Clone call for bird gene bar-coding paper

molecules and cellsA group of bird researchers in Korea has lost their 2006 paper on DNA barcoding of that country’s avian species because they feathered the article with material from others.

The paper, “DNA barcoding Korean birds,” appeared in Molecules and Cells, published by Springer for the Korean Society for Molecular and Cellular Biology and has been cited 88 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. According to the abstract:

DNA barcoding, an inventory of DNA sequences from a standardized genomic region, provides a bio-barcode for identifying and discovering species. Several recent studies suggest that the sequence diversity in a 648 bp region of the mitochondrial gene for cytochrome c oxidase I (COI) might serve as a DNA barcode for identifying animal species such as North American birds, in- sects and fishes. The present study tested the effective- ness of a COI barcode in discriminating Korean bird species. We determined the 5′ terminus of the COI bar-code for 92 species of Korean birds and found that species identification was unambiguous; the genetic differences between closely related species were, on average, 25 times higher than the differences within species. We identified only one misidentified species out of 239 specimens in a genetic resource bank, so confirming the accuracy of species identification in the banking system. We also identified two potential composite species, calling for further investigation using more samples. The finding of large COI sequence differences between species confirms the effectiveness of COI barcodes for identifying Korean bird species. To bring greater reliability to the identification of species, increased intra- and interspecies sampling, as well as supplementation of the mitochondrial barcodes with nuclear ones, is needed.

But as the retraction notice, posted last April, states:

Members of the editorial board have unanimously agreed to retract the article [Mol. Cells 22 (2006) 323-327] for extensively plagiarizing from two other articles published in PLoS Biol. 2 (2004) e312, and in Heredity 97 (2006) 254-255.

Molecules and Cells strictly prohibits plagiarism which in the case of scientific publications refers to the act of presenting a study and/or idea as one’s own and failing to specify or disclose appropriate sources.

Here’s the abstract from the PLoS Biology paper:

Short DNA sequences from a standardized region of the genome provide a DNA barcode for identifying species. Compiling a public library of DNA barcodes linked to named specimens could provide a new master key for identifying species, one whose power will rise with increased taxon coverage and with faster, cheaper sequencing. Recent work suggests that sequence diversity in a 648-bp region of the mitochondrial gene, cytochrome c oxidase I (COI), might serve as a DNA barcode for the identification of animal species. This study tested the effectiveness of a COI barcode in discriminating bird species, one of the largest and best-studied vertebrate groups. We determined COI barcodes for 260 species of North American birds and found that distinguishing species was generally straightforward. All species had a different COI barcode(s), and the differences between closely related species were, on average, 18 times higher than the differences within species. Our results identified four probable new species of North American birds, suggesting that a global survey will lead to the recognition of many additional bird species. The finding of large COI sequence differences between, as compared to small differences within, species confirms the effectiveness of COI barcodes for the identification of bird species. This result plus those from other groups of animals imply that a standard screening threshold of sequence difference (10× average intraspecific difference) could speed the discovery of new animal species. The growing evidence for the effectiveness of DNA barcodes as a basis for species identification supports an international exercise that has recently begun to assemble a comprehensive library of COI sequences linked to named specimens.

And here’s a passage from the Heredity article, “DNA barcodes: recent successes and future prospects”:

To bring greater reliability to the identification of species using short DNA sequences, a move should be made to supplement the mtDNA-based barcode with nuclear barcodes.

Oddly, the link Springer provides at the bottom of the notice for the original article goes to this paper on DNA barcoding in Systematic Biology.

3 thoughts on “Clone call for bird gene bar-coding paper”

  1. I think Springer is now starting to feel a tsunami of complaints about the problems in its journals, academic and ethical. So, not even basic things like links work now. In the plant sciences, complaints go by unheard, hard-core evidence is ignored, and even though there is evidence of self-citation manipulation, in-house bickering about the ethics of authors, and clear evidence of data manipulation, erroneous science and simply bad quality work, Springer is turning an actively blind eye. I call on greater scrutiny of these management individuals. Take this notice, which lists about only one tenth of the problems of that paper:

    I am starting to believe that, at least in the plant sciences, that there should most likely be alot more retractions, errata, corrigenda and expressions of concern than is currently available. I am also starting to believe, based on quite alot of anecdotal evidence, that we must now hold the editors and the management of such journals, in this case, Springer, accountable for what they have “peer” reviewed, allowed to pass through into the literature, and are now selling as part of pay-per-download, or subscription policies.

    Springer publishes some of the most important plant science journals, and quite a large number of them, too, compared even to Elsevier, and the current attitude of little explanation, poor transparency, no feed-back, little respect and disdain for the whistle-blower, and no word of thanks when problems are pointed out, suggests that maybe there is not only a crisis in the editorial management and quality control oversight of the academic quality of the papers by the editor boards, but also now a serious managerial oversight of the true academic responsibilities.

    1. I got a similar impression from my dealing with Springer ( see my comment here: ) I believe Springer is committing a serious mistake by letting standards slip. After all they can charge the high prices they are charging simply because they are selling papers under their reputable brand name. If they loose that reputation, they have nothing to sell.

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