Australian government-funded study of deforestation, climate retracted for intellectual property conflicts

In circumstances we haven’t quite sorted out, an Australian climate researcher has retracted a paper because he didn’t have the right to use data from a now-shuttered government program.

Ravinesh Deo, of the University of Southern Queensland, published “A review and modelling results of the simulated response of deforestation on climate extremes in eastern Australia” in Atmospheric Researchin May of this year.

Last week, this retraction notice appeared:

This article has been retracted: please see Elsevier Policy on Article Withdrawal (

This article has been retracted at the request of the Author.

There is a conflict of intellectual property ownership of the published material. The research presented in this article originated from a government funding body Land and Water Australia. The project has lapsed in June 2009 and according to IP arrangements, the authors may not publish work that originated from this project.

The authors apologize sincerely for this oversight.

Here’s the abstract from the original paper:

The native vegetation cover in Australia has been modified extensively since the advent of European population. This was paralleled by increases in mean surface temperatures, decreases in mean rainfall and persistence of long-lasting and severe droughts, especially in eastern Australia. The purpose of this article is twofold: (1) to review the simulated response of deforestation on Australian droughts in light of the physics of land-surface processes, (2) to provide further analysis of the modelling results from the CSIRO Mark 3 Atmospheric Global Climate Model (AGCM) to quantify the changes in Australian droughts from the pre-European to modern-day land cover conditions. The simulated response for the austral summer for the modern-day period showed (1) a shift in the tails of the probability distribution functions of rainfall and temperature towards drier and warmer conditions, (2) a decrease in average rainfall between ~4–12%, (3) a reduction in average soil moisture by ~40%, (4) an increase dry spells by ~3–4 days, (5) a decrease in cumulative wet day rainfall between 10 and 25 mm day−1, (6) an increases in drought duration by ~6–12 consecutive days and an increase in drought severity by ~4–8%, (7) an average warming of ~0.4–3.6 °C, and an increase in dry spells by ~6–9 days for the 1982/83 El Niño event. These changes were statistically significant at the 95% confidence level using the non-parametric bootstrapping procedure. The simulated changes in atmospheric variables indicate that deforestation has been a contributing factor to the observed increases in drought severity and duration in eastern Australia.

It’s not clear why a researcher wouldn’t have the right to use data from a government program — particularly now that it’s been shuttered, meaning the data are now in limbo. We’ve tried Deo for comment, and will update with anything we learn.

Update, 10 a.m. Eastern, 4/28/14: Corrected Deo’s affiliation to University of Southern Queensland. Apologies for the error.

3 thoughts on “Australian government-funded study of deforestation, climate retracted for intellectual property conflicts”

  1. So let’s get this straight… the Australian people paid for the data; the original researchers have had their chance to publish with it, and now it is not permitted to extract full value from the data, presumably for the enlightenmnet of the people who paid for the data collection?

  2. An example at the other pole of IP irregularities:

    I, and each and everyone of you, have paid taxes (even those who did not pay income tax have paid other taxes – VAT, GST, etc.) which funded UN, which funded WHO, which funded “Employment Conditions and Health Inequalities”, Final Report to the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health (CSDH), 20 September 2007, available here:

    The authors – Joan Benach and Carles Muntaner – did what is known as “work for hire” where the authors not have the copyrights (the funding body, i.e. WHO retains these). Then, the authors assign to two different publishers (Elsevier and Baywood Publishing) the copyrights (for identical material !!) which, in fact, do NOT belong to them! Please, note that the editors in both cases are close friends to the authors and turn a blind eye to the very obvious copyright violation (Vicente Navarro, editor of IJHS, Baywood Publishing; and Carme Borrell, editor of Gaceta Sanitaria, Elsevier)

    The final result is that at present 3 (three!) parties claim simultaneously copyright on one-and-the-same (i.e. identical) material:
    1) World Health Organisation (in two!! separate publications 2007 and 2011)
    2) Baywood Publishing in International Journal of Health Services (2010)
    3) Elsevier in Gaceta Sanitaria (2010)

    You can see the connection between all four actors here The importance of the political and the social in explaining mortality differentials among the countries of the OECD, 1950-1998 , V Navarro, C Borrell, J Benach, C Muntaner, IJHS, Volume 33, Number 3 / 2003, pages 419 – 494

    Few questions to everyone:
    1) Why Elsevier still refuses to acknowledge these multiple irregularities and copyright violations, and Will Elsevier demonstrate consistency with applying its own Policies?
    2) Why COPE still refuses to take actions against its member (Elsevier) who does not comply with COPE Guidelines and rules in relation to Benach and Muntaner?
    3) Is Transparency Index able to rectify the situation?

    Any answers?

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