Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Author threatens to sue Elsevier if paper remains retracted

with 5 comments

Computational Materials Science

An author is prepared to sue Elsevier if it doesn’t un-retract his paper.

Computational Materials Science published two papers by the same author just eight months apart; nearly four years later, the journal pulled one for duplication. Author Masoud Panjepour, affiliated with Isfahan University of Technology in Iran, told us that he is working with a lawyer to negotiate a solution. However, if the publisher does not un-retract the paper, he does “not rule out filing a lawsuit.”

Here’s the retraction notice for “The effect of temperature on the grain growth of nanocrystalline metals and its simulation by molecular dynamics method,” which appeared last November:

This article has been retracted: please see Elsevier Policy on Article Withdrawal (http://www.elsevier.com/locate/withdrawalpolicy).

This article has been retracted at the request of the Editor-in-Chief

It has come to our attention that there is very substantial duplication of text and content between this Computational Materials Science article and an earlier paper by the same authors, “The effect of grain size on the nanocrystalline growth in metals and its simulation by Monte Carlo method”, S.A. Sabeti, M. Pahlevaninezhad, M. Panjepour, Comput. Mater. Sci., 50 (2011) 2104–2111, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.commatsci.2011.02.016

One of the conditions of submission of a paper for publication is that authors declare explicitly that their work is original and has not appeared in a publication elsewhere. Re-use of any data should be appropriately cited. As such this article represents a severe abuse of the scientific publishing system. The scientific community takes a very strong view on this matter and apologies are offered to readers of the journal that this was not detected during the submission process.

The retracted paper has been cited four times, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science. (The paper that it borrows from has been cited five times.)

Panjepour told us his plans: 

I prefer to settle my dispute through negotiation in the first instance; however, if the Elsevier refuses to remove retraction of my article, I do not rule out filing a lawsuit. Moreover, I have a lot of evidence showing loopholes and negligence besides my own on the behalf of the editor to prove the negligence of the editor and editorial staff. Therefore, my next move depends on how they act about the retracted article.

 He argued that the article should not be retracted because:

the retracted article has clearly cross-referenced to the former article [which the note says it duplicates from]. Besides, as both articles have the same authors, and there is no need for the authors to get permission from themselves; above all, the retracted article has different finding than the former one.

Panjepour told us his lawyer is in contact with Elsevier, and the journal:

perpetrated negligence by not taking reasonable care to check the cross-references for any possible similarity and failed to take account of any possible harm that might foreseeably cause to the authors.

Panjepour added:

It is also worth mentioning that if there was any intent of plagiarism, both articles would not have been submitted to the same publisher.

Though the journal currently uses a program called CrossCheck to scan for plagiarism (and self-plagiarism), editor in chief Susan Sinnott, told us that:

In 2011/2012 when the papers in question were accepted, we did not have CrossCheck integrated into our editorial systems

A spokesperson for Elsevier told us:

The retraction isn’t going to be removed. The allegation was handled thoroughly by the editor, plus three additional experts advised that it was a clear-cut case of duplication.  The two papers were also compared retrospectively using CrossCheck and the evidence of extensive duplication is absolutely clear.

This isn’t the first time an author has threatened to sue to get a retraction retracted — one recently turned his sights on De Gruyter for retracting his paper on internet trolls. And Mario Saad, a diabetes researcher, sued the American Diabetes Association over four expressions of concern, arguing they constituted defamation. That case was dismissed, and the articles were retracted.

And this isn’t the first journal to publish both copies of a familiar paper — recently, we reported on a Desalination paper that was retracted for plagiarizing from another paper in the journal. The timeline was a little more spread out in that case — the papers appeared six years apart.

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Comments
  • Anonymous May 24, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    “apologies are offered to readers of the journal that this was not detected during the submission process”

    The journal also shares blame in the lack of quality control.

  • stevelaudig May 24, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    “Moreover, I have a lot of evidence showing loopholes and negligence besides my own on the behalf of the editor to prove the negligence of the editor and editorial staff”. I like the “besides my own” that’s rich. I’m trying to imagine a judge agreeing that the journal owes a duty to this author to not publish [or later retract] something that it later retracts because it discovers that the authors explicit declaration “that their work is original and has not appeared in a publication elsewhere” was false. How does that argument work? But perhaps I misunderstand the argument which boils down to “you cannot correct your own error because it was made in my favor”. cheers.

  • Rooz May 24, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    Comparing these two papers, I can say that there is a significant amount of overlap. Even some of the conclusions are identical. The important point to keep in mind is that literature is littered with many duplications of this type. Maybe these researchers are just unlucky that their work has been retracted. many others get away with this issue.

  • Sharon O'Connor May 25, 2016 at 9:47 am

    Just because others get away with plagiarism, it doesn’t make these researchers unlucky, it makes them caught. When a driver gets a ticket for speeding, it doesn’t make the driver less guilty because there are lots of speeders on the road.

  • Rafal May 27, 2016 at 7:42 am

    This case is ironic on so many levels!

    On one hand, both papers were published by Elsevier, so it is a little surprising that plagiarism has not been detected earlier. But these things happen and it is of course not excuse for the plagiarism happening in the first place.

    More interestingly though, since both papers were published by Elsevier, this presumably means that the authors has signed the copyright agreement with the publisher, effectively losing not just the control of what happens to those papers, but also the right to moan about this. It also means that when he says

    “Besides, as both articles have the same authors, and there is no need for the authors to get permission from themselves”

    he just does not understand what happened when his papers were published by Elsevier (again: not that publishing under CC By would be an excuse to do the same thing).

    Disclaimer: I am an employee of BioMed Central Ltd. All opinions are my own.

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