Oops — journal retracted the wrong article


Sometimes you have the right guy, but charge him with the wrong crime — like nabbing someone for not using a turn signal after he just ran through a red light.

A reproductive sciences journal has admitted to mistakenly retracting the wrong article last year — and is now pulling the previously issued retraction notice, along with retracting a different paper by the same author.

K. P. Suresh, author of both studies (the previously pulled one and the newly retracted one) from the National Institute of Veterinary Epidemiology and Disease Informatics in Bengaluru, Karnataka, India, appealed the journal’s 2015 decision to retract his previous paper. As we reported at the time, Suresh argued that his 2012 paper was “entirely different” from the study it is said to have plagiarized from. It turns out, he may have been right, because now the journal has pulled a different paper of his, published in 2011.

According to one of the notices, the Journal of Human Reproductive Sciences previously retracted the incorrect paper due to “technical errors.”

In both cases, the journal cited the reason for retraction as “duplicity of text.”

The journal has now issued another retraction notice for the previously published notice, which reads:

This is a retraction of a retraction notice. Due to technical errors at the Editorial office of the journal, a retraction notice[1] was published retracting the article titled, “Sample size estimation and power analysis for clinical research studies[2]. However the actual article which needs to be retracted is titled, “An overview of randomization techniques: An unbiased assessment of outcome in clinical research” by the same author[3]. The correct retraction notice will be subsequently published and the incorrectly retracted article will be republished in the forthcoming issue of the journal.

Here’s the retraction notice for “An overview of randomization techniques: An unbiased assessment of outcome in clinical research:”

In the article titled, “An overview of randomization techniques: An unbiased assessment of outcome in clinical research”, which was published in pages 8-11, Issue 1, Vol. 4 of Journal of Human Reproductive Sciences[1], overlap of text has been found with a previously published article, titled, “Issues in outcomes research: an overview of randomization techniques for clinical trials.”, in pages 215-221, Issue 2, Vol. 45 of Journal of Athletic Training[2]. Thus owing to duplicity of text, the article is being retracted.

We’ve reached out to Suresh to see how he feels about the latest retraction, and will update if we hear anything. We’ve also contacted the journal’s editor-in-chief for more information about how the mistake occurred.

The Journal of Human Reproductive Sciences is not indexed by Thomson Reuters Web of Science.

Publishers can make all sorts of mistakes — such as publishing a paper twice, or in the wrong journal — but this is the first time we’ve seen one retract the wrong paper.

Hat tip: Rolf Degen

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3 thoughts on “Oops — journal retracted the wrong article”

  1. The original retracted (and soon-to-be-un-retracted) paper — “Sample size estimation and power analysis for clinical research studies” — contains several passages copied from other sources without proper attribution. (See my comment on the previous Retraction Watch report.)

    Thus, if I’m understanding what’s happened here correctly, it seems inappropriate to retract the retraction; there is indeed plagiarism in the first article. However, in their original retraction notice, the editors appear to have misattributed the copied passages and may wish to issue a correction to their original retraction notice — while leaving the retraction in force.

    If the newly-named paper *also* contains plagiarism — and I have not verified it myself — then *both* papers should be retracted for “duplicity of text”.

    (Can editors be retracted, too?)

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