Author pulls study for duplication, blames editing company

MedChemCommThe author of a paper about insulin has retracted it due to “extensive text and data overlap” with another paper.

In November 2015, MedChemComm issued an expression of concern (EOC) for the same paper. According to the EOC, the author of the paper, Yong Yang, flagged the paper to the journal, citing problems with authorship and portions of text overlap, which Yang attributed to an editing company.  

The editor-in-chief of the journal told us Yang’s institution — China Medical University — carried out an investigation into the case at the journal’s request.

We’ve also found a 2015 retraction for Yang, after he published a paper without the okay of his previous institution in Texas. 

Here’s the retraction notice:

I, the named author, hereby wholly retract this MedChemComm article due to extensive text and data overlap with a previous publication that I co-authored.1

Fig. 1b–d, 2b–d, 3a and 3b in this MedChemComm paper were copied from ref. 1 and do not represent results from experiments with apigenin.

This retraction supersedes the information provided in the Expression of Concern related to this article.

Signed: Yong Yang, 22nd June 2016.

Retraction endorsed by Richard Kelly, Executive Editor, MedChemComm.

  1. Quercetin suppresses insulin receptor signaling through inhibition of the insulin ligand–receptor binding and therefore impairs cancer cell proliferation, Feng Wang and Yong Yang, Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun., 2014, 452, 1028–1033.

And here’s the expression of concern, issued by the journal last November:

The following article ‘Identifying the inhibitory mechanism of apigenin on the insulin ligand–receptor binding’ by Yong Yang has been published in MedChemComm. The article reports that using single-molecule force measurement and fluorescence imaging it is demonstrated that apigenin inhibits insulin-induced dimerization of the insulin receptor (IR) through blocking ligand–receptor interactions. This inhibitory effect is also confirmed by flow cytometry and molecular docking. Furthermore it is shown that apigenin impairs cancer cell proliferation. The role of apigenin in suppressing tumor growth was also evident in an in vivo model, indicating a potential future application of apigenin in cancer therapy.

The Royal Society of Chemistry has been contacted by the author of this article to inform us of a problem with the authorship and some portions of text overlap, which the author attributes to an editing company.

Upon close examination the Executive Editor has found extensive text overlap with a previously published paper by Yong Yang and a co-author (Quercetin suppresses insulin receptor signaling through inhibition of the insulin ligand–receptor binding and therefore impairs cancer cell proliferation, Feng Wang and Yong Yang, Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, 2014, 452, 1028–1033). Further to this the Executive Editor has significant concerns over the validity of the reported findings.

MedChemComm is publishing this expression of concern in order to alert readers to these concerns as the on-going investigation is expected to take a significant amount of time to complete. The Royal Society of Chemistry is currently seeking support from the affiliated institution in order to investigate the matter and establish whether the reported results are sound.

This notice will be updated when a final outcome is reached.

The 2015 paper is yet to be cited, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science.

Here’s the notice for the 2015 retraction we’ve unearthed for “Enhancement of doxorubicin efficacy through suppression of serine synthesis in triple-negative breast cancer:”

This article has been retracted at the request of the corresponding author due to submission of his article for publication without internal review and approval from his institution (Houston Methodist Research Institute).

This 2015 paper is yet to be cited.

Richard Kelly, managing editor of MedChemComm from Cambridge, UK, sent us a statement:

The Retraction was published in accordance with our Correction and Retraction guidelines (please see our website for further information). The article was retracted with the agreement of the author after an investigation carried out by his institute at our request. The reasons for the retraction are explained in the retraction notice. Publication of this Retraction is in line with Committee on Publication Ethics guidelines.

We’ve reached out to Yong Yang and China Medical University, and will update the post with anything else we learn.

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10 thoughts on “Author pulls study for duplication, blames editing company”

  1. I like to think that if I paid an editing company to revise my English, I would notice that they inserted an entire series of illustrations taken from a completely different experiment that I had published earlier.

  2. As someone who works for an editing service, I can see how they would want to blame this on the editing company. I have occasionally received manuscripts where the authors very clearly took text from somewhere and changed some of the words, probably using the synonym-function of word or a dictionary, while leaving the sentence structure intact. Those synonyms often end up making the sentence sound awkward, just slightly miss the intended meaning, or are incorrect. If I now edit those sentences I will often end up changing them back to something that almost entirely resembles the original text. I often notice those passages and flag them, but when working under time pressure, I (and many other editors) may miss them; checking for plagiarism is also not part of the editing service, at least not at the company I work for.

    1. …checking for plagiarism is also not part of the editing service, at least not at the company I work for

      Nor, really, is it in full-time positions. If I may back up a bit, though, I certainly understand this, as I’ve worn both hats, as well as some similarly shaped ones:

      I often notice those passages and flag them, but when working under time pressure, I (and many other editors) may miss them…

      It’s a simple fact that such gigs exemplify the problem with “better, faster, cheaper,” at least for certain values of “better” that are more likely than not to be opaque, including situations in which journals, rather than authors, are contracting for the service (which is then outsourced).*

      Nonetheless, it’s hard to miss when authorial voice abruptly shifts from frank word salad to easygoing idiom and back again. One delicately worded, very specific query should be adequate, along with a delicately worded offer to reverse-engineer the problem. (You’ve been rewriting the author all along, so why not make the purloined text use the same voice?)

      This, of course, is something that salaried in-house editors are able to do, so long as they value helping authors above the cost of copping flak for not being adequately rote.

      None of this, of course, has anything to do with flimsy (perhaps lazy) excuse, but once I got started again…. I blame the local heat index. Or society.

      * Is this specifically one of the “96 things that publishers do”? Somebody, somewhere, must have excavated that thing.

    2. Perhaps your company should start using plagiarism soft ware, especially in cases like you mention.

      1. I agree, I would be a lot more comfortable if they did. It would be a cheap and easy way to detect this issue. I am honestly not sure, why this is not being done.

      1. Yes, when they straight-up copy and paste, it is super-easy, I completely agree. The problem is with sections that they copied, then changed them into their bad English in an attempt not to plagiarize, and I change them back into good English, which can be almost identical to the original text. I have noticed this quite a number of times, but I cannot confidently say that I always notice it. Maybe I have always noticed it, maybe I miss it 90 % of the time, my very unscientific guess would be that, with larger sections, I probably almost always notice it, with single sentence, I may miss it half the time.

  3. I don’t get it; authors plagiarize and editing companies fix the plagiarized text? Why are foreign authors pressured to publish in English? Here’s a statement I want to make in Spanish by using Google translate: “Aunque el español no es mi primera lengua que me presionan para publicar mi investigación en español”
    I don’t speak Spanish, why do I have to publish in Spanish? An analogy that can be understood by English speaking authors!

  4. To aceil, Why publish in English?

    English is the universal scientific language and the most common 2nd language for most. Writing in English isn’t done just for the benefit of native English speakers, but non-natives as well. E.g., In China, a scientist is much more likely to speak English, than Spanish, so Spanish speaking writers will get more Chinese readers than if they publish in English rather than in Spanish (and this is true in most countries across the globe). If an individual publishes in his/her native tongue, the number of people who can read it is much less than in English.

    In addition, in many non-English speaking countries, much of the teaching in science is done in English. These individuals often know technical terms better in English than their native tongue.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I totally agree with your point regarding scientists publishing in English to increase their visibility. But I take issue with the notion of pressuring authors especially in social sciences and humanities to publish in English.

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