Spying on The Onion: Journal retracts drone paper for duplication

euro j agronomyWhen you think of drones, you probably think of deadly strikes in faraway lands. But what about studying crops?

Take “Use of digital photography from unmanned aerial vehicles for estimation of leaf area index in onion (Allium cepa L.),” a study published earlier this year in the European Journal of Agronomy by researchers from Spain:

The aim of this study is to evaluate a non-destructive method to measure canopy cover in an onion crop by means of aerial digital photography from unmanned aerial vehicles, and to determine the relationship with leaf area index obtained by using an automated infrared imaging system.


At each sampling event, eight experimental plots of 1 m2 were used. In each one of them, aerials photographies were taken by using a vertical take-off and landing quadracopter aircraft.

But it turned out that this paper had already droned on elsewhere. Here’s the retraction notice:

This article has been retracted: please see Elsevier Policy on Article Withdrawal (http://www.elsevier.com/locate/withdrawalpolicy).

This paper has been retracted because a near identical version of this paper was published in the Journal Biosystems Engineering: J.I. Córcoles, J.F. Ortega, D. Hernández, & M.A. Moreno (2013). Estimation of leaf area index in onion (Allium cepa L.) using an unmanned aerial vehicle. Biosystems Engineering. 115: 31–42; http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biosystemseng.2013.02.002. 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.

5 thoughts on “Spying on The Onion: Journal retracts drone paper for duplication”

    1. MTE. When they capitalized “The Onion”, I had assumed this article would have some element of satire to it, or it would be about some obscure journal picking up an Onion article as the literal truth. 🙂

  1. Interesting this was not caught at the review stage. As a reviewer I always do a title and author search (this if it’s not double-blind, even then I can usually figure out the author from the refs). Maybe both were submitted at the same time so neither was published while the reviews were going on? I’ve had this happen where two journals sent me essentially the same paper for review! So of course I caught it and the authors were blackballed. I since ran into the senior author who still does not understand how it could be a violation — the excuse was (1) everyone does it (???) (2) the papers will diverge after review and revision!!

    1. Facts:

      1) It is 2013.
      2) The publisher is Elsevier, the world’s No. 1 publisher.
      3) EJA uses iThenticate: http://ees.elsevier.com/euragr/
      4) The IF = 2.8, quite high for the plant sciences
      5) Associate EIC = Francisco J. Villalobos, from Spain

      Now someone please join the dots and ask: are only the authors to blame?

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