Publisher wants $650 to retract duplicated study

am j eng app sciWe’ve heard about a lot of barriers to retraction — author and editor stubbornness being the most frequent. But now there’s a new one: A publisher that wants to charge authors $650 to retract.

University of Colorado librarian Jeffrey Beall — who produces a frequently updated list of predatory publishers — first wrote about the case on his blog last week. Beall alerted a journal about a duplication more than two years ago, and who re-reported it earlier this month when he failed to see a retraction.

What seems to have happened, according to an email exchange between the editor of one of the journals and the two authors of the two papers, is that Pit Pruksathorn, then a PhD student at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, submitted a paper to the Korean Journal of Chemical Engineering, a Springer title, without letting his advisor know. Prukshathorn wrote that

it’s a kind of tradition, if I may say, here in Thailand that a student who does a research put his professor’s name onto the paper.

So he included his advisor, Tharapong Vitidsant, as corresponding author. But unbeknownst to Pruksathorn, according to the emails, Vitidsant was also submitting the paper, to help Pruksathorn out, to the American Journal of Engineering and Applied Sciences, published by Science Publications. That study was published.

As far as we can tell from the email chain, Pruksathorn requested the retraction of the American Journal of Engineering and Applied Sciences paper in a reasonable time frame, and apologized for what happened, taking full responsibility. But in August 2010, Science Publications told him that

Since it had already been published there would be and widely circulated, there’d be the processing cost to retract the article. I have asked for the actual procedure and expected timeline.

That fee, it later emerged, would be $650.

Beall finds this charge unethical:

Scholarly publishers have an obligation to “maintain the integrity of the academic record” and should immediately retract an article that is to be excluded from that record, without charge to anyone. This policy of charging disincentivises paper retractions — which are sometimes necessary — by adding a fee barrier.

Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) chair Ginny Barbour tells Retraction Watch she’s never heard of such a practice, and that it doesn’t sound like a good idea:

…you don’t want to put any financial barrier in the way of correcting the literature.

Pruksathorn told the editor of the Korean journal that he had submitted the Science Publications form in January 2011. The study, however, has yet to be retracted. We’ve contacted the editor of the Science Publications journal, and will update with anything we hear back.

Side note: The author is trying to retract the paper that actually appeared second, in the Korean journal. But according to the email thread, Pruksathorn submitted the later-published paper to the Korean journal on October 2, 2008, and the earlier-published paper on October 28, so it could make sense to retract the American one he’s retracting. (It’s still not quite clear why Vitidsant didn’t realize he was publishing the same paper twice; he says he was busy because he became department chair.)

30 thoughts on “Publisher wants $650 to retract duplicated study”

  1. Very funny! Unfortunately, it seems Brazilian culture has been somehow strongly influenced by Thay traditions… without any tutor knowing it.

  2. Unbelievable…I am wondering if the editor of the Journal was asked to intervene and convince the publisher to publish the retraction free of charges. It is hard to believe that the publisher would ignore the editor if he made such a request.

    1. Dear Matthew, it is actually amazing how ignorant the scientific community is about publishig ethics, because these two sectors of society are run independently, rather than collaboratively. Anyone who has researched and integrated into the “Asian”, including China and Japan culture, wil understand that guest authorship and “tradition” are rife. Yet, you never see big names players like Elsevier, Springer. Taylor and Francis, and others pulling papers from their journals for two reasons: 1) There is no way to absolutely verify the participation of an author in a paper except for signed declarations which can be so easily falsified; 2) these publishers ultimately work with pseudo-ethics because they worship their profits and their share-holders. The true predators in science publishing are not those listed in Beall’s list, although those are small-time thugs indeed, in the majority of cases, but ratrher the exploratory big publishers who strike deals with the academic community to ensure their long-term survival and profits. The academic community is being sold out from the top and from the bottom of the “ethics” ladder. COPE is another joke: not only are most of its members full of conflicts of interest, having worked with or currently working with big publishers listed above, but they reap massive profits for becoming a “member”. How can a so-called ethics body be peddling a for-profits ethics platform? Hipocrities and frauds, that’s what COPE is. Finally, in this same web of fraud running science, lies the new plague: iThenticate: the for-profit vilify the scientist scheme… Time to take action AGAINST publishers who abuse the scientific community and to expose the REAL fraud in science publishing driven by excessive greed and commercial interests.

  3. Well, if the publisher charges the author to publish, the publisher is not doing anything ill-logical by charging to “de-publish”. Both are business transactions between the publisher and the author. I do not see any reason for moral outrage. [Outrage against author-pays OA model is fine, but once that model has been accepted then de-publication charges follow logically.]

      1. I am serious. An author writes something. A publisher “publishes” it for a fee. The publisher should charge the author a fee to “de-publish” because that requires some steps to be taken that coast as much per minute/hour as the actual publication. [Author-pays OA publishing is very close to advertisement anyway.]

    1. Following this logic, the publisher should then refund all the subscribers for having sold them a faulty product.

      1. There may not be any subscribers. The Open Access (or in this case Vanity Press) model charges the author, not the reader.

