When is asparagus not asparagus? Why, when it’s ginger, of course!

Asparagus and ginger (and other ingredients) living happily together (via Beck/Flickr)

Allow us to explain that headline.

Food Science & Nutrition has retracted a 2018 article by a group of researchers in China and Pakistan for plagiarism. The article was titled “Experimentally investigated the asparagus (Asparagus officinalis L.) drying with flat-plate collector under the natural convection indirect solar dryer.”  

Per the retraction notice:

The retraction has been agreed at the authors’ request due to unattributed overlap between this article and the following article published in the Journal of Mechanical Engineering and Sciences, “Analysis of ginger drying inside a natural convection indirect solar dryer: An experimental study” by S. K. Sansaniwal and M. Kumar, Volume 9, pp. 1671-1685.

Although most people think of asparagus as the vegetable that leaves its olfactory mark on urine, that’s selling the speary produce way short. Consider (from the now-retracted paper by Fahim Ullah et al):

Asparagus is an important ingredient of the food with high nutritional value and has become a compulsory item in the kitchen (Bhagat & Lawankar, 2012). It is not only used to add food palatability, but it is also widely used in medicines, bakery products, wine and meat products, a toiletry product, etc. (Denis & Mikulic-Petkovsek, 2017). Asparagus is the most important cash crop of the world, cultivated in China, Pakistan, Indian [sic], Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Japan, and Indonesia.

To which we can say only: Who knew?

Also from the paper is this sentence:

From the literature, it was observed that the Asparagus should be dried from its average initial moisture content of 89% to the final moisture content of 8% …

Which sounds a lot like this sentence from the Sansaniwal article:

From the literature, it is observed that the ginger should be dried from its average initial moisture content of 89% to the final moisture content of 8%

Curiously, the now-retracted FS&N paper cites two other studies, both by Ullah et al, for that statement — yet they involve guava and figs, not asparagus — whereas the Sansaniwal article cites a 2006 study about ginger drying by Fudholi which appeared in the International Journal of Green Energy.  

The conclusions of the two articles are pretty much identical. From the asparagus paper:

The research reported in this study includes the evaluation of convective heat transfer coefficient, moisture removing rate, and collector efficiency for the different mass of asparagus samples under natural convection indirect solar drying mode. For analyzing the data with the help of linear regression method, we used Nusselt number expression. The following observations and conclusions have been made:

And, from the ginger paper:

The research reported in this paper includes the evaluation of convective heat transfer coefficient, moisture removing rate and collector efficiency for different mass of ginger samples under natural convection indirect solar drying mode. The experimental data were analysed by using Nusselt number expression with the help of linear regression method.

Both papers then list a series of bullet points  — which again are virtually identical. For example:

Asparagus:

  • Convective heat transfer coefficient was reported to vary from 1.78 to 4.74 W/m2 °C for 78 numbers asparagus samples, while 0.59 to 5.42 W/m2 °C noted for 48 numbers of asparagus samples.

And

  • The experimental errors were evaluated in terms of percent uncertainty ranging from 29.19% to 46.25%.

Ginger:

  • i) The average values of convective heat transfer coefficient were reported to vary from 1.78 to 4.74 W/m2̊  ̊C and 0.59 to 5.42 W/m2 ̊C for 78 and 48 numbers of ginger samples respectively.

  • vi) The experimental errors were evaluated in terms of percent uncertainty ranging from 29.19 to 46.25%.

Not the first retraction

Sansaniwal told us that he noticed the plagiarism and brought it to the attention of the editors. He also noted that the new retraction isn’t the first for the group, either. In July, Desalination pulled a 2018 paper titled “Performance analysis of solar water distillation cum drying unit with the assessment of Flat Plate Solar Collector:”

As the notice explains:

This article has been retracted at the request of corresponding author as he was told that it plagiarized the paper titled ‘Experimental investigation of a solar water distillation-cum-drying unit’ by Himanshu Manchanda & Mahesh Kumar (DOI: 10.1080/15435075.2016.1261706) published in International Journal of Green Energy, 2017, 14:4, 385-394. On comparison of the papers, it appeared that there had been plagiarism.

The paper was also submitted to a different journal at the same time by the first author. The corresponding author therefore asked for the paper to be retracted which has been agreed by the Editor-in-Chief and Handling Editor of the paper.

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One thought on “When is asparagus not asparagus? Why, when it’s ginger, of course!”

  1. If I were a cynic I’d say the editor of this open access journal was only interested in collecting the publication fee, and never even bothered to read this paper much less send it out for peer review.

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