A retracted retraction? Authors salvage entomology paper with image issues

jtbThe paper is dead. Long live the paper!

Earlier this year, we brought you the case of a group of Brazilian insect researchers who lost two 15-year-old papers in different journals for duplication. One of those papers has been resurrected, albeit in a rather puzzling way.

The article, “Non-local interactions and the dynamics of dispersal in immature insects,” had appeared in the Journal of Theoretical Biology, which had issued the following retraction notice:

This article has been retracted at the request of the Editors-in-Chief.

The article is a duplicate of a paper that has already been published in Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz, Vol 92(2), (1997) 281-286 [DOI: doi:10.1590/S0074-02761997000200025] as well as Journal of Applied Entomology, Vol 120(1-5), (1996) 379-382 [DOI: 10.1111/j.1439-0418.1996.tb01623.x].

One of the conditions of submission of a paper for publication is that authors declare explicitly that the paper is not under consideration for publication elsewhere. 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.

But now comes this corrigendum from the journal:

The article “J.L. Boldrini, R.C. Bassanezi, A.C. Moretti, F.J. Von Zuben, W.A.C. Godoy, C.J. Von Zuben, Non-local interactions and the dynamics of dispersal in immature insects, J Theor Biol., vol. 185, Issue 4, pp.523–531, 1997” [http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jtbi.2013.01.019] was retracted on the basis of Fig. 1, which was used without reference from the paper “R.C. Bassanezi, M.B.F. Leite, W.A.C. Godoy, C.J. Von Zuben, F.J. Von Zuben, S.F. Dos Reis, Diffusion model applied to post feeding larval dispersal in blowflies (Diptera: Calliphoridae), Mem. Inst. Oswaldo Cruz, 92, pp. 281–286, 1997” [http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0074-02761997000200025]. The figure has now been redrawn, and the Editors-in-Chief of the Journal of Theoretical Biology have determined the method, results and conclusions of the paper to be scientifically and ethically sound. The revised version of the original paper is presented here {10.1016/j.jtbi.2013.07.020}. The publisher apologizes that the original retraction notice did not clarify the above facts.

Claudio Jose Von Zuben, the last author of the now-retracted paper, has reversed the fortunes of a troubled paper before. As we noted last year:

Von Zuben is a professor at UNESP and a founder of the Brazilian Association of Forensic Entomology. He was also an author of a paper retracted in 2011, and of another that was slated to be retracted but was eventually just subjected to an Expression of Concern. In July 2011, he wrote a letter to the Ciencia Brasil blog questioning those who were critical of his work.

And this is not the first retracted retraction we’ve covered, although the other one was more formal.

13 thoughts on “A retracted retraction? Authors salvage entomology paper with image issues”

  1. Redrawing contested images must very something particular to their exact line of research.

    According with the defunct blogs Abnormal Science and Science-Fraud, the same group has substituted duplicate images before, however erroneously with another questionable image.
    A .pdf file containing the case can be downloaded from the following link:

    Or can be viewed online at:


    A quick search on Pubpeer will similar issues about many other related papers. One includes a quite similar case to this one reported here, also involving repetition of similar content.


  2. A paper to be published at Nature (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature12786.html) brings an interesting definition of Science: “The objective of science is to advance knowledge, primarily in two interlinked ways: circulating ideas, and defending or criticizing the ideas of others.”

    As we can see in many cases, some scientists doesn’t take this at all, mainly regarding being criticized… they think they had over science (and journals, bloggers, journalists, anonymous whistleblowers) the power enjoyed at they home institutions. Anyone who wants to put their data in doubt are subjected to retaliation and even lawsuit. They think to be untouchable. The most important thing for them are they careers, not the science they do…

    1. Indeed seems very much the case!
      Yet from following other recent cases in Brazil, I think in this specific retraction the authors mainly acted in the sense of protecting themselves from some possible official investigation by the funding agency. There is a “1A” researcher involved, which in Brazil have great political influence in the scientific field, as illustrated by the support to Dr. Curi in other posts. Even knowing of the inevitable Streissand effects to their careers of revisiting this retraction, I am guessing they made use of such influence to prevent not to being further exposed by an official investigation, which would probably show in the newspapers and bring attention to their other papers, e.g. in Pubpeer.

      1. A new term for the retraction literature: patchwork. This is a really bad precedent because it now gives the journals, who’s publishers are clearly seeing their house of cards toppling as the number of retractions is bound to increase exponentially, seek innovative ways to save “ethical” face (and to keep the business model intact). So, history already proved that the authors were unethical by duplicating a figure. Case closed. The correct justice was served by Elsevier: a retraction. Now, in a sudden about-turn, Elsevier adds a band-aid, plasters up the error and allows the same journal that had appeared to be practicing “ethics”, to now reverse an “ethical” decision. What a joke. The paper could have been given a second opportunity wth a corrected figure, but NOT in the same journal, or with the same publisher. This decision reeks of bias and conflicts of interest (and perhaps even some powerful influence). Justice has not been served, it has been insulted.

        1. Absolutely right. Do you think that the first retraction might have been an attempt to silence critics? The only message that such a measure sends is: Don’t worry authors write anything will you! If you get caught we’ll be on your side, just keep up the flow of articles.

          1. Actually now I am quite convinced that publishers and their editors are nothing but an obstacle to science that should be ignored. They ignore whistleblowers, and try not to publish retractions or expressions of concern. Well, today internet allows anyone to publish their impressions on papers, including central reference databases like Pubpeer. Better let post-publication peer review determine if studies should be taken seriously or just ignored, and ignore what publishers and their editors will or will not say about raised concerns.

