Bitter rheumatology authorship dispute ends in retraction

rbrA 2012 expression of concern prompted by an authorship dispute has been upgraded to a retraction.

As we reported in 2012, Revista Brasiliera de Reumatologia (aka the Brazilian Journal of Rheumatology) issued an expression of concern about “Anticitrullinated peptide antibodies and rheumatoid factor in Sudanese patients with Leishmania donovani infection” after

a claim from one of the authors, questioning the authorship of the corresponding author, and informed that the article was under submission to another journal.

The journal sought the advice of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), and continued its investigation. That investigation is apparently now complete, and this retraction notice is the result:

This was due to plagiarism.

The reasons presented are:

1) The author Elghazali G did not participate in generating the data for the article and never was co-author on any version of the manuscript.
2) An article with very similar content, which was part of the doctoral thesis of the first author Ahlin, was accepted for publication elsewhere.
3) The numbers of work published in this journal were identical to the figures in the doctoral thesis of the author Ahlin E.
4) The author’s name Johan Ronnelid was misspelled.

The narrative neatly matches an anonymous case at COPE that we flagged in our 2012 post. We thought that case was referring to misspellings of Elshafie’s name, but it seems it was Ronnelid’s.

We asked Ronnelid for comment, and he declined. Gehad ElGhazali told us a few days ago he would send comments, but hasn’t yet. He did say he has taken legal action against Uppsala University, where Erik Ahlin and Ronnelid both work.

The paper has been cited once, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

3 thoughts on “Bitter rheumatology authorship dispute ends in retraction”

  1. So, it seems as if authorship disputes were not the only reasons. Plagarism and duplication seemed to also factor into the equation. The most hilarious part of this retraction notice is that a misspelling of an authors is actually listed as a reason for retraction. While I do feel that there are issues related to the relationship between authors, why should Elsevier, who pays COPE membership dues in what I claim is a too-cozy relationship, receive unfavorable advice from COPE?

  2. I wish from now on Brazilian journals would stop being so timid about investigating misconduct and issuing retractions, and would increase the frequency of these procedures, particularly pertaining their comrades’ papers, even if often they work in the same university and building. A quick look into PubPeer will show there are many cases in urgent need of investigative attention.

  3. One question that remains unanswered in this saga is how did Elghazali get hold of the data and figures that were part of/ similar to doctoral thesis of Ahlin and their paper in another journal when Elghazali did not participate in generating data and had never been a co-author on any version of the manuscript? Elghazali was not even in physical proximity of the Ahlin lab to steal or access the data from other means unless the one silent co-author who was in the same institute as Elghazali made it available to him for reasons best known to him/ her.
    As per the COPE website though the paper by Ronnelid was submitted first, the one submitted by Elghazali was published first suggesting that both the papers were submitted possibly very close to each other in terms of time.

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