Duplication earns German HIV researchers a retraction, and a 3-year publishing ban

An HIV researcher in Germany has run afoul of a number of journals because he duplicated his papers in multiple outlets.

The funny business by Ulrich Hengge earned him a 3-year ban on publishing in two journals, the Journal of Molecular Medicine (JMM) and Cells, Tissues and Organs (CTO). (We’ve written about publishing bans — which appear to be fairly rare — before.)

Those journals also sanctioned one of his co-authors, Alireza Mirmohammadsadegh. The JMM’s managing editor, Christiane Nolte, told us by email:

…we imposed a ban on the authors to publish in our journal, because we felt the 2002 paper was a clear case of redundant publication.

We did not retract the paper in JMolMed, because the redundant publication is the one in Cell Tissue Organs (Mirmohammadsadegh et al. Reaction of Keratinocytes to exogeneous DNA. CTO 172:86-95). Although submitted almost simultaneously (CTO submission 10 days after JMolMed) , the study in JMolMed came out first. Thus, the CTO Journal needs to consider a retraction.

Here’s a rough translation, from German, of part of an email CTO Hans-Werner Denker sent to Hengge and Mirmohammadsadegh that was obtained by Retraction Watch. The editor was none too pleased with the authors’ behavior:

The facts and the specific objections of the editorial offices of both magazines are known to you from the previous correspondence. The main aspects: Both articles are written in the style of original communications and submitted practically simultaneously, to JMM just 10 days before CTO. Both contain the same data and images as well as virtually identical text. The CTO article contains three additional figures with relevant data…The fact that the CTO’s article was published in a special issue (which was based in turn on a conference)…does not alter the character of this paper…

Meanwhile, there has been extensive correspondence between the two editorial offices on this matter. I am very sorry that your responses to our inquiries have revealed no apparent factors that would defuse the issue. The fact that one of the works was submitted 10 days earlier, and that the other contains three additional pictures and data, is not an argument for treating them differently.

As editor of CTO I think it is appropriate to decide in a similar manner as the editor of JMM. We feel compelled to sanction the authors with a three-year embargo on submissions starting now…

I would like to add that I am personally very disappointed with both the incident itself as well as the low interest shown by you in this regard.

It’s not clear if the CTO will retract the paper.

Hengge has also been forced into one retraction so far, in HIV Clinical Trials, also for duplication:

The article, Hengge UR, Stocks K, Faulkner S, et al. Oxymetholone for the treatment of HIV-­wasting: a double-­blind, randomized, placebo-­controlled phase III trial in eugonadal men and women.” HIV Clin Trials. 2003; 4(3):150-­‐163, was a redundant publication. It originally appeared as, Hengge UR, Stocks K, Wiehler H, et al. Double‐blind, randomized, placebo-‐controlled phase III trial of oxymetholone for the treatment of HIV wasting. AIDS. 2003,17:699-­‐710.

Another journal, Elsevier’s Clinics in Dermatology, will be retracting a 2005 paper by Hengge that had significant overlap with a 2004 one in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

We heard from Denker, but he wasn’t all that forthcoming — at least, not about the subject. Evidently, Retraction Watch is not high on his list of reading material:

I strongly support being vigilant with respect to any cases of scientific misconduct including duplicate publishing, and our journal Cells Tissues Organs is committed to the highest scholarly standards. To keep scientific and ethical standards up is and must remain within the responsibility of the individual journals, I feel. On the other hand I am skeptical about any role that a new branch of journalism can have when specializing in reporting on details of cases of scientific misconduct. For such a journalism it must be difficult to remain distinct from the rainbow press we already have for the broader public. Rather than accusing people I personally prefer to try giving a positive example.

5 thoughts on “Duplication earns German HIV researchers a retraction, and a 3-year publishing ban”

  1. I think Denker makes the same mistake as many others do when learning of a retraction: it must be misconduct.

    Personally, I consider a (clear) retraction of clearly erroneous papers a very positive example!

  2. RetractionWatch: Please ignore Denker’s comparison with Regenbogenpresse. Your site has been invaluable to bring into focus the gray between misconduct, willful sloppiness, oversight, and honest mistake.

    Editor Denker: Please visit RetractionWatch regularly to better understand the gray between misconduct, willful sloppiness, oversight, and honest mistake.

  3. Retraction notice for Clinics in Dermatology
    Volume 23, Issue 1 , Pages 107-114, January 2005

    Appears here:


    RETRACTED: Progress and prospects of skin gene therapy: a ten year history

    * Ulrich R. Hengge, MD
    o Corresponding Author InformationTel. +49 211 811 8066; fax: +49 211 811 8830.
    email address

    Department of Dermatology, Heinrich-Heine-University, D-40225 Duesseldorf, Germany

    This article has been retracted: please see Elsevier Policy on Article Withdrawal (http://www.elsevier.com/locate/withdrawalpolicy).

    This contribution has been retracted at the request of the editor as it duplicates significant parts of a paper that had already appeared in an earlier paper published in a different journal, namely:

    ‘Gene Therapy and the Skin’ in Am. J. Med. Genet. A, 131C (2004) 93–100, doi:10.002/ajmg.c.30038

    One of the conditions of submission of a paper for publication is that authors declare explicitly that the paper is original. Re-use of any data should be appropriately cited. As such this contribution represents a severe abuse of the scientific publishing system. The scientific community takes a very strong view on this matter and apologies are offered to readers of the Journal that this was not detected during the submission process.

    It had been cited 15 times according to Google Scolar (1st March 2012).

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