A 2010 paper on plant fungus has been retracted after a comment on PubPeer revealed that a study image had been flipped over and reused to represent two different treatments.
In May, a commenter pointed out the plants in Figure 2a of the paper in the journal Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions “look remarkably similar.” A commenter writing under the name of corresponding author, Yukio Tosa at Kobe University in Japan, posted a response two days later agreeing with the assessment and stating that the paper should be retracted.
The notice reads:
The authors of Tanaka et al. 23:771-783 (2010) retracted this article because it proved to contain a pair of identical images that were used to represent different treatments in Figure 2A. This article was retracted on 3 June 2015.
“Evolution of the Eleusine Subgroup of Pyricularia oryzae Inferred from Rearrangement at the Pwl1 Locus” detailed the development of a subgroup of Pyricularia oryzae, a fungal plant disease also known as rice blast fungus, by examining how it infects plants. It has been cited three times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.
Editor-in-chief Jane Glazebrook explained what happened:
When Dr. Tosa first contacted me about the retraction, he did mention the PubPeer comment. It may be that is how he first realized that there was a problem with the paper. Dr. Tosa told me that after seeing the PubPeer comment, he made an investigation in his laboratory, and contacted the author who generated the figure at issue. Based on this investigation, Dr. Tosa decided that he wished to retract the paper. It was at that point he first contacted me.
I explained to Dr. Tosa that to retract the paper, he should send me a statement that we could publish, explaining the retraction. He did so.
After the paper was retracted, a commenter on PubPeer also pointed out that the pdf of the retracted paper had been replaced with the retraction notice. Glazebrook said it’s the journal’s policy to remove retracted papers (which goes against the retraction guidelines of the Committee on Publication Ethics):
We published the retraction, removed the pdf of the paper, and replaced it with the retraction notice, as you noticed. This is our standard practice. We do not want to create confusion in the scientific literature by having retracted papers available, as the conclusions of such papers are likely not reliable.
Glazebrook said that she wasn’t aware of the COPE guidelines. She said that the scientific literature may be “better served by removing retracted papers” but that she would bring it up with the publishing organization, the American Phytopathological Society Press:
I was not aware of this guideline. MPMI follows the practices of APS Press (American Phytopathological Society Press), which publishes several journals including MPMI. I was not asked whether or not the retracted paper should be removed, that decision was made in the offices of APS Press according to their standard practice. I didn’t raise any objection to it, as it seems to me that the scientific literature is better served by removing retracted papers. Having retracted papers remain available may cause confusion.
Thank you for bringing the COPE guideline to my attention. I will raise this issue with the APS publications board. Regardless of my personal opinion, I think that MPMI should follow generally accepted practices. If these include keeping retracted papers available, we should adopt that practice.
Glazebrook sent another message several hours later stating that the publisher had instructed the editorial office to meet COPE guidelines.
I wrote to the chair of the APS Press Publications board, who also was not aware of these COPE guidelines for retractions. He has just now instructed the editorial office to revise our procedures for handling retractions to conform to the COPE guidelines.
We’ve contacted Tosa for a statement and we’ll update with any response.
Hat tip: Commenter “First retraction?“
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