Sometimes publishers and authors decide it’s easier to retract a paper than leave it up for discussion by other scientists.
That seems to be the case here: The authors of a paper in Langmuir retracted it in September for a math mistake, but not before the journal refused to publish a comment criticizing the publication.
Here’s the notice for “Drainage of a thin liquid film between hydrophobic spheres: Boundary curvature effects:”
Our article published in Langmuir is a theoretical study of the think flim drainage process between two identical solid spheres. It highlighted the possible consequences of the boundary curvature effects, which have not been studied before. Recently, during the process of generalizing the work for two arbitrarily curved surfaces, one of the authors (A.F.) found errors in the mathematical derivation. These errors were also noticed by others. Consequently, the results presented in the article are not reliable.
We apologize for the confusion raised in the academic community.
Author Yongli Mi gave us more details:
There [is] not too much to tell besides the statement we made. We made a mistake in [a] derivation [in] the modeling work and published without noticing it. After the work was received, one of the editors in communication with others found our mistakes. I immediately contacted my post-doctoral research, Dr. Fang Angbo, and he told me the mistake he made was also found by him, so we retracted our paper.
However, physicist Olga Vinogradova emailed us to express her dissatisfaction with this explanation. She and a co-author submitted a criticism of Mi and Fang’s paper to Langmuir in June, but the journal chose not to publish it:
I’m very disappointed with the Langmuir Journal. The paper was approved by 3 referees and an Editor, and none of them (!) detected numerous fundamental mistakes there. This clearly indicates the low standard of reviewing in Langmuir. After Evgeny Asmolov and I saw this paper, we immediately decided to write a comment. Some mistakes were obvious, but one of them required a detailed clarification (since to detect it you should be a professional in math). You could find the details here http://arxiv.org/abs/1406.1614
We submitted a comment to Langmuir, and several referees recommended to publish it. However, the editors of Langmuir rejected our comment by telling us that after reading it Fang and Mi agreed with our critics and would like to withdraw their paper. I believe this was a wrong decision since comments are an important part of a scientific life (and can prevent other newcomers to the field from making the same mistakes).
It is indeed ridiculous to read now the editorial note about this retraction. Asmolov and I found mistakes (in June), but not Fang (in September)! What the Langmuir writes in this editorial note is simply not true. Better ask the editors why they declined our comment and why they are now trying to misinform the readers. One cannot hide this story since our comment is in arxiv. Many people have read it and know the true story.
We’ve reached out to the editor, and will update with any new information. In the meantime, take our poll: