Journal retracts nanoparticle paper, citing widespread misuse of sources
The International Journal of Nanomedicine is retracting a paper it published in June that appears to contain an impressive amount of misappropriated text and figures.
The article, “Particokinetics: computational analysis of the superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles deposition process,” came from a group at the Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, in São Paulo, Brazil, led by Walter Cárdenas. According to the notice:
Cárdenas WH, Mamani JB, Sibov TT, Caous CA, Amaro E Jr, Gamarra LF. Particokinetics: computational analysis of the superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles deposition process. Int J Nanomedicine. 2012;7:2699–2712.
It was brought to our attention that the Cárdenas et al paper did not cite a key source paper for the mathematics and approach to modeling the particokinetics of nanoparticles: Hinderliter PM, Minard KR, Orr O, et al. ISDD: A computational model of particle sedimentation, diffusion and target cell dosimetry for in vitro toxicity studies. Part Fibre Toxicol. 2010;7:36.
In addition to unacceptable similarities in equations, computer implementation, and use of parameters from the above reference, three of the figures appearing in the paper are nearly identical to those published in the abovementioned Hinderliter et al, while others are very similar to those published in Teeguarden JG, Hinderliter PM, Orr G, Thrall BD, Pounds JG. Particokinetics in vitro: dosimetry considerations for in vitro nanoparticle toxicity assessments. Toxicol Sci. 2007;95(2) 300–312.
A number of other relevant citations were not included:
Bird RB, Stewart WE, Lightfoot EN. Transport Phenomena. 2nd edition. New York: John Wiley and Sons Inc; 2002:97.
Socolofsky SA, Jirka GH. Environmental Fluid Mechanics Part I: Mass Transfer and Diffusion Engineering – Lectures. 2nd edition. Karlsruhe-Germany; 2002:23.
Probstein RF. Physicochemical Hydrodynamics – An Introduction. 2nd Edition. New York: John Wiley and Sons Inc; 2003:45.
Bejan A. Convection Heat Transfer. 3rd edition. New York: John Wiley and Sons Inc; 2004:515.
We have no choice but to retract the publication by Cárdenas et al.
The Brazilian group did cite the 2007 Teeguarden paper — it’s reference 20 in their list. Teeguarden is Justin Teeguarden, of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash. He said he learned about the offending paper from a colleague outside his institution who remarked on how similar the work was to Teeguarden’s own output. The same colleague said later that it was clearly plagiarism.
Virtually all the figures were recognizable as being either published in one of our papers they cited – they changed the scales on the axes, for example – or, when I went through it more closely, other figures were very similar to a second paper of ours that they hadn’t cited. Whole sentences were almost identical, the approach was identical at all levels. There’s no question that they had read our papers and borrowed so heavily from intellectual content that their work was not original.
Teeguarden said he brought the matter to the journal, then followed up with a more detailed memo outlining the similarities between the Brazilian study and his work.
What followed was a frustrating back-and-forth that left Teeguarden feeling like the burden was on him to keep the process moving toward a satisfactory resolution. At first, he said, the journal offered to run an erratum written by the researchers. (The journal editor hasn’t responded to our requests for comment.) But when Teeguarden saw the wording of that statement, he said
It was written by people trying to be evasive, not by people trying to correct an error. It was unacceptable, dishonest, and unprofessional.
He demanded a retraction, and this time the journal agreed.
At that point they had more fully engaged.
Teeguarden seemed surprised that such a straightforward case of plagiarism could drag on as it did, although in the end, he said, the journal did the right thing.
[The researchers] essentially stole something that was novel at the time and presented it as their own work. You either stand up for publishing standards or you don’t.