Bugging out: An opaque retraction notice reveals why an entomology journal only looks dark

We hope it doesn’t bug Retraction Watch readers that we’ve been writing about entomology more than usual this week. That’s because a reliable tipster has been sending us material that checks out.  Here’s another case, of a retraction that appeared some months ago in Entomological News. The retraction notice itself revealed little, but we did learn why the journal hasn’t published an issue in more than a year.

Here’s the notice:


Yufeng Ding, G. Guofu, and P. Shiping

The paper “A new species of Pachyotoma Bagnall, 1949 (Collembola: Isotomidae)” was originally published in Entomological News 118(5): 512-516.

The authors have informed me that they wish to retract this paper because of the false information in the paper.

David J. Horn, Editor, Entomological News

Here’s more information about Pachyotoma bagnall, and an Isotomidae family album. We asked Horn by email about the “false information” in the paper. He responded:

I do not know the circumstances of the retraction other than what was published in Entomological News.  One of the authors (Ding) asked to retract the paper and his rationale was repeated verbatim in print.  If you want more information I suggest that you contact the author.

We’ve tried to do that, to no avail. And given what Horn said in the rest of the email, we’ll cut him some slack, but we should note that we think editors should stand by retraction notices as much as they stand by studies. Now as to the long delay in publishing issues of Entomological News. Was the site — wait for it — just being buggy?

My own involvement was compromised somewhat in that I am new to editing Entomological News and I was not involved in processing the original paper.  Moreover the records I received were in some disarray.
That is also an explanation for the tardiness of Entomological News — we are still in business and slightly less than a year behind in our publication schedule.  Between what I was given and my relative inexperience in actual production (formatting for the printer, etc.) Ent. News is slow to catch up but we will do it.


8 thoughts on “Bugging out: An opaque retraction notice reveals why an entomology journal only looks dark”

  1. “…but we should note that we think editors should stand by retraction notices as much as they stand by studies. “

    I’m not sure that I understand this. Yes, it would have been nice if Horn could have gotten more info from the author about the retraction, but is Horn not suppose to retract it until he does? That would be a very uncomfortable situation, wouldn’t it?

    1. Thanks for the opportunity to clarify. We certainly didn’t mean Horn should have waited to retract until he had more information. But we think he should have gotten more information, and if he couldn’t, indicate that he was trying in the notice. We think the current notice leaves the scientific record incomplete in important ways.

  2. Entomological News was previously run by a quite reasonable person, editor-in-chief Santiago-Blay. Apparently there has been some crisis and the periodical stood for a while completely orphaned. Let us just hope this new master of the house Horn does a good job.

    About the lack of transparency, I think it pertains the area of Zoology as a whole. Most zoologists have a passionate-amateur approach to their jobs and do not like being investigated or enquired. The whole area (and pertaining periodicals) must realise the Victorian days are long past and that they now are sponsored by tax-payers. Their finds now are the business of common people, thus they have to get transparent and open to the inspection of any tax-payer, what to say of other scientist fellows.

    Not a good start for Dr Horn, but he might get the handle of it. Entomological News has to adapt to modern science.

  3. Perhaps Dr Horn did the best he could with the information that was available to him, a difficult situation especially considering that he is new to the post. You did indicate that some unspecified communication from him led you to “cut him some slack” which is, I think, appropriate. I, also, think that it would have been a lot clearer, to state in the retraction notice that the statement given came from the authors and that “due to circumstances beyond my control” no further information was available. Or that he had attempted to obtain additional information but it was not forthcoming. Or something that made it clear that he had tried.
    Interesting note by @Mr. M imparting inside knowledge on the mindset of zoologists; wonder how other disciplines treat the issue?

    1. Thanks. Just to clarify, “the rest of the email” referred to what we published in the rest of the post. It was not “some unspecified communication” that we were withholding from readers.

    2. In fact I do not even what could have gone wrong (they made up the species/drawings?) and how Zoologists will face a species description retraction. Usually taxons are dropped because of synonym descriptions, which is a formal, zoological equivalent of a retraction that happens all the time in the best of families (both senses). This is unprecedented to my experience.

      And the way the paper got retracted only adds to the mystery. Were good ol’ Dr Gould still among us he would certainly investigate further.

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