Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Journal runs retraction, editorial over duplicate submission of pathology paper

with 13 comments

WebCurrentCoverThe International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine has taken a hard stance against overlapping publications in a recent retraction note and editorial.

Shortly after publishing a paper about the glycosylation patterns of endothelial cells in usual interstitial pneumonia, IJOEM editors discovered that it had been accepted by the Scholarly Journal of Biological Science two weeks before it was submitted to the IJOEM.

According to two authors we reached via email, Abolfazl Barkhordari and Carolyn JonesSJBS requested a $300 publication fee, which Barkhordari (a corresponding author) was unable to pay due to economic sanctions against Iran, where he is based.

Barkhordari provided us with an email from the SJBS stating that the paper would not be published until $300 was transferred into a Nigerian bank account. The Nigeria-based publisher, Scholarly Journals, is on Jeffrey Beall’s list of predatory open access publishers.

Barkhordari and Jones assumed the SJBS was a dead end, so submitted the paper elsewhere.

Despite this sequence of events, according to IJOEM, the authors signed a document stating the paper “is not under review by other journals.”

Even though Barkhordari never sent the publication fee, clearly the journal decided to go ahead with publication anyway. We’ve reached out to SJBS, and will update if we hear back.

The full notice is at the bottom of our post. Here’s an excerpt:

The two corresponding authors of the two published articles claimed that the problem arose from a mistake: the Scholarly Journal of Biological Science had asked for a publication fee that the authors could not pay. Believing that the journal would therefore return their manuscript, they submitted the manuscript to our journal. We found this explanation not acceptable. The authors should have waited to hear from the Editor of the first journal. We therefore decided to retract the article from our journal on the grounds of duplicate publication, informed the Editor of Scholarly Journal of Biological Science of the situation, told the authors about our decision to retract the article, and—considering their actions—reported the misconduct to their institutions.

The journal simultaneously published an editorial by publication ethics consultant Elizabeth Wager, “Why Is Redundant Publication a Problem?” This is Wager’s thesis:

If the purpose of medical journals is to disseminate research findings, it might seem illogical that editors generally forbid multiple publication of the same data in different journals. However, there are three important reasons why this is the case. First, redundant publication can bias the results of systematic reviews using meta-analysis. Second, multiple publication wastes resources. Third, since academic credit is based on the number of publications, redundant publication may give an unfair advantage to the authors.

Here is the full notice for “The Glycoprofile Patterns of Endothelial Cells in Usual Interstitial Pneumonia”:

Soon after we published this article in the October 2014 issue of the IJOEM, it was brought to our attention that it had been published earlier in another journal—the Scholarly Journal of Biological Science (2014:3:1-6). The manuscript had been accepted by that journal on November 8, 2014, two weeks before the authors submitted their manuscript to our Journal on November 21.

Many journals indicate the unacceptability of duplicate publication in their Instructions to the Authors. Some journals also require authors to indicate, either as part of the online submission system, or in the covering letter, that the work being submitted has not been published and is not being considered for publication elsewhere. In the Author Guidelines of the IJOEM, we ask the authors to “exclusively indicate that the manuscript has not been published or under review elsewhere.” Furthermore, as the very first step in the online submission of a manuscript to the IJOEM, it is required that the corresponding author confirms that “the manuscript is not under review by other journals, has not been published in nor accepted for publication by other journals, nor has substantial overlaps with published reports.”

During our investigation of this incident, we also learned that some of the authors of the article were not aware of its submission to the IJOEM. In response, we consulted the guidelines issued by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and asked the authors for an explanation. The two corresponding authors of the two published articles claimed that the problem arose from a mistake: the Scholarly Journal of Biological Science had asked for a publication fee that the authors could not pay. Believing that the journal would therefore return their manuscript, they submitted the manuscript to our journal. We found this explanation not acceptable. The authors should have waited to hear from the Editor of the first journal. We therefore decided to retract the article from our journal on the grounds of duplicate publication, informed the Editor of Scholarly Journal of Biological Science of the situation, told the authors about our decision to retract the article, and—considering their actions—reported the misconduct to their institutions.

