Duplication snuffs out pollen abstract

AACIA Canadian research team has retracted a meeting abstract “published in error” from a supplement by Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology, as it had previously been published in another journal.

The December 2014 abstract, “A post-hoc qualitative analysis of real time heads-up pollen counting versus traditional microscopy counting in the environmental exposure unit (EEU),” describes a custom digital imaging method for counting pollen in real-time. The abstract was published ten months earlier, in February 2014, under the same title in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Here is the full retraction note:

This meeting abstract [1], published in the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and AllerGen Abstracts 2014 supplement, has been retracted from Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology by the authors. The meeting abstract has previously been published in Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology [2] and was inadvertently submitted to Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology as part of the supplement. The authors apologise for any inconvenience that this may have caused.

Despite the wording of the retraction note, which says the abstract was “inadvertently submitted,” the author says the error happened on the journal’s side, as she claims the authors were careful to note during the submission process that the abstract was not eligible for publication. According to corresponding author Lisa Steacy at Kingston General Hospital in Ontario:

This abstract was originally presented in poster form at the 2014 American Academy of Allergy and Immunology annual meeting and published in their journal.  I then submitted the abstract to the Canadian Annual Conference (Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology) as they allow previously presented abstracts to be presented.  When the abstract was submitted to CSACI a note was made, as per instruction, that the abstract was not eligible for publication because it had already been published.  CSACI published the abstract in error and as soon as I noticed the error I contacted CSACI and the retraction process was initiated.

Journal editor Richard Warrington at the University of Manitoba told us that it appears both a review committee and an automated plagiarism detection software failed to pick up on the duplication:

The abstracts submitted to the Canadian Society of Allergy & Immunology Annual Meeting are reviewed by a Committee of the Society. In the instructions to those submitting abstracts it is specified clearly that abstracts should not have been published elsewhere. When the accepted abstracts are submitted to me for review for the Journal Supplement, I assume that the review committee has ensured that duplicate publication has not occurred, and in addition, BioMed Central runs the supplement through iThenticate, which should pick up previously published abstracts, but did not in this case. Our Society Manager actually noticed the duplicate publication a day after the supplement was published and drew our attention to it. It is my opinion that the abstract was submitted by mistake. However, I should add that in addition to the instructions forbidding duplicate publication, we do send out emails to abstract submitters reminding them of this requirement. If you have any further suggestions on how to prevent this happening in future, I would be happy to hear them.

Hat tip: Rolf Degen

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