Posts Tagged ‘Paper retractions’

Maths paper “which makes no sense mathematically” first published and then retracted

December 6, 2012

Acharya Sennimalai Kalimuthu strikes again! And Elsevier as publishers do look like idiots.

Back in April I posted about a paper by Kalimuthu which was first published in Computers & Mathematics with Applications and then retracted because it “lacked scientific content”.

This time he managed to get a paper published in Applied Mathematics Letters

For the origin of new geometry, by S. Kalimuthu, 2/394, Kanjampatti P.O., Pollachi Via, Tamil Nadu 642003, India. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.aml.2010.08.006,

 He has 12 references – all self-citations. The paper has now been retracted because it “makes no sense mathematically”. The title itself should have been a give-away but the paper was published in December 2010 and it has taken 2 years to be retracted.

This paper does not meet the minimum research and mathematical standards of Applied Mathematics Letters; for example, some of this paper’s constructions and arguments make no sense mathematically. Though handled by the previous editorial office, the available records lead us to believe its publication was the result of an administrative oversight and apologies are offered to readers of the journal that this was not detected earlier.

In both cases Elsevier was the unfortunate publisher. This does not say much for the “peer-review” process at Elsevier which allowed such rubbish to be published. First I wondered if Kalimuthu might be an unrecognised genius until I read his two papers. You do not need to be an advanced mathematician to appreciate the absurdities. His two papers are

Sivasubramanian and Kalimuthu

kalimuthu 2

After the 5th reading of his second paper I managed to figure out the central claim:

Our constructions and proofs are consistent. We have not introduced any new hypothesis in this work. . ….. But we have pointed out in the abstract that the fifth Euclidean postulate problem is one of the most famous mathematical impossibilities. So, although our finding is consistent, it poses a very serious question about the foundations of geometry.

… we have obtained a challenging result, namely the smaller side of triangle AHJ is equal to the larger side BC of triangle ABC. This is a problematic problem.

Further studies will certainly unlock this mathematical mystery.

No doubt the further studies will be first published and then retracted by Elsevier.

Retraction Watch covers the story and actually took the time to write to Kalimuthu for his comments on the retraction. His reply will surely go down as a classic:

“Please and please note that I do NOT agree with retraction of this relevant paper.Can you tell me WHAT IS THE FLAW? AND WHERE IS THE FLAW? A result is a result, A result is a result, A result is a result, and A result is a result,.Let us recall what Einstein told about simplicity: IF YOU CAN NOT PUT YOUR IDEA IN SIMPLE, IT SHOWS THAT YOU DO NOT KNOW THE SUBJECT. Who is expert? We are all so called experts. Only God is expert. I am going to re write this particular paper in 20 long pages and get published. Kindly note that papers rejected by referees and editors have won the NOBEL PRIZE.”

But what on earth was Elsevier playing at to publish such drivel.

Once was bad enough but twice???

Either Kalimuthu has some kind of genius in being able to get papers without scientific content and which make no mathematical sense published or the Elsevier peer-review process is a farce.

Another Nature paper retracted by authors but lead author does not sign retraction

November 9, 2010

Retraction Watch reports on the retraction of a paper at Nature by the authors but where, once again, the lead author does not sign the retraction.

In this case the paper is:

The large-conductance Ca2+-activated K+channel is essential for innate immunity by Jatinder Ahluwalia, Andrew Tinker, Lucie H. Clapp, Michael R. Duchen, Andrey Y. Abramov, Simon Pope, Muriel Nobles & Anthony W. Segal, Nature 427, 853-858 (26 February 2004), doi:10.1038/nature02356; Received 18 July 2003; Accepted 20 January 2004.

The Retraction Notice reads

The authors wish to retract this Letter after the report of an inability to reproduce their results, later confirmed by another. The studies the authors then conducted led to an internal investigation by University College London, please see the accompanying Supplementary Information for details. The retraction has not been signed by Jatinder Ahluwalia.

The lead author is usually the researcher and the last name is usually that of the senior author. There have been a number of such cases recently where the authors retract a paper but where the lead author does not sign the retraction. The inference is that there has been some misconduct or alleged misconduct by the researcher which has been “discovered” by the other authors but where the alleged misconduct is not acknowledged by the lead author. (See the cases of Shane R Mayack and Hung-Shu Chang for example). Just the fact that some data can not be reproduced does not mean that misconduct has occurred. Experimental data can never be perfect. In addition to measurement errors and procedural errors, data may also be subject to errors of interpretation and analysis. In fact the scientific method requires the publication of such data – warts and all – which can then be tested by others and retraction would not be necessary or correct merely if different results were obtained later. Erroneous data does not have to be – and should not be – deleted from the record. A retraction – and especially by a multiplicity of contributing authors but not the lead author  – carries a strong inference of misconduct.

This raises once again the question of roles and responsibilities between the different contributing authors, the reviewers and the journal editor for a published paper. Perhaps the number of retractions is at an “acceptable” level, but I am sure that the number of retractions must follow the “Iceberg Principle” and what is finally made visible can only be the tip of what must be there. The senior author must bear some responsibility and have some accountability for such events.

It seems to me that senior authors (as supervisors of the research reported) get away too lightly and merely pass the responsibility onto the researcher’s failings or his misconduct. They abdicate their responsibility for quality and integrity rather too easily. I would like to see a statement by the senior author whenever such a retraction is made “at the request of the authors”.


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