fernandez, whose work in BMC Genomics became the subject of a recent expression of concern.
Today, Fernandez emailed one of us (Adam) the following message:
Editor, BMG Genomics
It was brought to my attention that the “Expression of Concern” to be published in BMC Genomics in relation to my contribution to BMC Genomics was published already by you as a retraction in “Retraction Watch”, BIOMED Central and numerous other places on the web.
An Expression of Concern is not a retraction.
I must ask you to please remove your libel from Retraction Watch and from all the other sites where you have posted your defamatory piece since it has damaging consequences to my reputation.
If you fail to do this by tomorrow I will take legal action against you. I will sue you for damages in a Civil Court.
When Kowalczuk replied with an 0ut-of-office message, Fernandez sent this follow-up:
Senior Editor, BMC Genomics
Adam Marcus, Retraction Watch
Dear Catherine Rice,
It has been brought to my attention that the “Expression of Concern” that BMC Genomics intends to publish in regards to my contribution to the journal has already been published at Retraction Watch and numerous other websites cited therein as if it had appeared on BMC Genomics. Furthermore, the expression of concern has been falsely misconstrued as a “Retraction” and published as such by Retraction Watch at their website and at the other said websites.
First, the publication of the Expression of Concern has been purposely delayed at your journal for reasons unknown to me, and even before its publication in your journal, it has appeared at the website of Retraction Watch incorrectly stating that this Expression of Concern has already been published.
More importantly, an Expression of Concern is not a Retraction. This miischaracterization of the facts is clearly defamatory and I will now sue Retraction Watch and Adam Marcus personally in Civil and Criminal Court for publishing the fraudulently distorted information provided by BIOMED Central UNLESS the libel is removed from Retraction Watch at once.
I must respectfully request that BIOMED Central take immediate steps to block the defamatory action perpetrated by Retraction Watch and prevent the dissemination of the defamatory false information that damages my name.
Your attention will be appreciated.
We are of course aware that an Expression of Concern is not a retraction, and the post about the EoC reflected that. We responded:
Thank you for your message. We merely reported the facts of the EoC. If we made a mistake we will be happy to correct it. But we would need to see what specifically is incorrect.
We wanted to make sure that Fernandez, writing from a Gmail address, was actually the scientist in question, so we asked him to respond from an institutional account. Which he did, with the following:
As per Adam Marcus demand to me I am hereby resending my message (pasted below).
I seize the opportunity to emphasize that AN EXPRESSION OF CONCERN IS NOT A RETRACTION. IN THE US EVERYBODY IS PRESUMED INOCENT UNLESS PROVEN GUILTY BEYOND A SHRED OF A DOUBT. PUBLISHING YOUR LIBEL ON THE WEB CONSTITUTES DEFAMATION IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL COURT.
If you do not remove your libel and your lies from the web by tomorrow 10am my time, I will sue you both personally and collectively in Civil and Criminal Court without further warning.
The address was associated with ProWD Sciences, a Madison-based company Fernandez helped found. He’s listed as the group’s chief scientific officer and vice president. He also has a consultancy, Ariel Fernandez Innovation:
Our areas of expertise are personalized molecular design and controlled specificity. The consultancy seeks to provide thought leadership on the type of cutting edge research that translates into a competitive advantage.
We’ll update with anything we hear.
Update, 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 4/23/13: Here’s Ken White, of Popehat, on the situation.