Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Plant journal retracts paper for plagiarism — of another study in the same journal

with 6 comments

s horticulturaeScientia Horticulturae, a plant journal published by Elsevier, has retracted a paper after realizing it was a graft of another that appeared in its pages.

Here’s the notice for “Water stress effects on Cumin (Cuminum cyminum L.) yield and oil essential components,” by Farshid Vazin, Islamic Azad University, Gonabad, Iran:

This article has been retracted: please see Elsevier Policy on Article Withdrawal (

This article has been retracted at the request of the editors.

The article includes content plagiarised from the following article that has already been published:

Water deficit effects on Salvia officinalis fatty acids and essential oils composition by I. Bettaieb, N. Zakhama, W. Aidi Wannes, M.E. Kchouk, B. Marzouk, Sci. Hortic. 120/2 (2009) 271–275,

One of the conditions of submission of a paper for publication is that authors declare explicitly that their work is original and has not appeared in a publication elsewhere. Re-use of any data should be appropriately cited. As such this article represents a severe abuse of the scientific publishing system. The scientific community takes a very strong view on this matter and apologies are offered to readers of the journal that this was not detected during the submission process.

That’s right: Vazin plagiarized a 2009 paper in Scientia Horticulturae in a 2013 paper in…Scientia Horticulturae. Where’s plagiarism detection software when you need it?

Hat tip: Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva

Written by Ivan Oransky

October 30th, 2013 at 11:00 am

  • omnologos October 30, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    The editors need explain their hopefully temporary vegetative state in making the most basic of checks!

    • JATdS October 30, 2013 at 4:20 pm

      This is a historic moment and actually a reason to celebrate rather than to be demoralized. For one reason. Scientia Horticulturae represents the oldest and (at least in the eyes of horticultural scientists) most respectable horticultural journal in the world, by far, despite it’s relatively low IF relative to medical journals, for exmaple. It also represents some of the most conservative ideologies in plant science publishing, as reflected by several key editors on that board. If plagiarism was not detected in the latest issue of this journal, then this implies that it was also not searched for in all previous 162 volumes. This is SERIOUS and demands a deep and thorough investigation of all papers published there in the last few years. There can be no doubt that other cases of plagiarism exist. The question is why this paper from Iran and from Islamic Azad University (which has made news before at RW) was singled out? Can anyone suggest a FREE plagiarism detector (other than Google Scholar) that is easy to use, i.e., where one can just copy-paste a chunk of text and get a read-out. There is no way that justice can be served evenly in this Elsevier journal unless the peer community provides free tools for us to do independent quality control and post-publication peer review. One of the problems with the plant science community overall is that it is extremely conservative, and remains quite reluctant to change. I see this on a daily basis with the status quo. It sees the problems, but many key players are happy to have a traditional don’t-ask-too-many-questions system in place, without ruffling too many feathers. What this historic retraction does is very suddenly usher in an age of change. It is the Fukushima jolt that the horticultural science community required. A thorough investigation of papers in this journal will surely be the key to establishing a new mantra for the plant science and publishing community. Radical change is coming very soon to plant science publishing, no doubt.

      • omnologos October 30, 2013 at 4:37 pm

        I wonder if a similar phenomenon might affect sloth and snail research ?

        • Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva March 26, 2014 at 7:27 am

          Despite multiple indications to the editor board of this journal, and to Elsevier Ltd. management, including the Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Reed-Elsevier, Mark Seeley (, since at least 2010, that the information on the pages of this journal continue to be contradictory, and thus false, including the definitions of authorship, absolutely nothing is done about correcting and/or standardizing the errors and the documents. This is an excellent example of senior managerial mismanagement, and corporate and editorial irresponsibility at the highest level of science publishing for three reasons:
          a) Scientia Horticulturae is the leading/premier horticultural journal in the world;
          b) It has a 40-41 year publishing history and a 5-year impact factor (2012; JCI) of 1.730 (;
          c) Elsevier Ltd. is the leading science publisher globally.

          The underlying message for me is simple: they just don’t care about the accuracy of the information, but are quick to retract papers and call out authors when it comes to their carelessness.

          Allow me to indicate exactly why such small differences are potentially a fraudulent situation.

