Publisher Charges Authors for Retractions

I am involved in a case of duplicate publishing — as the person who discovered and reported it to Springer, who published it the second time. I have been copied on many emails being sent among the authors, the editors, and Springer.

In a case of duplicate publishing (the same or nearly the same paper published in two different journals), one of the articles must be retracted. In this case, the author is initiating the retraction, and he is wisely selecting the journal with the least impact.

The two articles are here:

  1. Production of Pure Ethanol from Azeotropic Solution by Pressure Swing Adsorption (American Journal of Engineering and Applied Sciences)
  2. Production of pure ethanol from azeotropic solution by pressure swing adsorption (Korean Journal of Chemical Engineering)
Duplicate publication.
Duplicate publication.

The first one is the one published in a predatory journal. The American Journal of Engineering and Applied Sciences is published by Science Publications, which is listed on my list of predatory publishers. The second is a Springer journal.

Here’s the problem: The predatory publisher is charging the author $650 to retract the paper. I find this charge unethical. Scholarly publishers have an obligation to “maintain the integrity of the academic record” and should immediately retract an article that is to be excluded from that record, without charge to anyone. This policy of charging disincentivises paper retractions — which are sometimes necessary — by adding a fee barrier.

This is the first I’ve ever heard of an author being charged to retract a paper. Science Publications is a truly predatory publisher.

32 Responses to Publisher Charges Authors for Retractions

  1. Rahim Khan,India says:

    A charge for retraction….wow….there are even funnier charges though….like manuscript reviewing charge

  2. Gerald Dorey says:

    A lttle tricky if the authors freely decided to publish first in the Science Publications journal as implied. If so, the Springer journal has little claim and should retract; if not, it is theft with all that implies. The law – and ethics – don’t bow to impact factors.

  3. Harcsa Vilmos says:

    I share the opinion that in this situation, the authors have little right to choose from which journal the article should be retracted. When an article is published, it is published, so the submission of the same article to the second journal was a duplicate submission. Even if the duplicate submission occured before the article was actually published in the first journal, the article must be retracted from the second journal, published by Springer or not.

    • Thank you for this excellent discussion. I did not look at the situation from the perspective of retracting the first-published article, but I think the points being made in favor of this are very good ones.

      • Martin says:

        It is obviously unethical for an author to submit the same paper to two journals. What is much more worrisome is that Springer publishes a paper that has already been published in another journal. If it was an honest mistake, they should have immediately retracted the paper, without consultation with the authors. Not doing so is very unethical. The fact that Science Publications charges a retraction fee is understandable. A retracted paper tarnishes the reputation of a journal, and it is also work involved. If I were them, I would have refused to retract the paper and demand that Springer retract their copy.

  4. Chris Cole says:

    Sir, i am offering a contrarian view of the situation. And no, I am not associated with any publisher.

    While this is a dubious financial charge it is in line with the publisher’s business model. I wouldn’t be surprised if the authors knew they were “buying” their way into a journal when they submitted it to the American Journal of Engineering and Applied Science.

    Further, I would expect that Springer asked the authors to affirm that their paper hadn’t been submitted to another journal before accepting the article.

    Bottom line for me is that while the publisher’s charges are dubious, the authors are no paragons of virtue. Perhaps the authors should see their paper retracted by Springer. The Ingelfinger rule was formulated to stop authors from “forum shopping”..

  5. F. Pessoa says:

    Surley the later publication should go?

  6. I agree with Gerald. The authors should not be allowed a choice. They knew what they were doing was unethical. The retraction should be by Springer.

  7. I agree. The authors should not be allowed to choose which publication should be retracted. Submission of the paper to another journal, after the fact, was unethical. Springer should retract AND be circumspect regarding subsequent submissions from Pruksathorn and Vitidsant.

  8. Robin Hood says:

    In my opinion, all the options are incorrect. If indeed the authors are guilty of double submission, then BOTH publishers have the moral responsibility of removing the papers. Springer only thinks about its profits. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is some sort of a moral issue. Springer and other main-stream publishers’ moral = the US$. So, not only should the authors be criticised, but so should the “moral” standing of Springer.

    • Guria says:

      You hit the nail on the head :)

    • Guido says:

      I don’t agree with this reasoning. The aim of retractions should be to keep the academic literature clean of fraudulent or duplicated papers, not to punish unethical authors (or publishers). If the paper itself contributes new insights to the academic literature, one version ought to remain.

      • Robin Hood says:

        Guido, if the scientific community does not begin to punish frauds, how on earth do you honestly expect justice to be delivered to science? I disagree with you. The authors are clear frauds. Both the original publisher and the subsequently conned publisher (Springer) should remove the paper as PUNISHMENT. Has anyone asked COPE (Committee on PUblishing Ethics) for advice or assistance? IF so, please post their response on this blog.

