Did an author retract a paper at company’s behest? Retraction notice says yes, author now says no

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The author of a paper whose retraction notice says it was pulled at the behest of a company now says that wasn’t the case.

It’s a bit difficult to get this story straight: Although the retraction notice says a company complained the 2006 paper was “giving business inputs to their competitors,” the corresponding author told us no one asked him to retract the paper. Instead, he said, he was concerned about the inclusion of plant materials that belong to a previous employer, and did a “poor job” of explaining the reason for retraction. But since the results of the paper remain valid, Santosh Rajput — now a plant breeder at Dryland Genetics LLC in Ames, Iowa — told us he regrets asking to retract it:

At the time I requested the retraction in Dec 2013 while I was conducting my PhD research at the University of Nebraska I didn’t understand the implications of a retraction. Given what I know now and because I stand by the results in this paper, if I could do things over again I wouldn’t request a retraction.

Here’s the retraction notice:

The authors Rajput S.G., Wable K.J., Sharma K.M., Kubde P.D. and Mulay S.A., have requested the retraction of their article titled “Reproducibility testing of RAPD and SSR markers in Tomato” which was published in Vol. 5 (2), pp. 108-112, 16 January 2006 from the journal’s website and publisher’s database.

The retraction is based on the fact that company has asked me to retract this paper from journal’s website and publisher’s database since it is giving business inputs to their competitors.

Rajput S.G. is deeply sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused to the editorial staff, readers and co-author.

In an effort to stop the distribution of this publication and the data contained therein, African Journal of Biotechnology is retracting the article in its entirety with the consent of Rajput S.G.

The 2006 paper has so far been cited 17 times, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science.

Rajput told us:

I’m sorry to have confused everyone, but I did a poor job of explaining why I requested to have this paper retracted. No one asked me to retract it. I only did so because two accessions that belonged to my former employer Bejo Sheetal seeds were named in the paper. Post publication, I was worried that might have been inappropriate for me to have included this information. It was for this reason alone that I requested the retraction.

“Accessions,” for whoever isn’t familiar with the term, is defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, as:

A distinct, uniquely identifiable sample of seeds representing a cultivar, breeding line or a population, which is maintained in storage for conservation and use.

Rajput’s previous employer, Bejo Sheetal Seeds, which is based in Jalna, Maharashtra, India, is given credit in the acknowledgements section of the original paper:

We gratefully acknowledge Mr. Suresh Agrawal Managing Director, Bejo Sheetal Seeds Pvt Ltd. Jalna (INDIA), for providing facilities and critical guidance in conducting experiments.

In the paper, Rajput’s four co-authors are also identified as being affiliated with Bejo Sheetal Seeds, but Rajput’s institution is listed as Marathwada Agriculture University in Parbhani, Maharashtra, India. According to his LinkedIn page, however, Rajput was also at Bejo Sheetal Seeds from 2004-08.

Rajput told us he requested the retraction more than a year before moving to his current company, which doesn’t work on tomatoes or related species.

It’s not totally unheard of for a company to allegedly complain a paper is hurting its profits — in 2014, we reported on a retraction sparked by a processing company that alleged a paper was

crumbling their business inputs to their competitors leading to a drastic reduction in customers and consumers hence affecting their productivity and profitability.

A commenter on this case, however, noted that the company was never named, and that this reason for retraction may be a convenient way to pull an otherwise flawed paper.

That 2014 retraction appeared in the African Journal of Food Science — which, like the African Journal of Biotechnology, is published by Academic Journals, listed on librarian Jeffrey Beall’s list of “potential, possible, or probable predatory” scholarly publishers.

We’ve reached out to Bejo Sheetal Seeds and George Ude, editor-in-chief of the African Journal of Biotechnology from Bowie State University in Maryland. We’ll update the post with anything else we learn.

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