Whoops: Authors didn’t mean to include new data in article about transgender identity

Here’s something we don’t see that often — authors retracting one of their articles because it included new data.

But that is the case with a 2017 review exploring the potential genetic and hormonal underpinnings of gender identity.  The authors Rosa Fernández García and Eduardo Pásaro Mendez told Retraction Watch that they asked bioethics journal Cuadernos de Bioética to withdraw their review after realizing it “indirectly” mentioned some of their unpublished work. According to García, the authors had hoped to publish the new data in a scientific paper before the review came out, but the review ended up being published first.  

Here’s the retraction notice for “Is Sexual Identity Optional? A Study of The Genetics of Transsexuality:”

Following the publication of this article, the authors find that they are not able to communicate the results presented in this paper. For an involuntary error, a file has been sent to the journal that incorporates part of the most recent results obtained in our investigations in which other coauthors have participated. These data should not have been included since they are the result of extensive experimental work not yet published. Therefore, the article as an ACRE report (Scientific Advances of Ethical Relevance) is not suitable for “Cuadernos de Bioética”, since these reports are intended to facilitate access to scientific literature already published. Consequently, the authors have decided to retract this paper from publication. All of the authors agree to this retraction. The authors sincerely regret this decision, and apologize to the Editor and to the readership of the Journal for any inconvenience caused.

(The original version of the retraction used the word “reproduce” in place of “communicate” in the first sentence after the authors objected, the translation of the notice from its original Spanish distorted its original meaning, and the results were solid.)

According to the authors, who work at Universidade da Coruña in Galicia in Spain, reports of ACRE (Scientific Advances of Ethical Relevance) focus on “researchers’ opinions on the ethical implications of already-published research” and contain “no experimental or original research.”

Rosa Fernández García explained that the data were supposed to appear first in a scientific paper, which they expected to publish before the review. But when the review came out first, the authors asked to withdraw it until they could publish the results separately.

Rosa Fernández García noted:

we have already submitted the scientific paper, and its publication is now close.

We asked the executive editor, Luis Miguel Pastor Garcia, about the decision to retract the paper and how the journal may have missed that the data were unpublished. Garcia simply noted (his emphasis):

The article has been withdrawn for formal reasons because it contains data that are not specific to a review article.

When we asked the authors whether they plan to republish the review after publishing the data in question, they said it is up to the editor to decide, but:

We would very much like to in order to clear up any misunderstandings.

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