Author, author? Dispute over authorship leads to two retraction notices, and confusion

Testosterone

An endocrinology journal has pulled a 2017 paper by a group from Russia and Romania because, well, maybe it’s just better if you read for yourself.

The article, “Testosterone promotes anxiolytic-like behavior in gonadectomized male rats via blockade of the 5-HT1A receptors,” appeared in General and Comparative Endocrinology, an Elsevier publication.

The paper in fact has two retraction notices. One, which is rather less informative than the second, reads:

This article has been retracted at the request of the editors-in-chief due to a dispute in authorship. The article was submitted for publication by the corresponding author without consent or knowledge of the other researchers involved in the study.

Authorship should include and be limited to those who have made a significant contribution to the conception, design, execution, or interpretation of the reported study. <General and Comparative Endocrinology, volume 254 (1 December 2017) Pages 14–221>, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ygcen.2017.09.006.

Too true! The second adds a bit of furniture to the room:

Behavioural Pharmacology (BP) raised a question with the EICs of YGCEN about a submission they received which was a duplicate of this YGCEN paper but with a different author list other than Julia Fedotova. The lead author of the article submitted to BP, Dr Peter Kruzliak, is not listed as an author on the YGCEN published paper. Professor Fedotova subsequently confirmed by e-mail to the BP editors that this is her study, Dr Kruzliak maintains their claim on the work. This manuscript has now been rejected by the BP editors. The YGCEN editors have investigated the authorship of the paper published in YGCEN by seeking statements from Julia Fedotova and Lucian Hritcu. The statements of the relevant parties suggest the authorship issue regarding the YGCEN paper was not malicious, but the editor feels there remains a serious breach of publication ethics that needs to addressed as the second author was not aware of the submission. The authors were further contacted to request the required information to resolve the authorship issue, did not respond appropriately and then did not respond after 30 days on follow up. They were told their paper would be retracted if no response was received. The editor followed up again with the authors to state no response had been received and therefore a retraction would be started.

Mark Sheridan, the editor of General and Comparative Endocrinology, told us he:

wasn’t entirely sure why Elsevier ran this twice … Although the order for retraction was my decision, the announcements and the timing of their appearance was coordinated through our publisher and journal production staff.

Fedotova, who did not respond to a request for comment, also appears on the 2017 article, “Blockade of 5-HT1A Receptors Reverses Anxiety-Like Behavior in Gonadectomized Male Rats,” in Opera Medica & Physiologica. If that sounds similar to the retracted article and its twin, well, that’s because it it’s basically the same, as a side-by-side of the two abstracts reveals.

From YGCEN:

This study was designed to examine an anxiety-like behavior in the adult gonadectomized (GDX) male rats subjected to testosterone propionate (TP) treatment alone or in combination with 8-OH-DPAT, a 5-HT1A receptor agonist, or with NAN-190, 5-HT1A receptor antagonist. Two weeks after gonadectomy, GDX rats were subjected by treatments with the solvent, TP (0.5mg/kg, s.c.), 8-OH-DPAT (0.05mg/kg, s.c.), NAN-190 (0.1mg/kg, i.p.), TP in combination with 8-OH-DPAT or NAN-190 during 14days. Anxiety behavior was assessed in the elevated plus maze (EPM) and the open field test (OFT). 8-OH-DPAT treatment failed to modify the anxiety-like behavior of GDX rats in the EPM as compared to the GDX rats given with oil solvent. NAN-190 injected alone or in combination with TP to GDX rats resulted in a significant anxiolytic-like effect as compared to the GDX given with oil solvent or TP application. Our data indicate that the combination of NAN-190 and TP is more effective than TP alone in GDX rats inducing a more profound anxiolytic-like effect in the EPM. Thus, the results of this study suggest that effects of 5-HT1A receptor agonist/antagonist can modify anxiety level in opposite direction in male rats after gonadectomy.

From OM&P:

The aim of the present study was to explore the effects of 8-OH-DPAT, 5-HT1A receptor agonist and NAN-190, 5-HT1A receptor antagonist on anxiety-related behavior in the adult gonadectomized (GDX) male rats. Moreover, another goal of this work was to investigate whether the combination of 8-OH-DPAT or NAN-190 plus testosterone propionate (TP) could affect anxiety-like behavior more than TP alone in the adult GDX rats. Two weeks after gonadectomy, GDX rats were subjected by treatments with the solvent, TP (0.5 mg/kg, s.c.), 8-OH-DPAT (0.05 mg/kg, s.c.), NAN-190 (0.1 mg/kg, i.p.), 8-OH-DPAT in a combination with TP or NAN-190 in a combination with TP during 14 days. Experimental groups of GDX rats and control group of intact males were then tested in the elevated plus maze (EPM) and the open field test. 8-OH-DPAT treatment failed to modify anxiety-like behavior of GDX rats in the EPM as compared to the GDX rats given with oil solvent. NAN-190 injected alone or in combination with TP to GDX rats resulted in a significant anxiolytic-like effect as compared to the GDX given with oil solvent or TP application. Our data indicate that the combination of NAN-190 and TP is more effective than TP alone in GDX rats inducing a more profound anxiolytic-like effect in the EPM. Thus, the results of this study suggest that effects of 5-HT1A receptor agonist/antagonist can modify anxiety level in opposite direction in male rats after gonadectomy.

The only real difference, it seems, between the two is Fedotova’s coauthor — who for the OM&P article is Olga V. Volkova. The only Olga V. Volkova we could find is a Russian actress whose only claim to scientific training appears to be her role as an ophthalmologist in a 1996 production of Hello, Fools!

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