Physics retraction as rogue authors add six colleagues to a paper they didn’t write

Forged authorship — in which researchers add the names of people who’ve had nothing to do with a paper, either to boost its chance of being published, pay tribute (in a misguided way), or both — has become a common theme at Retraction Watch. But we’re pretty sure we haven’t seen a case involving as many faked authors as a now-retracted paper in Europhysics Letters. Here’s the notice:

This is a Retraction for the article 2011 EPL 96 37003

Withdrawal of the paper “Strain-induced ferroelectricity in KTaO3 thin films” by C. Filipič, V. Bobnar, Z. Kutnjak, S. Glinšek, B. Kužnik, B. Malič, M. Kosec and A. Levstik (EPL, 96 (2011) 37003)

This paper has been formally withdrawn on ethical grounds because six of the co-authors listed (V. Bobnar, Z. Kutnjak, S. Glinšek, B. Kužnik, B. Malič, M. Kosec) had no knowledge or discussion of the content of the article, nor had given permission for it to be submitted, nor had given approval for inclusion of their names as co-authors.

EPL submission policy states quite clearly that: “If several persons are listed as authors, the corresponding author takes full responsibility that the co-authors agree with the submission and further processing of the manuscript.” It is unfortunate that this misconduct was not detected before going to press. My thanks to the scientists named above for bringing this fact to my attention.

Levstik, one of the two authors who did actually know about the paper, and Bobnar, one of those who didn’t, had written at least one other paper together in Europhysics Letters, “Relaxor freezing and electric-field–induced ferroelectric transition in a lanthanum lead zirconate titanate ceramics.” That paper was the subject of a correction, apparently due to publisher error:

Due to an unpleasant inconvenience, in figure 1 the word “relaxor” has been twice misprinted as “relaxator”. We publish here the correct figure, sincerely apologizing to the authors.

We’ve tried to contact several of the authors of the retracted paper, as well as the Institute of Physics executive editor who signed the retraction notice, and we’ll update with anything we hear back.

Hat tip: Eoin Butler

2 thoughts on “Physics retraction as rogue authors add six colleagues to a paper they didn’t write”

  1. Aren’t they supposed to get an email about their name being added as co-authors during the publication process? Unless he forged the emails as well…

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