Fertility journal censures scientists

A 2005 paper about premature ovarian failure is identical to a paper published in a Korean journal

By | February 20, 2007

Fertility and Sterility has censured the authors of a 2005 article after learning a Korean journal had published the identical paper one year earlier. The Fertility and Sterility authors also left off the name of Jeong-Hwan Kim, who was listed as the first author on the Korean paper and performed the bulk of the research reported in both papers. The journal plans to update its database and national databases such as MEDLINE, adding the name of Kim as the first author of the study, which described the use of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to measure mitochondrial DNA in women with premature ovarian failure. The journal will also issue a note in an upcoming issue describing the transgression, and has barred every author listed on the original Fertility and Sterility paper from contributing papers to the journal for three years, editor Alan DeCherney told The Scientist. "This is a serious punishment." Every author signed a statement saying they had not published the paper in another journal, and had no plans to do so. "So they perjured themselves," DeCherney noted, adding the incident was a "blight on the field." This story was first reported by the Los Angeles Times. At his request, the Korean Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology sent DeCherney a translated copy of the paper they published, which was "pretty much" identical to the Fertility and Sterility paper. The Korean article contained slight differences in wording that likely stemmed from the translation, DeCherney noted. He said he had no plans to retract the article, since no one was questioning the validity of the science. If the paper is retracted, "the only person who will be hurt is Dr. Kim," who wouldn't get credit for his research, DeCherney noted. He added that the journal learned last summer that the paper had been plagiarized, but waited to act on the information until it confirmed the role Kim had played in the research. Last Monday (Feb 12), the editorial board of the Korean Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology told DeCherney they had reviewed the evidence and confirmed that Kim had played a significant enough role to designate him as the first author of the Fertility and Sterility paper. "If it was a very important paper with clinical implications, I would have acted differently" and sped up the process, said DeCherney. "It's much more important that we be careful," and take the time to thoroughly review the claims, he added. Neither the first nor the corresponding authors of the Fertility and Sterility paper -- Kwang-Yul Cha and Sook-Hwan Lee, respectively -- responded to requests for comment. Lee is also listed as an author on the Korean Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology paper. Lee told the Los Angeles Times that she did the work published in Fertility and Sterility, and the authors left off Kim's name because they couldn't reach him. "This was the outcome of the work done at my laboratory... Dr. Kim was one of the researchers and was involved in the project on a very limited scale," Lee said in an Email to the Times. In an interview with The Scientist, Kim said he was easy to find, even after he left the Cha Hospital in Korea for the National University Hospital in Singapore. "Everyone knew where I was, everyone knew where I was going." Plus, Kim's new job was in a lab headed by an aquaintance of the first author of the Fertility and Sterility paper, Kwang-Yul Cha. Kim said he contacted the Fertility and Sterility board when he saw the journal had published a translated version of the Korean paper, which is based on his PhD thesis, and lists him as the first author. He said he supplied all of the raw data for both papers, and Cha et al "have done nothing." Cha is no stranger to controversy -- in 2001, he co-authored an article in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine that showed prayer from strangers boosted the success of couples undergoing in vitro fertilization. After questions emerged about the paper's validity, the lead author withdrew his name, but the journal has not retracted it. Alison McCook mail@the-scientist.com Editor's note (posted June 8): In a letter dated May 31, 2007, Alan DeCherney asked to retract the comments he made to The Scientist for this article. For more details, see our in-depth coverage posted June 8, 2007. Links within this article KY Cha et al, "Quantification of mitochondrial DNA using real-time polymerase chain reaction in patients with premature ovarian failure," Fertility and Sterility, December 2005. http://www.the-scientist.com/pubmed/16359970 Alan DeCherney http://www.ccpe.com/800-995-6555/faculty/decherney.html Fertility and Sterility author instructions http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/journaldescription.cws_home/600420/authorinstructions C. Ornstein, "Credit for US journal article at issue," Los Angeles Times, February 18, 2007. http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/california/la-me-research18feb18,1,2222823.story?coll=la-headlines-pe-california KY Cha and DP Wirth, "Does prayer influence the success of in vitro fertilization-embryo transfer? Report of a masked, randomized trial," Journal of Reproductive Medicine, September 2001. http://www.the-scientist.com/pubmed/11584476 A McCook, "IVF-prayer study raises doubts," The Scientist, June 14, 2004. http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/22226

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