Marine mammal injury study retracted for using restricted gov’t data

Integrative ZoologyA 2012 paper that analyzed injuries to aquatic mammals in China has been retracted “due to the usage of restricted data from the Ministry of Agriculture of China.”

The authors — from Shandong University in China, The University of Hong Kong and the Peruvian Centre for Cetacean Research — “organized the collection of official documents related to strandings, bycatches and injuries of aquatic mammals in the waters of mainland China from provincial fishery administrations for the years 2000 to 2006,” according to the abstract. However, they may not have been supposed to do that.

Here’s the retraction notice from Integrative Zoology (which is paywalled, tsk, tsk):

Wang Y, Li W (2012). Strandings, bycatches and injuries of aquatic mammals in china: A review based on national official documents. Integrative Zoology. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-4877.2012.292.x This article has been retracted by agreement between the authors, the journal editorial office, and Wiley Publishing Asia Pty Ltd. The retraction has been agreed due to the usage of restricted data from the Ministry of Agriculture of China.

The paper has yet to be cited, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. It also appears to have been published again in January in Marine Policy.

A spokesperson for Elsevier, which publishes Marine Policy, confirmed the authors had resubmitted the paper without the restricted data:

I can confirm this is just a case of restricted data that had been removed and/or simply summarized, then resubmitted.

A spokesperson for Wiley, the publishers of Integrative Zoology, confirmed the details of the retraction notice:

The article was retracted as it used restricted data from the Ministry of Agriculture of China and withdrawn for the same reason. The article was placed online on 6 November 2012 as an Accepted Article (articles accepted for publication, but not formally published). The retraction statement was published on 10 June 2013. The retraction statement was then transferred to an issue on 30 July 2015. Online, the dates should reflect each of these points and we are looking into this at the moment.

They also said that the article, which we’ve been unable to on the journal’s website, had been removed and replaced with the retraction notice (contrary to COPE guidelines):

The article has been withdrawn so is no longer online (and so only the retraction notice).

In their analysis, authors found that reports of injuries and bycatches (when fish are unintentionally caught in fishing nets) peaked during fishing season, which “may reflect the negative impacts of fishing activities.”

The authors acknowledged in the abstract that data issues prevent a thorough understanding of threats to China’s marine mammals:

Serious difficulties were encountered in overall data interpretation and between-provinces comparability, mainly due to a lack of quantified observer effort and variable expertise levels. Hence the establishment of a coordinated nationwide network is recommended, providing a mechanism for the instant reporting of aquatic mammal events, as well as the adoption of a standardised data recording system including necropsy protocols. Better-quality data should allow quantitative analyses leading to an improved understanding of anthropogenic threats in China’s aquatic mammal populations.

We’ve reached out to the first author Yamin Wang of Shandong University for a comment. We’ll update with any reply.

Hat tip: John Hutchinson

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One thought on “Marine mammal injury study retracted for using restricted gov’t data”

  1. To be fair, removing the retracted article may be contrary to COPE guidelines, but if restricted data was used, then there’s not much point in retracting the article if you don’t remove the data from circulation completely.

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