Oops: Elsevier journal retracts the wrong paper

When Saidur Rahman learned last month that his 2010 review paper about nanoparticles in refrigeration systems had been retracted, he was concernedno one at the journal had told him it was going to be pulled.

Rahman, a professor of engineering at Sunway University in Selangor, Malaysia, had recently corrected his 2010 review in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviewsspecifically, in January, the journal published a two-page correction rewriting the parts of the paper that were “appear close to some materials we had included in some of our other review research.” But Rahman was not anticipating a retraction.

When he saw the notice, published February 9, he immediately wrote to Elsevier, which publishes the journal, to clarify the situation.

It turns out that Rahman’s paper was not supposed to be retracted at all. A spokesperson for Elsevier told Retraction Watch that the paper was retracted by mistake due to “a human error.”

The spokesperson explained that Rahman’s review “was incorrectly tagged and linked” in the notice because:

the person mixed up two separate cases in the same journal, which is something that occurs very rarely.

Instead, the journal was supposed to retract a 2015 paper about solar hydrogen hybrid energy systems, which had plagiarized another paper.

Rahman said Elsevier reassured him that they would “correct the notice as soon as possible.”

About two weeks after publishing the erroneous retraction notice, Elsevier replaced the text with a “temporary removal” notice, which explained:

The publisher deeply regrets that a technical issue occurred which led to the entirely erroneous publication of this notice. This error bears no reflection whatsoever on the article or its authors.

In early March, Elsevier replaced the temporary notice with the intended retraction of the 2015 paper on solar hydrogen hybrid energy.

The spokesperson said that the correction notice to Rahman’s paperprompted by a reader’s concerns about possible overlapwill stand.”

We asked if the journal had considered retracting Rahman’s paper, given the extent of the overlap, the spokesperson told us that the editor-in-chief at the time, Larry Kazmerski, “decided that while there was similarity, a correction was more appropriate.” (The journal’s new editor-in-chief Aoife Foley took over for Kazmerski at the beginning of the year.)

The paper, “A review on the performance of nanoparticles suspended with refrigerants and lubricating oils in refrigeration systems,” has been cited 88 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.

Rahman told us he is not worried about the erroneous notice because the mistake has been corrected and:

it can be easily checked that the notice is incorrect since [the paper mentioned in the notice has] no relation with the content of my paper.

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One thought on “Oops: Elsevier journal retracts the wrong paper”

  1. Huh. In 2016, I wrote to Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews alerting them to plagiarism in a paper called “A review of solar based hydrogen production methods”. They retracted it.

    Now RW reports that RSER want to retract a different paper on solar hydrogen (for plagiarism), but they accidentally retracted a third paper, which was only meant to be corrected (for plagiarism).

    Could there be a plagiarism problem at RSER…?

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