Journal retracts three papers — including two on COVID-19 — because ‘trainee editor’ committed misconduct

A psychiatry journal has retracted two papers on Covid-19 and mental health, and a third on racism, after concluding that an author on the articles rigged the peer-review process. 

The papers, which appeared in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry (IJSP), were co-authored by Debanjan Banerjee, then geriactric psychiatrist at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in Bengaluru, and his colleagues. 

Banerjee, who has since left the institution, was also until recently a “trainee editor” at the journal, as Neuroskeptic noted on Twitter last week, as well as an associate editor of the Journal of Psychosexual Health — both of which are SAGE titles. He’s also an associate editor for the Frontiers journal Aging Psychiatry.

According to the IJSP

The following articles have been retracted at the request of the Editor and the Publisher.

In 2021 SAGE became aware that the peer review process for these articles had been compromised. We have reason to believe that this was due to the submitting author’s misconduct.

Adhering to the international guidelines established by the Committee on Publication Ethics, the Journal has determined these are grounds for retraction.

SAGE regrets the academic record was compromised and apologises to readers.

Ahuja, K. K., Khandelwal, A., & Banerjee, D. (2021). ‘Weighty woes’: Impact of fat talk and social influences on body dissatisfaction among Indian women during the pandemic. First Published February 4, 2021. DOI: 10.1177/0020764021992814

Banerjee, D., Vasquez, V., Pecchio, M., Hegde, M. L., Jagannatha, R. Ks., & Sathyanarayana Rao, T. S. (2021). Biopsychosocial intersections of Affective Touch & Psychiatry: Mental health implications of ‘Touch hunger’ during COVID-19. DOI: 10.1177/0020764021997485

Banerjee, D., Vijayakumar, H. G., & D’Cruz, M. (2020). “Beyond the Floyd Narrative”: Reviewing Racism through the lens of Social Psychiatry. DOI: 10.1177/0020764020950773

Neither Banerjee nor the editor of the journal replied to our requests for comment. 
The two COVID-19-related retractions bring our count of such retractions to 194.

Update, 1930 UTC, 11/30/21: Banerjee, who told us he had been “down with dengue [fever]” and unable to reply, said:

We strongly stand by our scientific integrity, ethics and academic quality of our papers. In spite of repeated requests, the authors have not yet received any evidence of the alleged wrongdoings. This is extremely unfortunate and against scientific temperament.

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8 thoughts on “Journal retracts three papers — including two on COVID-19 — because ‘trainee editor’ committed misconduct”

  1. The title and the whole write up assumes the allegations to be true without any evidence. Such biased reporting is not at all encouraged as it goes against careers. Whether misconduct was there or not is a matter of question, till then terms such as “alleged” should be used.
    It’s important to practice sensitive reporting and choose your words right in such matters. If the author is innocent imagine the damage you have caused to the author’s reputation because of your ignorance.

    1. Dear Anon: That’s nonsense. This article just recites what the *journal* reported in their retraction notice. If you don’t agree with their conclusion or reasons, contact the journal.

      They said:
      “We have reason to believe that this was due to the submitting author’s misconduct.”

      1. Since this a public forum, I hope you can choose your words carefully when you reply to your reader’s comments.

        Retraction has some laws, which I believe you know well. Names of authors are never mentioned.
        Since the issue is between the publisher & authors, and you have not conducted an independent review yourself, its always better to post “alleged”.
        Also did the retraction notice mention it had anything to do with “trainee editor”?
        We dont even know who the submitting author was!
        So next time onwards, please be careful about the title and content of what you post lest it defames someone!

        1. I’d be interested in the official listing of these ‘retraction’ laws that you are referring to, especially the one about the names of authors not being mentioned in the retraction notices. Can you provide us with a source? Also, the articles in the journal in question list a corresponding author who, presumably, is the author submitting the paper to the journal.

          1. Anon is going to have a hard time finding sources to support that claim, since COPE guidelines explicitly say the opposite:

            “It is helpful to include the authors and title of the retracted article in the retraction heading.” [https://publicationethics.org/files/retraction-guidelines-cope.pdf]

  2. My thoughts on reading the post? How is it even possible for journals to have editors [irrespective of whether they are being trained or if they are established] to have access to the peer-review process of their own papers? What are their COI procedures?

    1. As Ms Puce said, how can any editor be in charge of his/her own articles! There will definitely be a COI…So what exactly was the misconduct?

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