A year ago today, Jennifer Powers, a co-author of a 2009 paper wrote to Springer Nature to alert the publisher to the fact that Tropical Dry Deciduous Forest: Research Trends and Emerging Features, a 2017 textbook by J. S. Singh and R.K. Chaturvedi, had plagiarized her work, and the work of others. A publisher representative responded six days later, saying they would look into the matter.
Then, for five months, crickets.
On January 23 of this year, Powers, of the University of Minnesota, sent another message asking for a progress report. Several days later, a Springer Nature staffer wrote to say they would provide an answer by mid-February.
Mid-February came and went, and the co-author sent another reminder, as did Jesse Lasky, of Penn State, another of the authors who said his work had been plagiarized. Back from Springer came this message:
It’s become a sort of Retraction Watch Mad Libs: Author writes a paper that is so far, far, out of the mainstream. Maybe it argues that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS. Or that vaccines cause autism. Truth squads swarm over the paper, taking to blogs and Twitter to wonder, in the exasperated tone of those who have been here before, how on earth it was published in a peer reviewed journal.
Then, in something that approaches — but does not quite qualify as — contrition, the journal in question retracts the paper, mumbling something in a retraction notice about a compromised peer review process, or that ghosts in the machine allowed the paper to be published instead of being rejected.
This week’s parade float entry is a paper in the International Journal of Anthropology and Ethnology, a Springer Nature title that is apparently sponsored by The Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, where many of its editorial board members work.
According to one notice for “In-silico Analysis of LncRNA-mRNA Target Prediction” in: D. Reddy Edla et al. (eds.), Advances in Machine Learning and Data Science, Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing 705, the chapter was retracted for plagiarism.
The authors of a 2018 paper on how noisy distractions disrupt memory are retracting the article after finding a flaw in their study.
The paper, “Unexpected events disrupt visuomotor working memory and increase guessing,” appeared in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, a publication of the Psychonomic Society. (For those keeping score at home, psychonomics is the study of the laws of the mind.)
The article purported to show that an unexpected “auditory event,” like the sudden blare of a car horn, reduced the ability of people to remember visuomotor cues. Per the abstract:
When a researcher submitted a manuscript to a journal about multimedia tools, she was frustrated to wait 13 months for the journal to make a decision — only to have it reject the paper outright. So imagine how she felt when, days after the paper was rejected, she saw the journal had published a plagiarized version of the paper by a group of different authors.
Clearly, something went very awry here — especially since the journal, Multimedia Tools and Applications (MTAP), has retracted three papers by the same group of authors, all of which plagiarized from unpublished manuscripts by other people.
Of course, one possibility is that an author was a peer reviewer of the manuscripts, and stole the unpublished material — something that unfortunately does happen.
There are four authors in common to all three manuscripts, but only one — corresponding author Chao Xiong of the Changzhou Institute of Technology in China — has responded to any queries from MTAP, according to the retraction notices. As the notices state, Xiong agrees with one of the the retractions, but not the other two. (All of the papers cover similar topics and were submitted around the same time, so it’s unclear why Xiong didn’t object to one retraction.)
Here’s a sample notice, for “Image-based reversible data hiding algorithm toward big multimedia data:”
Last week, we reported that the journal, and its publisher, Springer Nature, were having some trouble with a retracted presentation from a 2017 cancer meeting. Turns out, the issue involved crossed wires for similar articles in the journal by the same trio of researchers.
Elizabeth Hawkins, a spokeswoman for Springer Nature, told us:
What Caught Our Attention: We won’t lie — any retractions of papers about fish semen (OK, any kind of semen) will make us stop and look. In this case, the journal retracted three papers submitted by the same researcher over concerns of fake review. In the end, the journal was concerned the papers were okayed by reviewers who weren’t “suitably qualified” to review the papers about the content and quality of semen from different fish species. (In fairness, we imagine the pool of qualified reviewers is relatively small.)