Chemistry article retracted “due to the way data was presented”

jaasA retraction in a chemistry journal has us scratching our heads. And we’re apparently not alone — the authors are scratching theirs, too.

Here’s the notice for “Achievement of 1.4 ng detection limit of cesium with TXRF spectrometer by changing the X-ray detector and reducing noise:”

We the authors Susumu Imashuku, Deh Ping Tee, Hiroko Seki, Hiroya Miyauchi, Osami Wada and Jun Kawai hereby wholly retract this Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry article due to the way the data was presented, in order to maintain the accuracy of the scientific record. Signed Susumu Imashuku, Deh Ping Tee, Osami Wada and Jun Kawai, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan, Hiroko Seki and Hiroya Miyauchi, Kyoto Prefectual Technology Center for Small and Medium Size Enterprises, Kyoto, Japan, July 2013. This retraction is endorsed by May Copsey, Editor. Retraction published 19th July 2013.

We asked Kawai for details, and he told us:

Imashuku, the main author, found something error in the Table in the paper at the proofreading, and he would like to replace it or remove it.

He said it to the editor, but the editor requested again the referee process.  And he put the paper as it was until today.  The paper you inquired was very important paper and thus I have just pushed him to try again.

This of course doesn’t really help understand what was wrong with the paper, nor the timing. The paper was first published online on February 13, 2012. When did the proofreading happen, and why was the study retracted more than a year later?

The fact that the editors wanted to send the study out for peer review again makes us wonder even more. We’ve asked editor Copsey for comment, and will update with anything we learn.

3 thoughts on “Chemistry article retracted “due to the way data was presented””

  1. So, from what Imashuku says, I gather that the manuscript was accepted. Some errors were identified by one of the authors and the editor was informed. Then the editor requested further peer review of the suggested corrections, yet at the same time gave the green light for publication of the paper, errors and all?

    1. Judging by the English of Kawai’s response and that of the retraction notice, it seems as if authors are FORCED to sign a declaration by the publisher that was ultra carefully worded so as to remove any responsibility (ultimately removing any legal responsibility, too) from the hands of the publisher. Not only do retraction notices lack detailed information about the reasons for retraction, but only in a tiny percentage do they actually assign any responsibility to the publisher or editors. In this case, the reason is absurd. This retraction situation is actually starting to sound laughable because, as in this case, the editors approved publication of a paper whose quality they were not 100% certain of. The authors also fumbled a response. Why is forcing authors to collectively sign a document that they in essence probably didn’t agree with not considered to be a forced signature under duress? It’s time to start exposing these double-standards by editors and publishers, too, if we are to have a fair and balanced discussion about the root causes for fraud, lack of quality control in the publishing process and ultimately what drives everyone to this blog, retractions.

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