A leading chemist at the University of Washington, Larry Dalton, has retracted a 2004 study in Inorganica Chimica Acta, marking his second retraction in the journal in 47 years.
Here’s the new notice:
This article has been retracted: please see Elsevier Policy on Article Withdrawal (http://www.elsevier.com/locate/withdrawalpolicy).
This article has been retracted at the request of the authors and the Editor-in-Chief.
One focus of our 2004 invited (conference proceeding) article [Kimberly A. Firestone, Philip J. Reid, Rhys Lawson, Sei-Hum Jang, and Larry R. Dalton, “Advances in Organic Electro-Optic Materials and Processing,” Inorg. Chem. Acta, 357, 3957-3966 (2004)] was a preliminary report of an improved femtosecond, wavelength-agile Hyper Rayleigh Scattering technique for measurement of molecular hyperpolarizability relevant to understanding electro-optic activity. To avoid any confusion regarding credit for the broader development and study of the TCP chromophores examined by HRS in this report, we are retracting our 2004 article. The reader is referred to the following publication for a complete account of research related to the TCP chromophores: Sei-Hum Jang, Jingdong Luo, Neil M. Tucker, Amalia Leclercq, Egbert Zojer, Marnie A. Kimberly A. Firestone, Denise H. Bale, David Lao, Jason B. Benedict, Dawn Cohen, Werner Kaminsky, Bart Kahr, Jean-Luc Bredas, Philip J. Reid, Larry R. Dalton, and A. K.-Y. Jen, “Pyrroline Chromophores for Electro-Optics,” Chem. Mater., 18, 2982-2988 (2006).
The paper has been cited 33 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.
Publisher Elsevier tells us:
A disagreement amongst the authors of the two papers was brought to our attention. After considering the available facts and in-depth discussions with the authors, it was agreed that retracting the 2004 paper most accurately reflected the contributions of all authors to this research.
Kahr, one of the authors of the “complete account of research related to the TCP chromophores” but not of the now-retracted paper, had questioned related findings by Dalton, as detailed in a Nature story from 2012:
After receiving copies of Kahr’s e-mails to centre members raising ethical concerns about the omissions, the University of Washington’s Office of Scholarly Integrity and Ana Mari Cauce, dean of the university’s College of Arts and Sciences at the time, conducted separate investigations of his allegations in 2010 and 2011. Both cleared Dalton and [Alex] Jen — the only targets of Kahr’s accusations — of any violation of ethics. Cauce, who is now the university’s provost, explained in a letter to Kahr that Jen’s omission of Kahr’s data from the annual reports was justified because the data were preliminary and because there was a scientific disagreement about whether the molecules were aligned.
But Kahr remained unsatisfied and in January 2011 submitted allegations to the NSF’s Office of Inspector General. Susan Carnohan, a spokeswoman for the inspector general, told Nature that the office does not comment on ongoing investigations.
Communication from the Editor – We have been informed by Dr. L. R. Dalton that some of the results published in Irzorganica Chimica Acta, 1, 1 (1967) were quoted without acknowledgment from an article by R. A. Zhitnikov and N. V. Kolesnikov (Fiz. Tverd. Tela, 7, 1175 (1965)) and that many of the experiments described were not actually performed. This was done entirely without the knowledge of his co-authors, L. A. Dalton and L. L. Dalton, or of any other person, when Dr. Dalton was under conditions of extreme strain. While strongly disapproving of his action, we thank Dr. Dalton for his frankness, and we accept his deep apologies. We would like to join with him in apologising to our readers and, in particular, to Drs. Zhitnikov and Kolesnikov for the misleading publication of these results.
Dalton submitted the 1967 paper from Michigan State University, from which he earned his BS (1965) and MS (1966). (He earned his PhD at Harvard in 1971.) Despite the fabricated findings, in 2000, the university gave him a distinguished alumni award, followed in 2005 by an alumni distinguished lectureship. He and his wife Nicole Boand have apparently been major donors to MSU, donating at least $2 million over the years.
Boand and Dalton have also endowed four professorships at the University of Washington. We’ve asked Dalton for comment, and will update with anything we learn.
Update: 4/1/15 9:40 a.m. eastern: Bart Kahr and Mark Hollingsworth wrote us to say the retraction note for the 1967 paper cited the wrong page number of the Russian article Dalton admitted to using (the actual page number of the article in Fizika Tverdogo Tela is 1157, not 1175). They also sent us pdfs of Dalton’s paper plus the English translation of the Russian article, which they believe is largely copied verbatim. Take a look at the papers to see for yourself, and an overlay of the spectra published in each paper, which they say are strikingly similar.