Chemist: “corresponding author should answer” questions regarding retracted papers

We have an update to our coverage of the retractions involving papers from a group of researchers in Iran that were published in Computational and Theoretical Chemistry (formerly called the Journal of Molecular Structure: THEOCHEM)

Although we have not received a response from the first author of those studies, Siavash Riahi, one author, Mohammad Reza Ganjali, of the Center of Excellence in Electrochemistry at the University of Tehran, sent us a lengthy comment recently. We post his remarks in their entirety here, unedited:

Dear retraction watch team

First of all, I would like to congratulate your site for providing such important and helpful information about the articles for academic societies.

However, I was deeply disappointed and sad when I saw your comment which was recently publish entitled: ”the purpose of keeping these retraction notices slim is not to produce too much detail” about our group research in your weblog. Therefore, I have to discuss some points about it.

1- Our main research group have been worked and specialized in electrochemistry area for more than 20 years, and in some cases collaborate with other research groups, in parts that need experimental electrochemical data (such as Riahi group, who works theoretical research). Consequently, we are not responsible about the outcome of their work, and I think it was not fair at all, to use words such as tantalizingly cryptic or fabricated data or … , which can induce a negative image about us. Besides, you may know that in all over the world in an interdisciplinary research works, each author is responsible of a part of the work, in which he is more expert on it. The authors of such joint works should trust to each other to do a useful work.

2. Due to this fact that our research group works in different fields such as design and construction of new electrochemical techniques and devices, microsensors, nanomaterials, electrosynthesis, biophysics, biochemistry, optodes, computational chemistry and chemometrics. Some members of our team are export in their field, and have been collaborated with many journals as editors and referees, for a long period of time. Therefore, such unjustified and harsh judgment about our article may harm the trust and the reputation of your weblog among the scientific communities that see your website.

3. About these retractions, the corresponding author should answer. As it is obvious, I am not expert in chemometrics methods. Also, If the retraction notices had been “pretty slim”, why the journal have not asked for more reasons.

Second, I have not received any email from you and the editor of THEOCHEM, yet. So, mention such comment, was not appropriate act, since you had not known about the accomplishment of the mail delivery.

Finally, I hope you don’t consider the above comments criticizing your weblog, and consider them as our response to protect our reputation and honest work among scientific communities. We have to defend our scientific research group who work under very difficult political, economical conditions for having a small contribution in the knowledge production of the world. And I am sure that you understand the situation and helping us in this manner.

Mohammad Reza Ganjali

Professor in Analytical Chemistry

We thank Prof. Ganjali for taking the time to write to us. We think that, perhaps inadvertently, he makes our point for us. As we have noted, one casualty of uninformative retraction notices is, well, knowing what went wrong with a paper. Implicit in such statements is the farcical notion that any researcher who wants to learn why a paper was retracted needs to investigate the case him or herself. Want an explanation? Contact the authors.

Indeed, we think think these content-free notices exist precisely to protect authors and journals; they certainly don’t help the scientific community.

0 thoughts on “Chemist: “corresponding author should answer” questions regarding retracted papers”

  1. I think there is another point to be made as well. Dr. Ganjali writes that he is not an expert in the field and therefore, even as a co-author, could not detect fraud generated by his collaborators. I am not a chemist, so I cannot comment on that, but in my ethics training (required of all graduate students when I was working toward my PhD in biomedical sciences) we learned that authors are responsible for all work in a paper. I would not sign my name to a paper if I could not explain to an outsider the data in all of the figures. I understand – as the examples from this site demonstrate quite clearly – that a co-worker can really pull the wool over your eyes. It is unfortunate that collaborators can lie and cheat to your face. But I do believe that all authors are at least somewhat responsible.

  2. @LNV, I don’t agree with you. I think authors need to be familiar with their contributions, but in multi-disciplinary work it is completely unrealistic for all authors to be familiar with all the work. In addition, in the case of fabrication, I would not expect all the authors to be held liable because it is unreasonable. I think that is the conclusion in the Responsible Conduct of Research Training (RCR) mandated by the major funding agencies (NIH, NSF).

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