      • Rafał says:

        @Guido: From COPE’s guidelines about retractions
        “The main purpose of retractions is to correct the literature and ensure its integrity rather than to punish authors who
        misbehave.”

  9. 1. Charging for retraction is indeed unethical. Is the Editor-in-Chief, Mohammad Masoum, aware of this practice? http://ece.curtin.edu.au/people/m_masoum.cfm If he is and approves of it, you should forward details of this case to his institution.

    2. Is the authors’ institution, Chulalongkorn University, aware of this case, and are they involved in the decision to retract? They should be, and they should have conducted an investigation.

    3. As others have said, the article published second will need to be retracted. The Springer article appears to have been published 4 months subsequently.

    The COPE flowchart for redundant publication is here: http://publicationethics.org/files/u2/01B_Redundant_Published.pdf

    • Nils says:

      This is not the issue. Any journal can be the victim of unethical scientists, though a serious peer review process can help limiting the risk of this to happen. However, a serious journal should have a clearly defined policy on how to handle retractions and cases of plagiarism or duplication. Most predatory OA publishers appear not to have such a policy.

      • A Khan says:

        I agree with you. We are discussing a separate issue (i.e. which journal should retract….). But my point is indirectly related to this issue. let me explain. If a new and small publisher becomes victim of an unethical scientist, very fast we conclude that it is a predatory one. If journal of a giant publisher becomes victim, we are ready to give this journal more and more chances to prove itself. This tendency is not healthy. We (including me) should show more patience for the new before labelling it as bad. We should guide them what they should do or not. If the new publisher fails to prove its good wishes and repeatedly do the same mistakes, we must punish it with some label. But who are experienced and big journals, they should get less chance to prove. Yes, I do agree that there are some true criminals in Beall’s list, who are born to cheat people. They are shameless. Even they get n number of chances they will not correct themselves. They should be really punished by public defamation in your list. But I strongly believe that there are also some new players in Beall’s list who did some mistakes due to lack of experience and honestly try to correct those. But they are not getting sufficient chances to get out of Beall’s list. I think Beall’s work is really doing lots of good thing for the Open Access publishing, but it is slowly creating another big problem. It is creating a real new predatory class of open access publishers. Even the new publishers, who wants to follow good industry practices, has no way out from this list. So, even they want to be good and rectify the errors, they can not. So now these ‘transition level publishers’ will slowly become helpless. But real criminals will grow as (you believe it or not) there are some unethical author who want to easily publish their papers and they want these criminals help to publish their papers without peer review. But as the frustration will grow these ‘transition level publishers’ will slowly enlist their names with these criminals and one fine day they will also become real predator. So there will be one class i.e. born predator and there will be another class i.e forced predator (created by social isolation and punishment). We should be very careful in this case. In this blog and elsewhere Mr. Beall really wanted to do some good service for open access publishing. But as an indirect result of that work, we are creating a bigger problem. I strongly believe that every offender should get chances to become good. It is the base of our social system to allow every offender to rectify. We must punish the criminals. But at the same time we should be careful that our actions/rules/regulations should not create more criminals. I want to request Mr. Beall and other Open Access advocates in this particular aspect. Once you took the seat of the judge to decide who is predator or not, and slowly people accepts your judgement and view (as evident from your recent publications in Nature, Scientists, Higher Education Chronicle, etc), you enter in the more critical area, where much greater responsibility, care, patience are required. You must punish criminals and must allow initial offenders to become good and responsible. Otherwise you may unintentionally create lots of ‘forced predators’. History teaches us that ‘more power demands more patience and more responsibilities’. No doubt that you are now one of the most powerful voices related to open access publication. I hope that my suggestions will be taken positively.

      • Sir, regarding your statement:

        But I strongly believe that there are also some new players in Beall’s list who did some mistakes due to lack of experience and honestly try to correct those. But they are not getting sufficient chances to get out of Beall’s list.

        … could you please list about five of these “new players” that you refer to?

        My goal is to exclude genuine start-ups from my list. So please let me know who you think falls into this category that I have on my lists.

        Thanks.

      • Nils says:

        Dear Dr Khan,

        Thanks for your comments.
        Part of what you write seems to indicate that you believe I’m indentical with Dr Beall – this is not the case.

        One remark I’d like to make on new publishers: There are already so many journals that I believe one should have a clearly defined scope when creating a new one. I’m not saying that the big publishing companies shouldn’t have competitors. But let’s not forget that also big publishers like Elsevier and Springer started with only a few journals, and grew mainly as a result of buying other publishers. My point is that most successful journals have been created individually or in small groups, by individuals who knew their subject, often in association with scientific societies. Many OA editors in Beall’s list have launched dozens, if not over a hundred journals at the same time. I don’t believe serious scientists would proceed in this way. On the other hand I could name examples of independent journals which are successful. Some of them are open access and have no publication charges, because they get some support by institutions.

