Duplication leads to recall of toxicology paper

toxinvitroA group of researchers from Egypt and the United States has lost their 2010 paper in the journal Toxicology in Vitro for recycling many of their own words from a previously published manuscript.

The article, “Bacterial lipopolysaccharide-induced oxidative stress in adult rat Sertoli cells in vitro,” was written by Hamdy A.A. Aly, Hany A. El-Shemy and David A. Lightfoot,  a professor of biotechnology and genomics at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. El-Shemy, now of Cairo University, was a visiting scholar at SICU a few years ago, and he and Lightfoot have published together several times.

According to the retraction notice:

This article has been retracted at the request of the Editors-in-Chief.

The authors have plagiarized part of a paper that had already appeared in Egyptian Journal of Biomedical Sciences, Vol 27, July, 2008. One of the conditions of submission of a paper for publication is that authors declare explicitly that their work is original and has not appeared in a publication elsewhere. Re-use of any data should be appropriately cited. As such 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.

An abstract of the earlier paper is available here. The study has been cited 13 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

0 thoughts on “Duplication leads to recall of toxicology paper”

  1. One thing dawned upon me today. In 2006-2008, when Google was still fairly rudimentary, or even in <2003, when online search tools only started to take off, it would have been difficult to detect plagiarism, either by authors, or by publishers. So, the advance of technology could actually lead to the very downfall of publishers who may simply not have had the technology to detect plagiarism 10 or 15 (or more) years ago. I suspect that so many papers published by Elsevier, Springer, and other heavy-weight publishers may actually contain plagiarism or self-plagiarism to some extent (hypothesis). But, due to the lack of techniques to detect it several years ago, they are now suffering a technological plague. I am often critical of these publishers for being partly responsible for some retractions, but today I feel sorry for them, because their desire to correct the academic literature will surely see many critical or key publications becoming erased from the literature, for example those published earlier than 2005 or 2000. Eventually, when a critical mass of retractions occurs, clients will also stop ordering products from these publishers because it will be like buying faulty equipment at a hardware store or tainted milk from the grocery store. Imagine that Elsevier, for example, has retracted 0.0001% of papers in 2013 from its journals, but by 2018, it may have retracted 0.5%. Libraries and academic will start to perceive the Elsevier journals (for example) as being "academically faulty", which will automatically decrease their credibility and marketability. Ironically, I believe that even though they are trying to do something honest by correcting the literature, they are ultimately damaging their own image and credibility. We are potentially seeing a massively important historical process taking place in which the (hopefully) genuine desire of the traditionally big publishers to be honest and correct the literature could lead to their own downfall and implosion, while the rise of the dishonest publishers, who couldn't care less about retractions, duplication, plagiarism, or fraud, may become the new publishing model (also with some resistance from academia). This tug of war is getting interesting. Not only scientifically, but historically. Try to imagine you are David A. Lightfoot (of course I don't speak for him). And imagine your paper in this IF = 2.65 journal (Toxicology in Vitro; http://www.journals.elsevier.com/toxicology-in-vitro/) gets retracted (which it was). If you were Dr. Lightfoot, would you ever submit again to Toxicology in Vitro or to another Elsevier journal ever again, or would you shift to the competition, having being emotionally battered by a bitter publishing experience? Was this an honest mistake and will it prevent Dr. Lightfoot from publishing ever again, or even quit science? These are the marginal consequences that are accompanying the evolution of science publishing, as retractions start to form part of the evolutionary equation. Poor Darwin must be twisting in his death bed if he were to know of these new compounding factors.

    1. Finding past articles worth withdrawing using the tools of today is interesting – especially for the detection of (self)plagiarism. The reputation of the publishers is there secondary, more the level of occurrence as a mirror of scientific integrity for the science community at large. Are there any studies on that?

      (Note that my reaction is also given by a 1980 experience where I incidentally found – fortunately in time – that the potential contribution of my coauthor was in fact half a previous paper of himself. It was easier to let the secretary retype on old text, than to rethink or redraft.)

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