How much plagiarism should editors tolerate? A poll

Photo by captain.tucker via flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/russell300d/

Over the past few weeks, you’d have been forgiven for wondering if the name of this blog should be “Plagiarism Watch” instead of Retraction Watch. Just take a look at all of the recent plagiarism cases:

That last example inspired this poll. When we brought an example of likely plagiarism by the same author to the attention of one journal editor, he was nonplussed. “[A]s all editors know there are rarely absolutely clear cut issues in which the line is unequivocally drawn in the sand,” said the editor-in-chief of Biomaterials, David Williams of Wake Forest. (Williams also suggested that the relative obscurity of the plagiarizers’ institution, and of the journal where they published, meant the case wasn’t worth investigating.)

So where is that line in the sand? Take our poll:

Update on a Best Of retraction: Elsevier edits notice suggesting renaming Israel “historical Palestine” was political

About two months ago, we posted an item on a curious retraction as the first installment in our Best of Retractions series. In the notice of the retraction in Agricultural Water Management, the editor wrote:

Reason: During the second revision of the manuscript, the authors modified Figure 1 (changing the label from “Israel” to  “Historical Palestine”), apparently with the goal of inserting a political statement into a scientific journal article. The authors did not inform the editors or the publisher of this change in their manuscript. As such, the authors have not lived up to the standards of trust and integrity that form the foundation of the peer-review process. The Editors-in-Chief take a very strong view on this matter and, hence, the retraction of the article from publication in Agricultural Water Management.

As Pieter van der Zaag, one of the paper’s authors informed us over the weekend in a comment on that post, however, the phrase “apparently with the goal of inserting a political statement into a scientific journal article” has now been removed from the notice. We asked van der Zaag, of the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, for some more information. Here are his comments: Continue reading Update on a Best Of retraction: Elsevier edits notice suggesting renaming Israel “historical Palestine” was political

After misrepresentation allegations, German anesthesiologist Joachim Boldt out as hospital’s chief physician

Ludwigshafen Hospital, via Wikimedia http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Klinikum_Ludwigshafen_Nordseite.jpg

Joachim Boldt, a leading German anesthesiologist who had a 2009 paper in Anesthesia & Analgesia retracted last month* amid allegations  that he had misrepresented parts of the study, has been relieved of his duties as chief physician at Ludwigshafen Hospital.

A press release from the German Society for Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine (DGAI) condemns Boldt’s actions. The press release goes on (translated from German): Continue reading After misrepresentation allegations, German anesthesiologist Joachim Boldt out as hospital’s chief physician

Update on Ahluwalia fraud case: Researcher faked results, probably committed sabotage, says UCL

Earlier this month, we posted an item about the retraction of a 2004 Nature paper, “The large-conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channel is essential for innate immunity.” (That post was followed up with provocative comments from a researcher not affiliated with the authors, about what should happen to papers whose results can’t be replicated.)

One of the paper’s authors, Jatinder Ahluwalia, hadn’t signed the retraction, and the notice referred to “Supplementary Information” that hadn’t yet been made available. Today, University College London (UCL) posted that supplementary information, which was the report of a panel that investigated charges of research misconduct against Ahluwalia. That report fills in a lot of details about what preceded the retraction.

Here’s the story: Continue reading Update on Ahluwalia fraud case: Researcher faked results, probably committed sabotage, says UCL

Plagiarists plagiarized: A daisy chain of retractions at Anesthesia & Analgesia

Self-plagiarism alert: A very similar version of this post is being published online in Anesthesiology News, where one of us (AM) is managing editor.

If a plagiarist plagiarizes from an author who herself has plagiarized, do we call it a wash and go for a beer?

That scenario is precisely what Steven L. Shafer found himself facing recently. Shafer, editor-in-chief of Anesthesia & Analgesia (A&A), learned that authors of a 2008 case report in his publication had lifted two-and-a-half paragraphs of text from a 2004 paper published in the Canadian Journal of Anesthesia.

A contrite retraction letter, which appears in the December issue of A&A, from the lead author, Sushma Bhatnagar, of New Delhi, India, called the plagiarism “unintended” and apologized for the incident. Straightforward enough.

But then things get sticky. Continue reading Plagiarists plagiarized: A daisy chain of retractions at Anesthesia & Analgesia

Do peer reviewers get worse with experience? Plus a poll

Peer review isn’t a core subject of this blog. We leave that to the likes of Nature’s Peer-to-Peer, or even the Dilbert Blog.  But it seems relevant to look at the peer review process for any clues about how retracted papers are making their way into press.

We’re not here to defend peer review against its many critics. We have the same feelings about it that Churchill did about democracy, aka the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried. Of course, a good number of the retractions we write about are due to misconduct, and it’s not clear how peer review, no matter how good, would detect out-and-out fraud.

Still, peer review is meant as a barrier between low-quality papers and publication, and it often comes up when critics ask questions such as, “How did that paper ever get through peer review?”

With that in mind, a paper published last week in the Annals of Emergency Medicine caught our eye. Continue reading Do peer reviewers get worse with experience? Plus a poll

Another update on Anil Potti: Co-author asks Nature Medicine to retract paper

courtesy Nature

Anil Potti, who resigned from his post at Duke today during an investigation into faked results, will likely have another retraction to his credit shortly. According to a Duke statement:

Dr. Potti’s collaborator, Joseph Nevins, Ph.D., has initiated a process intended to lead to a retraction request regarding a paper previously published in Nature Medicine.  This process has been initiated due to concerns about the reproducibility of reported predictors, and their possible effect on the overall conclusions in this paper.  Other papers published based on this science are currently being reviewed for any concerns. Continue reading Another update on Anil Potti: Co-author asks Nature Medicine to retract paper

Duke’s Anil Potti resigns

Duke University photo

Duke’s Anil Potti, the Duke cancer researcher who falsely claimed to be a Rhodes Scholar and may have faked several analyses of chemotherapy and cancer, has resigned from the university.

The Duke Chronicle reports that Potti

…stepped down from his position at Duke’s Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy Friday and took responsibility for the problems in his research, IGSP Director Huntington Willard wrote in an e-mail to IGSP staff.

Willard wrote that Potti “accepted full responsibility for a series of anomalies in data handling, analysis and management that have come under scrutiny in the past months.”

He said that investigations into Potti’s research will continue, as will IGSP’s examinations of Potti’s science.

The resignation follows the retraction earlier this week of one paper Potti co-authored in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

We’ll update as we learn more.

Please see an update about a second paper now being retracted by one of Potti’s co-authors.

“What were you thinking? Do not manipulate those data”

The title of this post is stolen, with adoring attribution, from a piece in the November 16, 2010 issue of Autophagy, because we couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

In the piece, the journal’s editor, Dan Klionsky, focuses on images. It reads, in part: Continue reading “What were you thinking? Do not manipulate those data”

JCO makes it official, retracting paper co-authored by Anil Potti

We have a follow-up to our post two weeks ago about a possible retraction in the case of Anil Potti, the Duke cancer researcher who falsely claimed to be a Rhodes Scholar and may have also faked an analysis of how breast cancer responds to chemotherapy.

In that post, we noted that the Raleigh News & Observer had reported that one of Potti’s collaborators, Duke’s Joseph Nevins, had requested that a 2007 paper they co-authored be retracted. The journal told us this morning that the retraction went live yesterday. In it, the authors write: Continue reading JCO makes it official, retracting paper co-authored by Anil Potti