Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

When publishers mess up, why do authors pay the price?

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Springer has retracted two papers, which appeared online earlier this year in different journals, after discovering both were published by mistake.

A spokesperson at Springer explained that the retractions are “due to a human error.”

According to one of the retraction notices, published in Archive for Mathematical Logic, the paper had not yet undergone peer review and the author plans to resubmit his paper to the journal. The other retraction notice, published in Arabian Journal of Geosciences, simply states that an “error in the submission system” is to blame. Unfortunately, in both cases the authors now have a retraction on their record, seemingly through no fault of their own.

Neither notice indicates what publisher glitches led to the premature publications. We asked the spokesperson for clarity, but she did not elaborate. When asked whether Springer has made changes to prevent these errors from happening again, the spokesperson said:

Misunderstandings such as these occur very seldom. All parties involved in the review process have been alerted to take care when administering the manuscript submission system.

Here’s the retraction notice for the Archive for Mathematical Logic paper, “A completeness theorem for continuous predicate modal logic:

The Editor-in-Chief is retracting this article because it was published in error before undergoing peer review. The author agrees with this retraction and will be resubmitting his manuscript for review. The Editor-in-Chief apologizes to the author and to readers. The online version of this article contains the full text of the retracted article as electronic supplementary material.

Here’s the notice for “Physiological comparative study of six wild grapevine (Vitis sylvestris) accession responses to salinity,” published in Arabian Journal of Geosciences:

The above-mentioned article is retracted at the request of the Editor-in-Chief in consultation with the Senior Publishing Editor per the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) guidelines on scientific misconduct.

The Editor in Chief has retracted this article because it was mistakenly published due to an error in the submission system. The authors agree with the retraction.

“Publisher errors,” not “retractions?”

The spokesperson explained both retractions were due to human error, adding:

However, the retractions are unrelated in that they concern completely different journals with no overlap in terms of users of the submission system.

We asked the spokesperson why the Arabian Journal of Geosciences notice mentions “scientific misconduct”—whether “misconduct” refers to the COPE guidelines language or whether misconduct occurred; she simply said:

The decision was made per the COPE guidelines to also mention scientific misconduct in the retraction note.

We contacted the corresponding authors for both papers to ask about their reactions to the publisher error and retraction—one declined to comment and the other didn’t respond.

We’ve seen other examples of publisher glitches that have led to retractions. Elsevier, for instance, recently retracted an entire issue after publishing it online by mistake.

Our co-founder Ivan Oransky and Adam Etkin, executive editor at Springer Publishing Co (unrelated to Springer Nature) argued last year that a retraction, even when the publisher is to blame, can still hurt a researcher’s career — consequently, they suggest calling these “publisher errors,” not “retractions.”

We asked the publisher whether it considered another option, given the consequences a retraction might have on a researcher’s publishing record. The spokesperson said:

It is our duty to protect the scientific record. It was necessary to retract these articles to ensure the accuracy of our scientific literature.

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Written by Victoria Stern

December 5th, 2017 at 8:00 am

Comments
  • Prof. Chukwuemeka Chucks Agbakwuru December 10, 2017 at 7:11 am

    Certain mistakes should not be punishable by law especially when the subject is discovered not be a direct defaulter and must not be held responsible for an identified error. However, Authors and Publishers must be careful in their individual roles to avoid costly mistakes that could lead to extraction of papers. The Author in this circumstance should be allowed to resubmit his paper for proper review and publishing.

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