Not all retractions result from researchers’ mistakes — we have an entire category of posts known as “publisher errors,” in which publishers mistakenly post a paper, through no fault of the authors. Yet, those retractions can become a black mark on authors’ record. Our co-founder Ivan Oransky and Adam Etkin, Executive Editor at Springer Publishing Co (unrelated to Springer Nature) propose a new system in the latest issue of the International Society of Managing & Technical Editors newsletter, reprinted with permission below.
Imagine you’re a researcher who is one of 10 candidates being considered for tenure, or a promotion, or perhaps a new job which would significantly advance your career. Now imagine that those making this decision eliminate you as a candidate without even an interview because your record shows you’ve had a paper retracted. But in this particular case, what the decision makers may not be aware of is that the paper was not retracted because you made an honest mistake—which, if you came forward about it, really shouldn’t be a black mark anyway—or even because you did something unethical. It was retracted due to publisher error. Like Han Solo and/or Lando Calrissian, you’d find yourself in utter disbelief while saying “It’s not my fault!”— and you’d be right. Continue reading Dopey dupe retractions: How publisher error hurts researchers
On December 31st 2014, a pioneer in the study of inflammatory bowel disease passed away. An obituary published in the Journal of Digestive Diseases shortly thereafter is typical enough: It describes his achievements, importance to his patients, and battle with pancreatic cancer.
This is the first time we’ve seen an obituary pulled from a journal. Unfortunately, this was not a case of a premature obituary (which happens more often than you’d think)– the researcher did actually die, but it appears the journal published the obituary in the wrong place.
That was the emotional sequence for some significant number of researchers around the world on Friday. In the space of several hours, they received word that they were among the scientific 1% — the most cited researchers on the planet — then learned that…well, they actually weren’t.
Journals published by Springer have retracted three articles in different disciplines, noting in all instances the articles were published by mistake.
A Springer spokesperson told us all three papers were pulled as a result of “human error.” In two instances, the notices say the editors-in-chief never meant to accept the papers, since the recommendation was to reject.
Sometimes you have the right guy, but charge him with the wrong crime — like nabbing someone for not using a turn signal after he just ran through a red light.
A reproductive sciences journal has admitted to mistakenly retracting the wrong article last year — and is now pulling the previously issued retraction notice, along with retracting a different paper by the same author.
K. P. Suresh, author of both studies (the previously pulled one and the newly retracted one) from the National Institute of Veterinary Epidemiology and Disease Informatics in Bengaluru, Karnataka, India, appealed the journal’s 2015 decision to retract his previous paper. As we reported at the time, Suresh argued that his 2012 paper was “entirely different” from the study it is said to have plagiarized from. It turns out, he may have been right, because now the journal has pulled a different paper of his, published in 2011.
According to one of the notices, the Journal of Human Reproductive Sciences previously retracted the incorrect paper due to “technical errors.”
In both cases, the journal cited the reason for retraction as “duplicity of text.”
Here’s a strange one: We discovered a paper about an antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria that bore two retraction notices, and each provided a different reason for retraction. One alleged misconduct; that notice still appears now. The other — which has since disappeared — said the paper was submitted by mistake.
Once again, this list focuses on duplications — but unlike other duplications, these authors were not at fault. Rather, these retractions occurred because the publishers mistakenly published the same paper twice — the result of a transfer between publishers, for instance, or accidentally publishing the unedited version of the paper. We’re forced to wonder, as we have before, whether saddling researchers’ CVs with a retraction is really the most fair way to handle these cases.
So she contacted the journal to find out what had gone wrong, especially since checking the page proofs would have spotted the problem immediately. The authors were surprised to learn that it was against the journal’s policy to provide authors page proofs. Could this partly explain PLOS ONE’s high rate of corrections?
The author of a pilot study that suggested adding spices may encourage people to eat more vegetables initially didn’t realize that her paper had been retracted from Food and Nutrition Sciences in May.
What’s more, Zhaoping Li, Chief of the Division of Clinical Nutrition at the University of California, Los Angeles and the first author on the paper, didn’t realize the reason for the retraction: The journal had mistakenly published her paper twice, and had to retract the second copy. The first remains published.