After ten years of being in limbo, a chemistry paper is retracted

In May of this year, François-Xavier Coudert, a chemist at PSL University in Paris, had a question about a paper in Chemistry: A European Journal.

Several days later, he had an answer — sort of — along with an apology for readers from Haymo Ross, the journal’s editor in chief.

It turns out that there were five papers held in limbo by Chemistry, Ross told Retraction Watch last week. And three months after the editors’ statement, the world had a better answer to what happened to at least one of the papers: It has been retracted.

Here’s the notice for “Unstable Supramolecular Structure of [Bmim][BF4] in Aqueous Solution,” a paper first published in 2009 and retracted in August 2019:

The following article from Chemistry—A European Journal, Unstable Supramolecular Structure of [Bmim][BF4] in Aqueous Solution, by Bo Wu, Li Zhang, Yu Mei Zhang, and Hua Ping Wang, Chem. Eur. J. 2019, 25, 11167–11171, published online on 22 September 2009 and available in Wiley Online Library (, has been retracted by agreement between the authors, the journal Editor‐in‐Chief Dr. Haymo Ross, and Wiley‐VCH Verlag GmbH & Co KGaA.

The retraction has been agreed due to a major overlap in content including text passages and a graphic from the following papers:

T. B. Liu, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2002, 124, 10942–10943

T. B. Liu, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2003, 125, 312–313

T. B. Liu, E. Diemann, H. L. Li, A. W. M. Dress, A. Müller, Nature 2003, 426, 59–62

G. Liu, T. B. Liu, S. S. Mal, U. Kortz, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2006, 128, 10103–10110

G. Liu, T. B. Liu, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2005, 127, 6942–6943

The paper does not seem to have ever been indexed by Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, but Google Scholar lists 10 papers which have cited it.

Ross said the five cases are now all resolved:

In the example you pointed out, one such paper has been retracted, this was due to the article itself and not the length of time in [Early View]. We have worked on each case with the authors individually and all are now resolved. We do acknowledge and apologize for this oversight. These are very unique cases and not a reflection of the editorial process at Chemistry – A European Journal.

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One thought on “After ten years of being in limbo, a chemistry paper is retracted”

  1. Here’s another one still sitting in an advance queue, not published for years.

    This article

    “The breast cancer susceptibility FGFR2 provides an alternate mode of HER2 activation”

    by authors

    W Wei, W Liu, S Serra, S L Asa & S Ezzat

    Oncogene (2015)

    states “Original Article Published: 02 February 2015”

    and also

    “Oncogene (2015) Cite this article”

    When I click the “Cite this article” it navigates to the bottom of the web page which states

    19 June 2014

    05 November 2014

    05 December 2014

    02 February 2015


    Scrolling through all of the 2015 and 2016 journal issues, this paper is never seen.

    In 2014 it appeared on a then-available “Online First” list, which no longer appears on the Nature Oncogene web page.

    If I use the Nature Search widget, searching for “Ezzat” (one of the authors) I see

    Research | 2 February 2015
    The breast cancer susceptibility FGFR2 provides an alternate mode of HER2 activation

    W Wei, W Liu [ . . . ] S Ezzat

    Oncogene , 1–9
    Rights & permissions

    Note that there is no volume number next to Oncogene, and the page numbers are 1-9.

    Below it I see

    Research | 12 December 2011
    The insulin resistance Grb14 adaptor protein promotes thyroid cancer ret signaling and progression

    K Balogh, S L Asa [ . . . ] S Ezzat

    Oncogene 31 , 4012–4021
    Rights & permissions

    another paper from the same authors. This one has a volume number by Oncogene, and page numbers in the thousands, not like “1-9”.

    So the FGFR2 paper still sits in an “Online First” queue of some kind, was never pushed into any issue of Oncogene, has image manipulation issues

    has had multiple letters to the editors, yet still sits there with no Expression of Concern or any notification whatsoever that the paper was problematic enough as to never appear in any journal issue.

    Journal publishers are not being good stewards of scientific efforts, not even Nature.

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