Publisher retracts paper with ethics committee discrepancy after question from Retraction Watch

Photo by Bilal Kamoon via flickr

Dove, a publisher owned by Taylor & Francis, has retracted a paper published last year after a Retraction Watch reader pointed out that the authors’ statements on ethical approval made no sense.

Dove’s Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy published the article, “Serum Human Epididymis Protein 4 is a Potential Biomarker for Early Chronic Kidney Disease in an Obese Population,” in April 2021. In August, we received an email from a puzzled reader which read, in part:

The problem is that all authors in this article in one institute (Second Affiliated Hospital of the University of South China), while the data was from another institute (Method: A cohort of 506 patients with diabetic nephropathy who were hospitalized at Weihai Central Hospital, China, from January 2016 to November 2019 were included.). 

We forwarded the concerns to Sabina Alam, Taylor & Francis’ director of publishing ethics and integrity, who checked and told us a few days later that the issue wasn’t yet on her colleagues’ radar. In late September, Alam told us:

After a bit of chasing, the authors responded to our queries and we’re now awaiting further responses to our follow-up questions. They should get back to us shortly, and I’ll let you know when we’ve concluded the investigation.

Then, on October 6, Dove retracted the paper:

The Editor and Publisher of Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy wish to retract the published article. Concerns were raised over a discrepancy in the ethics statement and patient cohort location reported in the article. The ethics committee who approved the study was reported as the Ethics Committee of Renmin Hospital of Weihai Central Hospital and the location of the patient cohort was described as Weihai Central Hospital. These were not the same as the Second Affiliated Hospital of the University of South China from which the authors were affiliated.

The authors explained an error had been made and the Ethics Committee of the Second Affiliated Hospital of the University of South China approved the study and the cohort consisted of patients from the Second Affiliated Hospital of the University of South China. However, the authors were unable to provide a satisfactory explanation for why the misreporting had occurred and could not provide the original ethical review documents from the Ethics Committee of the Second Affiliated Hospital of the University of South China.

Our decision-making was informed by our policy on publishing ethics and integrity and the COPE guidelines on retraction.

The retracted article will remain online to maintain the scholarly record, but it will be digitally watermarked on each page as “Retracted”.

Jianjun Li, the corresponding author of the paper, has not responded to our requests for comment.

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