PLOS ONE has retracted a paper published one month ago after readers began criticizing it for mentioning “the Creator.”
The article “Biomechanical Characteristics of Hand Coordination in Grasping Activities of Daily Living” now includes a reader comment from PLOS Staff, noting:
The PLOS ONE editors have followed up on the concerns raised about this publication. We have completed an evaluation of the history of the submission and received advice from two experts in our editorial board. Our internal review and the advice we have received have confirmed the concerns about the article and revealed that the peer review process did not adequately evaluate several aspects of the work.
In light of the concerns identified, the PLOS ONE editors have decided to retract the article, the retraction is being processed and will be posted as soon as possible. We apologize for the errors and oversight leading to the publication of this paper.
A spokesperson for the publisher also told us there may be more to say soon:
We may have more information later today or tomorrow.
Yesterday, the journal warned something might happen, in another comment:
A number of readers have concerns about sentences in the article that make references to a ‘Creator’. The PLOS ONE editors apologize that this language was not addressed internally or by the Academic Editor during the evaluation of the manuscript. We are looking into the concerns raised about the article with priority and will take steps to correct the published record.
In response to yesterday’s comment, a writer claiming to be one of the authors said they misinterpreted the word “Creator,” and asked to correct — not retract– the paper:
We are sorry for drawing the debates about creationism. Our study has no relationship with creationism. English is not our native language. Our understanding of the word Creator was not actually as a native English speaker expected. Now we realized that we had misunderstood the word Creator. What we would like to express is that the biomechanical characteristic of tendious connective architecture between muscles and articulations is a proper design by the NATURE (result of evolution) to perform a multitude of daily grasping tasks. We will change the Creator to nature in the revised manuscript. We apologize for any troubles may have caused by this misunderstanding.
We have spent seven months doing the experiments, analysis, and write up. I hope this paper will not be discriminated only because of this misunderstanding of the word. Please could you read the paper before making a decision.
Competing interests declared: I am the author of paper.
We’re sympathetic to linguistic issues, of course, but it’s usually the job of editors or reviewers to manage those.
The paper, about the biomechanics of hands, gives a shout out to “the Creator” as early as the abstract, which contains this sentence:
The explicit functional link indicates that the biomechanical characteristic of tendinous connective architecture between muscles and articulations is the proper design by the Creator to perform a multitude of daily tasks in a comfortable way.
It pops up again in the introduction and conclusion of the paper:
In conclusion, our study can improve the understanding of the human hand and confirm that the mechanical architecture is the proper design by the Creator for dexterous performance of numerous functions following the evolutionary remodeling of the ancestral hand for millions of years.
The unusual language caused a firestorm on Twitter, and many negative comments on the PLOS site, some calling for the paper’s retraction. Some comments from purported PLOS editors said they would resign if the journal didn’t pull the paper.
Update: 3/4/16 9:40 a.m. eastern: Do you agree with the journal’s decision to retract the paper? Take our poll.
Update: 3/5/16 1:41 p.m. eastern: PLOS ONE has released a retraction note for the paper:
Following publication, readers raised concerns about language in the article that makes references to a ‘Creator’, and about the overall rationale and findings of the study.
Upon receiving these concerns, the PLOS ONE editors have carried out an evaluation of the manuscript and the pre-publication process, and they sought further advice on the work from experts in the editorial board. This evaluation confirmed concerns with the scientific rationale, presentation and language, which were not adequately addressed during peer review.
Consequently, the PLOS ONE editors consider that the work cannot be relied upon and retract this publication.
The editors apologize to readers for the inappropriate language in the article and the errors during the evaluation process.
Like Retraction Watch? Consider making a tax-deductible contribution to support our growth. You can also follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us to your RSS reader, sign up on our homepage for an email every time there’s a new post, or subscribe to our new daily digest. Click here to review our Comments Policy.