Journal of the paranormal has its first retraction

Alejandro Parra

We should have seen this one coming. Or, maybe, they should have.

A journal dedicated to the study of psychics, the paranormal and related fringe research has its first retraction, according to the editor.

The Journal of Scientific Exploration says it detected plagiarism in a 2017 paper by Alejandro Parra, a well-known figure in the world of parapsychology — marking the first retraction from its pages. 

 The JSE publishes

original research on topics of interest that cover a wide spectrum, ranging from apparent anomalies in well-established disciplines to rogue phenomena that seem to belong to no established discipline, as well as philosophical issues about the connections among disciplines.

Topics run the gamut of the irrational, including seances, psychokinesis, reincarnation, parapsychology and so much more.  

In a statement, the editor, Stephen Braude, a philosopher and parapsychology researcher at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, writes:

This issue of the JSE includes a retraction of a paper by Alejandro Parra that we published in 2017. As far as I can determine, it’s the journal’s first official retraction of a published paper. The reason for this action is the author’s extensive plagiarism, both in that paper and in other published work (including a recent book whose publisher has since recalled all copies). It’s a sad state of affairs, of course—and perhaps the first of its kind in this particular and admittedly minor scientific domain. But it reminds me that six years ago, in Volume 29(2), we published a paper on retractions in science, and in that issue I seized the opportunity to editorialize further on the subject. I recycle that Editorial below. But before that, I must note that careful examination has found no additional evidence of plagiarism in the one other research article (in 2018) and the one book review we’ve published by Parra. I must also mention that, henceforth, the JSE will run routine plagiarism tests on papers accepted for publication. I thought this was a chore I’d left behind when I retired from teaching. However, I don’t want the JSE to emulate the person who said “I’ve learned from my mistakes, and I’m certain I can repeat them exactly.” EDITORIAL FROM JSE VOLUME 29(2), 189–192

The retracted paper is “Anomalous/Paranormal Experiences Reported by Nurses in Relation to Their Patients in Hospitals,” which purported to find, among other things: 

significant differences in absorption and proneness to hallucination were found for nurses on the night shift, which could indicate both that certain APEs [paranormal/anomalous experiences] need lower “noise” in perceptual terms and that absorption could be a variable that is sensitive to certain anomalous experiences such as seeing apparitions or hearing voices. 

Per the four-page retraction notice

The Journal of Scientific Exploration is retracting this article because of multiple instances of plagiarism, with no attribution (no quotation marks used, no text citations). The first source is not cited at all and does not appear in the References. The second source is cited once but not in relation to the plagiarized text, but it does appear in the References list. Here are some examples of the text taken from the two unattributed sources …

One of those sources was “Patients’ and nurses’ perspectives on patients’ experience for coronary care unit stressors using a mixed method approach,” the 2011 PhD thesis  by RTA Qaid, of the School of Health Sciences and Social Care at Brunel University, in London, England.

The other was “Comfort for dying: Five year retrospective and one year prospective studies of end of life experiences,” which appeared in 2010 in Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics.

Baude tells Retraction Watch that he became aware of Parra’s penchant for plagiarism last year: 

I learned about the Parra case late last year from Michael Nahm and others who had discovered extensive plagiarism in Parra’s book, The Last Farewell Embrace, which has since been withdrawn by the publisher. That kicked off a series of additional investigations of other published works. Moreover, the JSE discovered that Parra had submitted a paper written by Anna Conoforte and apparently machine-translated from a journal Parra himself edits in Argentina, as if he was the sole author. As of now, at least one more publisher of some of Parra’s books is examining the accumulated evidence of plagiarism in those works. 

Parra, who has not responded to a request for comment [see update below], teaches at the Universidad Abierta Interamericana at Buenos Aires. According to his bio, he

is consulted regularly by various media, radio and TV, local and international. For fifteen years (1990-2004), he was editor of the Revista Argentina de Psicología Paranormal [Argentine Journal of Paranormal Psychology] and, since 2006, of the E-bulletin Psi. Since 2004, he is President of the Institute of Paranormal Psychology, Inc., and the Agencia Latinoamericana de Información Psi [Latin American Information Agency Psi]. He is a member of a dozen international associations, including the Parapsychological Association (of which he is former President, 2011-2013), and is the author of twelve books. Parra has also published more than 300 articles in scholarly and popular magazines in Spanish and other languages​, as well as several book chapters. From 2008 to 2013, he conducted a course “Paranormal Psychology” and since 2014 the First Diploma in “Transpersonal Psychology” at the Universidad Abierta Interamericana. 

Update, 1600 UTC, 3/26/21: In comments to Retraction Watch, Parra admitted to the plagiarism:

It is true there is multiple instances of plagiarism with no attribution (no quotation marks used, no text citations) in the Introduction section of the article…

However, the Editor didn’t allow me express in a “Letter for Editor” that the methodological design, database, statistical analysis and Conclusions are genuine.

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5 thoughts on “Journal of the paranormal has its first retraction”

  1. Even though the following poorly conceived text segment is not enclosed in double quotation marks as the material that precedes it was ‘Topics run the gamut of the irrational, including seances, psychokinesis, reincarnation, parapsychology and so much more’, both segments of text are indented together indicating that they come from the same source. What might that source be?

    1. Thanks for spotting that. The material in quotation marks was from a link we’ve added to “publishes” above. The sentence beginning “Topics” was written by us and we’ve removed the block quote notation. We garbled the formatting when porting this over from a Google doc to WordPress, our apologies.

  2. We should have seen this one coming. Or, maybe, they should have.

    You mock. But surely we should consider the possibility that Parra did perform all the experiments that he claimed to do, quite independently of the experiments by others which it is claimed that he plagiarized—and that it was those others who clairvoyantly copied his texts, months or years before he published them. We might call this phenomenon “pregiarism”.

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