More than 20 faculty members at Johns Hopkins University have signed a letter to Scientific Reports saying they will resign from the editorial board if the journal doesn’t retract a 2016 paper.
The paper is problematic, they argue, because a biologist at Johns Hopkins claims it plagiarized his work. One of that biologist’s colleagues at Hopkins has already resigned from the journal’s editorial board over its decision to correct (and not retract) the paper; last week, another 21 people told the journal they’d do the same.
The letter to the journal also includes a side-by-side comparison between the 2016 paper and the work it allegedly plagiarized. The board members note:
This is not a subtle case…Consequently if you do not retract the plagiarizing paper, we will all resign from your Editorial Board.
The campaign was organized by Steven Salzberg, who told us he learned of the debate after Michael Beer, who claims the 2016 paper lifted his work, forwarded the article we posted on the issue last week to some faculty at Johns Hopkins. Salzberg — who is based at Hopkins but not on the editorial board at Scientific Reports — went through the names on the journal’s editorial board and contacted everyone based at Hopkins, to see if they’d also be willing to resign over the journal’s conduct.
I just wrote to them all.
So far, 21 people have signed their names to the letter.
Salzberg told us he took interest in the case because he believes the paper is “very obviously copied:”
This is not a subtle case of plagiarism. It’s quite blatant.
Although Beer contacted the journal with his concerns, the journal decided to issue a correction notice, which cites “errors” and the authors’ failure to credit Beer’s work. That wasn’t good enough for Beer — nor one of his colleagues at Johns Hopkins, Aravinda Chakravarti, who resigned from the journal’s editorial board saying “the recent affair with Mike Beer’s work being plagiarized did not impress me.”
Author Bin Liu, based at the Shenzhen campus of the Harbin Institute of Technology, defended the paper in the post we ran last week:
Obviously, our Scientific Reports paper “Recombination spot identification based on gapped k-mers” didn’t plagiarize any paper.
Salzberg told us if the journal doesn’t respond in a couple of weeks, the signatories will likely give a deadline by which it has to respond.
Our colleagues don’t want to resign. They want the paper to be retracted. So I hope that’s what will happen.
We’ve contacted Liu and Scientific Reports, and will update if they respond.
Please see an update on this story.
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