In 2012, investigations found that researcher Yoshitaka Fujii had fabricated well in excess of 100 papers, and recommended scores of retractions. Yet years later, publishers are still cleaning the literature of his problematic work.
For anyone not familiar the Fujii case: After researchers raised concerns about Fujii’s work, an anesthesiologist used statistical tools to determine the odds the results were likely to have come from actual experiments. The answer: infinitesimally small. (For more on Fujii’s “dramatic fall from grace,” check out this in-depth Nautilus article published by our co-founders in 2015.)
Over the last several months, four journals — three published by Elsevier, one by Springer — have retracted 21 papers by Fujii. Seventeen retractions stem from one journal — Clinical Therapeutics.
Twelve of the retractions are accompanied by the following text:
The following articles are being retracted at the request of the Editors-in-Chief as a result of overwhelming evidence of fabrication, related to the fact that the distributions of many variables reported by Dr Fujii in these studies could not have occurred by chance, and the inability of Dr Fujii’s institutions to attest to the integrity of the study and/or its data conducted under their auspices. Because both the Journal’s independent and collaborative attempts have not yielded this required information, the Journal has decided to retract the remaining journal manuscripts authored by Dr. Yoshitaka Fujii. The Publisher apologizes that the implementation of this retraction was delayed due to an administrative oversight.
The remaining five were retracted from the journal “at the request of the author,” for failing to obtain proper ethical approval before conducting the research.
A spokesperson for Elsevier told us the delay in the retractions “was due to human(s) error:”
…resulting from changes in both the Journal Manager along with changes in the Journal’s editorial board and aims and scope. A recent note from one of the investigators asking about the completion status reactivated the process.
The three remaining retractions from Elsevier come from Clinical Therapeutic Research and the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, all of which blame either an “administrative oversight” or “editorial oversight” for causing the delay.
In February, the Springer journal Clinical Drug Investigation retracted a review by Fujii that cited 14 of his own studies which have all since been retracted, noting:
This has rendered the content of the review scientifically unreliable.
Author Yoshitaka Fujii has not responded to any correspondence from the Editor-in-Chief about this retraction.
We’ve contacted Springer to find out more about the delay.
Even without all of the implicated papers retracted, Fujii has already set a record for the most retractions by one researcher.
Update: May 17 2018, 13:37 UTC: Springer told they are “currently looking into this, and will get back to you as soon as we have further information.”
Update: May 22 2018, 14:10 UTC: A spokesperson for Springer Nature told us:
The retracted article published in 2002, being a review article, was not included in the “Joint Editors-in-Chief Request for Determination Regarding Papers Published by Dr. Yoshitaka Fujii” initiated in 2012…The Editor-in-Chief of Clinical Drug Investigation was notified by a whistleblower that this review article included a number of references to Dr Fujii’s retracted articles. A detailed investigation revealed that these retracted studies affected the conclusions of the review article and a decision was made to retract this article.
Hat tip: Rolf Degen
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