Nearly identical twins: European Respiratory Journal retracts asthma in pregnancy paper similar to another by same group

The European Respiratory Journal (ERJ) is retracting a paper about whether mothers with asthma are more likely to have poor birth outcomes, after the journal found it overlapped with an earlier paper by the same group. The ERJ paper was published online on June 18, 2010.

The retraction notice said only that

Following an editorial decision, this article has been retracted from publication in the European Respiratory Journal.

ERJ editor in chief Anh Tuan Dinh-Xuan tells Retraction Watch that the journal decided to retract the paper “mainly based on the fact that a similar paper using the same database coming from the same group of authors has been recently published in another respiratory journal, namely Respiratory Medicine (Firoozi et al. Respir Med 2010; 104: 1278-1287),” in April 2010.

The Respiratory Medicine study’s title was “Effect of maternal moderate to severe asthma on perinatal outcomes,” while the ERJ title was “Impact of maternal asthma on perinatal outcomes.”

Dinh-Xuan took great pains to say he had no reason to think the overlap was intentional:

Although the two papers were not exactly identical, there were overlaps between the two papers, and more importantly, the authors have failed to mention the existence of a closely related paper, using the same cohort of patients, and being submitted to another journal.We do not say whether this was intentional or simply due to a misunderstanding of our journal’s policy, but the fact that the authors have failed to report (either to us or to the chief editor of Respiratory Medicine) of this almost concomitant submission of two very closely related papers was real and undisputable.

Based on what we now consider as a lack of appropriate information related to their paper that we had at the time when we peer-reviewed it, we have now decided to reverse our decision, and to retract the publication of their paper.

Please understand that we did not question the scientific integrity of these esteemed colleagues by making this decision. Rather we have felt that important information about their research work was not (maybe unintentionally) made known to us. As a consequence, our initial decision to accept their manuscript was biased by our ignorance of this important information, and therefore can no longer be considered as valid.

We now have no choice but sadly invalidate our initial decision to accept their work in the ERJ, and consequently retract their paper.

We couldn’t reach the corresponding author of the ERJ paper, but will update if we hear anything back.

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