          Set 1 information (26 March, 2014; verbatim):

          “Scientia Horticulturae Editorial Board
          J.P. Bower
          S.C. Debnath, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
          W.W. Guo, HuaZhong Agricultural University, Wuhan, Hubei, China
          T. Moriguchi, National Agriculture and Food Research Organization, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan
          B. Pennisi, University of Georgia, Griffin, Georgia, USA
          D. Schwarz, Leibniz-Institute of Vegetable and Ornamental Crops, Grossbeeren, Germany
          Founding Editor
          S.J. Wellensiek
          Editorial Board Members
          G.H. Barry, XLnT Citrus Company, Helderberg, Cape Town, South Africa
          R.I. Cabrera, Texas A&M University, Dallas, Texas, USA
          G. Colla, Università degli Studi della Tuscia, Viterbo, Italy
          C. de Kreij, Research Floriculture & Glasshouse Vegetables, Hoofddorp, Netherlands
          M. Dorais, Université Laval, Québec, Canada
          G.C. Douglas, Teagasc Agriculture and Food Development Authority, Dublin 19, Ireland
          R.L. Geneve, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, USA
          A. Gunes, Ankara University, Ankara, Turkey
          W.P. Hackett, University of California at Davis, Davis, California, USA
          V. Kesavan, Department of Agriculture Western Australia, Carnavon, Western Australia, Australia
          C. Lovatt, University of California at Riverside, Riverside, California, USA
          A. Monteiro, Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Lisboa Cedex, Portugal
          P. Mooney, Sardi, Urrbrae, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
          R.E. Paull, University of Hawaii at Mãnoa, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
          F. Pliego Alfaro, Universidad de Malaga, Málaga, Spain
          J.V. Possingham, Possum’s Vineyard, Unley Park, South Australia, Australia
          L. Rallo, Universidad de Cordoba, Córdoba, Spain
          M.S. Reid, University of California at Davis, Davis, California, USA
          D. Savvas, Agricultural University of Athens, Athens, Greece
          R.R. Sharma, IARI, New Delihi, India
          L. Tian, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), London, Ontario, Canada
          D.W. Turner, University of Western Australia, Nedlands, Western Australia, Australia
          X. Wang, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing, China
          G.E. Welbaum, Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg, VA, USA

          Set 2 information (from the Editorial Board PDF, also dated on March 26, 2014, Volume 168):

          Dr. John Bower, Horticultural Consultant, Agassiz, British Columbia, Canada
          Dr. Samir C. Debnath, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
          Prof. X.X. Deng, Huazhong Agricultural University, National Key Laboratory of Crop Genetic Improvement, Shizhishan Street No. 1, Wuhan, Hubei, P.R. China
          Prof. Takaya Moriguchi, National Institute of Fruit Tree Science, National Agriculture and Food Research Organization, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8605, Japan
          Bodie Pennisi, Associate Professor and Extension Landscape Specialist, Dept. of Horticulture University of Georgia Griffin Campus, 1109 Experiment St. Cowart Bldg., 103, Griffi n, GA 30223
          Dr. Dietmar Schwarz, Leibniz-Institute of Vegetable and Ornamental Crops. Theodor-Echtermeyer-Weg 1, 14979 Grossbeeren, Germany
          S.J. Wellensiek
          G.H. Barry, XLnT Citrus Company, Cape Town, South Africa
          R.I. Cabrera, Texas A&M University, Dallas, TX, USA
          G. Colla, Universita degli Studi della Tuscia, Viterbo, Italy
          C. de Kreij, Research Floriculture & Glasshouse Vegetables, Hoofddorp, The Netherlands
          M. Dorais, Universite Laval, Quebec, Canada
          G.C. Douglas, TEAGASC, Dublin, Ireland
          R.L. Geneve, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA
          W. Guo, Huazhong Agricultural, University China
          A. Gunes, Ankara University, Ankara, Turkey
          W.P. Hackett, Univ. California, Davis, CA, USA
          E. Heuvelink, Agric. Univ. Wageningen, Wageningen, Netherlands
          V. Kesavan, Department of Agriculture, Carnavon, WA, Australia
          C.J. Lovatt, Univ. California, Riverside, CA, USA
          A.A. Monteiro, Inst. Superior de Agronomia, Lisbon, Portugal
          P. Mooney, Plant Research Centre, Waite Research Precinct, Adelaide, South Australia
          R.E. Paull, Univ. Hawaii, Honolulu, HI, USA
          F. Pliego Alfaro, Univ. Málaga, Málaga, Spain
          J.V. Possingham, Possum’s Vineyards, Unley Park, Adelaide, Australia
          L. Rallo, Univ. Cordoba, Cordoba, Spain
          M.S. Reid, Univ. California, Davis, CA, USA
          D. Savvas, Agricultural University of Athens, Athens, Greece
          R.R. Sharma, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, India
          L. Tian, Southern Crop Protection and Food Research Centre, London, Ontario
          D.W. Turner, The Univ.W. Australia, Nedlands, WA, Australia
          X. Wang, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science, Beijing, China

