Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Researcher issues massive changes to papers amidst plagiarism investigation

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A researcher in Greece has issued extensive — what we sometimes call “mega” — corrections to two 2016 papers published in a medical journal in Romania.

The first author — Alexandra Kalogeraki, a pathology researcher at the University of Crete in Greece — retracted two reviews from the same journal last year for plagiarism. The newest notices remove authors and correct, add, or remove text, often without providing an explicit reason for the change.

The journal told us Kalogeraki initially asked to retract the newly corrected papers, but the editors didn’t believe that the papers warranted the harsher measure, as they’d run a plagiarism scan and conducted peer review of the two papers and did not find any issues. However, the University of Crete is currently investigating allegations of plagiarism in two of Kalogeraki’s other papers, which have already been retracted by the same journal.

For the latest mega-corrections, both are so lengthy we’re only including a small portion of the notice for the case study, “Recurrent Cerebellar Desmoplastic/ Nodular Medulloblastoma in Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) in the elderly. A Cytologic Diagnosis,” which deals with authorship:

Authors listed are as follows: Alexandra Kalogeraki, Dimitrios Tamiolakis Panagiota Mavrigiannaki , Michael Karvelas-Kalogerakis ,Sophia Agelaki , Savvas Papadopoulos. Doctor Galateia Datseri who is not included any more was not involved in the design and the performance of the study, was unaware of been listed among authors, so she wishes her name to be removed.

The notice then details three changes to several sentences or paragraphs in the introduction, case study, and discussion sections.

The second erratum notice for “Cytology of Pericardial Effusion due to Malignancy” has a similar format. The notice begins with a rundown of the authors, mentioning that several wished to remove their names from the paper, and includes a list of 20 corrections, additions, or deletions in each section of the paper, some of which are several paragraphs long.

Both papers were published by the Romanian Journal of Internal Medicine (RJIM), which is not indexed by Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters.

Given how elaborate the corrections are, we asked the journal whether a retraction had been considered. RIJM editor in chief Gheorghe-Andrei Dan, a cardiologist based in Bucharest, told us that after Kalogeraki had requested retractions of the two reviews, she contacted the journal again, asking for retractions of the two original articles. According to Dan, the journal disagreed that the articles should be retracted:

… in December 2016 A Kalogeraki requested another two retractions for the other two papers (original research), but this time she did not reason her wish to retract. As we have not been aware of scientific misconduct in the initial submissions (this time we had the possibility to verify them with antiplagiarism software), during the peer review process and after publication of these two papers, we did not consider that she should retract the papers without a valid justification. However, A. Kalogeraki insisted for a correction.

In an effort to maintain scientific integrity, Dan said that the journal checks for plagiarism in all submissions:

We scan each initial submission for plagiarism, so this was also the case for the two original articles of A. Kalogeraki. Afterwards we send eligible manuscripts (with no suspicion of plagiarism) to reviewers and we share their decision with our authors asking them to perform revisions if the reviewers demand them.

Dan said the journal found no signs of plagiarism for Kalogeraki’s two original papers:

We scanned the two initial submissions and as there were no issues we initiated the peer review process.

The University of Crete’s Research Ethics Committee Secretariat Pelagia Sevastaki verified that the university has been looking into the alleged plagiarism in the two review papers Kalogeraki retracted last year:

Indeed, there have been allegations that these two review articles by Dr. Kalogeraki contained a proportion of material overlapping with other published articles in the scientific literature. The issue is under investigation by the University in order to detect whether this is due to bad practice or it is justified by the nature of the articles. The University of Crete is committed to ensure that the scientific results and other information published by its staff respect the international standards and rules of academic integrity.

We asked Sevastaki to clarify what distinguished plagiarism due to “bad practice” and when it might be “justified by the nature of the articles.” Sevastaki responded:

The allegation is a very serious and extremely unusual incident for UoC. Therefore, the University has to take cautious steps to make sure that every stage of this case is very well documented before action is taken against the parties involved. The issue in this case is that these are review articles and it is often the case that such articles recapitulate knowledge already available in the scientific literature. Bad practice would be, for instance, to present the already published information as author’s own new ideas without citing the original sources. Good practice would be to cite properly the sources and provide a new synthesis which improves the reader’s understanding of interconnections between the findings of previous studies and/or identify gaps in knowledge in this particular field. Between these two extremes there is an unclear area, e.g. original sources are cited but no new ideas are provided, or the paper is unclear regarding the new and the already known information or the quotations are not set properly etc.

To make sure that these issues are properly investigated the UoC had to seek assistance from experts in this particular field and their verdict is not yet available to the University authorities.

Dan also confirmed that Kalogeraki asked to retract the two reviews over allegations of plagiarism:

A. Kalogeraki requested retraction of the two review papers due to an internal inquiry at her University for suspicion of plagiarism. We had also been informed about possible plagiarism of these two review papers and accepted her wish to retract the two reviews.