Given the importance of publication ethics, and because we believe many (especially young) researchers innocently commit scientific misconduct, we are publishing an Editorial in the current issue of the Journal to inform our readers about the important aspects of duplicate publication.

Journal editors and institutions should react appropriately to charges of scientific and publication misconduct. However, they should recognize that genuine mistakes do sometimes occur and should always ensure that innocent parties are not punished (eg, if one author from a group resubmits a published article without the knowledge of the other authors). Hopefully, appropriate handling of misconduct cases and educating researchers about their ethical responsibilities will help foster and preserve trust in the scientific literature.

Hat tip Rolf Degen.

Update 3:00 pm February 18: We have updated the cover image to depict the correct journal.

Update 3:55 pm February 18: The editor of the IJOEM has commented further on the journal’s decision to retract the paper.

Comments
  • Neuroskeptic February 17, 2015 at 11:38 am

    This leaves a bad taste in the mouth. The authors resubmitted their paper in good faith. They had no intent to deceive. I would have handled this differently if I’d been editor of IJOEM – e.g. by asking the authors to arrange for the paper to be retracted from SJBS, and only retracting it from IJOEM if they refused to do that.

    The only villain here is the predatory journal.

  • Update Google Scholar February 17, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    So, when will Google Scholar be updated?
    https://scholar.google.com/citations?view_op=view_citation&hl=en&user=8JVTarQAAAAJ&citation_for_view=8JVTarQAAAAJ:a0OBvERweLwC

    Could someone also comment about the following, also listed on Google Scholar:

    The cytotoxic effects of SiO2 nanoparticles on human blood mononuclear cells
    Authors
    A Barkhordari, S Barzegar, SH Hekmati, A Jebalai, H Falahzada
    Publication date
    2012
    Journal
    J of SSMU, vol

    vs

    The Toxic Effects of Silver Nanoparticles on Blood Mononuclear Cells
    Authors
    A Barkhordari, S Barzegar, H Hekmatimoghaddam, A Jebali, S Rahimi Moghadam, N Khanjani
    Publication date
    2014/12/7
    Journal
    The international journal of occupational and environmental medicine
    Volume 5
    Issue 3 July
    Pages
    PII 394, 164-8
    http://www.theijoem.com/ijoem/index.php/ijoem/article/viewFile/394/514

    • Jan Grimm February 17, 2015 at 7:35 pm

      Simple – one is a silica (silicon oxide = SiO2) nanoparticle, the other one is a silver (Ag) nanoparticle. Different things.

  • Jocalyn Clark February 18, 2015 at 4:02 am

    I posted this Comment on Facebook, too. But here goes again: So interesting. I am inclined to agree with other commentators (and the authors here) that they likely assumed their paper was not being published in the first ‘journal.’ AND I would query whether publication in the predatory journal SJBS is a ‘real’ publication. It is to a degree, and I’m not suggesting it be ignored. But SJBS is not indexed presumably, and so the first argument against duplicate publication (obstructing systematic reviews) does not apply. Another reason why predatory journals are a nightmare.

  • Narad February 18, 2015 at 4:26 am

    However, can you find the first paper, or its web-link?

    <a href="http://jssu.ssu.ac.ir/browse.php?a_id=1904&sid=1&slc_lang=enYes, why? Is G—le Scholar an item of any particular interest?

  • Farrokh Habibzadeh February 18, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    I am the Editor of The IJOEM who decided to retract the article. I think that’s great to discuss these important ethical issues, but only when we have enough information and when we investigate with enough scrutiny: for example, the cover page of the “International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health” has mistakenly been selected for our Journal, The IJOEM (www.theijoem.com). But, let’s be optimistic and presume that would be a clerical mistake. It is mentioned that “According to two authors we reached via email, Abolfazl Barkhordari and Carolyn Jones, SJBS requested a $300 publication fee, which Barkhordari (a corresponding author) was unable to pay due to economic sanctions against Iran, where he is based.” I also received those e-mails from the authors. Just for your information, transferring such a small amount of money from Iran to anywhere in the world is not difficult at all (I also live in Iran), but let’s assume that Dr. Barkhordari is right and he couldn’t transfer the requested money for the sanction! I expected he had checked the conditions under which he could publish their manuscript in SJBS (including any publication fee). Even if we assume that he was not aware of the condition, after he decided to withdraw his manuscript from SJBS, it seems reasonable he should have been waited if and confirmed that SJBS accepted (been informed of) the authors’ decision not to publish the manuscript in their journal.

