Duplication forces retraction of paper on effects of prenatal environment on behavior

A journal has retracted a 2005 paper by a group of physiologists at the University of Toronto after it became clear that the work duplicated five other articles by the same researchers.

Here’s the notice in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews for “Maternal adversity, glucocorticoids and programming of neuroendocrine function and behaviour:”

This article has been retracted: please see Elsevier Policy on Article Withdrawal (http://www.elsevier.com/locate/withdrawalpolicy).

This article has been retracted at the request of the Editor-in-Chief.

This article has self-plagiarized parts of other papers that had already appeared in:

Endocrine Research 30 (4), 2004, pp. 827–836, http://dx.doi.org/10.1081/ERC-200044091.

Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism 13 (9), 2002, pp. 373–380, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1043-2760(02)00690-2.

Stress 7 (1), 2004, pp. 15–27, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10253890310001650277.

Fetal and Maternal Medicine Review 14 (4), 2003, pp. 329–354, http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0965539503001141.

Endocrine Research 28 (4), 2002, pp. 709–718, http://dx.doi.org/10.1081/ERC-120016991.

One of the conditions of submission of a paper for publication is that authors declare explicitly that their work is original and has not appeared in a publication elsewhere. Re-use of any material should be appropriately cited and quoted. 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.

The paper has been cited 100 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. The corresponding author, Stephen G. Matthews, is well-funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). We’ve contacted him for comment, and will update with anything we learn.

7 thoughts on “Duplication forces retraction of paper on effects of prenatal environment on behavior”

  1. Glad to see that journal editors are now feeling able to retract papers on their own say-so when the violation is clear, instead of hiding behind the “we can’t do anything if we don’t hear from the authors” claim that they used to use to avoid dealing with problems. I hope that these cases of duplicate publication will encourage all journals to start doing some sort of checking, whether through a paid service or simply by typing a few sentences into a free search function, to catch flagrant violators before the offending manuscript is published.

  2. “One of the conditions of submission of a paper for publication is that authors declare explicitly that their work is original and has not appeared in a publication elsewhere”

    It seems that this rule is ignored by the Editor of Acta Astronautica ( Elsevier):

    Authors: Tryggvason B.V.; Duval W.M.B.; Smith R.W.; Rezkallah K.S.; Varma S.; Redden R.F.; Herring R.A.
    Acta Astronautica, Volume 48, 2001. PUBLISHER: ELSEVIER

    This paper is related to the Queen’s University Experiments in Liquid Diffusion (QUELD) and contains fabricated and falsified data. Text and figures are copied from an earlier paper published in the journal of Japan Society for Microgravity Applications.
    Data are fabricated and falsified. Despite clear violations of publication ethics, Elsevier and the journal involved have not yet retracted this misleading paper.

    This case together many other cases of research misconduct was brought to the attention of the institution involved (Queen’s University, Canada) in 2009. They claimed that there was no misconduct without investigating.
    Response from the funding agency (Canadian Space Agency): Silence
    Response from the journal Editor: Silence
    See details about this paper here: http://littleofficeofintegrity.org/

    1. Thanks, from RW readers generally, for publicizing yet another series of instances of misconduct, this time in Canada… which seems to be suffering from a lack of a federal Office of Research Integrity.
      However, in reading the materials it appears the writer has something of an axe to grind–possibly out of frustration at the lack of meaningful responses from the officials, editors, and so on.
      I feel that it never hurts to restrain oneself from using unnecessary pejorative terms and to limit repetition to a necessary minimum, especially when one is highly exercised by a problematic (or even catastrophic) situation.
      “Holus-bolus” is a fun word (used in the little office of integrity web site in a quotation); I guess it means something like “wholesale” or “in its entirety.”

      1. To clarify, the term “Holus-bolus” is used in the institution’s investigation report. It is used in the report to describe a series of duplicate papers “where there appears to be holus-bolus recycling , with only minor cosmetic alterations, of material published earlier.” Despite this finding, the institution involved claimed that there was no misconduct.
        The university report was obtained through access to information act.

  3. The hotlinks to the different DOIs in this article are broken – all redirect to an unrelated Retraction Watch article rather than the DOI in question. It would certainly help if you could make these (and other) hotlinks direct links, rather than redirecting them through your own site.

    1. Fixed, thanks for flagging what was a WordPress glitch that replaced cut-and-pasted links with something random. It was not an attempt at redirection. You mention other hotlinks with the same problem; can you send those so we can fix?

  4. I have repeatedly pointed out another example of the same (self-plagiarism) involving the same players: (University of Toronto and Elsevier), however, still waiting for the same outcome – retraction.
    See my comments here http://www.retractionwatch.com/2012/09/20/slew-of-retractions-appears-in-neuroscience-letters/

    Identical figures, but always with different titles, appear in several publications of the same authors, and always there is absolutely no attribution to the original figures. Is this an honest mistake or intentional deception?

    The University of Toronto (institution of one of the authors) has Framework for dealing with misconduct (http://www.research.utoronto.ca/ethics/pdf/conduct/framework.pdf), which clearly states: “Specifically, the following acts generally are considered instances of Research Misconduct:
    4.1 m) Misleading publication, for example:
    9. Portraying one’s own work as original or novel without acknowledgement of prior publication”.
    However, in an email to me UoT refuses to acknowledge the obvious contravention to its own Framework.

    In an email to me the Vice Rector for Faculty Affairs at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (institution of one of the authors) openly admits that “Figures 1 and 2 do not explicitly refer to the document“ and that “the original report is not directly cited”.
    However, UPF refuses to acknowledge this as an obvious misconduct.

    In similar cases Elsevier repeatedly states that “One of the conditions of submission of a paper for publication is that authors declare explicitly that their work is original and has not appeared in a publication elsewhere. The re-use of material, without appropriate reference, even if not known to the authors at the time of submission, breaches our publishing policies”.
    However, Elsevier does nothing in this case which on top of the repeated self-plagiarism has also copyright irregularities as well. Please note that currently 3 different parties: WHO, Elsevier and Baywood Publishing claim simultaneously copyrights on the same material – the identical figures, which is 100 % absurd.

    One wonders whether CONSISTENCY means anything for Elsevier and UoT or, like in totalitarian communist states, the rules are subject to double standards.

    Transparency Index which shows whether the editors/publishers/institutions Do-the-Right-Thing (when evidence for misconduct is presented to them) has the potential to safeguard the implementation of One-Rule-for-All. If the academic publishing embraces the rule of law, then TI is the tool to ensure it.

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