Mighty molten powder researchers publish paper in journal twice, months apart

A group of French researchers liked their paper on the properties of molten tin so much they published it twice. In the same journal. Four months apart.

The article, “Nitrogen spray atomization of molten tin metal: Powder morphology characteristics,” first appeared online in the January 2007 issue of the Journal of Materials Processing Technology. That one has been cited four times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

In May 2007, the same group, sans two authors, published a paper online in the JMPT (and in January 2008 in print) with the identical title. That article — which managed to get cited three times — has now been retracted:

This article has been retracted at the request of the Editors-in-Chief as it is a duplicate of a paper that has already been published in J. Mater. Process. Technol., 189 (2007) 132–137, doi:10.1016/j.jmatprotec.2007.01.014. One of the conditions of submission of a paper for publication is that authors declare explicitly that the paper is not under consideration for publication elsewhere. As such this article 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.

Not much to say about this, although we’d love to hear a convincing explanation for how two completely identical papers from the same research team might make it into print in less time than it normally takes a single paper to be reviewed, accepted and published. We’re also curious why the notice was silent on the authorship issue.

We posed those questions to A. Erman Tekkaya, one of two editors-in-chief of the JMPT. He told us that the publication had recently undergone a change in editors, which, we suppose, might have generated enough discontinuity to allow for such a mix-up. But Tekkaya did not address the authorship issue, which we think might be interesting. An email to one of the missing co-authors bounced back as undeliverable.

We also attempted to contact the papers’ first author, Renaud Metz, who has a lab at the University of Montpellier. A PDF of the second paper states that it was initially accepted in August 2006, received in revised form in April 2007 and accepted in May 2007. For the initial publication, the dates are received March 2006, revision received in December 2006 and accepted in mid-January 2007.

Now, it’s easy to chalk all this up to administrative error, poor organization or the like. But that doesn’t explain one thing: Metz’ online CV lists both versions of the JMPT article! Metz did not immediately return an email seeking comment on the retraction.

0 thoughts on “Mighty molten powder researchers publish paper in journal twice, months apart”

  1. First & most importantly: mad props for the title of this post. “Mighty,” indeed. Please tell me that you have a similar pun up your sleeve for morphine, waiting for the next time a paper about powerful opiods is retracted.

    But I can think of one further question about this process: was there any peer review involved for either iteration of the paper? If the 2 published versions are truly identical, the possible answers are (1) no, or (2) yes, by the same reviewer, who copy-pasted the same review, in response to which the study team re-submitted the same revision.

    Again, one can imagine on either end (reviewer & authors) that someone figured, “Oh, they must mean they didn’t get the email last time,” but still…. The publisher’s snippy “… this article represents a severe abuse of the scientific publishing system” is pretty laughably sanctimonious: what this article represents is a severe egg in the face for the scientific publishing system. Nice of them to clean up stuff like this and the “problematic problem” math paper from Budweiser, but sanctimoniousness from Elsevier isn’t winning them any friends this spring.

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