          Please compare the lists VERY carefully, person by person, line for line. Is this correct? Is this honest? Is this ethically acceptable especially when the publisher has been informed ample times of these discrepancies? I think not. Yet, there seems absolutely no way to convince Elsevier that this is fundamentally wrong. We are in 2014, not 1994, accuracy, precision, timely correction are all aspects that make up an efficient, transparent and trustworthy company. If such basic issues cannot be done responsibly and professionally, then what can we conclude about te academic process and peer review? My experience has told me that serious problems exist with select members of the editor board, with the peer process, and with the review management and decision making. But each of these issues will be recorded here, one by one, to consititute a public repository of this information for the horticultural/plant science community, who deserve to get such insight.

  • BMMK April 10, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    Excellent move by Sci Hort

    • Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva April 27, 2014 at 4:36 pm

      In October 2013, I reported to RW the very first ever retraction in the world’s No. 1 horticultural journal, Scientia Horticulturae, published by Elsevier. At around the same time, Dr. Michael Kane was substituted by Dr. Samir Chandra Debnath, after pressure from my official complaints to the journal and publisher. At the same time, I made many pointed but important queries that truly ruffled the feathers of both the status quo editor board and the publisher. I claimed, among many things, that the literature in that journal contained papers with some serious problems that had not been addressed, despite my official complaints and letters of concern. In fact, most of my emails were ignored. In addition, two new editors-in-chief were suddenly ushered in at the end of 2013, and I questioned how these individuals were so suddenly vetted, and recruited to the editor board. I felt that as a long-serving author who had supported this journal and publisher, for about a decade, that such issues were important to discuss openly, because they underlie the quality-control issues in the most important horticultural journal on this planet. When I and my publishing collaborators started to receive e-mails which I believe were a bid to victimize, silence and alienate me, I decided to call on the resignation of Dietmar Schwarz and Samir Debnath. I also questioned the validity of the Elsevier staff member Emma Granqvist, who failed to respond to any of my queries. I felt that my valid concerns, which, if addressed, could fortify the quality of the journal and the trust by the horticultural community in this journal, its editor board and publisher, especially in these very turbulent times in science publishing. I honestly felt that my ideas would be of valuable assistance to Elsevier. Instead, I was met with a banning from the journal. In October, 2013, I reported to RW a historical day: the first retraction from the world’s premier horticultural journal. On April 14, 2014, history was again made.

      I was the first plant scientist (possibly) to ever have been banned from Scientia Horticulturae. If there are others, then Elsevier has the responsibility of showing such cases publically, so that they may be analyzed.

      However, my claims and facts, as documented on another RW page (, reveal dozens of what I think are contradictions, power plays and suspect activities by several members of the editor board. Between April 14 and April 25, there was a sudden disappearance of no less than 8 editors, and the sudden appearance of 11 new editors, on the official masthead. Considering that the editor board consists of, excluding the 6 editors-in-chief, 29 editors (at least on April 28, 2014;, this suggests that my claims and revelations have resulted in a sudden radical change to more than 65% of the editor board. Never in the 40+ year history of this journal has such radical change ever occurred. And, from what I have seen from the editor board of most IF-carrying plant science journals, such a revolutionary change has also never occurred in the history of plant science journals (I call on publishers to refute my claim with detailed cases). And I claim it is because of my public exposure of the bias, contradictions (in ethics and professionalism, or lack thereof) by the editor board members and publisher, the inclusion of questionable information on public PDFs and web-sites, and wha I think is suspect authorship of select editor board members. It is, I think, because one complaining and conscientious member of the horticultural community decided to finally expose the rot within this institutionalized sector of science that such radical change has occurred. I have suffered tremendously, physically and psychologically, for years now because of my conflicts with Elsevier Ltd and with the editor board members of Scientia Horticulturae, but may my banning serve as testament that sacrifices can cause change.

