Journal retracts and replaces paper because author stole credit for group’s work

An optics journal has retracted and replaced a 2016 paper after discovering that the author took sole credit for a team project.

According to the retraction notice, a University of Leeds review determined that “the research on which the paper was based the work of a team,” not just that of Raied S. Al-Lashi, who was the sole author on the 2016 paper.

In the acknowledgement section of the 2016 version, Al-Lashiwho previously worked at University of Leeds and is now a senior lecturer in engineering at Nottingham Trent University in Englandnoted having “useful discussions” with three researchers.

But after reviewing the case, the University of Leeds determined this acknowledgement was not adequate. The replacement paper, published in February, now lists those researchers Merlin Webster, Steve Gunn and Helen Czerskias coauthors and states:

These authors contributed equally to this work.

(Al-Lashi, Czerki and Gunn had co-authored a 2016 paper on a similar topic.)

Alison Taylor, the journal’s executive editor, told Retraction Watch:

Based on the report from Leeds University, our Ethics Committee considered simply correcting the article’s author list, since there were no major concerns with the content.  Dr. Al-Lashi’s coauthors were not in full agreement with some of the analysis he had included however, and so the Committee and editors agreed to republish the article with the revisions.

Taylor explained that the revisions were “minor:”

Minor changes were made to the text in the abstract, discussion, and summary to add context, and to the results section to clarify the limitations of the method. Two figures were also removed for this reason.

Al-Lashi did not respond to our request for comment.

Here’s the retraction notice for “Toward omnidirectional and automated imaging system for measuring oceanic whitecap coverage:”

OSA is retracting this paper [1] because the author’s institution (University of Leeds) has conducted a review that found that the research on which the paper was based was the work of a team, rather than solely that of Dr. Al-Lashi, and that references to the contributions of others in the acknowledgment section of the paper were inadequate in reflecting that. A revised paper [2] includes coauthors from the University of Southampton and the University College London as well as changes to improve the accuracy and clarity of the text.

The original paper was published 21 July 2016 and was retracted on 6 March 2018.

The 2016 paper, published in July, has not been cited, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.

Taylor told us that the journal first learned about the potential authorship issue in August of 2016 and received the final report from the University of Leeds in November 2017.

Taylor said that all authors agreed with the content and authorship of the replacement paper.

David Wardle, the university’s deputy secretary, said that the university’s reviewed the matter under its “Protocol for investigating and resolving allegations of academic misconduct in research.” We asked Wardle whether Al-Lashi was sanctioned or found guilty of misconduct. He told us:

Dr Al-Lashi left the University to take up another academic opportunity elsewhere. We do not normally comment upon why members of staff have left, but no inference should be drawn that it was in any way related to the review described above.

Czerski, the last author on the updated paper and a lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at University College London, explained that legal advisors from their universities told  the authors not to comment on the case “because of confidentiality concerns,” but did note:

We would like to emphasise that our only motivation throughout the discussions around this paper has been to protect the rights of all the authors who were involved in the work presented, to recognise their contributions fairly, and to ensure that the quality of this publicly-funded research is properly reflected in its publication and dissemination.

Hat tip: Rolf Degen

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