Highly cited paper by dep’t chair at Sloan Kettering is corrected — three times

A radiology journal has published an addendum to a 2005 review on cancer imaging techniques, alerting readers to figure duplication.

But that’s not what caught our attention about this case. The addendum, published in January, is the third notice that The British Journal of Radiology (BJR) has issued for the 2005 review by Hedvig Hricak, chair of the Department of Radiology at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City. The notices, published between 2014 and 2018, all describe duplication.

Why the series of notices, all describing a similar problem?

Kevin Prise, one of the journal’s editors-in-chief, told Retraction Watch that a reader had contacted the journal about the 2005 review on three different occasions over the years, “which resulted in three investigations, all following COPE guidelines:”

Retraction was considered as part of the investigations, but was not deemed appropriate in response to any of the comments.

We were also notified of the latest notice by a reader who declined to identify themselves, but forwarded communications with the journal about this paper.

The first notice, published in 2014, describes “overlap” between the 2005 review, MR imaging and MR spectroscopic imaging in the pre-treatment evaluation of prostate cancer,” and a 2004 review in RadioGraphics, on which Hricak is second author.

The next two notices, published in 2016 and in 2018, explain that Figure 4 was published in two other articlesa 2005 research paper in Radiology and a 2006 review in Abdominal Imaging, which was retracted in 2015 because it contained “similar text and illustrations to previously published articles.”  

Hricak did not respond to our request for comment.

Prise provided more details about why a retraction “was not deemed appropriate” in each instance of overlap.  For the 2014 addendum, Prise told us:

During the investigation it was acknowledged that there was some overlap in content, but that the two papers were written for different audiences and drew different conclusions. It was concluded that both reviews had their place in the literature and it was not appropriate to retract. In the spirit of clarity and openness, we agreed to publish a short addendum to alert readers to the other review in Radiographics.

For the 2016 correction, Prise said the journal contacted Radiology about the duplicated figure and:

… confirmed that a formal permission request was not required because there was a common author to both papers. It was concluded that there was no intention to mislead as the paper in question appeared in the citation list.

The most recent notice for the 2005 review highlights the duplication of Figure 4 and explains that “the clinical staging recorded in the figure captions in the two papers differ.” When we asked Prise about the discrepancy, he noted:

The important matter for the learning point is that the author clearly states in the figure legend that the final pathological staging was Gleason grade 3+3, pT2b.

The review has been cited 83 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science—technically a “highly cited paper,” meaning it ranked in the top 1 percent of all papers in its field for the year it was published.

This is not the first time editors have opted not to retract an allegedly redundant paper on which Hricak was a co-author. In 2016, the editors of Abdominal Imaging and Annals of Surgical Oncology wrote a commentary explaining why they believed two of her papers—on which she was a middle author—were sufficiently unique, despite an overlap in the patient cohort.

Prise told us:

We acknowledge that it is unusual for there to be three separate addendum/erratum notices on a single paper. We wanted to ensure that readers are fully aware of any issues that have arisen which may inhibit their understanding of the work presented.

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5 thoughts on “Highly cited paper by dep’t chair at Sloan Kettering is corrected — three times”

  1. Third time’s a charm! The editor said “We acknowledge that it is unusual for there to be three separate addendum/erratum notices on a single paper”….Well, Hricak had another paper with 3 erratum notices for data integrity errors…one erratum even corrected a prior erratum. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19092093

  2. Can someone clarify how rare these radiology images of prostate cancer are? It’s a common cancer among men, so wouldn’t many men have images taken of the prostate?

    I also don’t understand the editor’s comments; RadioGraphics and The British Journal of Radiology are two medical Radiology journals on both sides of the pond, so how are their audiences different when the text and conclusions are the same? And in the second comment, does a common author authorize copyrighted material to be reused? Clarification?

  3. I received this story via Doximity News and wanted to verify the link. I could not believe my eyes at first but it is true. Worse than I thought… there is a series of stories about Hricak in Retraction Watch…so many papers with problems!

    Someone in such a high position, such as Hricak, should know better and provide a better explanation. No remorse obviously. How about Memorial Sloan Kettering? Are not they going to explain or respond? This is not a junior scientist – but a department Chair plagiarizing repetitively! Thank you Victoria Stern @ Retraction Watch!

  4. Hi – I am a Radiologist and also received the link thru my Doximity; this is the first time I am seeing Retraction Watch. To answer Paul’s question, in my practice we do hundreds of MRIs for prostate cancer per year. I frequently show these scans to the resident and fellow trainees in Radiology and Urology at the University Hospital, so this is a very common exam for staging prostate cancer and these images are available.

    I would say most US Radiologists do not read the British Journal of Radiology as routinely as Radiographics, but it is still the SAME audience, and as I look at these two papers, they are nearly identical and have the SAME conclusions. Wow this is quite the copy and paste! Those in Radiology who are fellowship trained body imagers do read the journal Abdominal Imaging regularly.

    In Hricak’s retracted article in Abdominal Imaging, it seems only one image was plagiarized but the publisher retracted the paper, yet the British Journal of Radiology with all the same copied text as well as the same images, did not retract.

    HHHHHHMMMMMM…….

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