  3. Curiously enough the paper in Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz (Bassanezi et al.) has been retracted by the editor because of plagiarism of figure 1, as it was already published in the J. Theoretical Biology paper…so did the chicken lat another egg or did the egg hatch another chicken ?

  4. A story has just emerged at PubPeer:

    Given the link to RW, this serves also as an update.

    Firstly, the author, Claudio Jose Von Zuben, of the Instituto de Biociências, Depto de Zoologia, Univ Estadual Paulista, Rio Claro, SP, Brasil, is no stranger to academic issues, and was subject to at least one other RW story:
    http://retractionwatch.com/2011/08/22/brazilian-forensic-entomologist-faces-at-least-three-retractions-for-plagiarism/ which stated that retraction of “Forensic entomology and main challenges in Brazil” by Gomes L. and Von Zuben C. J., published at Neotropical Entomology 2006; 35(1): 1-11 because of plagiarism.”

    Also, that RW story indicates that another paper would be retracted:
    Leonardo Gomes, Marcos Rogerio Sanches, Claudio Jose Von Zuben
    Journal of Insect Behavior March 2005, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 281-292
    Dispersal and Burial Behavior in Larvae of Chrysomya megacephala and Chrysomya albiceps (Diptera, Calliphoridae)
    But it appears intact, so what happened to the desire by the authors to retract it? And for what reason did they want to retract it in the first place?

    This RW story indicates:
    “The article “J.L. Boldrini, R.C. Bassanezi, A.C. Moretti, F.J. Von Zuben, W.A.C. Godoy, C.J. Von Zuben, Non-local interactions and the dynamics of dispersal in immature insects, J Theor Biol., vol. 185, Issue 4, pp.523–531, 1997” [http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jtbi.2013.01.019] was retracted ”
    That link appears to be dead, and the new link is:
    This was in essence a case of double duplication, as indicated by the retraction notice: “The article is a duplicate of a paper that has already been published in Mem. Inst. Oswaldo Cruz, 92 (1997) 281-286, http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0074-02761997000200025 as well as J. Appl. Entomol., 120 (1996) 379-382, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1439-0418.1996.tb01623.x.”

    What is curious about the paper that is now being queried at PubPeer is that it was edited by Wesley AC Godoy — ESALQ/USP, ironically a co-author of the Elsevier JTB retracted paper. Surely then this would imply that there is/was a (serious) conflict of interest between the authors and the editor, and that does not appear to have been disclosed?
    * http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs13744-012-0037-9

    In addition to the authors, perhaps Dr. Godoy could also provide commentary at PubPeer. The other question that is not often discussed is should a scientist who has one or more retractions under the belt, especially for something as serious as a double-duplication (namely Wesley Augusto Conde Godoy) be the editor of an academic journal, in this case, Springer’s Neotropical Entomology (http://www.springer.com/life+sciences/entomology/journal/13744?detailsPage=editorialBoard)?

  5. Blowflies: this is a very precise observation. I should add that this group has a complicated record in terms of retractions, including a whole book retracted by Springer detailed on your first RW link and even a silently removed paper without a public retraction, see link below, from which a link to the paper’s PDF was removed:


    The case above, a duplicated paper, was further detailed in the now extinct Abnormal Science Blog.

    Regarding the announced retraction at Journal of Insect Behavior, somehow authors (s?)talked editors into downgrading it to an Expression of Concern, which in the end, never came out.

    There is a long series of entries about this group on PubPeer, presently more than 15, easily found upon searching the database for their names “Wesley” and “Zuben”. Indeed the general trend in these publications illustrates complete failure/breach of traditional peer review, as suggested.

  6. CR, please do the entomology community a big favor and list ALL the 15 PubPeer entries here at RW on this story’s web-page. In each case, it would be greatly appreciated if you could list the full authorship, title of papers, journal name, volumes, pages, DOI and actual web-link, as well as the PubPeer entries (see [1] for clear exmaples of how best to display information). That would create a “central repository” of valuable data here at RW, which could then be used to call the attention of Godoy and Von Zuben co-authors to the problem. Finally, with that list here at RW, the editors of Neotropical Entomology and Journal of Insect Behavior can be contacted to officially invite them to respond. Unless the co-authors and the editors – who share equal respnsibility in this case – are exposed publically, then another two years will pass, and those who should be losing their positions will be gaining new and higher ones, and papers that were promised to be retracted, or subjected to expressions of concern but for which no concern apparently exists, will remain “free”, without public accountability.

    Some other curiosities/queries/links:
    a) Is F.J. Von Zuben CJ Von Zuben’s relative (e.g. wife)?
    b) Can you please provide full and detailed information about the retracted Springer book, please, including actual participants, chapter titles, web-links, etc.
    c) No Brazilians on the editor board of Journal of Insect Behavior:
    or only one Brazilian (Guedes) on the board of Pest Management Science:

    d) Dr. Godoy, known differently as Wesley A. Conde de Godoy, also serves on the editor board of a Brazilian journal with the exact same title as the Springer title, but published as open access on the Scielo portal, Neotropical Entomology:

    [1] http://retractionwatch.com/2014/01/25/weekend-reads-trying-unsuccessfully-to-correct-the-scientific-record-drug-company-funding-and-research/

    1. Sorry Blowflies, no much time right now. There are several entries at PubPeer, and one would expect this number to increase. I would also not expect editors or authors will make any official statements on such delicate issues, as these are very low impact publications in a cold field of knowledge. I think the book episode was detailed on this same blog, possibly some other blogs in Brazil, however it seemed really a complicated conflict. Concerning other queries, the other Zuben seems to be a sibling, I do not see the relevance of PMS periodical here, and both NE titles refer to the same periodical.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.