Journal retracted at least 17 papers for self-citation, 14 with same first author

A medical journal in Italy has retracted at least 17 papers by researchers in that country who appear to have been caught in a citation scam. The journal says it also fired three editorial board members for “misconduct” in the matter. 

The retractions, from Acta Medica Mediterranea, occurred in 2017 and 2018, but we’re just finding out about them now; 14 involve roughly the same group of neuroscientists, while three are by different authors from some of the same institutions as the first team. 

The journal last year issued two statements on its website about the cases, which it began investigating in 2018. The first, on Feb. 1, 2019 (we think), declared: 

The owner of the Journal “Acta medica mediterranea” mister Carmelo Pennino detected suspected misconduct in manuscript publishing. The company Carbone Editore, owner of the Journal “Acta Medica Mediterranea” already retracted a number of 17 items and announced an update within the Authors’ guidelines policy officially.  

On July 1, the journal posted this notice: 

The owner of the Journal “Acta medica mediterranea” mister Carmelo Pennino is happy to announce that the WoS and SCOPUS indexing is also confirmed for the following upcoming issues. The company Carbone Editore, owner of the Journal “Acta Medica Mediterranea” officially declare close the internal investigation with the following taken actions: a number of 19 items have been retracted; a number of 3 editorial board members have been removed from their role for misconduct.

Of note, we can only find 17 retractions in the journal, which has not responded to a request for comment.

The notices appear to be identical. Here’s one, for “The dynamic maturative model for attachment“:

ACTA MEDICA MEDITERRANEA journal is retracting this paper following on concerns raised by the Journal Owner, Mister Carmelo Pennino, the manager of Carbone Editore company. After an internal investigation that involved all Section Editors, the journal owner detected a suspected misconduct in terms of self-citations activity. 

For this 2017 paper, “The dynamic maturative model for attachment,” of the 100 articles cited, 26 were articles written by the first author, Agata Maltese, of the University of Palermo. Maltese is first author of 14 of the retracted papers.

We looked through the references of the 17 retracted papers and noticed a few curiosities. For example, the article above has overlapping citations with the 2018 paper “Corpous callosum agenesia: a minireview” and the 2017 work, “The effects over overweight and obesity on cognitive functions and psychological well-being.” 

One of these references is:  

Valenzano A, Moscatelli F, Triggiani AI, Capranica L,De Ioannon G, Piacentini MF, Mignardi S, Messina G,Villani S, Cibelli G.Heart-Rate Changes After an Ultraendurance Swim From Italy to Albania: A Case Report. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2016; 11(3): 407-9.  

Which would seem to have relatively little to do with attachment theory, unless that attachment involves an affinity for saltwater. 

Maltese has not responded to a request for comment.

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