About these ads

Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

And then there were none: Plagiarism forces retraction of metabolism paper with vanishing authors

with 4 comments

N&MlogoNutrition & Metabolism has retracted a 2008 article by a dwindling group of researchers from Pakistan. We’d say it’s the equivalent of punting on first down, expect that’s what the editors probably should have done in the beginning.

As it happens, the journal seems to be guilty of delay of game in this case. As this blog post by Jeffrey Beall notes, allegations that the now-retracted paper was a verbatim copy of another article arose in 2010.

The abstract of the article, which is still available, reads:

Drug-drug interactions have become an important issue in health care. It is now realized that many drug-drug interactions can be explained by alterations in the metabolic enzymes that are present in the liver and other extra-hepatic tissues. Many of the major pharmacokinetic interactions between drugs are due to hepatic cytochrome P450 (P450 or CYP) enzymes being affected by previous administration of other drugs. After coadministration, some drugs act as potent enzyme inducers, whereas others are inhibitors. However, reports of enzyme inhibition are very much more common. Understanding these mechanisms of enzyme inhibition or induction is extremely important in order to give appropriate multiple-drug therapies. In future, it may help to identify individuals at greatest risk of drug interactions and adverse events.

Here’s the retraction notice:

This article [1] has been retracted by the Editor because of extensive overlap with a previously published work [2]. The article was submitted by three authors, two of whom subsequently withdrew their names from the article. Despite efforts to contact the original submitting authors and to get their institution at the time of submission to initiate an investigation, we have been unable to establish how far the remaining author was aware of the submission.

The second reference is to a 1998 article by Tanaka in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics titled “Clinically important pharmacokinetic drug-drug interactions: Role of cytochrome P450 enzymes.” Tanaka was, and may still be, at the University of Tsukuba, when he or she wrote the following:

Drug-drug interactions have become an important issue in health care. It is now realized that many drug-drug interactions can be explained by alterations in the metabolic enzymes that are present in the liver and other extra-hepatic tissues and many of the major pharmacokinetic interactions between drugs are due to hepatic cytochrome P450 (P450 or CYP) enzymes being affected by previous administration of other drugs. After coadministration, some drugs act as potent enzyme inducers, whereas others are inhibitors. However, reports of enzyme inhibition are very much more common. Understanding these mechanisms of enzyme inhibition or induction is extremely important in order to give appropriate multiple-drug therapies. In the future, it may help to identify individuals at greatest risk of drug interactions and adverse events.

We confess to being a bit baffled by the retraction notice. Given the age of the paper, we’re guessing that the two authors pulled their names upon being confronted with evidence — clear, in this case — of plagiarism. That’s awfully convenient for them. After all, presumably (ironic italics omitted) vouched for the integrity of the paper when they submitted it and verified their familiarity with the manuscript, right?

And, of course, there’s no good excuse that we can see for why it would take more than three years to retract an article with such blatant similarities, regardless of any authorship dispute. Of the 19 times the paper has been cited, all but one happened after the allegations were raised in 2010, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

We’ve attempted to contact the journal and will update this post if we learn more.

About these ads

Written by Adam Marcus

February 20, 2014 at 9:30 am

4 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. This is an extremely important case. It shows that there is resistance within publishers to retract because, well, allow me to say it bluntly, it damages their reputation. When something is so clear, one doesn’t have to be a specialist in nutrition and metabolism to see duplicated (plagiarized) text. So, my question is, which editors exactly were fumbling this case? They should be as exposed as the authors. And, a three-year detection-to-retraction period has earned these three authors 18 bonus accolades in the literature. Great, these three got more papers to reference their study because it was a BMC paper than my middle class work that has been sitting in the literature of a low level journal for a decade. This is nothing less than scandalous. The 18 papers that referenced this paper after the fraud was detected should be forced to publish a corrigendum. In fact, I have yet to see one corrigendum in any journal that has a reference of a paper that was retracted. If anyone knows of such cases, please list some here. I think part of the “correcting the literature” aspect of retractions is clearly related to also then following up and correctng that literature that references the retracted literature. We are still at such a nascent phase in our understanding of retractions and their impact on science.

    JATdS

    February 20, 2014 at 1:26 pm

  2. Dear RetractionWatch:

    I first notified Nutrition and Metabolism of this case of plagiarism on Dec 3, 2010, and followed up every 6-12 months (with an expanding list of CC’s on the correspondences); the final retraction was only issued yesterday, over 3 years and two month hence.

    To me, it seemed that no one at Nutrition and Metabolism or at BioMed Central felt that this issue was their responsibility, and hoped it would go away. The near-precise match between manuscripts is displayed in the dot plot analysis I performed on the full text string from each manuscript, which can be seen at: http://www.uvm.edu/~tpdelane/images/Dot%20Plot.jpg
    (if that does not get through, modify this URL:
    http colon slash slash http://www.uvm.edu/~tpdelane/images/Dot%20Plot.jpg
    Thus, it is evident that this is not a subjective diagnosis of plagiarism (I requested the Tanaka 1998 manuscript through an interlibrary loan, since the full text string was not available to me online).

    In addition to the the extremely late retraction decision, when I saw the first PDF copy of the retracted manuscript, I noted that it listed boldly on the left margin: “RETRACTED 22nd OCTOBER 2012″. However, the actual retraction occurred Feb 14, 2014 (18 months later)! When I saw this early yesterday morning, I sent an immediate note to the publisher pointing out how by back-dating the retraction date, they could very easily damage the reputation of authors who cited the Bibi 2008 paper AFTER the published (and errant) retraction date (with many persons on the CC line). Without any acknowledgment, a new PDF appeared within a few hours that had the correct retraction date on the margin (14 FEBRUARY 2014).

    Whether this error in dating the retraction was sloppy, or an attempt to create the illusion that the journal had acted more expeditiously, I will never know. It may reveal the inner workings of at least some of the involved offices at Nutrition and Metabolism or BioMed Central.

    Regards,

    Terrence P. Delaney, Ph.D.
    Associate Professor of Plant Biology
    The University of Vermont

    Terrence P. Delaney

    February 20, 2014 at 3:47 pm

  3. Outrageous , but says it all. How on earth could listing retraction date ““RETRACTED 22nd OCTOBER 2012″, instead of “Feb 14, 2014″ represent sloppiness?

    aceil

    February 22, 2014 at 10:10 am

    • Nutrition and Metabolism has an interesting editorial board. As many as 7 members are from SUNY Downstate Medical Center, United States of America, including Editor-in-chief and Managing Editor.

      KK

      February 23, 2014 at 8:27 am


We welcome comments. Please read our comments policy at http://retractionwatch.wordpress.com/the-retraction-watch-faq/ and leave your comment below.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 35,847 other followers

%d bloggers like this: