“This article was published in error”: Economics paper defaults

EDQ_ak14An economist in Taiwan has retracted a paper about from Economic Development Quarterly because it was “published in error.”

The paper — first published online March 5, 2013 — addresses the influence of information and communication technology on economic growth.

According to the notice, the paper included “the original dataset and excerpts from an earlier draft of the paper co-written by the author and colleagues.” The only listed author, Yi-Chia Wang, asked that the article be retracted before making it into print, but it looks like it was included in the February, 2015 issue of the journal.

Here’s the notice for “How ICT Penetration Influences Productivity Growth: Evidence From 17 OECD Countries”:

Wang, Y.- C. (2015) How ICT Penetration Influences Productivity Growth: Evidence From 17 OECD Countries, Economic Development Quarterly, 29: 79-92. First published on March 5, 2013 doi:10.1177/0891242413478650.

This article was published in error and has been retracted at the request of the author. The author requested the article be withdrawn after publication on Online First but prior to publication in the February 2015 issue, informing the journal that the paper included the original dataset and excerpts from an earlier draft of the paper co-written by the author and colleagues. The research in the paper was funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC) and Defense Cyber Investigations Training Academy (DCITA).

Wang, who is now an assistant professor of economics at National Taipei University, didn’t have anything to add to the notice:

I had informed the editors of EDQ two years ago about the retraction of the paper, there is no additional comments on it. Thank you very much for your email.

We checked with the public relations department of the publisher, SAGE, and received the following reply:

Thanks for your patience while we chased this down.   What I learned is that the article “How ICT Penetration Influences Productivity Growth: Evidence from 17 OECD Countries” (published on March 5, 2013 in Economic Development Quarterly)  was retracted at the author’s request due to inadequate approval from co-researchers and funders, who had been part of an earlier draft of the paper.  The article author made an attempt to prevent publication in early 2013; however, the article had already been published Online First and was scheduled to be part of the February 2015 issue of the journal. The article was retracted in the next issue of the journal, the March 2015 issue.

We’re scratching our heads a bit over this one. If the author asked to stop publication in early 2013, why was the article put in print two years later? “Simple oversight,” SAGE tells us:

The print publication of the article after the author’s request to retract was an editorial oversight that was rectified as soon as the mistake was caught, hence the retraction.

And from another email:

The author sent the note in 2013, but it just got put aside and overlooked. Simple oversight.

Hat tip: Rolf Degen

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One thought on ““This article was published in error”: Economics paper defaults”

  1. “Simple oversight”?

    Maybe from the editors’ and publisher’s point of view, but the consequences are not at all simple for the authors. They are now stigmatized with a retraction – which the lead author took timely, well-intentioned actions to prevent.

    Why did RW need to check with Sage’s public relations department? This incident is something that would appear to be entirely the responsibility of the Editor in Chief or someone on the editorial staff responsible for paying careful attention to correspondence from authors, and for taking prompt action whenever necessary. And for realizing when action is needed, and not just disregarding any emails or files that do not fit comfortably into any of the manuscript management system’s default algorithms.

    On the journal’s home page there is no link (at least not that I can see) to the names of the editors or editorial board members. Not a good way to encourage editorial transparency and accountability. And also, an example of noncompliance with COPE’s recommendations – although the homepage proclaim, “This journal is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)”.

    Sadly, we already know that COPE membership does not ensure compliance with best editorial practices. It’s great PR for the journal but at many of not most COPE member journals, it’s ineffective in terms of actually leading journals to strengthen their policies and practices.

    Journal editorial offices may rely too much on convenient, automated manuscript management systems to reduce the workload and save costs on labor, since the people who operate these systems are often, apparently, not subject experts but simply administrators with PC and software skills but little (if any) knowledge about science, much less knowledge about research and journal publication ethics.

    An interesting recent discussion of (the declining quality of) editorial office processes took place on the Scholarly Kitchen post “The Manuscript Submission Mess: Brief Notes from a Grumpy Author” http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2015/06/15/the-manuscript-submission-mess-brief-notes-from-a-grumpy-author/ .

    Authors are required to be entirely accountable for the quality and ethical conduct of the research, and for an ever-growing list of requirements for data availability and sharing, publication ethics, and anything else it may occur the editor to add to the list (possibly in response to a single editorial or article by a single editor or group of editorial ethics experts) without first thinking critically about how easy or difficult compliance is likely to be for author.

    Accountability is all for the best. But in the current situation, accountability is demanded only of authors, and noncompliance often leads to some form of punishment. In contrast, noncompliance with best editorial ethical practices by editors and publishers is a “simple oversight”.

    It would be much better if the Editor of EDQ would apologize (publicly, for the record, in both the early online and print editions, with links to the article and retraction notice), take responsibility for the error, and provider readers with information regarding how EDQ intends to avoid similar mistakes in the future.

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