Weirdest Retraction EVAH!

In the past, there has been some debate in the science bloggysphere about who should and should not be authors on scientific articles (e.g., this). Nonetheless, I think there is a low bar on which we can all agree. Consider this retraction in Environmental Microbiology:

The following article from Environmental Microbiology, ‘Geographical variation in cloacal microflora and bacterial antibiotic resistance in a threatened avian scavenger in relation to diet and livestock farming practices’ by Guillermo Blanco, Jesús A. Lemus, Javier Grande, Laura Gangoso, Juan M. Grande, José A. Donázar, Bernardo Arroyo, Oscar Frías and Fernando Hiraldo published in Environmental Microbiology 9(7): 1738–1749, and online ahead of print on 25 April 2007, doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2007.01291.x, has been retracted by agreement between Guillermo Blanco, José A. Donázar, Fernando Hiraldo, Óscar Frías, Laura Gangoso, Juan M. Grande, Felix Martínez, Bernardo Arroyo, the journal Editor-in-Chief Kenneth N. Timmis, and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

The retraction has been agreed because:

There are doubts about the validity of the results on bacterial flora composition and antibiotic resistances (Table 1, Fig. 1–6), on which the main conclusions of the article were based. The authors were unable to repeat the analyses presented in the article with the same cloacal swab samples, given the likelihood of changes in the microbial compositions of the samples with time.

That’s bad. But this is much, much worse:

Additionally, the authors were unable to identify Javier Grande.

I’ve heard of ‘courtesy authors’, but invisible ones?


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4 Responses to Weirdest Retraction EVAH!

  1. “Retraction Watch” published a story about this non-existent researcher early this year:

    Spanish veterinary researcher under suspicion of creating “ghost” author, fabricating data

  2. mrtoads says:

    Our man Javier doesn’t have to be invisible – he just has to be unidentifiable. I was once third author on a paper, and I’d bet that the rest of the crew would be hard-pressed to identify me now. Those that even remember who I am probably would be thrown off by the full beard and the fact that I’ve lost all my hair and gained a lot of weight. The Lasik thing is just icing on the cake…

  3. physicalist says:

    Heh. That’s a good one.

  4. Martin Brummell says:

    What’s the benefit to creating fictional authors? My M.Sc. supervisor used to joke that 3 or more authors is preferable to 2, because more glory for the first author – Smith et al. vs. Smith & Jones. But why create a fictional co-author when you’ve already got 8 real people?
    I know some universities and some agencies that fund university researchers give credit for training “highly qualified personnel” (e.g. graduate students), did Javier write a thesis, graduate, contribute to grant applications, apply for scholarships… ?
    I agree: Weird.

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