Several chem journals neutralize papers from Brazil group over figure fraud

quimica novaSeveral journals have retracted or corrected papers from a group at State University of Maringá in Brazil over what one chemistry journal calls “fraudulent use” of figures previously published by the authors.

Química Nova, which is retracting a 2013 paper, issued a notice that taps an additional eight articles with Angelica Lazarin as the corresponding author that reused figures. Specifically, the papers included images “where same trace on the figure was assigned to different conditions and/or compounds.”

A number of the papers mentioned in the Química Nova notice were co-authored by Claudio Airoldi, whose group retracted 11 papers in 2011 following concerns over fraudulent nuclear magnetic resonance images.

In addition, Open Journal of Synthesis Theory and Applications is retracting a 2013 paper after an investigation found that “substantial portions of the text came from other published papers.”

Here’s the notice in Química Nova for “Adsorption of a copper (II) complex on calcium phasphate intercalated with 4-aminobenzoic acid – Synthesis and electrochemical investigation”:

This article has been retracted in 25/11/2014 Reason: This article was retracted by decision of the Editors, following Química Nova publication ethics guide, in view of apparent fraudulent use of several figures from previously and posteriorly published articles by the same authors, where same trace on the figure was assigned to different conditions and/or compounds. The publications involved are the following: Sensors and Actuators B 2002, 87, 498-505; Journal of Membrane Science 2003, 221, 175- 184; Analytica Chimica Acta 2004, 523, 89-95 ; Journal of Chemical Thermodynamics 2006, 38, 130-135; Solid State Sciences 2008, 10, 1139-1144; Materials Research Bulletin 2012, 47, 1539-1543; Open Journal of Synthesis Theory and Applications 2013, 2, 1-7; Thermochimica Acta 2014, 589, 107-113.

And here’s the notice in Open Journal of Synthesis Theory and Applications for “Intercalation of Amines into Layered Calcium Phosphate and Their New Behavior for Copper Retention from Ethanolic Solution”:

The following article has been retracted due to the investigation of complaints received against it. The Editorial Board found that substantial portions of the text came from other published papers. Unethical behavior such as self-plagiarism and misuse of published figures and data without copyright consent will be treated very seriously. The scientific community takes a very strong view on this matter, and the OJSTA treats all unethical behavior such as plagiarism seriously. This paper published in Vol.2 No. 1,1-7, 2013, has been removed from this site.

That paper was subject to a correction earlier this year altering two figures, saying they were “printed incorrectly.” Editor Yuk Sham told Retraction Watch that the journal was contacted by Química Nova:

After conducting our own internal review of the paper, we identify sufficient scientific and ethical misconduct to follow suit.

Solid State Sciences also printed a correction to the 2008 Lazarin and Airoldi paper “Methylene blue intercalated into calcium phosphate – electrochemical properties and ascorbic acid oxidation study” (4 citations, according to Google Scholar), which updated several figures and read:

The authors regret that the original printing of above printed article Fig. 1, 2 and 6 were printed incorrectly.

The Journal of Chemical Thermodynamics has corrected images in the 2005 Lazarin and Airoldi paper  “Calorimetric data on intercalation of some aromatic amines into barium phenylphosphonate at the solid/liquid interface” (16 citations, says Google Scholar):

The authors regret that the original printing of above printed article figures 2 and 4 were printed incorrectly. The new figures do not bring changes to the thermodynamic data published in the paper.

The following papers were tapped in the Química Nova notice but have yet to be corrected or retracted (links go to PubPeer, where commenters have been chronicling the papers’ problems):

“Methylene blue–zirconium phosphate-cellulose acetate hybrid membrane film attached to a platinum electrode and its application in electrocatalytic oxidation of NADH,” Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical. (25 citations, according to Google Scholar)

“A platinum electrode coated with a copper (II) aminopropyl complex-cellulose acetate membrane and its use for dissolved oxygen reduction,” Journal of Membrane Science. (24 citations)

Intercalation of methylene blue into barium phosphate—synthesis and electrochemical investigation,” Analytica Chimica Acta.
(30 citations)

Synthesis, characterization and cation adsorption of p-aminobenzoic acid intercalated on calcium phosphate,” Materials Research Bulletin. (5 citations)

Thermodynamics of the nickel, cobalt and zinc removal from ethanolic solution by p-aminobenzoic acid intercalated on layered calcium phosphate,” Thermochimica Acta. 

Analytica Chimica Acta editor Manuel Miró Lladó emailed us to say he knew about the Química Nova paper, and cc’d us on an email to an Elsevier spokesperson looking for an update. Materials Research Bulletin editor Rick Ubic told us he was aware of the Química Nova retraction, and is waiting to hear back from the corresponding author. Thermochimica Acta editor Nobuyoshi Koga told us that Elsevier is looking at all of the authors’ papers in their journals.

We’ve reached out to the authors and an Elsevier spokesperson, and will update if we hear back.

Hat tip Rolf Degen.

Update 2/19/15 3:13 p.m. EST: Química Nova editor Luiz Catalani emailed us with more details:

QN received an anonymous alert by email pointing at possible misuse of identical figures in more than one publication from a group of authors; QN editors appointed a panel of specialists to analyze the case; the panel concluded the case was sound and pointed to other similar cases within the body of the author’s publications; QN contacted the authors for their explanations; the claims of the authors were sent to the panel; the panel decided the authors claims did not account for the facts; QN editors decided to retract the paper; this decision was sent to the authors, the involved journal’s editorial offices, the author’s institutions and the grant agencies that supported the research.
May I also add that we follow strictly the  CODE OF CONDUCT AND BEST PRACTICE GUIDELINES
Update 2/20/15 12:30 p.m. EST: An Elsevier spokesperson has told us they don’t anticipate further retractions from this group of articles.

3 thoughts on “Several chem journals neutralize papers from Brazil group over figure fraud”

  1. One thing that worries me is the paucity of engagement of the public in scientific affairs coming from Brazil. Most of my Brazilian colleagues do not read Retraction Watch Blog or other international science blogs, and none of them declare leaving comments here. I suspect of a language barrier, which prevents a wider participation in case discussions. Brazilian newspapers take rather long to publish these facts (if ever publish), and focus on statements and explanations by local scientists and the authors, which thus tend to be biased.

  2. VR is right, cases such as this one get little attention either by the general public or the local scientific community in Brazil. Since almost 100% of local research is funded by the brazilian taxpayer the situation should be very different. To make matters worse some of the accused are full professors that also have (or had) major administrative roles at universities and research agencies. However, given major corruption scandals at all levels of government it is quite difficult to see scientific fraud receiving more attention by the general public. Not a nice environment and, unfortunately, the researchers that struggle to do relevant science in Brazil will also get the bad reputation that this sort of episode brings.

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