  10. Chris Cole says:

    This is a very interesting discussion and i like to pose a question and to add some comments to some of the points raised.

    First, the question – Is the main purpose of retraction to remove\r articles with erroneous information? Here we would be removing the articles to punish the authors and as a side effect losing the research.

    The main problems posed by this situation are in my opinion:

    1) The actions of the authors in submitting the article to multiple publications and permitting them to be published. This is a violation of the terms of submission and publishing ethics.

    2)The practice of one publisher to charge for retractions.

    I agree with Mr Hodgkinson that the authors have some explaining to do to their university administration as to how this situation occurred.

    Mr A. Khan – I believe that you missed the point of Mr Beall’s postings.that you cited. In those cases Springer did nothing wrong. Springer’s existing titles were plagiarized by new and possibly predatory publishers.

    Finally, I wish we could find an alternative term to predatory for some of these publishers. Yes, in some cases, the publishers appear to be assessing dubious charges. However, to focus on those actions misses the larger issues.
    How does the researcher, the librarian, and the authors determine which of these new publishers are legitimate? Further how do we assess the work of an author who knowingly chooses to publish in such a forum?

  11. R V Krishnakumar says:

    Inadequate literature survey may lead to genuine situations like this. But, then the Editors are supposed to be more smarter than the authors. So, I agree with Guido. The later one should go without anyone getting blamed. Also, justice is not delivered like hitting the nail on its head.

  12. naser says:

    I see the authors published their paper first in American Journal of Engineering and Applied Sciences and then by Springer. Therefore, we must blame Authors the most since they submit two paper almost at the same time. Quite frankly, Springer must retract the paper and not the first one since they did not do any thing wrong.

  13. [...] certi editori predoni hanno scoperto una nuova fonte di reddito: 650 dollari per ritrattare una [...]

  14. George says:

    Very interesting discussion. Is a bogus journal a real academic journal? how if the reason why the authors retracted their paper is because they just aware if the first journal is a bogus journal?

  15. A Khan says:

    Dear Nils,
    (As I have not got any reply link, below our conversation. I am replying in this manner). I am sorry for the confusion. I know that you and Beall are not same. Anyway from my reply the confusion created. I tried to address my most of the messages to Beall only. But I also agree with your all points. Sorry for the confusion. I believe that always competition is healthy. At least some of the new publishers (Hindawai, Co-action, Frontiers, etc) started to break the monopoly of the giants. It is a good sign for all of us. I agree that these new publishers (which are mainly small start-up), are showing immaturity by launching so many journals (50,100,150…or so on). If they really want to manage all the related journal operations ethically and rightly, then they should start with small numbers. They should make successful the first lot (3-6 only. Not more that that). Initial days, they are bound to do some mistakes. But if the number of journal is small, then amount of error will be less and then if you are sincere, you can correct those errors. Then apply those learning to launch next lot of journals (again not more that 3-6). Progressive learning and application of those learning makes things easier. This is the science. A big development can not come overnight. Whenever I see that a new publisher comes up with a fleet of journals, I imagine that this is going to again populate Beall’s list. Anyone related to journal publication, knows how difficult to manage religiously even the peer review formalities of 5 journals. Then for a serious publisher starting with 50/100 journals, will be nightmare. I think this trend started with Benatham Open, when they started 200/300 journal at a time some years ago. Too many journals mean too many errors. Then rectifying those errors will be next to impossible. Ten the publisher will slowly enter inside the darkness of academic criminal publishing.

  16. [...] Jeffrey Beall — who produces a frequently updated list of predatory publishers — first wrote about the case on his blog last week. Beall alerted a journal about a duplication more than two years ago, and who re-reported it [...]

