Retraction of letter alleging sock puppetry now cites “legal reasons”

jasistEarlier this month, we brought you the story of a retraction from the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology involving rivalry and alleged sock puppetry. The author of the now-retracted letter, physicist Lorenzo Iorio, claimed that another researcher was using fake names to criticize his work on arXiv.At the time, the editor of the journal had told everyone concerned that the letter would be retracted, but the retraction notice hadn’t yet appeared. Now it has.

Here’s the notice:

The above article, published online on 28 April 2014 in Wiley Online Library (, has been withdrawn with agreement from the journal Editor-in-Chief, Blaise Cronin, and Wiley Periodicals, Inc. The withdrawal has been agreed for legal reasons.

We really hate vague notices that cite “legal reasons.” Perhaps all of the other reasons for retraction are illegal!



10 thoughts on “Retraction of letter alleging sock puppetry now cites “legal reasons””

  1. Can someone please explain the difference between a sockpuppet, an anonymous whistle-blower and a rat? Moreover, what term is used to describe the two following cases:
    a) one who makes an anonymous complaint (using a fictitious name) to a journal, editor or publisher about dubious science, academic fraud, or misconduct?
    b) one who criticises another scientist about a paper, but wishes to remain anonymous to avoid COIs?

    1. I would add a b’) case: one who, although having already published rebuttals to his critics in peer-reviewed journals with his own name, apparently decides to use different (at the moment, we know only allegations about “Forst” and “Felici”, but they could have been much more in view of what written by arXiv since the exposure of the “Forst” case) sockpuppets to fabricate a false consensus against competitors to (try to) mislead the scientific community about their results and, indirectly, gain consensus for his own results.

      1. Please note: Ciufolini actually has had the courage to publicly reply to my previous criticisms in peer-review journals (I think his Nature paper has the record of published peer-reviewed articles criticizing it..), and, of course, he did not risk any legal action.

        1. To gain some more insight into the overall background of this story, it may be interesting to look at the Talk page and at the history of the Wikipedia article “frame-dragging”. You will see that some years ago, around 2007-2008, an editing war exploded on that article which was repeatedly vandalized. Indeed, all and only the references to my articles were repeatedly removed by IPs based in Italy (Lazio, Rome area) and, in one case, by Giampiero Sindoni (he used his own name), a member of the LARES team, while all the references to the Ciufolini’s articles always stayed (correctly) untouched.This went on for several days consecutively, with peaks of genuine comedy as when my articles, immediately after having been removed, were reinstaed to be removed again after few minutes… None has never removed the Ciufolini’s articles. Now, the situation is fine, and all papers are correctly cited. Later, around 2010, another controversy popped out in the talk page of the same article, when some editors attempted to undermine the credibility of my criticisms to the Ciufolini’s work by stressing that they came just from a single individual (in bold). Interestingly, such editors cited just “Forst” and “Felici” as examples of reliable references….

  2. Just a brief recap

    *9 September 2013:
    arXiv wrote Ciufolini’s name at the Forst paper

    *19 December 2013 (just after I started to circulate it):
    arXiv removed it (writing to me that they “changed their policies”, not that they erroneously identified Ciufolini)

    *28 December 2013:
    arXiv wrote again Ciufolini’s name at the Forst paper and also at the Felici paper

    *3 January 2014:
    I submit the Letter-to-the-Editor to JASIST

    *5 January 2014:
    The Editor-in-Chief of JASIST, B. Cronin, after having guided me in properly editing the letter’s text, accept it without external review.

    *14 Febraury 2014:
    arXiv removed Ciufolini’s name comically changing also the email used by Ciufolini from into…, so that now Felici is…..arXiv!

    *28 April 2014:
    My Letter-to-the-Editor appears as Early View on JASIST’s website

    *21 May 2014:
    B. Cronin wrote to me and Ciufolini announcing that my Letter had been removed from the JASIST (Early View) website and that it will not be published because of “a deep-rooted disagreement related to the matter of alleged pseudonymous publishing” between Ciufolini and myself.

    *21 May 2014:
    B. Cronin replied to me that he would have referred the matter to the both The Association for Information Science & Technology and Wiley-Blackwell

    *28 May 2014:
    B. Cronin wrote to me and Ciufolini that “on the basis of discussions involving ASIS&T, Wiley and” himself, “a formal decision has been made to not publish the Letter-to-the-Editor. It will be removed from Early View”, he has been assured.

    *11 June 2014:
    The Letter has been left in the JASIST (Early View) website with the addition that it is now a “withdrawn” article because of “legal reasons”

    1. Did they inform Dr. Lorenzo Iorio of what the legal reasons were for how they treated the article ‘A new type of misconduct in the field of the physical sciences: The case of the pseudonyms used by I. Ciufolini to anonymously criticize other people’s works on arXiv’?

      1. Another funny issue:

        after Ciufolini wrote on Neuroskeptic’s blog: “The defamatory and offensive paper by Mr. Lorenzo Iorio was finally withdrawn from JASIST. Incidentally, the two papers mentioned by Mr. Iorio can be seen and downloaded at: [links at arXiv] “, well, arXiv….decided to publish my JASIST letter in full! Here it is:

        Moreover, in a private reply to an inquiry of mine, the new Scientific Director of arXiv, once again, did not mention any error/mistake on their part in identifying “Forst” and “Felici” with Ciufolini.

        Oh, incidentally, just note: Ciufolini still continues to cite the “Forst”-“Felici” papers as reliable sources criticizing GP-B and myself! Fantastic!

  3. Here, I list the Ciufolini’s talks to international conferences in which he cited the “Forst” preprint

    Frascati-Villa Mondragone, 3 October 2008,

    Bern, 6 October 2008

    Poznan, 13 October 2008

    You may note that the slides of the Bern presentation have been removed from the official site of the LARES mission….

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