Journals pull two papers after blogger shares plagiarism suspicions

Journals have retracted two papers after they were flagged by a pseudonymous blogger, who suspected all had copied text from other sources.

What’s more, a third paper seems to have simply disappeared from the journal’s website, after the blogger, Neuroskeptic, alerted the journal to the text overlap.

Neuroskeptic became suspicious about the three unrelated papers – about food chemistry, heart disease, and the immune system and cancer – after scanning them with plagiarism software. After alerting the journals, two issued formal retractions for the papers – but neither specifies plagiarism as the reason.

The retractions were the result of a larger project, Neuroskeptic told us:

Over the course of a few months last year I discovered about 30 cases of plagiarism in review papers (I [focused] on reviews because I think text plagiarism is arguably less important in experimental papers if the data is new) and reported them to various journals.

I gave up because most journals never replied, and those that did, almost never took action.

I’m only aware of three retractions…

One retraction notice – from Food Chemistry – comes pretty close to blaming plagiarism as the cause of the retraction:

This paper has been retracted at the request of the Editor-in-Chief due to multiple failures by the authors to list references to certain text, figures or tables published in the paper, or to cite correctly in the text, data from sources listed in the references.

Vibrational spectroscopy used in milk products analysis: A review” was published online in October 2015, and retracted only six months later.

Regarding this paper, Neuroskeptic told us:

Back in February I emailed the journal with a Turnitin report showing that this paper had 72% overlap with various sources, some of them uncited. They replied swiftly!

Wendy Hurp, the Executive Publisher of the journal, told us that the editor in chief

…was notified of concerns about this paper from a blogger [via email] who pointed out the excessive similarity to previously published sources. The authors did not contest the editor’s subsequent findings that the multiple similarities did not appear to be simple oversights, and could not be rectified by the publication of a corrigendum.

We contacted last author Vu Dang Hoang at the Hanoi University of Pharmacy in Vietnam, second author, Hassan Y. Aboul-Enein at the National Research Centre in Egypt, and first author Andrei A. Bunaciu, affiliated with the Research Center for Instrumental Analysis in Romania. We’ll update this post with anything else we learn.

The retraction notice by the other journal — Translational Lung Cancer Research – gives little explanation for what was wrong with the paper, “Platelets and their role in cancer evolution and immune system:”

The article “Platelets and their role in cancer evolution and immune system” (doi: 10.3978/j.issn.2218-6751.2015.10.09) that appeared on page 713-720 of the December 2015 issue of the Translational Lung Cancer Research needs to be withdrawn due to some mistakes in the manuscript. We are sorry for the inconvenience caused.

The first author of the paper, Niki Karachaliou, is on the editorial board of the journal and the last author, Rafael Rosell, appears to be one of the editors-in-chief. Neuroskeptic told us:

When I ran the post through Turnitin online plagiarism detection software, it discovered 54% textual overlap, meaning that over half the text is not original. Many of the sources were not even cited, for instance, the single largest source[link], which accounts for 14% of the text, wasn’t cited…

Neuroskeptic added:

On January 23rd [2016] I reported the paper to the journal’s contact email address and attached the Turnitin report. The journal’s Science Editor, Melanie He, got back to me very quickly (within 48 hours) and took my concerns seriously.

Rosell is also a co-author of an erratum issued for duplication in another paper.

We’ve reached out to Rosell, who is based at the Quirón Dexeus University Hospital in Barcelona, Spain. We’ve also contacted He, and will update the post with anything else we learn.

The third paper Neuroskeptic suggested contains plagiarized text was published in 2011 by the Journal of Clinical & Experimental Cardiology. According to Neuroskeptic:

I emailed the journal three times to report 74% plagiarism (attached). The first emails two got no response but after the third, the paper vanished, with no retraction notice, but the journal itself is still active.

The last author on Rational Therapeutics of Cardiology in Elderly” is Srinubabu Gedela – CEO and Managing Editor of the journal’s publisher, OMICS International. Gedela told us he doesn’t believe the paper was retracted because it wasn’t meant to be published in the first place:

As per abstract, I hope it is a mini review abstract/article published under graduate students work. I did not [get] any notification regarding retraction. During 2009-11, I did the project work guidance to 100+ graduate students, and I am not aware of publication of those project works. I am the corresponding author for all of my research publications.

The journal is not indexed by Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters.

Last year, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission charged OMICS – which publishes hundreds of academic journals — with deceiving readers about reviewing practices, publication fees, and the nature of its editorial boards.

Recently, Neuroskeptic responded to criticisms over the use of a pseudonym when critiquing the literature, writing:

I don’t think it’s true that I can’t be held accountable. I get paid a monthly sum in proportion to the traffic I bring in on my ‘Neuroskeptic’ blog, and my blog’s success depends in part on ‘Neuroskeptic’s reputation, so if I published something that discredited me, I’d lose out. Also, I’m pretty sure that if I said something that was actually illegal, the authorities would be able to determine my identity pretty easily.

With reporting by Shannon Palus and Dalmeet Singh Chawla

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4 thoughts on “Journals pull two papers after blogger shares plagiarism suspicions”

  1. Gedela told us he doesn’t believe the paper was retracted because it wasn’t meant to be published in the first place

    So sometimes his journals publish work without the authors’ permission? How does this happen?

  2. Gedela claims that “During 2009-11, I did the project work guidance to 100+ graduate students, and I am not aware of publication of those project works”, however Swati Srabani Nayak (the first author of the paper in question) is no random grad student.

    According to her LinkedIn she was a manager at OMICS and “Team Lead in Quality Control Department” from 2011 to 2016.

    1. It is possible that Gedela’s name was added to the manuscript without permission by the first author to give an air of credibility. But how blissfully ignorant do you have to be for papers to appear under your name while remaining completely unaware of them until the time that they are retracted for plagiarism?

      I guess the same kind of bliss that would allow someone to claim to have provided “project work guidance” to 100+ students over the course of two years.

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