Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Controversial researcher loses 12th paper that’s “literally copied;” authors object

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A physics journal has retracted a 2011 paper by a group of scientists based in Italy, noting it’s “literally copied” from a paper by the same authors.

This is the 12th retraction for the paper’s first author Alberto Carpinteri, who is known in the engineering community for championing some controversial ideas, such as that the Shroud of Turin is as old as Jesus (contradicting carbon dating). In 2015, a journal he used to edit — Meccanica — retracted 11 of his papers, noting that “the editorial process had been compromised.”

In the latest notice, the Journal of Statistical Mechanics: Theory and Experiment (JSTAT) says its investigation found a substantial portion of the paper—including the main analysis and conclusion—had been lifted from a paper published in another journal several months before.

Last author of the latest paper to be retracted, Amedeo Manuello Bertetto from Polytechnic University of Turin, told us the authors strongly opposed the journal’s decision: 

we were astonished by the decision to proceed with the withdrawal of our work published in 2011 in JSTAT by the Editorial board. We considered it as an unacceptable decision.

Carpinteri, a professor at the Polytechnic University of Turin, has proposed a form of energy generation called “piezonuclear fission,” that remains highly debated. He has also contended that the Shroud of Turin, which carbon dating traced back to 1260 A.D., was actually as old as Jesus and that an earthquake altered the dating. Some of his 11 previous retractions — several of which included some of his co-authors on the latest retraction — included a paper on “piezonuclear fission” and the Shroud of Turn.

Here’s the notice for Carpinteri’s most recent retraction:

The paper Carpinteri et al 2011 J. Stat. Mech. P09009, published 14 September 2011, has been retracted by the Editorial board, following an investigation for self-plagiarism. The investigation has shown that large parts of the paper, including the main analysis, the motivation and the conclusions, are literally copied from the paper Phys. Rev. Lett. 106 108503 published 10 March by the same authors. The Phys. Rev. Lett. paper is cited, but the text copied from it is not quoted. The extra material (one figure and the related analysis) is not sufficient to justify a second publication, and in fact it is not even mentioned in the main discussion and conclusions. The Editorial board considers that the submission of the J. Stat. Mech. paper is in violation of the copyright agreement signed by the authors.

Acoustic emission of the Syracuse Athena temple: timescale invariance from microcracking to earthquakes” has not yet been cited since it was published in 2011, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters. The paper it duplicated from, in Physical Review Letters, has been cited 20 times.

When we reached out to the authors for more details, Bertetto responded, cc’ing the other three authors, including Carpinteri. Bertetto forwarded us a letter the authors sent to the journal, dated February 14, in which they explained that the two studies “have original and different contents and different conclusions.”

In the letter, the authors argue that the authors on both papers are the same, and thus:

there is not a partial use of the text by some authors to the detriment of others.

They add that they cited the Physical Review Letters paper in the JSTAT paper, and duplication occurs when an author (their emphasis):

uses portions of an earlier work in a new one without citing the original content.

And finally, they note, “the concept of self-plagiarism is still much debated” and the paper was published when that concept was “only partially known in the scientific community.”

The authors conclude:

We also want to remind to the Editorial Board that often reports of alert like that you received in this case could be moved by motivations very far from the ethical reasons. The effect is to provoke a problem or a damage to the authors regarding their reputation in the scientific community.

The authors also ask the journal to cancel the retraction and offered to write a report emphasizing the “substantial differences” between the two papers.

The journal published the retraction this month.

A representative for IOP, which publishes JSTAT, told us they had nothing to add to the retraction notice.

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Written by Victoria Stern

May 15th, 2017 at 9:30 am

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