Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process
Investigations at two institutions at Taiwan determined in 2013 that a renewable energy researcher duplicated his own work; the researcher agreed to pull 10 papers. A total of six have been withdrawn or retracted, two in November, 2015.
Shyi-Min Lu is the corresponding author on the two newly retracted papers, from Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. The retractions follow investigations at the Industrial Technology Research Institute, where Lu used to work, and National Taiwan University, his former employer. Lu admitted to committing offenses in 10 papers. He was fired from NTU, where he was a research assistant at the university’s Energy Research Center.
First author Falin Chen — also a co-author on the paper duplicated by the retractions — was not aware that the papers bearing his name had been submitted. He told us how he found out:
In August 2013 when I paid a three-month research stay in Durham University of UK, one of my students informed me that a paper entitled “Green Transport Infrastructure of Taiwan” (attachment 1) published by Mr. Shyi-Min Lu might plagiarize a MS thesis entitled “Energy Saving Analysis and Potential Schemes for Taiwan Inland Transportation” authored by Mr. Yu-Shun Huang, another student of mine (Please see attachment 1). We immediately formed a team to conduct a comprehensive investigation on all publications of Mr. Lu, and found out that Mr. Lu privately submitted numerous manuscripts, including the two papers you noticed, without authorization of any other author named by Mr. Shyi-Min Lu.
Chen also told us,
After the investigation, Mr. Lu confessed that he had committed academic scandal and violated academic ethics on [a total of] 10 papers.
“Renewable energy in Taiwan” has been cited 24 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. Here’s the retraction note:
This article has been retracted at the request of the Editor-in-Chief and the authors.
The article duplicates significant parts of a paper that had already appeared in Energy 32 (2007) 1634 – 1646, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.energy.2006.12.007. An investigation by the National Taiwan University has concluded that the co-authors Falin Chen, Eric Wang and Kuo-Tung Tseng were not aware of this submission of the corresponding author. One of the conditions of submission of a paper for publication is that authors declare explicitly that the paper is not under consideration for publication elsewhere. Re-use of any data should be appropriately cited. As such this article represents a severe abuse of the scientific publishing system. The scientific community takes a very strong view on this matter and apologies are offered to readers of the journal that this was not detected during the submission process.
The retraction note for “Promotion strategies for renewable energy in Taiwan” is nearly identical — including the paper that was duplicated from — but notes that the retraction is the result of an investigation at the Industrial Technology Research Institute. On this one, only Falin Chen is listed as not being aware with issues with the paper. That paper has been cited 19 times.
(On both notes, click the link and scroll down to find the whole paper.)
Another paper on the list of 10 was retracted in 2013, for plagiarizing from a co-author’s thesis. Here’s the note for “Green Transport Infrastructure of Taiwan,” published in the Open Journal of Energy Efficiency:
The first author Mr. Shyi-Min Lu has published the article without Mr. Yu-Shun Huang’s authorization. In addition, a large part of the article is judged to be plagiarized from Mr. Yu-Shun Huang’s M.S. thesis. The scientific community takes a very strong view on this matter and treats all unethical behaviors such as plagiarism seriously. Hence the article, which is published in OJEE Vol.2 No.1, 16-21, 2013, has been removed from this site.
The journal is not indexed by Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.
Two were withdrawn while in press: “Strategy analysis for the development of a green energy industry: a Taipei case study” from the Journal of Cleaner Production, and “Energy-saving analysis and assessment on land transport of Taiwan: Constructing a low-carbon transport infrastructure for Taiwan by the implementation of energy-saving measures” from Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews.
And we’re not sure when “Analysis of Low Carbon Power Infrastructure of Taiwan,” published in Low Carbon Economy without the permission of co-authors, was retracted. The retraction note appears in the abstract of the paper, but not in the PDF (which, despite what the note says, is still online):
The following article has been retracted due to the requirement of the authors of the paper. As the Clients named Prof. Falin Chen, Dr. Kuo-Tung Tseng, Dr. You-Ren Wang, Mr. Li-Wen Hsu and Dr. Pu-Ti Su as co-authors of the academic writing have no authorization of any of them, which infringes their right of name and violates the submission rule. In addition, part of the content of the academic writing is the same as another academic writing, “Analysis of Low-carbon Power Infrastructure: A Case Study of Taiwan”, published on International Journal of Energy and Power, Vol.2, Issue 2, May 2013, which was double submitted by the clients without authorization of any other listed authors. Prof. Falin Chen, Dr. Kuo-Tung Tseng and the Client have reached the settlement of above dispute. In light of such settlement, the Clients would like to kindly request to withdraw the academic writing “Analysis of low carbon power infrastructure of Taiwan” from Journal of Low Carbon Economy. Thus this paper published in Journal of Low Carbon Economy Vol. 4, 2013, pp. 1-11 has been removed from this site.
These are the papers that Lu requested be withdrawn in the letter of undertaking that have not been retracted:
- “Renewable energy in Taiwan: Its developing status and strategy,” published in Energy, was submitted without permission from either of the co-authors
- “Development strategy of green energy industry for Taipei—A modern medium-sized city,” published inEnergy Policy, has “generally the same” contents as “Strategy analysis for the development of a green energy industry: a Taipei case study.” The two papers were submitted at the same time.
- “Low Carbon Strategic Analysis of Taiwan” published in Low Carbon Economy was published without the permission of co-authors, and plagiarizes a figure from someone’s master’s thesis
- “Analysis of Low-carbon Power Infrastructure: A Case Study of Taiwan” published in International Journal of Energy and Power, was published without the permission of co-authors
Chen told us,
I asked myself how a research assistant like Mr. Lu can commit such a large scale academic scandal and why the academic ethics are so vulnerable and so easy to be ruined. I end up with an obvious key defect of the current publication system: The chief editor did not take the responsibility to [notify] every author before processing the manuscript.
We reached out to Lu for more information. We’ll update this post with anything else that we learn.