  17. A Khan says:

    My Dear Beall,
    (As I have not got any reply link, below our conversation. I am replying in this manner). Thank you so much for you courtesy to reply and flexibility to consider my suggestions. I also appreciate that you acknowledge that you have made many mistakes and you are not perfect (Reference: https://groups.google.com/a/arl.org/forum/?fromgroups=#!topic/sparc-oaforum/t4rMZuPmdS4). This flexibility is really commendable. Coming to the pint, I believe that It is not that much important that I give you a list of 5/10 probable genuine ‘new players’ and you accept (or reject my list by strongly defending your inclusion decision). I honestly don’t want to create another ‘Khan’s list’ against ‘Beall’s list’. It is more important to create an environment / appeal procedure / curing procedure to heal this disease from academic publishing. It is not you or me or someone else to judge the good wishes of the new players. It is the ‘new players’ who has to prove themselves that they honestly want to shed the predatory label and appeal for the same and abide by the stringent standard industry rules of scholarly publishing. History teaches us that ‘hating and isolation’ do not permanently solve a problem. I know that everybody is aware of the great lessons taught by Lord Budhha, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr, etc. Now it is time to apply these lessons to cure this disease. Political history also teaches us that ‘suppression and isolation’ can not cure terrorism’. Only real social and economic development can solve the problem of terrorist prone area. Similarly by isolation and defamation of new inexperienced publishers (leave some real criminals) will not solve this so called ‘predatory’ problem (it may only aggravate it and an endless counter-hate campaign will start). We have to develop a system to correct (or at least to minimize) the errors of these new players. So that one day these new publishers will become responsible publishers. As I have previously mentioned, that competition is healthy and only this competition can eventually bring down the cost of Open Access Publishing to 200-450 US$ from presently estimated 1500-2000 £ (Reference Finch report and Danielle Moran http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2012/12/19/taylor-cost-publish-gold-open-access/). And I see that most of this competition is bound to come from developing countries, where chances to lower the processing cost are more. (Recollect how the great revolution came in software, hardware and IT industry in China, India, Taiwan, etc. I think that 20 years back nobody could have imagined it or believed it). Nobody can stop this industry trend and the rules of economics will propel these developments in the scholarly publishing industry. Now it will be more wise decision not to try to stop this development but to guide this development in proper direction. So that this future development (in scholarly publishing in the developing countries) take a proper shape. Personally I have great respect for the works of Beall. Kudos to Beall for the laborious work he has done for last 3 years (Reference: http://scholarlyoa.com/about/). But presently I believe that Beall’s list is not now only ‘Beall’s personal list’. Knowingly or unknowingly Beall has discovered the gold mine of faults of new gold open access publishers. He has intelligently coined the term predatory, which is essentially rediscovery of vanity press, existed long back in subscription as well as new author pays model (Reference: http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2012/03/06/predatory-open-access-publishers-the-natural-extreme-of-an-author-pays-model/#comment-44652). Pertaining to great media coverage and wide acceptance, it has got much larger dimension (Reference: http://www.nature.com/news/predatory-publishers-are-corrupting-open-access-1.11385). Leaving the dimension of an individual, Beall has now himself became an ‘organization’. Now this larger than life image of Jeffrey Beall calls person Beall to organize this Unorganized sector. I know that it is almost impossible to do this tough job alone. I have some proposals. (OASPA may have competing interest issue here, as the board of that organization is from the related industry only (Reference: http://oaspa.org/about/board/))

    Step 1: Develop an evaluation board of appeals of these predatory publishers.
    Proposed members of the Expert committee:
    1. Peter Suber (Director of the Harvard Open Access Project (HOAP))
    2. Stevan Harnad (Canada Research Chair in cognitive science at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and professor of cognitive science at the University of Southampton)
    3. David Solomon, College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University, E. Lansing, MI USA and Author of The Online Guide to Open Access Journals Publishing
    4. Bo‐Christer Björk (Management and Organization, Hanken School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland)
    5. Lars Bjørnshauge (Ex. Director of Lund Libraries)
    6. Mike Taylor, open access advocate from University of Bristol
    7. Jeffrey Beall (Team leader) (Due to his vast experience in this predatory open access publishing issue) (Auraria Library, University of Colorado Denver)
    8. Richard Poynder, Journalist widely respected for his independence, even-handedness, analysis, careful interviews, and detailed research
    Step 2: Develop systematic procedure to evaluate appeals of so called predatory publishers (You can take some help from these references: http://openbiomed.info/2012/04/shed-predatory-open-peer-review/ and comments section of the link: http://scholarlyoa.com/2012/08/04/criteria-for-determining-predatory-open-access-publishers/ )
    Step 3: There should be some application process to get removed from your list. Publishers should apply officially
    Step 3: An expert committee should evaluate the applications and announce the result on quarterly basis. Some application charges may be formulated to cover the cost of this total operation and related website.

    I hope that academicians and Open access publishing world will remember you for ever if you can cure this infectious disease of predatory criminal academic publishing.

  18. Dr. Rajesh K Anand says:

    The authors should be fined and even the authencity of the work reported needs to be checked once again. The new regime, where publication are being given more weightage has led to this type of frauds and individuals who cannot even have an independent thinking are publishing research papers.When a form has to be filled while submitting the research work that this work has not been published or not been communicaed for publication, how this mistake has been done on part of the authors. I think in our system, if one really starts investigation, more than 90% of the research papers will be fake.

  19. [...] I’d also recommend a look at the rest of his blog.  It makes for fascinating reading, from how new publishers are copying established publishers websites, to how they charge authors for retractions. [...]

  20. Min Raj Dhakal says:

    It seems more bad intention of the author than that of the publisher. Then the paper must be withdrawn from both and author punished.

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