Journal reverses retractions, says apparent citation manipulation was “an innocent and honest mistake”

A journal that retracted three papers earlier this year because of concerns that one of the authors had asked conference presenters to cite them has republished the articles, saying that it has “inconclusive evidence of improper behavior.”

In February, we reported that the Journal of Vibroengineering had retracted three papers by Magd Abdel Wahab, of Ghent University in Belgium. Wahab had chaired a recent conference, and as we reported then, almost three-quarters of papers that cited Wahab’s three papers originated from the conference. Journal editor Minvydas Ragulskis told us that was “large enough to assume a high probability for citation manipulation.”

At the time, Wahab told us the papers would be republished. And it turns that they were, not long after our original post. There is no explanation on the papers themselves, just a “Republished Paper” in front of the three titles, and an editorial note that is not linked, as best we can tell, from any of the papers.

Along with the citation data the investigation was based on, that note explains that:

  • Journal of Vibroengineering has inconclusive evidence of improper behavior by Prof. Magd Abdel Wahab.

  • Journal of Vibroengineering has conclusive evidence of an innocent and honest mistake by Prof. Magd Abdel Wahab.

  • All three retracted papers are scientifically sound – all of them passed the anti-plagiarism check, peer review, and several rounds of revisions. Not a slight doubt about the scientific correctness of all three papers.

    Wahab tells Retraction Watch:

The articles were retracted due to misunderstanding and without investigation. After investigation, it was clear that there was nothing wrong with the articles and therefore they were republished.

It’s an unusual case. As we noted in February,

Citation manipulation is a problem in the literature, no doubt—but not typically a cause for retraction (and not mentioned in the retraction guidelines issued by the Committee on Publication Ethics).

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