Researcher hired lawyers to try to get journal to run correction he wanted

BMCLogoWhen a researcher suspected a paper on fireflies had borrowed some of its methodology, he called lawyers to help him convince the publisher to craft a correction notice that was to his satisfaction.

Although the authors submitted a correction to BMC Plant Biology acknowledging Robert Birch as the original author of some material, as we reported previously, the publisher instead issued an expression of concern (EOC), noting that there was an “authorship dispute.”

When our post ran earlier this year, we didn’t know why a request for correction had turned into an EOC, which — as its name states — is typically more cause for concern than a correction. We’re still not sure exactly why, but we have learned that Birch disputed the content of the authors’ suggested correction, and hired lawyers to try to change the wording. From his perspective, there are several problems with the paper, he told us:

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Firefly paper flagged following Queensland investigation

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A BMC journal has added an expression of concern to a paper on firefly genes after a University of Queensland investigation determined a table should be credited to a different source.

According to a representative of the university, the investigation found no evidence of misconduct. The university submitted an erratum that the journal chose not to publish; in the EOC note, the journal says the wording of the erratum is “under dispute.”

The erratum submitted to the journal specifies that the table should be attributed to former UQ biologist Robert Birch, who was not an author on the paper. The investigation concluded that the authors had not committed misconduct and “acted in good faith” in using the table, Anton Middelberg, University of Queensland Pro-Vice-Chancellor told us.

The paper, “Synthetic versions of firefly luciferase and Renilla luciferase reporter genes that resist transgene silencing in sugarcane, published in BMC Plant Biology, has been cited twice, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

Here’s the expression of concern:

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