A paper about the biomechanics of human hands published last month in PLOS ONE is raising some questions on Twitter, after readers stumbled upon some curious language in the abstract:
The explicit functional link indicates that the biomechanical characteristic of tendinous connective architecture between muscles and articulations is the proper design by the Creator to perform a multitude of daily tasks in a comfortable way.
Yeah, that’s right — “the Creator.” You don’t see such language all that often in academic papers.
Not surprisingly, it’s prompted some harsh reactions from readers:
Plos One is now a joke. "….proper design of the Creator" absolute joke of a journal https://t.co/AJexYjewoo
— James McInerney (@jomcinerney) March 2, 2016
— Benoît Girard (@LegalizeBrain) March 2, 2016
The Creator makes another appearance in the introduction of the paper:
The human hand adopts coordinated movements to reduce the number of independent DOFs and simplify the complexity of the control problem. Thus, hand coordination affords humans the ability to flexibly and comfortably control the complex structure to perform numerous tasks. Hand coordination should indicate the mystery of the Creator’s invention.
And in the conclusion:
In conclusion, our study can improve the understanding of the human hand and confirm that the mechanical architecture is the proper design by the Creator for dexterous performance of numerous functions following the evolutionary remodeling of the ancestral hand for millions of years.
Our biggest question is: Did this language appear in the originally submitted manuscript — in other words, did it pass peer review? We’ve contacted the journal to try to find out.
So far, we’ve heard from the editor listed on the paper, Renzhi Han at The Ohio State University, who implies the language was a mistake:
I am sorry for this has happened. I am contacting PLoS one to see whether we can fix the issue.
A spokesperson for PLOS also told us:
PLOS has just been made aware of this issue and we are looking into it in depth. Our internal editors are reviewing the manuscript and will decide what course of action to take. PLOS’ publishing team is also assessing its processes.
The corresponding author is listed as Cai-Hua Xiong, based at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China.
Update 3/5/16 1:43 p.m. eastern: The paper has now been retracted.
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