Pesticide paper pulled for plagiarizing prior publication

intjnrpestmgmtThe International Journal of Pest Management has retracted a 2007 article on spinosad pesticides by researcher who stole much of the material from the thesis of a Kansas State University masters student.

But the retraction comes more than five years after a correction indicating that plagiarism had occurred — an odd interposition that we can’t quite figure out.

The article, “Insecticidal effect of spinosad dust against four stored product insect species in different grain commodities,” was written by Amin Nikpay, who, according to this website, is now with Arak Islamic Azad University, in Iran. It was published in the spring of 2007, but a few months later the journal issued the following notice:

In the April–June 2007 issue of International Journal of Pest Management; 53(2), pp. 121–125, we published ‘Insecticidal effect of spinosad dust against four stored product insect species in different grain commodities’ by Amin Nikpay.

The article reproduces extensive sections verbatim from Anna Iversen Getchell’s 2006 thesis ‘Efficacy of two spinosad formulations on various commodities against stored-product insects’ (September 2000), pp. 4– 17, without referencing Anna Iversen Getchell’s thesis as its source.

We have contacted Amin Nikpay and he has offered his unreserved apologies. We are publishing this corrigendum to correct the scholarly record.

That seems like pretty clear grounds for retraction, so we’re wondering why it took the journal until now to take this step:

We, the Editors and Publishers of International Journal of Pest Management are retracting the following article:

Amin Nikpay “Insecticidal effect of spinosad dust against four stored product insect species in different grain commodities”, International Journal of Pest Management 53.2 (2007): 121-125

The article reproduces extensive sections verbatim from Anna Iversen Getchell’s 2006 thesis ‘Efficacy of two spinosad formulations on various commodities against stored-product insects’, pp. 4–17, without referencing Anna Iversen Getchell’s thesis as its source.

This action constitutes a breach of publishing ethics by the author with respect to originality. We note we received, peer-reviewed, accepted, and published the article in good faith, and censure this action.

The retracted article will remain online to maintain the scholarly record, but it will be digitally watermarked on each page as RETRACTED.

Maybe this one slipped through the cracks, as pests are wont to do. The paper has been cited just twice, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge, including once by the correction. We have emailed the editor for comment and will update this post if we hear from him.

Meanwhile, Getchell, who now works in the pest management industry, tells us that the plagiarism was picked up quite quickly:

[I]n April 2007 my co-author and advisor, Dr. Bhadriraju Subramanyam, saw what was essentially an entire chapter of my thesis (about 13 pages) copied verbatim (with some changes) in the International Journal of Pest Management. He alerted the journal who said they’d accept a submission of our version of the paper.

I had provided my thesis to Amin in November of 2006 to assist him with his research and we’d communicated some before he plagiarized it. After the discovery, Dr. Subramanyam confronted him via email and he said he did all the work. I confronted him myself and he was apologetic and admitted he took “the text of my thesis.” He had done much more than that and eventually said as much.

I don’t know why it took so long to get retracted. … We alerted the journal immediately and provided proof. I honestly had assumed it’d had been retracted years ago until I got your email. It was a very frustrating time… we discovered he’d plagiarized others and he just didn’t seem to understand what he’d done.

And Subramanyam tells us:

I contacted the journal about it and they printed a corrigendum.  Recently I noticed despite acknowledgement by the journal Amin’s plagiarized paper is being cited by others.  So a month ago I contacted the editor to permanently remove the paper.  This result in the paper being retracted but still is online. Now Amin has a PhD from Iran and he is active in science circles which to me is difficult to understand.

6 thoughts on “Pesticide paper pulled for plagiarizing prior publication”

  1. Looks like a case of cultural/educational issues to me. The author apparently had little notion about plagiarism. On the bright side, the situation was apparently remedied on a constructive approach.

    1. I struggle to understand the importance of having a watermarked PDF file. I guarantee that the word “retracted” is meaningless to many folks in developing countries who just see the paper as just another paper. Why don’t the publishers just remove the whole thing? I can appreciate one side of the argument that it is good to leave the evidence of the crime for future generations to appreciate the crime (i.e., one form of transparency), but surely having access to the paper’s full content would also invite the lesser-minded folk in science to keep reading its content and referencing it since such PDFs could still be read by bots from Google, etc. I am curious how do Google searches turn up these watermarked and retracted PDF files and papers. Has anyone seen any study on this aspect? Maybe we need to start a data-base of retractions seeing that the numbers are increasing rapidly. Kind of like a Retraction PubMed. Any ideas on this? I think it’s important to have a full, accessible open access record of the full text of all retracted papers in one single, exclusive repository. Trawling through PubMed’s 25 million papers every time simply isn’t viable. Maybe the NIH and ROI could team up to fortify such a venture? I am sure some of those reading this blog have some political clout to get such a project on track…

    2. Take a look at the list of retractions listed by country in the “Retraction posts by author, country, journal, subject, and type” tool on the right of the screen. Other countries have more retractions.

      Assigning a given article to a single country based on the affiliation of the corresponding autor is convenient but is not necessarily an accurate reflection of the nationalities and contributions of all authors.

      Pressure to publish in developing countries (many of which import “western” IF-based reward systems for funding and promotion) is often not accompanied by education and training in research publication ethics. Many researchers are forced to play the game without being told all the rules.

      1. No doubt other countries have more total retractions.
        What struck me was the likelihood that ethical training is inadequate in developing countries (since it is hardly adequate in developed countries) or that scientists are subjected to inappropriate pressures to publish in those countries.
        Iran may be just an example of this phenomenon. Imagine trying to publish in Egypt.
        As to the watermarked “Retraction” notice, apparently the editors thought that the text should still be available because it might somehow be useful still(heaven knows why.) It is hard to see how they could keep the text available in a better way although, you are right, there is a risk that some people will ignore it.

      2. I really do not think retracted papers should be removed from sight, as I think they are useful in many ways. At the very least they are solid proof for the reasons for the retraction. Publishers are as good in retracting papers as they are in publishing good papers, and this is saying far from ideal. Why should I trust publishers dictate some paper should be hidden after making it public? Young students are always more prone to commit mistakes (either in finding good references and properly reporting results), and also they are responsible for most of scientific output, and I think the second fact is the one that should be changed first. Good scientists can usually tell which papers they should be mention and how.

        I am from a developing country and I can say education is a general problem in the third world. When it comes to publication ethics, it is really a mess. However I am quite not sure if truly smutty, destructive, scientific misconduct comes from the third world.

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