Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Author appeared to use phony Caltech co-authors, up to 8 retractions

with 3 comments

ACBEA journal has retracted three articles from a chemist in Portugal with a history of problems with co-authors and data — the exact problems cited by the new notices.

Specifically, it appears as if Rodrigo J.G. Lopes made up the affiliations of multiple co-authors from the California Institute of Technology, causing the journal to “doubt the existence of the authors.”

Lopes first came to our attention in 2013, when he lost a paper in the Chemical Engineering Journal for including data he couldn’t have produced, as the lab lacked the necessary equipment. That had followed a previous retraction, when Lopes added co-authors without their permission. We’ve since found other retractions for Lopes, bringing his total to eight, by our count.

We’ll turn first to one of the newer retractions, from Applied Catalysis B: Environmental, “Ceria-doped and TiO2 nanocomposite coating on multiwalled carbon nanotubes for the photocatalytic remediation of agro-industrial wastewaters,” cited nine times, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science. Lopes’s affiliation on the paper is listed as the University of Coimbra in Portugal, and he was joined by two researchers from CalTech, D. Wilson and W. Wang. Trouble is, we can’t find a record of either of them at that institution. According to the notice:

This article has been retracted at the request of the Editors for scientific misconduct. It has been brought to our attention that the affiliation of several authors was falsified, which brings into doubt the existence of the authors. In case of (suspected) plagiarism, it is mandatory to refer to the plagiarized work here by <Appl. Catal. B: Environ. 123–124 (2012) 273–281>, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.apcatb.2012.04.046.

The second article, “Manganese- and copper-doped titania nanocomposites for the photocatalytic reduction of carbon dioxide into methanol,” was published in September 2012 and has been cited 12 times. Again, W. Wang was listed as a co-author, along with another purported — and evidently nonexistent — colleague from Caltech, P.L. Richardson. It now includes a similar notice:

This article has been retracted at the request of the Editors for scientific misconduct. It has been brought to our attention that the affiliation of several authors was falsified, which brings into doubt the existence of the authors. In case of (suspected) plagiarism, it is mandatory to refer to the plagiarized work here by <Appl. Catal. B: Environ. 126 (2012) 200–207>, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.apcatb.2012.07.016.

The third article  supposedly by Lopes, Richardson and Wang from ACB:E is a 2013 paper titled “Heterogeneous photo-enhanced conversion of carbon dioxide to formic acid with copper- and gallium-doped titania nanocomposites” (uploaded to the CalTech Authors site, and cited 10 times). It now bears an identical notice to the one we reported in 2013:

This article has been retracted at the request of the Editors for unethical use of data reporting. The article reports data that could not be obtained in the laboratory as the necessary equipment was not present.

We’ve discovered that Lopes has also lost a second article in Chemical Engineering Journal, “A hybrid CFD framework for fluidized bed ozonation reactors coupling interface tracking and discrete particle methods”
(again, for lacking the necessary equipment to produce the data), one in Chemical Engineering Science (“VOF modeling and experimental validation of ozonation reactive flow under high ozone concentration in three-phase reactors for environment protection”), and one in Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research. The retraction notice for the IECR paper, “Euler–Lagrange CFD Simulation of a Gas–Liquid Fluidized Bed Reactor for the Mineralization of High-Strength Phenolic Wastewaters,” reads:

This Article was withdrawn from publication in Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research at the request of Dr. Rosa Quinta-Ferreira and the University of Coimbra, because of violations of the American Chemical Society’s Ethical Guidelines to Publication of Chemical Research.

-A Special Review Board formed by the Chemical Process Engineering and Forest Products Research Centre (CIEPQPF) at the University of Coimbra concluded that the experimental section had been fabricated by Dr. Rodrigo Lopes.

-Authorship was incorrectly attributed to M. L. N. Perdigoto, who did not contribute to the study.

-A substantial amount of text as well as parts of Figures 6, 7, and 8 were reused without attribution from R. J. G. Lopes and R. M. Quinta-Ferreira, “Detoxification of high-strength liquid pollutants in an ozone bubble column reactor: Gas–liquid flow patterns, interphase mass transfer and chemical depuration”. Chem. Eng. J. 2011, 172, 476–486.

An email to Lopes bounced back as undeliverable.

We emailed the editor of ACB:E, Maria Flytzani-Stephanopoulus, for more information about the papers, and will update this post if we hear back from her.

Like Retraction Watch? Consider making a tax-deductible contribution to support our growth. You can also follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us to your RSS reader, sign up on our homepage for an email every time there’s a new post, or subscribe to our new daily digest. Click here to review our Comments Policy. For a sneak peek at what we’re working on, click here.

Comments
  • Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva April 8, 2016 at 12:17 am

    As a Portuguese, I feel so embarrassed to read this.

  • KK April 8, 2016 at 2:33 am

    ” In case of (suspected) plagiarism, it is mandatory to refer to the plagiarized work here by …” – for me this sentence is confusing!

    • Conrad Seitz MD April 8, 2016 at 3:34 pm

      I think that means that, if someone plagiarizes from the retracted paper… I think…

  • Post a comment

    Threaded commenting powered by interconnect/it code.