Researchers repeat retracted study, republish in same journal sans first author

biol psychWe’ve been following the case of Amine Bahi, a neuroscience researcher in the United Arab Emirates who has managed something unusual in the annals of Retraction Watch: Three different retractions for three completely different reasons. One was for “legal issues,” another was for lack of IRB approval, and the third was for using RNAs from the wrong species.

Now, Bahi’s co-authors have repeated the last of those studies with the right RNAs, and have republished their paper in the same journal, Biological Psychiatry — but without Bahi.

The retraction notice for “Blockade of Protein Phosphatase 2B Activity in the Amygdala Increases Anxiety- and Depression-Like Behaviors in Mice” now includes this final paragraph:

The second and third authors have re-conducted all experiments reported in the original paper in order to collect new data and republish the findings. The new and re-reviewed version of this article appears in this issue of Biological Psychiatry (75:991-998; doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.03.009).

The new paper, “Calcineurin Downregulation in the Amygdala Is Sufficient to Induce Anxiety-like and Depression-like Behaviors in C57BL/6J Male Mice,” does not refer to the retraction.

We’ve seen other cases in which retracted papers find new homes, of course.

Hat tip: Maria Wolters


12 thoughts on “Researchers repeat retracted study, republish in same journal sans first author”

  1. IIRC I think there were only one or two base substitutions between the RNA of the species used and the correct RNA – so the replication is not surprising.
    Having said that, it would be interesting to see the results if the experimenters were blinded to the treatment and had no stake in the outcome.

  2. I’ve seen something similar to this where comments from peer-reviewers were taken into consideration and the team just repeated the experiemnts from scratch rather than try to publish work that was considered to be methologically flawed.

    1. It is astonishing that Elsevier has allowed the new paper to be published without reference to the retracted paper. This sounds unethical to me (on the part of Elsevier and the new authors). Also, even if the experiment was repeated, most of the work, or protocols, and possibly even ideas, originated from the retracted paper. Even if Bahi was unethical, was he in fact not a de facto author of the new paper, too (at least fulfilling one or some requirements for authorship)? Cutting Bahi sounds more like an act of revenge than cool-minded planning to me. I think the issue of authorship and/or acknowledgements (as well as the purposeful omission of the retracted paper) needs to be queried (to Bahi and to the journal). What is COPE’s position on such cases, I wonder?

      1. Are we supposed to cite retracted papers?
        Seriously, I thought we were never to cite a retracted paper.

        1. The new paper is based on flaws of the retracted paper. The new paper did not emerge out of fresh air or based on new and formidable novel findings. The new paper was based on regurgitated and remixed parts of the old paper, almost plagiaristic in nature as qaq refers to below. In this case, the retracted paper must be referenced, even if only in the introduction to explain to the readers, the reviewers and the scientific community what the true source and birth of the “revamped” paper was. Generally, in my own papers, I always reference retracted papers in a special section to outline the problems that exist in the literature. Methodologies from retracted papers or conclusions based on fraudulent papers should never be referenced in a positive light, because they are flawed (and in that sense, I agree with you DocMartyn). If not only to draw readers’ attention to the fact that there exists incorrect or false results in the literature, either as part of the introduction or discussion, I am fully in support of referencing a retracted paper. The way I always reference a retracted paper is by adding (retracted + the URL and/or PDF link) immediately after the full reference. We don’t have to fear retractions, or abuse them, but we have to use what lies behind a retraction smarty to advance science, and show how it should not be (or have been) conducted.

          1. The new paper did not emerge out of fresh air, indeed, it was likely based on the hypothesis that led to the first paper. What lies behind the retraction are made-up results that fit the hypothesis; should it be cited? As what? Neither do I think that Bahi should be an author.

  3. per elsiveir (
    author if made substantive intellectual contributions to 1) conception and design AND 2) drafting the article, and/or revising it critically for important intellectual content.
    AND “All individuals who meet criteria for authorship must be named as authors.”

    The new article is pretty much a paraphrased version of the old with too much similarity to be considered truly novel. Therefore, I would classify this as plagiarism.

    1. I am not a psychiatrist, but what on earth does biological psychiatry even mean? Can any psychiatry not be biological, especially considering that psychiatry can only involve living (biological) organisms? The word “biological” in the journal title thus sounds redundant to me. The issues regarding (self)-plagiarism (strictly speaking of a non existent paper), authorship, inappropriate attribution for intellectual contribution by Bahi in the retracted version, and the act of actively ignoring to reference the retracted paper, or to provide any explanaton in the new version why a new version had to be published, or why the retracted version had problems, casts serious doubts on the retraction modus operandi that is in place by Elsevier. Was this 9.247 Impact Factor journal instructed by Elsevier to leave out any mention of the retracted paper? The disclaimer on their Elsevier top page ( is almost comical: “No responsibility is assumed by the Publisher or by the Society of Biological Psychiatry for any injury and/or damages to persons or property as a matter of products liability, negligence or otherwise, or from any use or operation of any methods, products, instructions, or ideas contained in the material herein. No suggested test or procedure should be carried out unless, in the reader’s judgment, its risk is justified.” This wash-my-hands-clean-of-any-responsibility-when-the-going-gets-tough approach mimics that which I have frequently observed in several clashes with Elsevier, so I am now beginning to understand why the new paper was published, ignoring totally all of the questionable issues.

  4. Elsevier clearly specified what was going on after the authors identified potential issues and notified Yale University and the journal: “This article has been retracted at the request of Yale University and the second and third authors, in consultation with Biological Psychiatry Deputy Editor, Eric J. Nestler, MD, PhD.

    Reason: The first author informed his co-authors and stated in the article that three short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) (158–182 bp, 466–490 bp, 1452–1476 bp) had been designed to target the messenger RNA encoding CnA (NM_008915) and had been used in the experiments that formed the basis of the article. The first author has since acknowledged that he used shRNAs directed against rat calcineurin, not mouse calcineurin, in the experiments. Neither the second nor third author participated in or had knowledge of the first author’s actions.

    The second and third authors have re-conducted all experiments reported in the original paper in order to collect new data and republish the findings.” So it is not a surprise to now publish the “untainted” data. It is the right thing to do despite the obvious extra work and hardship.

  5. The retracted paper has more issues than that… it is still available in PMC and check out Fig S4 A and B… It’s difficult to see at first but it seems that parts of the blots are duplicated….

    1. Apparently duplicated ERK 1 and 2 blots but with different exposure/contrast…which would be not just a mistake in cutting and pasting but a cut/paste trying to look different.

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