In February 2016, Albert Jambon received some puzzling news.
Several colleagues had alerted him to a paper, published online in late December 2015 in the Journal of African Earth Sciences (JAES), reporting the discovery of a rare mineral, which Jambon had been analyzing.
When Jambon read the paper, he realized it was a modified version of a paper he had been working on for almost eight years. Impatient, one of his co-authors, Ahmad Bilal, had published his own version of the manuscript and listed himself as the sole author.
Jambon, a professor at Pierre and Marie Curie University, believes that Bilal’s paper plagiarized his manuscript, but Bilal disputes this allegation. Bilal–who works at Damascus University in Syria–says he couldn’t wait any longer to publish the manuscript, so wrote “a completely new version.” Since the authors couldn’t resolve the authorship dispute, in August 2016, the journal issued a “temporary” expression of concern, alerting readers to the authorship concerns. Now, a year and a half later, a spokesperson for the publisher says it’s going to be retracted.
Eight years is a long time to work on a paper.