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Good practices

Mysterious and fraudulent authorship

The scientific journal Future Generation Computer Systems recently announced the retraction of a 2018 article, at the request of the three Chinese scientists who wrote the paper. The reason for the request was surprising: the authors claimed that they never wrote the paper and did not submit the text for publication. The article in question described the use of high-resolution ultrasound images in patients with gouty arthritis to analyze the relationship between the deposition of urate crystals and bone erosion. Li Qiu, an ultrasound specialist at the West China Hospital of Sichuan University, alerted the journal’s editors to the fraud, pointing out that the email addresses associated with the submission did not belong to the three researchers.

A spokesman for Elsevier, which publishes the journal, said that “despite its best efforts,” it has been unable to trace the source of the article and does not know why anyone would submit an article in someone else’s name. One possibility is that the journal itself was the target, to show that the manuscript review process is flawed. Another hypothesis, suggested by the Retraction Watch website, is that someone with a grudge against the three scientists planted false data in the paper in an attempt to damage their reputations.

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