    I, for one, believe that an important aspect to be considered in investigating any case of misconduct is the “authors’ intent to deceive,” and I, as the Editor of The IJOEM, after contacting all the authors, have not been convinced that at least one of the Iranian authors had not intended to deceive us. I found further evidence in support of my suspicion: for example, soon after we tried to contact one of the authors whose name mentioned in this report, Dr. Carolyn Jones, we learned that the provided e-mail address in the submitted manuscript is a fake address. When we found her correct e-mail address through Googling, and informed her of the misconduct, she mentioned that “I regret to inform you that I was unaware of the submission of this paper [to The IJOEM].” (if you need, I have copy of her complete e-mail). Soon we found that other authors from UK were also not aware of the submission of the manuscript to The IJOEM (two weeks after the article had been published in SJBS). This would raise another ethical misconduct–authorship.

    After we learned about the duplicate publication (100% overlap, if you like to call it “overlap” rather than “duplicate publication”), we tried to examine another article the authors previously published in our Journal. We found the article entitled “The cytotoxic effects of SiO2 nanoparticles on human blood mononuclear cells” also published in 2012 in J of SSMU. We shocked, but that was a relief when we found that this article is published in Persian language in a local journal (rarely retrieved in search for systematic reviews, I hope).

    I do not agree with the option that we had to ask the Editor of SJBS to retract the article. Why? That’s not their fault for sure (that’s not fair even for a predatory journal!). A manuscript was submitted to a journal, they reviewed (presumably) it and accepted to publish it (even if they needed to waive the publication fee). We, at The IJOEM, had published the second copy and we were reasonably to retract the article, even if we believed that the first journal has not been indexed and probably the article published there is not likely to be retrieved in search of databases for systematic reviews. Nonetheless, we know that authors of systematic reviews and meta-analyses extensively search for papers (even gray papers) and may find duplicates. In fact, that’s an ethical duty to omit duplicate publications or clearly mention in the published duplicate paper that it is also published elsewhere.

    As the Editor of The IJOEM, I still believe our decision to retract the article was correct.

    Farrokh Habibzadeh, MD
    Founder and Editor, The IJOEM,
    Immediate Past President, World Association of Medical Editors (WAME),
    Contributing Editor, The Lancet,
    Editorial Consultant, The Lancet

    • Cat Ferguson February 18, 2015 at 4:00 pm

      Dr. Habibzadeh,

      Thank you for this additional information. We’ve corrected the image, and added a note in the post with a link to your comment.

      Best, Cat

    • Jocalyn Clark February 19, 2015 at 1:02 am

      Dear Farrokh, Thanks for the additional detail. The plot thickens! Was all this detail included in your missive to readers when you retracted the paper. all the best, Jocalyn

  • Wise words and wise decisions February 18, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    Dr. Farrokh Habibzadeh has spoken wisely, even if against a fellow Iranian citizen. He must be praised for coming forward and providing a full, transparent and honest explanation for the decisions made by him and his journal. Very unfortunately, most editors of “ranked” journals publshed by STM publishers prefer to stay silent and think that public explanations are not important, or within their editorial repertoire of responsibilities. So, Dr. Habibzadeh deserves double credit for showing the right attitude and responsibility that should be shown by other editors in every retraction case. Finally, I encourage Dr. Habibzadeh to post the e-mail at RW, to serve as irrefutable proof of this case.

  • Post a comment

    Threaded commenting powered by interconnect/it code.