Paper with authorship posted for sale retracted over a year after Retraction Watch report

A list of authorships available at Teziran.org

More than a year after we reported on two websites advertising authorships of scientific papers for sale, one of the posted articles has been retracted, while publishers say they are still investigating others.

The retracted article, “Dynamic simulation of moderately thick annular system coupled with shape memory alloy and multi-phase nanocomposite face sheets,” appeared in the journal Engineering with Computers, a Springer Nature title, in January 2021. The article has been cited 28 times, according to Clarivate’s Web of Science.

Although the retraction notice doesn’t say as much, the journal’s publisher told us that it removed the article in part due its having been advertised for sale.

After our September 2021 article on the websites selling authorships, the anonymous whistleblower “Artemisia Stricta” identified several papers from a cached version of one of the websites, Teziran.org, and notified the editors and publishers of the journals about the finding.

In an email to Jessica Zhang, editor-in-chief of Engineering with Computers, and Allison Keene, who was an associate editor at Springer Nature at the time, Artemisia identified the article from the journal that had been posted for sale, and linked to our post. Artemisia wrote:

As I am sure you will agree, the listing of authorship for sale is a major red flag, and, in many cases, is accompanied by outright falsification of the article for scalability of authorship sales.

Are you able to review the point during the review process when the authors were added? If any were added after initial submission, this would be a strong indication of authorship manipulation, which may constitute grounds for retraction.Of course, it is also possible that authorship was sold prior to submission. In any case, I hope that you will investigate this matter.

The article’s first two authors, Haiquan Wang and Hongyan Zhang, are affiliated with Weifang University in China, while the second two, Ramin Dousti and Hamed Safarpour, are affiliated with Isfahan University of Technology and Imam Khomeini International University, respectively, both in Iran. Wang, the paper’s corresponding author, did not respond to Retraction Watch’s request for comment.

In November of last year, the paper was retracted. The retraction notice states:

The Editor in Chief has retracted this article because of significant overlap with a previously-published article by different authors [1] and an article by different authors that was simultaneously under consideration in a different journal [2].

Hamed Safarpour has not explicitly stated whether they agree to this retraction notice. Haiquan Wang, Hongyan Zhang, and Ramin Dousti have not responded to any correspondence from the publisher about this retraction.

The notice’s references point to two articles: “Frequency simulation of viscoelastic multi-phase reinforced fully symmetric systems,” published in 2020 in the same journal, and “On the vibrations of the imperfect sandwich higher-order disk with a lactic core using generalize differential quadrature method,” published in the journal Composite Structures in 2021.

Both papers list as the first author M.S.H. Al-Furjan, who is affiliated with Zhejiang University in China, in addition to several other common co-authors. Many are  also listed on three other papers posted on Teziran, two in Composite Structures and another in Engineering with Computers

In response to an email inquiry from Retraction Watch, Tim Kersjes, head of Research Integrity, Resolutions at Springer Nature, said:

We can confirm that this retraction relates to the fact that this article had been listed for sale on Teziran.org and had significant overlap with two other papers.

For paper [sic] that we identify as associated with Teziran.org, we will take editorial action once these investigations are complete and all parties have had a chance to respond.

We continue to actively monitor for articles where their authorship may have been offered for sale and have a zero-tolerance policy regarding these activities. When we identify papers that may have violated our editorial policies, we take all necessary steps to investigate and correct the scientific record, in compliance with COPE guidelines.

We are working with colleagues to develop guidelines and best practice for counteracting cases of authorship sale, which undermine the integrity of and public trust in the scientific record.

None of the other articles Artemisia flagged from our post has been retracted. According to other emails we have seen between Artemisia and editors and publishers of papers that had been posted on Teziran, multiple publishers confirmed they were investigating the matter. The articles have not been marked with expressions of concern or other editorial notes indicating that they are under investigation and may not be reliable. These articles are:

Taylor and Francis, the publisher of one of the journals, initially responded to our inquiry that they would get back to us, but have not yet provided any other comment.

In response to an email from Retraction Watch, a spokesperson for Elsevier, the publisher of three of the Teziran articles Artemisia raised concerns about, said:

The integrity of research is of paramount importance to Elsevier. We have been investigating this matter and will provide an update once our investigations have concluded.

In an August 2022 response to Artemisia’s inquiry about the Al-Furjan article published in Engineering with Computers, an employee at Springer Nature cited a backlog of cases and lack of author response as reasons the investigation was delayed, writing:

Thanks for reaching out, and apologies for my lack of response regarding this concern. Regrettably I have no updates to provide on this investigation at this time. Progress has been delayed by lack of author responses and a large backlog of cases on the part of the SN Research Integrity Group. Please know that the SNRIG and I are looking into this issue, and that I will update you as soon as I’m able.

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