RIJM performed its own internal inquiry, and it found significant overlap between the reviews and other papers, according to Dan:

After internal analysis of the two reviews there was a relatively high similarity index and as such (as she also requested due to the internal investigation at her University) we decided to retract the two review papers.

We reached out to Kalogeraki and several coauthors listed on at least one of the four papers. We will update the post as we learn anything new.

We’ve found some previous errata and retractions for an author based in Crete who shares a first initial and last name with one of the middle authors on both mega-corrections and Kalogeraki’s previous retractions, Dimitrios Tamiolakis. Some errata involved removing authors (1, 2).

For two retractions issued in 2009, the corresponding author N. Papadopoulos submitted a detailed retraction notice, citing Tamiolakis as responsible for duplicating the paper and forging Papadopoulos’s signature. Here is the 2009 notice for “CD30 (Ki-1) molecule expression in human embryonal epithelial cells of the basal layer of the developing epidermis and epidermal buds and its potential significance for embryogenesis:”

Two papers that very closely resembled the article “CD30 (Ki-1) molecule expression in human embryonal epithelial cells of the basal layer of the developing epidermis and epidermal buds and its potential significance for embryogenesis” published by D. Tamiolakis, N. Papadopoulos, I. Venizelos, M. Lambropoulou, P. Tsikouras, G. Koutsougeras, S. Bolioti, M. Tsiapali, A. Karpouzis, and C. Kouskoukis in this journal in 2005 (1) were published in the Romanian Journal of Biophysics in 2004 (2) and in Clinical and Experimental Medicine in 2005 (3).

As corresponding author, I would like to inform the editorial staff and readers of Acta Dermatovenerologica Alpina, Pannonica et Adriatica that, for an inexplicable reason that is devoid of any logic, our ex-colleague and coauthor D. Tamiolakis took the liberty of submitting the paper published in this journal in 2005 (1) for publication in two other journals (2, 3) after having changed the title, abstract, and authors. None of the coauthors, including myself, had any knowledge of this infringement of copyright.

Furthermore, I would like to inform the editorial staff and readers that, in an attempt to mitigate his misdeed, D. Tamiolakis forged my name as corresponding author without my knowledge and consent. D. Tamiolakis has acknowledged total responsibility for his own action.

For these reasons, I retract the paper entitled “CD30 (Ki-1) molecule expression in human embryonal epithelial cells of the basal layer of the developing epidermis and epidermal buds and its potential significance for embryogenesis.”

Here’s the 2009 notice for “Jawbone metastases: four cases,” also written by Papadopoulos:

A paper that very closely resembled the article “Jawbone metastases: four cases” by D. Tamiolakis, I. Tsamis, V. Thomaidis, M. Lambropoulou, G. Alexiadis, I. Venizelos, T. Jivanakis, and N. Papadopoulos published in this journal in 2007 (1) was published in Chirurgia (Bucur) in 2007 (2).

As corresponding author, I would like to inform the editorial staff and readers of Acta Dermatovenerologica Alpina, Pannonica et Adriatica that, for an inexplicable reason that is devoid of any logic, our ex-colleague and coauthor D. Tamiolakis took the liberty of submitting the paper published in this journal in 2007 (1) for publication in another journal (2) after having changed the title and the abstract. None of the other coauthors, including myself, had any knowledge of this infringement of copyright.

Furthermore, I would like to inform the editorial staff and readers that D. Tamiolakis, in an attempt to mitigate his misdeed, forged my name as corresponding author without my knowledge and consent. D. Tamiolakis has acknowledged total responsibility for his own actions.

For these reasons, I retract the paper entitled “Jawbone metastases: four cases.”

Finally, here’s a 2010 retraction notice for “NCL-CD30 staining of epithelial cells in the basal germinative layer of the epidermis and epithelial buds during foetal skin development” that also cites duplicate publication, and submitting the paper without Papadopoulos’s knowledge:

This article [1] was submitted and subsequently published in Clinical and Experimental Medicine shortly after submitting and publishing analogous articles in [2, 3] Romanian Journal of Biophysics and Acta Dermatovenereologica Alpina, Pannonica et Adriatica. Since the three articles published by the same research group resemble each other in that way that 90–95% of the text is identical, we consider this as triplicate publication. The Editor-in-Chief and the publisher consider this as a serious ethical misconduct and therefore the decision has been made to retract the article published in Clinical and Experimental Medicine.

Dr. D. Tamiolakis acknowledged full responsibility for this unfortunate situation. Prof. N. Papadopoulos, corresponding author of the article, declared himself and other co-authors unaware of the ethical infringement. He anyway agrees with the article retraction, is deeply sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused to the editorial and publishing staff of Clinical and Experimental Medicine and apologizes to the readers.

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