A first for us: Journal retracts obituary (but not for the reasons you think)

journalofdigestivediseasesOn December 31st 2014, a pioneer in the study of inflammatory bowel disease passed away. An obituary published in the Journal of Digestive Diseases shortly thereafter is typical enough: It describes his achievements, importance to his patients, and battle with pancreatic cancer.

But “Loss in the Last Day of 2014: a Eulogy for Prof. Bing Xia” has now been retracted.

This is the first time we’ve seen an obituary pulled from a journal. Unfortunately, this was not a case of a premature obituary (which happens more often than you’d think)– the researcher did actually die, but it appears the journal published the obituary in the wrong place.

The retraction notice, published earlier this year, explains:

The above article, published online as an Accepted Article on 17 February 2015 in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com), has been retracted by agreement between the authors, the journal Editor-in-Chief, Professor Shu Dong XIAO, and John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd. The retraction has been made as this article, intended to be posted on the journal homepage as an obituary, was published in the journal in error.

Xia — the obit’s subject — was the director of the Department of Gastroenterology and Internal Medicine, Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University School of Medicine in China. According to the retracted obituary (which we read earlier, but now is under restricted access on the publisher’s website), he had published more 250 peer reviewed papers in his career, including a few in the Journal of Digestive Diseases. 

We wanted to know how the obit ended up in the journal by mistake — and why that was a mistake that needed to be corrected. We reached out to one of the the co-authors of Xia’s obituary, Zhi Hua Ran, who is listed as the journal’s Executive Editor, and will update this post if we receive a reply.

The other co-author, Shu Dong Xiao, listed as the journal’s Editor in Chief, passed away in July. That’s according to an obituary that appears on the journal’s homepage.

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