Science retracts report on deadly Kumamoto earthquake

Damage from the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake

Science is retracting a 2017 paper about the deadly Kumamoto earthquake about a month after the university announced that the paper’s first author, Aiming Lin, had committed misconduct, including falsification of data and plagiarism.

Science editor in chief Jeremy Berg told us in late March that the journal had been trying to obtain more information in preparation for writing an expression of concern. Here’s today’s retraction notice:

The November 2018 Science Report, “Coseismic rupturing stopped by Aso volcano during the 2016 Mw 7.1 Kumamoto earthquake, Japan” presented evidence that the 2016 Mw 7.1 Kumamoto earthquake produced a surface rupture zone of ~40 km long along the pre-existing active fault zone and identified for the first time faults on the western side of Aso caldera, Kyushu Island, Japan. In August 2017, a confidential investigation into potential irregularities in the paper was initiated at Kyoto University. The investigation was completed in March 2019 and has confirmed that the paper contained falsified data and manipulated images. Specifically, there were multiple falsifications in Figs 1B, 1C, 2A, and 2C, and instances of plagiarism in Fig. 1C. These were the responsibility of the corresponding author, Aiming Lin. In agreement with the recommendation of the investigation, the authors are retracting the Report.

As we reported in March:

The paper, “Coseismic rupturing stopped by Aso volcano during the 2016 Mw 7.1 Kumamoto earthquake, Japan,” has been cited 18 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science. A 2016 release from Kyoto described the work, which appeared to show that a volcano had stopped the earthquake, and the paper caught some news outlets’ attention.

This is the second case of misconduct involving studies of the Kumamoto earthquake. Last week, we reported that Osaka University had found that one of its researchers had faked some of the data in at least five papers about the same event.

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2 thoughts on “Science retracts report on deadly Kumamoto earthquake”

  1. Fascinating final line to the retraction statement: [senior] “Author Nakajima could not be reached.”

    So the first author was responsible for the misconduct and the senior author is refusing to comment?

    1. I’m not sure if your statement is correct.

      The first author is the corresponding author. S/he might be some student who has graduated and since left research life. As for the last author, s/he is the last author and it seems from a company and not the university, unlike all other authors in the paper. There’s no indication that s/he is the senior author. But yes, you can argue that the senior author can be from a company.

      Not all areas of science define authorship the same way. I haven’t looked at Science’s rules but do they specify what authorship positions mean? I think no?

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