By any other name…

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An interesting way of putting it : “extensive text overlap.”

The full Retraction reads,

This article [1] has been retracted by the author due to extensive text overlap with a previous publication by Roberts et al. [2]. The author apologises for any inconvenience caused.

The offending paper, now retracted, is “Infantile colic, facts and fiction” by Abdelmoneim E.M. Kheir. It was published in the Italian Journal of Pediatrics (IPJ) in 2012. There is a note on the page that this paper is “Highly accessed.”

The text overlap which has been identified is with a paper “Infantile colic” by Donna M Roberts, Michael Ostapchuk and James G. O’Brien, published in American Family Physician in 2004.

At least ten chunks have been taken from Roberts et al, a sentence here, a couple of sentences there, absolutely word-for-word, all woven into Kheir’s piece.

The IPJ retraction states: “The author apologises for any inconvenience caused.” Inconvenience? Apology?  I wonder if Kheir’s earlier work (or his later work) will be under scrutiny?

More immediately, this piece of work? With little effort, I found seven more chunks of material from three other sources; again, whole sentences have been taken and woven verbatim into this patchwork paper.  Kheir includes a large portion of a much-blogged piece on dealing with colic, taken (by the bloggers, and usually with attribution) from a recent best-selling book on baby-care.  Just because it is much-blogged does not make it common knowledge, Mr Kheir: it still needs attribution, to one of the blogs, if you can’t find the original book.

Two more of the sources can be found on Medscape. More academic than the blogs, but still not this writer’s own.

Fortunately, you don’t need to find every instance of word-for-word copying to come to a decision. Enough is enough, this paper is badly flawed, it’s plagiarism. “Text overlap” indeed!

The real problem, as I touched on in earlier posts such as Getting it wrong and Remember the coffee study? is: how far and how hard does a later researcher have to search to check for corrections and retractions?  Kheir’s paper is still available at the original source, and it clearly says “Retracted,” in the heading of the online version. The retraction is even more clear in the pdf reprint.



But the paper is available elsewhere online, and without any inkling of retraction.  It is available in full-text at SpringerLink, for instance. No sign of retraction.



It is available on the NCBI site, in at least two formats – PubReader and PDF -and neither shows any notion of the retraction.


It has been cited nine times, and that is only the number that Google Scholar gives. There might be other writers and researchers who have been misled as well. Gulp – maybe the odd doctor or two as well.


In Getting it wrong, I asked, with corrections in mind:

Is there a journalistic or editorial responsibility to add a correction to the original, or is it the responsibility of the reader to make sure the information found is up-to-date? (Rhetorical question – it is always the researcher’s responsibility to verify data and information.)

There are also the tricky questions: whether to update the original paper or article, or to add corrections separately (making sure they are well signposted), or to link to corrections made later and elsewhere? Is it ethical to choose to ignore corrections and retractions, once made aware of them? Is it ethical to change and correct the original, and not note that this has happened?

Given the amount of duplication on the internet, especially in the era of Open Access and Creative Commons, it may be impossible to catch every re-post and re-print.  It may prove impossible to add correction or retraction notices to every reappearance.  It is even more difficult – impossible – with print: a publisher can print a correction or retraction in a later issue, but there is no way to watermark every copy of an issue that’s been printed and distributed.

So, having been found out, is it Abdelmoneim E.M. Kheir’s responsibility to chase down all instances of re-pubication, and to ask for the retraction notice to be made or added?

Is it the original publisher’s responsibility?

Given that I have found copies of the paper with no retraction notice, on NCBI and SpringerLink, does it become my responsibility to inform the publishers/ webmasters of these sites?

It’s a mess.

Kheir apologises for the inconvenience. Inconvenience? It’s a lot more than that, isn’t it? It’s irresponsible, that’s what it is, at the very least. Irresponsibility, by any other name…

3 thoughts on “By any other name…

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