      Despite these changes, Elsevier continues as if nothing has changed. Business as usual. This then leaves countlessly more questions unanswered, in addition to the dozens of unanswered questions on the other RW page:
      1) Why was my banning from Scientia Horticulturae a story at RW?
      2) Why has no member of Elsevier management come to RW to publically address the concerns that I have posed and which can affect any Scientia Horticulturae author in the future? Doe Elsevier honestly believe that the official response provided to RW (and thus the horticultural community) “the letter speaks for itself” actually addresses this clear scandal?
      3) Why has no editor in chief or editor yet made any public statement, or come forward?
      4) How are new editors vetted and recruited. It is obvious that many of the editors who suddenly disappeared (sacked or resigned?) were UNDERQUALIFIED. Yet, they were editor board members, in some cases, for more than 10 years.
      5) Why was there no negotiation? Surely, simple professional pen and transparent dialogue to address my claims and concerns would have avoided this PR fiasco? Does Elsevier seriously believe that expelling one of their staunchest supporters will somehow silence currently silent critics or potentially future vocal critics?
      6) What are the actual functions and responsibilities of EICs and editors in Scientia Horticulturae? What do they actually do?
      7) Can I safely assume that Elsevier has used its online submission system to amass a data-base of reviewers who are explored, for free, to ensure the scientific quality of papers, and that the editors, in essence, do (or have done) nothing except serve as “brand names” to attract new authors and feign academic excellence?
      8) Elsevier Ltd. is the highest paying COPE member. Why is COPE silent and why have they not come out publically? Can we conclude that the power of money (as membership) trumps the power of ethics?
      9) Why has no notice of my banning been published in the latest issue of Scientia Horticulturae? Why has no editorial been published that explains these conflicts and provides frank, open, honest and transparent perspectives from the editors to reassure the horticultural community that this is a journal that is not run by the impact factor, but is run by a team of professionals? Do the editors and the publisher honestly believe that this issue is not central to all its authors?
      10) What does Thomson Reuters think about this story?

      It is important for all Scientia Horticulturae authors to become aware of this story. It is important for them to share of their grievances publically, especially when they have not received suitable or any responses, ether by the editor board or by the publisher. And, I have a few pieces of advice for Elsevier and Scientia Horticulturae:
      a) Embrace post-publication peer review as part of your publishing model. There are problems with papers you have published. These need to be corrected. You cannot continue to sweep complaints under the carpet because at some point, the carpet will rip open and expose a massive pile of hidden complaints.
      b) Allow authors to complain, and have a suitable PR person to deal with authors who are not so diplomatic with their language or complaints. Their complaints are valid, but they are not always trained to deal with PR-related issues. Authors can be or feel victimized by small or large issues, but issues nonetheless. Elsevier should have a more effective system to deal with author complaints and offer author rights, especially where conflicts between authors and editors seems to be unresolvable. Banning authors is not a viable long-term solution. Addressing dissent is.
      c) Explain publically and in a transparent way how processes are conducted. For example, how are editors vetted and recruited? Under what circumstances are papers flat-out rejected? Why can authors not challenge rejection decisions made by EICs?

      For now, Elsevier Ltd is lucky. Because many plant and horticultural scientists milk the impact factor to gain financial rewards (either as salaries or as research grants). If this silly concept, the impact factor, were to be removed from the publishing equation, then there is no doubt that dozens of competing horticultural journals without an impact factor, would attract wider authorship and thus readership. The fact that there is this powerful and unhealthy marriage between Elsevier and Thomson Reuters will only provide short-term security. Once more and more scientists start to wake up and stop supporting the “game”, and once shareholders start to appreciate that the foundations of this business model are based on sand, then we will see a real game-changer. My banning and the historical upheaval of the Scientia Horticulturae editor board is only the warning shot.

      To my critics, I state, history must never be forgotten, or buried:

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