Obfuscation watch: Self-plagiarism (we think) leads to retraction of nanorod paper in Applied Physics Letters

C. P. Snow famously bemoaned the gulf between science and the humanities. The following retraction might be the sort of thing that would have given the physicist-cum-author fits for its estrangement from the English language.

Writing in the latest issue of Applied Physics Letters, a team from China Singapore and MIT appear to be confessing a case of self-plagiarism in their 2005 paper, “Growth of single crystal ZnO nanorods on GaN using an aqueous solution method: (we added a link to the earlier paper)”

The above article, published in Applied Physics Letters, has originally reported the growth of ZnO nanorods on GaN using hydrothermal synthesis without any catalyst. Some initial results, including scanning electron microscopy, x-ray diffraction, photoluminescence, and transmission electron microscopy were also discussed in the article. After a few months, we wrote another paper, i.e., Ref. 1. In this paper, we explored in more detail the properties of ZnO nanorods. However, there are some overlapping parts which included the introduction and Figs. (4 out of 12 figures). This unintentional negligence in repetitive data extraction and omission of cross reference to the published experimental results, leading to the unexpected ambiguities and inconveniences to the readers, have constituted the authors full obligation to apologize and to spontaneously retract the above article to uphold the publication protocol.

Now, we certainly commend the researchers for their eagerness to atone, but why do so in such a pretzelific way? As if the properties of ZnO nanorods (zinc oxide) on GaN (gallium nitride) and hydrothermal synthesis didn’t already generate unexpected ambiguities and inconveniences to the reader!

Why not simply say: “We inadvertently used some of the same data and figures without proper attribution in two publications”?

Unless, of course, you’re trying to make this look like something other than self-plagiarism.

We contacted the authors of the study, and the journal’s editors, and will update with anything we hear back.

0 thoughts on “Obfuscation watch: Self-plagiarism (we think) leads to retraction of nanorod paper in Applied Physics Letters”

  1. Errr seems like there’s a gulf between the physical and biomedical sciences too – what’s inconveniencing about ZnO nanorods or hydrothermal synthesis (clue – it involves heat and water…)?!

    And there’s a pretty big physical gulf called the South China Sea between Singapore, where the authors actually are from, and China, where you’ve put them!

    (Is there an emoticon that signifies good-natured joshing, rather than hysterical “someone’s wrong on the internet” shrieking? If so, please mentally insert it here!)

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