Seals of disapproval, as pinniped paper gets yanked for plagiarism

ImageJoseph Hoffman, an animal behavior researcher at the University of Bielefeld in Germany says he got a “kind of odd” feeling as he read a recent paper on the transcriptome of the spotted seal. Let’s just call it deja vu.

The article, “Characterization of the spotted seal Phoca largha transcriptome using Illumina paired-end sequencing and development of SSR markers,” which appeared in Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part D: Genomics and Proteomics:

 contained entire sentences copied word for word from my original paper. …  I contacted the editorial office of the journal, who acted very promptly.  They decided that this was a case of plagiarism.

As the retraction notice explains:

This article has been retracted at the request of the Co-Editors-in-Chief and the Authors.

The authors were made aware that their work contained information from a previously published paper without attribution (Hoffman, J.I. Mol. Ecol. Resour., 11 (2011) 703–710,

The Co-Editors-in-Chief made the decision to retract the paper, with the agreement of the authors. The lack of citation of this previously published paper undermined the review process and the overlap was too substantial for a corrigendum. The authors apologise for any inconvenience this might have caused.

The now-retracted paper has been cited once, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge, while Hoffman’s paper has been cited nine times.

Hoffman said he was told that

 it was my understanding that the authors will have the opportunity to submit a revised version, which presumably will be accepted as long as this issue is dealt with appropriately.

I guess they were trying to give them the benefit of doubt…

Anyway, I don’t object to the paper itself – it just feels a bit odd to be plagiarised!

Although such forbearance on the part of the journal isn’t unheard of — we covered another case here — it’s not exactly the norm. We have asked the journal to comment and will update this post if we learn more.

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