Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Author loses five papers, most for “compromised” peer review

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PLOS OnePLOS ONE has retracted three papers after the first author admitted to submitting the manuscripts without co-authors’ consent, and an investigation suggested that two out of the three papers had received faked reviews.

Last August, the same author — Lishan Wang of the Shanghai Jiao Tong University — lost two more papers (one in Tumor Biology and the other in Gene), also after the peer review process was found to be compromised. All five papers — which share other authors in common — were originally published in 2013, and four list Wang as the first author. The retractions follow an investigation by Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

Here’s the retraction notice for two of the PLOS ONE papers, issued on July 26:

The first author Lishan Wang has informed the PLOS ONE staff editors that he handled the preparation and submission of the manuscript to the journal without the knowledge of the listed co-authors and requested the retraction of the article.

Upon review of the submission history for the manuscript, the PLOS ONE editors found indications that the peer review process was compromised by the submission of reviews through fabricated reviewer accounts. An institutional investigation conducted by the Administration Office of Bio-X Institutes at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, supported the concerns about the integrity of the review process and indicated that Lishan Wang handled the preparation and submission of the manuscript without the knowledge of those listed as co-authors and is solely responsible for the article. The corresponding author designation as stated in the published article is incorrect.

In light of the above concerns, the PLOS ONE Editors retract this publication.

The first paper, “Association of Polymorphism rs198977 in Human Kallikrein-2 Gene (KLK2) with Susceptibility of Prostate Cancer: A Meta-Analysis,” is yet to be cited, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science

The other, “Association of CYP2A6*4 with Susceptibility of Lung Cancer: A Meta-Analysis,” has been cited eight times so far.

In August 2013, both these papers issued the same correction notice, which altered the funding statement, and updated the corresponding author’s email from a hotmail to a gmail account.

Here’s the retraction notice for the remaining PLOS ONE paper, “Drug-Eluting Stents for Acute Coronary Syndrome: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials” (a very different topic from the other papers, we noted), which is yet to be cited:

The first author Lishan Wang has informed the PLOS ONE staff editors that he handled the preparation and submission of the manuscript to the journal without the knowledge of the listed co-authors, and requested the retraction of the article.

An institutional investigation conducted by the Administration Office of Bio-X Institutes, Shanghai Jiao Tong University indicated that Lishan Wang handled the preparation and submission of the manuscript without the knowledge of those listed as co-authors and is solely responsible for the article. The corresponding author designation as stated in the published article is incorrect.

In line with the author’s request and the recommendation by Shanghai Jiao Tong University, the PLOS ONE Editors retract this publication.

Next, here’s a retraction notice for another one of Wang’s papers, which was published by Gene last year:

This article has been retracted at the request of the Editor and the Publisher.

After a thorough investigation, the Publisher has concluded that the acceptance of this article was based upon the positive advice of at least one faked reviewer report. The report was submitted from a fictitious email account which was provided to the journal as a suggested reviewer by the corresponding author during the submission of the paper.

This manipulation of the peer-review process represents a clear violation of the fundamentals of peer review, our publishing policies, and publishing ethics standards. Apologies are offered to the reviewers whose identities were assumed and to the readers of the journal that this deception was not detected during the submission process.

The 2013 paper, “Protein–protein interaction and SNP analysis in intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm,” has been cited four times. On that paper, the corresponding author is Shi-xiong Deng, based at the College of Basic Medicine at Chongqing Medical University in China (Wang is listed as the third author).

Finally, here’s the Tumor Biology retraction notice published last year:

The Publisher and Editor retract this article in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). After a thorough investigation we have strong reason to believe that the peer review process was compromised.

This paper, “Comparison of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), cholangiocarcinoma (CC), and combined HCC-CC (CHC) with each other based on microarray dataset,” has been cited five times.

We’ve reached out to Wang and Shanghai Jiao Tong University for further clarifications, and will update the post with anything else we learn.

So far, we’ve counted well over 300 papers retracted for faked, rigged or compromised peer review. Here’s our 2014 Nature feature on the subject if you need a bit more background.

Hat tip: Kerry Grens

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