Following heavy criticism of its decision to correct — instead of retract — a paper accused of plagiarism, Scientific Reports is adding an editor’s note to the paper and forming a committee to review the case.
The 2016 paper in question has been accused of plagiarism by a researcher at Johns Hopkins, Michael Beer. Following the initial allegation, the journal decided to correct, not retract, the paper. After we covered the story, nearly two dozen Hopkins researchers threatened to resign if the journal didn’t retract the paper. This week, the journal reaffirmed its initial decision, and the resignations are pouring in.
Yesterday, Suzanne Farley, Executive Editor of Scientific Reports, a Nature Publishing Group journal, sent us a statement:
Concerns about any paper we publish are of paramount importance to us. We will be assembling a senior editorial committee to undertake a further assessment of this case and will also be seeking additional independent advice from external ethics experts. Whilst these considerations take place, we will be adding an Editorial Note to the paper, which states:
Editor’s Note: Readers are alerted that this paper is subject to criticisms related to misrepresentation of the original contribution reported and of previous work. We are consulting with ethics experts and readers will be updated once this consultation is complete.
Beer has alleged that the 2016 paper, an application of an algorithm designed to better identify regulatory sequences in DNA, simply reworded his paper and used some of his equations, while making claims to novelty. Beer asked that the paper be retracted; the author of the paper has denied plagiarizing Beer’s work. The correction, issued at the end of 2016, explicitly credited Beer’s previous paper on the topic.
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