Food packaging journal to retract paper by researchers in Thailand

A food packaging journal plans to retract a 2018 article by Thai researchers who tried to repackage (ahem) a virtually identical article of theirs, Retraction Watch has learned.

That’s not particularly unusual; duplication, sometimes inaccurately called “self-plagiarism,” happens, as they say. What makes the case more interesting is the back-and-forth between the journal and the authors.   

Early last December, the editor of the Food Packaging & Shelf Life, Ali Abas Wani, sent a letter to Chiravoot Pechyen, of Thammasat University, the senior author on a paper FPSL had recently published online (but not yet in print):

I discovered that there are sections which seem to be unoriginal, having appeared in the following recently published work(s):  Core shell microcapsules of neem seed oil extract containing azadirachtin and biodegradable polymers and their release characteristics’.  (Polymer Bulletin – https://doi.org/10.1007/s00289-018-2456-1)

In this case, the overlap goes beyond the normal occurrence of standard phrases in your field.  Specifically, the textual overlap with the mentioned your already published work. Moreover, this prior work has been repeated in this publication. For this reason, your online article  (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fpsl.2018.09.001) may be retracted from our journal.

It is the policy of Food Packaging & Shelf Life to publish new and original work. Text copied from copyrighted works from third parties, even in an introduction, should never be used without clearly identifying the other source (either by quotations or indentations).  Every paper should present some novelty and new results in the form of a unique paper written in an author’s own words. Unless a legitimate explanation is received for a large amount of textual overlap between the submitted paper and the abovementioned previously published work(s).

We further inform you that Food Packaging & Shelf Life uses Crossref Similarity Check powered by iThenticate software to check the originality of manuscripts. Unfortunately, we were not able to see this as you have submitted the same manuscript in the same timeframe to two different journals and therefore the text was [sic] available for similarity check.

Your response will be considered by me when determining whether or not plagiarism was done intentionally in order to gain an unfair advantage.

In a letter dated six days later, Pechyen responded:

I would like to withdraw my journal in title of “Production, characterization and controlled release studies of biodegradable polymer microcapsules incorporating neem seed oil by spray drying” from the system because of errors in the operation because I did not check the final manuscript for confirmation before publication.

The editors themselves can check back that I have not contacted or confirmed the publication with the journal of Food Packaging & Shelf Life (see Figure 1-3). The research assistant in my lab has informed me that the journal in title of “Core shell microcapsules of neem seed oil extract containing azadirachtin and biodegradable polymers and their release characteristics” has been published about 4 months ago (in Polymer Bulletin).

This mistake has damaged my reputation and academic recognition. Please be kind to me and my staff to withdraw the journal from publication by urgent. Lastly, I apologize for the many errors that have taken place in the journal and hopefully be considered for publication in the near future.

The first author on both articles is Kanyarat Sittipummongkol, who is the only co-author on the Polymer Bulletin paper.

But the journal, with an assist from its publisher, Elsevier, notified Pechyen that the withdrawal parachute wasn’t going to open. On Dec 3, 2018, Elsevier’s Edward van Lanen wrote to the researcher explaining that his article would be retracted, and how that notice would read:

The following article is retracted from publication in Food Packaging and Shelf Life by decision of the editors of the journal. It is a duplicate publication, which has been previously published in Polymer Bulletin, 24 July 2018, as “Core shell microcapsules of neem seed oil extract containing azadirachtin and biodegradable polymers and their release characteristics …

Reasonable requests for amendments to these texts may be considered but any changes will be made only with the approval of the Editor and the retraction committee.

It would seem that this particular article did not have a very long shelf life.

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4 thoughts on “Food packaging journal to retract paper by researchers in Thailand”

  1. “Self-plagiarism” is perfectly accurate and widely-used to describe this type of behavior. It may not be one’s preferred terminology, but to summarily declare it “inaccurate” is absurd.

    1. If you regularly read RW or follow the first link in this article you can read why the authors take that stance. It is an opinion with which you can disagree, of course, but it seems they have put considerable thought into their opinion and have shared their rationale with readers.

      1. Yet still, “self-plagiarism” remains the most widely used way to describe this sort of behavior. ORI uses this terminology, as does COPE. Journalists should report using standard terminology and not editorialize by using their own preferred terminology, especially not as the author has done here: He doesn’t even say, “that we believe should be simply called ‘duplication.’,” rather, he asserts the inaccuracy of the term “self-plagiarism” while linking to an interview that doesn’t really provide any support for that specific assertion. (I’d be curious to know where exactly you think the “considerable thought” is? Or are you actually referring to a different link?)

  2. I went to have a look at the ORI definition of plagiarism and found this:
    “As a general working definition, ORI considers plagiarism to include both the theft or misappropriation of intellectual property and the substantial unattributed textual copying of another’s work”

    https://ori.hhs.gov/ori-policy-plagiarism

    The “another’s work” is the key point. Thus “self-plagiarism” is at best an oxymoron, and at worst effectively meaningless.

    “text duplication” fits the bill, or “text recycling” (or more honestly, copyright violation), but please, drop the usage of “self-plagiarism”.

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