No delight for Turkish surgeon in authorship dispute over case study

A surgeon in Turkey has won a court case in which he argued that he deserved to be named in  a list of authors from his institution who’d published a paper. But even that doesn’t appear to have satisfied the aggrieved medic, as you’ll see. 

The article, “Late onset traumatic diaphragmatic herniation leading to intestinal obstruction and pancreatitis: two separate cases,” was written by a group from the Department of General Surgery at Ankara Numune Training and Research Hospital. The list of authors comprised Tolga Dinc, Selami Ilgaz Kayilioglu and Faruk Coskun … but not Baris Yildiz, a colleague in the department. 

The paper appeared in Case Reports in Emergency Medicine, a Hindawi title, which has issued a rather byzantine expression of concern about the article: 

Case Reports in Emergency Medicine would like to express concern with the article titled “Late Onset Traumatic Diaphragmatic Herniation Leading to Intestinal Obstruction and Pancreatitis: Two Separate Cases” published in Case Reports in Emergency Medicine in August 2015 [1], as the article was published without the approval of Dr. Baris D. Yildiz and his name was missing from the authors’ list.

An institutional investigation claimed Dr. Yildiz waived his right to be an author, which he disputed. A court of Intellectual and Industrial Property Rights in Turkey ruled that Dr. Yildiz should be listed as co-author, which was upheld at appeal. However, Dr. Yildiz did not agree to a corrigendum listing him as an author.

Additionally, the editorial office was contacted by someone saying they were the legal representative of one of the patients and they had not consented to publication. However, the representative’s identity was not verified and they did not respond to queries.

We reached Yildiz by email, and he told us that he discovered the offending paper

by chance a couple of months after the article appeared on PubMed. The other guys did not inform me about their action. 

Yildiz went on to make several unsubstantiated — that’s to say, we could not substantiate them — claims about political and religious biases that affected his case. However, he did not respond to a request for evidence supporting those allegations. 

Matt Hodgkinson, who oversees publishing ethics for Hindawi, told us that 

This case unfortunately took the longest to resolve of any in the last few years at Hindawi, due to several complicating factors – authorship disputes can be surprisingly intractable, particularly in countries with difficult political situations …  We were made aware of the dispute in late 2015, initially involving more parties. The claimant expected us to investigate ourselves, but it is not possible for journals to effectively investigate authorship disputes because we cannot know who genuinely contributed and who meets the criteria. Once attempts at mediation fail – as they did in this case – we need to ask the institution(s) to formally investigate, which we did with the agreement of the claimant. 

Hodgkinson noted that Hindawi tried to get clarity from Ankara Numune Hospital as well as “oversight bodies” in Turkey, “without success.” It also sought advice from the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) in the matter. 

The case ground on:  

The parties to the dispute then engaged in protracted legal action; an initial ruling in late 2017 was appealed twice and we believe it was appropriate to delay posting a notice until the resolution of court proceedings. We considered retraction, but we decided that an Expression of Concern was in keeping with COPE guidelines because the dispute was about authorship (the court ruled that the claimant should be an author, but he did not wish to be listed as such) and – barring the unconfirmed issue about patient consent – the content of the article is not in dispute.

Like Retraction Watch? You can make a tax-deductible contribution to support our work, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us to your RSS reader, sign up for an email every time there’s a new post (look for the “follow” button at the lower right part of your screen), or subscribe to our daily digest. If you find a retraction that’s not in our database, you can let us know here. For comments or feedback, email us at team@retractionwatch.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.