Author A was paid to facilitate a meeting and write a meeting report for internal purposes. He was paid to do this by author C’s company. The report was posted as a PDF on author C’s company website. No authors were listed on the report.
Authors B, C and D co-authored an article that has been published in a journal supplement. It later transpired that the main substance of this journal article had been lifted directly from the internal report written by author A. This misdemeanour was reported to the journal editor by author A, who works at a different institution to authors B, C and D (author B is a junior researcher).
When authors B, C and D were alerted to this problem, it transpires that they misunderstood copyright and thought that, as the meeting report “belonged” to their company, they were entitled to re-use the content without permission. They proposed a resolution whereby author A was included as an author of the journal article via an erratum.
This erratum was published, but author A remains discontent and has made it clear that he would like the journal article to be retracted. Authors B, C and D have yet to be consulted on retraction, although they have made every effort thus far to comply with author A. Author A believes that there is still merit in a paper bringing together the data discussed in the offending article, but with correct attribution and incorporation of some data from author B’s PhD thesis. This article would be written by author B alone, with acknowledgement of the help from authors A, B and D.
If all authors concerned agree to this, is it a suitable resolution?
The view of the Forum was that there are no grounds for retraction of the journal article. Retraction of an article on the basis of incorrect ordering of the names of the authors is inappropriate. It was suggested that the editor should have considered obtaining the agreement of all of the authors as to the order of the names on the paper before publishing the erratum. The advice was to try and obtain an agreed statement from the authors and then publish an erratum of the erratum, which would resolve the issue. Alternatively, some suggested taking no further action would be appropriate. All agreed that author’s A suggestion of publishing another paper bringing together the data discussed in the offending article, but with correct attribution and incorporation of some data from author B’s PhD thesis, was not a reasonable request.
The editor retracted the article against COPE’s recommendations. The editor now considers the matter to be closed.