Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Math paper retracted because it “contains some ethical problems”

with 12 comments

inequalThe Journal of of Inequalities and Applications has retracted a paper for unspecified “ethical problems.”

Here’s the notice for “Strong Limiting Behavior in Binary Search Trees:”

The paper contains some ethical problems, so the author was advised by the Editor to retract his paper, and resubmit it after the corrections.


1. Peishu Chen Journal of Inequalities and Applications 2013, 2013:60 (20 February 2013)

We don’t know what kind of ethical problems were involved, and the original paper has been removed from the journal’s site, so we asked the editor of the journal for more information. If this were a paper involving humans or lab animals, we’d guess the issues involved consent or mistreatment. But since it’s math, our minds wander to misappropriation of text, data or ideas.

Hat tip: Rolf Degen

Written by Ivan Oransky

September 4th, 2013 at 11:30 am

  • omnologos September 4, 2013 at 11:49 am

    The Association for the Freedom of Binary Search Trees must’ve protested

  • Marco September 4, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Likely plagiarism. I just googled the first sentence of the introduction and immediately a direct hit came up from a 1997 paper.

    • ricardos September 4, 2013 at 12:49 pm

      The first sentence is just a definition, so it is expected to be similar in every paper about the same topic. I also found a paper from 1982 with almost the same wording.

  • Akhlesh September 5, 2013 at 9:12 am

    Scientific Reports (a journal published by the Nature group) instructs reviewers as follows: “Scientific Reports, unlike other journals published by Nature Publishing Group, does not, therefore, require an advance within a given field, and there is no requirement for novelty or broad interest.” Is that an invitation to rich plagiarists?

    • JATdS September 6, 2013 at 9:50 am

      I have never published there before because their fees are ridiculously high. But their Instructions for authors, ethics and other publishing-related instructions are some of the most thorough I have ever seen for a journal: Some of the papers I ran through seemed solid. You seem to have picked out the needle…

      • JATdS September 6, 2013 at 3:30 pm

        One thing I have noticed recently about Springer Open is as follows: when a paper is rejected (in most cases for absolutely no academic reason), less than 24 hours later, an automatic invitation appears requesting that the rejected paper be streamed through to SpringerOpen. I have a serious problem with this. Why should a paper that was rejected by a conventional print journal suddenly appear to be absolutely suitable for SpringerOpen? At a cost, of course (and the route to success doesn’t come cheap either). Could it be a new way to generate revenue by recycling papers? I have challenged Springer and the inquiry is now ongoing (and certainly no big secret, either!). I suspect that this could be one reason why the Peishu Chen’s of the world are going to get more and more papers retracted as values drop, profits rise and desperation increases. Not to mention that Dr. Chen probably paid a hefty price to publish OA, which may be an additional reason why the editor and journal have given him a second chance to correct the errors and re-publish. Springer, please show us a paper that was retracted from a conventional journal that was given an equal opportunity to re-publish the paper (note: without any apparent re peer review, although this aspect was not clear above) after correcting the errors. Are we starting to see double-standards (again) by this publisher? Not only should the editor respond to RW, so too should a Springer representative get onto this blog, show a public face, and respond to our critiques publically. Personally, I am getting quite tired of these back-room deals without appropriate public disclosure and transparency. Almost every week now, I have some problem with Springer.

        • JATdS September 6, 2013 at 3:47 pm

          Addendum: I wish to correct a small aspect of my blog entry. The invitations made by Springer immediately after rejections were for SpringerPlus (, one SpringerOpen Journal. I invite other bloggers to also share their experience with this to see if there is a pattern here accross disciplines.

          • JATdS September 6, 2013 at 4:02 pm

            Another addendum: It amazes me how this particular Springer journal gets indexed in Scopus and PubMed Central so quickly. Some journals have to wait years for inclusion. While studying the SpringerPlus site (top page alone), I noticed some issues of concern which will may see an increase in retractions if care is not taken:
            1) “We do not require extensive formatting; we will accept the manuscript in any appropriate formatting already present.”
            Interpretation: we recycle papers from all rejected Springer titles.
            2) “Note that we will not reject a manuscript because it is out of scope or for its perceived importance, novelty or ability to attract citations: we will publish any study that is scientifically sound.”
            Interpretation: anything goes, with some QC.
            3) “Clear and fast editorial process. Review and decision will be fast and our editorial policy is clear: we will either accept your manuscript for publication or not, our editors will not ask for additional research.”
            Interpretation: incomplete data sets welcome.
            Am I the only one seeing a serious problem here and a dangerous precendent being set here? I promise, no more blog entries for today…

          • Akhlesh September 6, 2013 at 8:37 pm

            Thank you for sharing your experience with SpringerPlus. Although I do not have any experience with this “journal”, I have been appalled by the poor quality of journals published in the Springer Open program. Many of these journals used to be published by universities in certain countries. Now they are hosted on Springer Open, with editorial control residing with the original publishers.

      • Akhlesh September 6, 2013 at 8:39 pm

        Well, I have received an invitation to review. In the letter, that particular sentence was the size of Cleopatra’s needle.

        • JATdS September 7, 2013 at 10:00 am

          Akhlesh, regarding the “hosting” by publishers, this is one BIG reason why fraud is proliferating. The publishers are washing their hands free of responsibility and only taking in profits. For example, Elsevier’s Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences. Take a look at the submission page: “Production and Hosting by Elsevier B.V. on behalf of King Saud University. Peer Review under the responsibility of King Saud University.” Translated, if there are any ethical or scientific problems, then we have nothing to do with this. Incidentally, I had a serious situation with gross editorial incompetence by this journal, and it never got resolved, even after many complaints and more than 18 months (still here I am). So, yes, I believe that the trend of “outsourcing” science quality to the people who own the journals is a potential source of bias and could lead to an increase in fraud and thus possible retractions.

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