A pharmacy journal has retracted a 2017 cancer paper after determining that the lead author forged her co-author’s signature.
Alain Li Wan Po, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, told Retraction Watch that, after discovering the forgery, the journal lost confidence in “the integrity of the whole report,” and decided to retract it:
Our judgment was that if an author is willing to forge a signature, we cannot be sure of the integrity of the whole report and decided on the retraction.
According to Po, the paper’s lead author, Yan Wang, objected to the retraction because “she maintained that the data were accurate.” So the editors retracted the paper without her approval — but with the agreement of the author Jatinder Lamba, whose name was forged.
How did the journal discover the forged signature?
According to the retraction notice, after the paper was submitted in August and accepted by the journal, Wang asked the journal to remove a third author (a junior researcher, the editor told us) from the paper “because of insufficient contribution.” Po agreed to drop the third author as long as all three authors signed the request, which they did. Or so it seemed.
(We have seen a case where an author added the name of a prominent author using a fake email to get the paper accepted, then withdrew it during proof stage. This also isn’t the first time an author has allegedly forged someone’s signature.)
“Influence of genetic variants of IDH1, IDH2, TET2 and DNMT3A on cytarabine cytotoxicity in different populations,” which explored the toxicity of a leukemia drug in people with specific genetic variations, was published last November with two authors—Wang and Lamba.
But after the paper was published, Lamba notified Po that she knew nothing about it. The paper lists Lamba’s email and affiliation at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, but Lamba has been working at the University of Florida, Gainesville, since July 2014. The journal had sent all correspondences to Lamba’s former email, which she no longer had access to, Po explained. Lamba had not seen the version submitted to the journal, which she said was missing additional co-authors.
We reached out to Lamba and Wang—who works at Affiliated Hospital of Xuzhou Medical University in Jiangsu, China—for further clarification, but they have not replied.
Po told us:
As editors we rely heavily on the integrity of the authors. Without this, true data verification is almost impossible, and certainly well beyond the resources we can apply. We also rely heavily on lead authors’ assessments of the contribution of co-authors. In this instance, we had lost confidence in what she said.
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