      2. As JudyH wrote, in the author-pays OA model, nothing is “sold” to the subscriber. The onus is on the subscriber whether to embrace a “free” product or not.

  4. I would like to know how to take legal action against a journal whose editor is biased and refuses to retract a fake and plagiarized paper?

    1. Copyright violation, perhaps? Sadly, plagiarism is unethical but not illegal. However, the copyright system sets up a rightful owner who intends to make money by distributing a creative work. Interference with the legal right to make money from something is grounds for the legal system to get involved. Do you hold the copyright? Does your journal publisher own the copyright?

      1. Actually it is a case of intellectual property theft by my former MS student who worked on a Cancer Gene Silencing project in my lab and left after getting her degree. At that time she had little idea about the importance of those results. A couple years ago, I presented that data in a keynote speech on Cancer therapeutics. Realizing the importance of those results, she (now at a different university and doing a PHD with her husband as her supervisor!) quickly cooked up some additional figures an sent her MS thesis work for publication in a friend’s journal without my approval, claiming that I had abandoned her and her project and putting her husband;s name as corresponding author.
        After a lengthy investigation her husband was found guilty of plagiarism and authorship dispute, however, the journal editor being their friends, ignored my requests for paper retraction despite all the evidence of data forgery and falsification! The authors and the editor also exchanged some extremely defamatory emails about me that were later circulated among my peers to discredit me.
        I have written to the publisher and COPE but no response after 4 months of sending reminders.

        1. “After a lengthy investigation…” BY WHOM?? I am not commenting on THIS particular case, but I am curious. What was the authorship dispute procedure? As far as I know, authorship disputes sent to the journal are usually referred to the institution where the research took place, which is usually the senior author’s institution. There, the dispute is investigated by (presumably) the senior author’s colleagues. So, in most cases, junior authors will end up losing. In THIS case the senior author was left out, but it is still unclear, who conducted the authorship dispute inquiry.

        2. I don’t like the advisor expecting to have their name on a paper in the scientific disciplines. Unless there is a footnote that says what work they actually did. Paying for the lab is not enough, since it doesn’t require any intellectual input.

    2. I think the situation is much simpler than that. The editor is not biased. Just plain stupid. At some they will realize that their refusal to publish a retraction unless they get paid is self-destructive and they will publish it for free.

      1. Im afraid the editor is very biased and a friend of these culprit authors. I have obtained some very personal and defamatory comments floated y the editor while communicating with the authors that were later leaked into academic community to discredit me

      2. Im afraid the editor is very biased and a friend of these culprit authors. I have obtained some very personal and defamatory comments floated y the editor while communicating with the authors that were later leaked into academic community to discredit me

      3. Im afraid the editor is very biased and a friend of these culprit authors. I have obtained some very personal and defamatory comments about me, floated by the editor while communicating with the authors that were later leaked into academic community to discredit me.
        I have complained to the Publisher and COPE as well but no response so far.

      4. Dear IW, detach yourself (scientifically) from the whole situation, and you shall see a solution more clearly. Usually letting things settle a bit and then taking action is the best way, especially when it comes to publications, which are much less volatile than your hard feelings. Keep cool.

        1. I am an editor in Medical Journal of Indonesia. Though our journal has not succeeded to be indexed, we will surely retract an article without somebody’s request, if we later find out that an article that we have published contains plagiarism. Of course without charge, because the act is to save our reputation. In our opinion, plagiarism is a serious misconduct, and our journal will not tolerate such a misconduct.

    3. IW, did your former student know that you were presenting data that she had produced or had you contacted her about plans to publish it?

      I suspect that if she had known that you thought her work could be included in a paper and that she could have been a co-author, that a problem would have been less likely to arise.

  5. Dear Hibby

    Thanks for the suggestion but it pains me to see a fake and plagiarized paper involving patient data getting published in a COPE member’s journal (whose editors are academicians too) without being asked for proof of evidence or authorships.

    I am losing my faith in academic publishing and integrity of research.

    1. I would ask the same question that Shaun asked. Did you request permission or approval from your former graduate student when you took her data to present at a meeting? Did you give her credit as an author in the meeting materials or say that she was the person who did the research and wrote the thesis?

      1. Dear Judy & Shaun,

        Normally MS students are not “asked” to provide their data if the project director/supervisor wants to present it at a meeting. Although if they wish to present their work at a meeting, they need their supervisor’s permission to do so!. At least this is how it has been working in the USA where I did my PhD ans postdoc studies and later worked as well.

        These MS students had the least intellectual contribution to the project. I had taught them the back ground, the hypothesis, the techniques and they conducted the work and wrote their theses under my guidance and supervision. It was my project (funded by a proper agency) and several students had been working on it. Their names were included in the presentation along with the institutional entitlements.

        What this one student and her husband did was unethical! They claim to have obtained the research materials from my lab without prior approval or authorization (it is called stealing!) and without any funding, purchase orders, or ethics committee approval for the patient data (which was all under my name!) published it from another university where she was doing PhD under her husband’s supervision!

        It is also important to note that her MS thesis was found to be heavily plagiarized. She and her husband had been fired from that university under separate charges of nepotism, funds embezzlement and misconduct before the paper was published.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.