A plant journal recently retracted a 2017 paper, saying the authors couldn’t pay the page charges ($110/page). The notice has since disappeared, and the journal announced on Twitter Thursday it was issued in error. The paper is now intact on the journal’s site.
This isn’t the first time the journal has withdrawn a statement that authors couldn’t pay the page charges — we’ve discovered the journal removed a line to that effect from a 2015 retraction notice (although in that case, it left the retraction intact). Page charges, often required by traditional publishers, typically cover printing costs; they differ from article processing charges (APCs) levied by open-access journals, which cover the cost of publishing the paper and making it freely available.
We’ve contacted editors at the journal and its publisher, Taylor & Francis, to try to find out why there are mixed messages about author page charges. A spokesperson for the publisher said it was unable to respond before deadline, but it was looking into the matter:
I can confirm that we are committed to following [Committee on Publication Ethics] guidelines and that we are taking this issue seriously.
In the meantime, here’s what we know.
On Wednesday, Twitter users posted about the retraction of a 2017 paper in Plant Signaling & Behavior, “Involvement of nitric oxide in enhanced germination and seedling growth of magnetoprimed maize seeds.”
Abominable retraction from T&F https://t.co/fb6cg1mOPC "the authors could not pay the page charges" (which btw are $110 per page!). Not even an OA APC. Just page charges. Outrageous! https://t.co/90JbNAiMsE
— R⓪ss Mounce (@rmounce) November 8, 2017
Then, the retraction disappeared. This caused more discussion.
The retraction statement seems no longer available "Either the content has moved, or the URL is incorrect."
Did you maybe saved a screenshot?
— jibé (@jibe_jeybee) November 8, 2017
The publisher then posted an explanation:
This retraction was human error within Taylor & Francis and should not have been issued, which was why we removed it so quickly yesterday. We really appreciate the community alerting us to this and are now looking into how this could have happened.
The 2017 paper has not yet been indexed by Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.
Here’s the other case we found: In 2015, the journal retracted a recently published paper for the same reason. The short note concluded with the sentence:
The authors were not able to pay the required page charges for this paper.
When we covered the 2015 retraction, an author confirmed to us that he withdrew the article after his institution declined to pay for it, and had resubmitted it to a different journal.
When we checked back on the 2015 retraction notice, we realized that the line about the page charges had been removed; the notice now simply says the article has been removed by the editor and publisher, and provides no explanation.
Lots of questions — we’ll update the post if we get some answers.
Hat tip: Rolf Degen
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