Publisher cancels special issue honoring plagiarizing dean following Retraction Watch inquiries

MDPI was about to publish a special issue in one of its journals to fete the career of a retired dean. But after Retraction Watch informed the co-editors of the issue that the researcher, Kishor Wasan, had abruptly retired after being found to have plagiarized a 2019 book review for The Lancet, the publisher evidently decided to cancel the planned celebration. 

The special issue of Pharmaceutics – here’s a Wayback Machine link – was to be “in honour of Professor Kishor M Wasan’s remarkable contributions to the pharmaceutics field.”

But now it is gone, and prompts a 404 error rather than any explanation.

MDPI did not respond to a request for comment. But Pavel Gershkovich, one of the two guest editors for the issue, said he did not know the circumstances of Wasan’s retirement before being contacted by Retraction Watch: 

I was not aware of the issue you mentioned in your email. I do know he retired instead of taking up the position of Dean in UoT, but my understanding was that the decision was voluntary and he decided to retire instead.

Gershkovich, who was a postdoc in Wasan’s former lab from 2007 to 2012, said the idea for the special issue was MDPI’s. After he and co-editor Emmanuel Ho forwarded our correspondence to the publisher on Monday, February 14, MDPI took down the special issue page on February 16.

Wasan, who was dean of the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition at the University of Saskatchewan before his retirement and is now an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia as well as chief medical and scientific officer at Skymount Medical and director of research at iCo Therapeutics Inc., did not respond to a request for comment.

This is not the first time MDPI has yanked a special issue. In 2018, they did so because the editor had faked his credentials. In a bit of deja vu, here’s we what told The Scientist then:

“While it was probably a good idea for them to cancel the special issue they were planning based on the concerns about the guest editor, you shouldn’t get a 404 page when you go to a link that a publisher has publicized,” says Ivan Oransky, a cofounder of Retraction Watch (Oransky was formerly an editor at The Scientist). “I think journals should, whenever possible, err on the side of transparency.”

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3 thoughts on “Publisher cancels special issue honoring plagiarizing dean following Retraction Watch inquiries”

  1. There is nothing special about MDPI “special” issues – which to me are akin to a Ponzi scheme. Invite a Guest Editor eager to append their CV. They will identify authors who are just as eager to follow suite. This particular journal – Pharmaceutics – at the time of this writing has no less than 367 “special” issues for the next 12 months under production:

    https://www.mdpi.com/journal/pharmaceutics/special_issues?page_count=100&search=&section_id=0&sort=deadline&view=open&page_no=4

    And MDPI probably has over one hundred such journals. Go figure, some 40,000 special issues a year!

    Below is a standard, essentially mass mailed, invitation – because many also refuse – to become a Guest Editor:

    “You do not need to do any editorial work at this moment—just defining the aim and scope of the Special Issue, inviting contributions, and promoting the Special Issue are OK at this stage.
    Submissions may include original research articles or comprehensive reviews relating to your proposed title. Once you have identified at least eight colleagues who have agreed to contribute or propose a list of 20 potential contributors, we will set up an announcement for the proposed Special Issue on the Cancers website. Each submission will undergo a formal peer review process, after which we will ask you to decide whether the paper is acceptable for publication in Cancers.

    We gladly waive the article processing charge for papers from the Guest Editor. If ten or more papers are published in this Special Issue, we can make a Special Issue book and send a hard copy to each Guest Editor.

    The Editorial Office will take care of setting up the Special Issue website, arranging for promotional material, assisting with invitations to contribute papers, and administrative tasks associated with peer review, including inviting reviewers, collating reports, contacting authors, and professional production before publication.”

    What we learn from this blog post is that if a “special” issue goes under, MDPI just pulls the plug from that “Special Issue website” and moves on.

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