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Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Analyze this! Analytical Letters retracts chemistry paper for authorship misdirection

with 3 comments

anal lettersAnalytical Letters has retracted a 2011 article by a chemistry researcher at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, who seems to have avoided giving credit where credit was due.

The article, “Conducting Polymer Matrix Poly(2,2′-bithiophene) Mercury Metal Incorporation,” was written (so readers were told) by Suzanne Lunsford.

Here’s how the retraction notice explains it:

We, the Editor and Publisher of Analytical Letters, are retracting the following article:

Suzanne Lunsford “Conducting Polymer Matrix Poly(2,2′-bithiophene) Mercury Metal Incorporation” Analytical Letters, 44.4 (2011): 727–735 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00032711003783143

The author’s institution, Wright State University, has conducted an investigation into the authorship of this article, and established that the claim of sole authorship is not justified. This constitutes a breach of warranties made by the author with respect to authorship. We note we received, peer-reviewed, accepted, and published the article in good faith based on these warranties, and censure this action.

The retracted article will remain online to maintain the scholarly record, but it will be digitally watermarked on each page as RETRACTED.

The study has yet to be cited, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. Lunsford doesn’t list the retracted paper on her homepage. But she does include this article:

Developing a Conductive Polymer Electrochemically that Incorporates Mercury: A REEL Experiment, Lunsford, Suzanne, K., and Kingdom. R., Chemical Educator, 15, 155-157 (2010).R

R. Kingdom is Rachel Kingdom, who received a masters degree from Wright State in 2009 under the tutelage of Lunsford. Her topic?

“Incorporating Mercury Into A Conducting Polymer Matrix Containing Poly(2,2’-Bithiophene)”, Master in Chemistry

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Written by Adam Marcus

October 23, 2013 at 3:38 pm

3 Responses

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  1. I am aware that senior researchers are commonly added to papers as co-authors even if they contribute little or nothing, but publishing your master’s student’s work as your own, as seems to be implied here, is taking things a bit far…


    October 23, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    • Absolutely. I am a doctoral student and I am lucky enough to have an advisor who ALWAYS gives me credit for any papers I work on with her and is very upfront about what activities qualify for authorship (basically, any original/substantial contribution to a paper, whether that is collecting data, analyzing data, writing substantial parts of the paper, or contributing to the theoretical/conceptual framework of the research). However, this is not the same with all faculty-student relationships; I have heard numerous stories from fellow students as well as faculty members recounting a time when an advisor either demanded authorship when it was not deserved, or refused to grant authorship when it was deserved. I know of one faculty member whose primary dissertation advisor (when she was in grad school) stole her dissertation idea and ran with it, publishing several papers and never once giving her credit or authorship. So she had to completely reconceptualize her dissertation while her former advisor was still publishing papers based on her original conceptualization. That has to be one of the worst stories of academic backstabbing and fraud I have heard.


      October 23, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    • I have heard, although this should be confirmed, that after a certain number of years, that supervisors (professors) can take the full data sets of unpublished theses and publish it as their own. I believe that such a rule applies to certain universities in Japan, for example, which poses interesting ethical issues related to authorship. If anyone has more detailed information about this, please provide, indicating clearly the country and/or university.


      October 23, 2013 at 9:27 pm

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