A journal just removed a 26-year-old article from its archives, with little explanation

This one gave us pause: A journal recently removed a 1992 paper, providing only a terse explanation — “The above article has been removed at the author’s request.”

Author John Frank Nowikowski tells Retraction Watch he never submitted the article to the Police Journal; it was originally published in the Buenos Aires Herald in Argentina. He asked the journal to remove it because, as a freelance writer, he had expected to be paid for it, but never had been. SAGE purchased the journal from its original publisher, Vathek, in 2014, and agreed to honor the author’s request. But the notice says only that — the 26-year-old article was withdrawn at the author’s request.

According to Nowikowski:

I asked them to remove it because I never gave it to them in the first place.

If they had paid me for using it – instead of using it for free, and without advising me then I would have left it in place.

Why after 26 years?

I’ve tried repeatedly over the years to get them to remove it. Always without replies – until recently.

According to Google Scholar, the article has been cited twice. The journal is not indexed in Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.

Although the notice is labelled a “retraction,” according to a SAGE spokesperson, it was supposed to be a “removal.”

Removals are rare and usually only happen when there is a legal reason to do so. In this case, the author of the 1992 paper, published in the journal prior to SAGE acquiring the journal, contacted SAGE and asked for the article to be taken down because they claimed that permission had never been given. SAGE agreed to comply with the author’s request on this legal basis.

The spokesperson explained that the draft was mistakenly changed from “removal notice” to “retraction notice,” and is being corrected.

SAGE may draw a distinction between removals and retractions, but the end result is the same, and it’s not clear why readers wouldn’t expect more of an explanation in the case of a removal — especially for such an old article. SAGE says there was an explanation — that the author asked. But as we’ve noted before, authors ask to remove papers for all kinds of reasons — such as to hide misconduct, if they knew their institutions would soon be asking for a retraction. (Not that there’s any hint of that in this case.)

SAGE has provided an example of a removal that did cite more of a reason: copyright infringement.

Although 26 years is a long time between publication and retraction, it’s not a record. That record — 80 years — belongs to this gem.

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3 thoughts on “A journal just removed a 26-year-old article from its archives, with little explanation”

  1. The concept of actually paying authors for their contributions to scholarly journals is an interesting one, complete with the right to not accept publication if you are not paid. Perhaps we should look further into this idea.

    1. I’m not an expert but I would think DMCA as an American law doesn’t apply in Argentina, where the original journal seems to originate.

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