Duplicated study of apologizers leads to a retraction — and an apology

via Flickr

The Journal of Consumer Research has retracted a 2019 paper because it overlapped significantly with a study previously published in Chinese by the same authors.

But whether both authors agreed to the previous submission is a subject of some confusion on the part of one of them.

The journal, published by Oxford Academic, added “RETRACTED” to the beginning of the paper’s title, “Sorry by Size: How the Number of Apologizers Affects Apology Effectiveness,” but did not include a retraction notice, nor any other explanation. The notice, second author Sam Maglio, of the University of Toronto, told Retraction Watch, will read:

This article has been retracted by the editors of the Journal of Consumer Research because it overlaps with an article published previously in another journal. A comparison of the two articles by the editors revealed similarity on a number of dimensions, both conceptual and empirical. The first author, as the primary author for both the previously published article and the retracted article, states that she misunderstood the duplication policy. The second author was unaware of the existence of the previously published article. The editors and both authors apologize for any problems that the publication of this article may have caused.

Who knew what when? The two authors’ versions of what happened are overlapping, but not identical.

Maglio told us, speaking of Yaxuan Ran, the paper’s first author, of the Zhongnan University School of Economics and Law in Wuhan, China:

I collaborated with her on the experiments and the write-up of the JCR manuscript. She prepared other experiments and a similar story in a write-up that she published in a Chinese-language journal without my knowledge.

Ran, however, said:

My co-author Sam Maglio knew the two papers. Sam and I have discussed the submission of the Chinese paper for two times. The first time is that I wanted to submit the Chinese paper to a Chinese conference. The second time is that I wanted to submit the Chinese paper to a Chinese journal. He raised some doubts at that time. But both of us thought it was a different paper from the English paper after the discussion so I submitted it to the Nankai Business Review, a Chinese journal.

Maglio responded:

I contend that account, or perhaps there’s a communication gap.

The only time Yaxuan and I discussed submission of the other paper was, as she notes, the instance in which I advised against submitting any related work until our paper (the one that ended up at JCR) had been published. That was the last I heard or thought about the Chinese paper until after our manuscript came out on the JCR website and the backlash began.

Maglio said “the backlash” referred to the retraction. And Ran acknowledged that she may have misunderstood their exchange:

That is true. When discussing with Sam, I told Sam that I would submit the Chinese paper to Acta Psychologica Sinica. However, Acta Psychologica Sinica directly rejected the Chinese paper because the editors thought it did not satisfy their journal’s interest. I maybe misunderstood Sam’s previous reply “I’d be happy to be listed as the third author on the new paper” as a kind of permission and authorization, so I submitted the Chinese paper to another journal Nankai Business Review without more asking. And the Nankai Business Review did not send submission emails to all authors. Based on this, it is indeed true that Sam “was unaware of the existence of the previously published article.”

Ran admitted that:

I made a mistake because I did not mention the Chinese paper as a related work in the cover letters. It is my carelessness and misunderstanding about the “related work.” When I submitted my papers, I did not think the two papers were related because I thought they targeted different audience (especially most of English readers have no access to Chinese papers). And I really like the main effect of my JCR paper and want to introduce it to a global and influential platform. As a junior scholar, I feel very regret about the retraction and have learned from this.

Ran provided us with a side-by-side comparison of the two papers. She said:

The previously published Chinese paper is on Nankai Business Review, a bi-monthly journal sponsored by Nankai University. The Chinese paper is a preliminary work of the topic of the number of apologizers in the Chinese context. First, the English paper on JCR is not a translation of the Chinese paper. The textual content and organization of the JCR paper is not the same with the Chinese paper. In addition, the conceptual framework of the Chinese paper is not the same with that of the JCR paper: the former contains the dual paths but latter has one path. Furthermore, the JCR paper is conducted in a professional, normative, and strict manner from effect demonstration to scientific research process by using totally different data and studies (including an archival study and a real behavioral study).

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, 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.