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Data In Paper Questioned

Ethics: Notation in Organometallics article may be a language slip or a tip-off to fraud

by Carmen Drahl and Steve Ritter
August 15, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 33

“Emma, please insert NMR data here! where are they? and for this compound, just make up an elemental analysis …”

This odd note by the authors ended up in the supporting information section of a paper in the American Chemical Society journal Organometallics, published online July 12. ACS is the publisher of C&EN.

The phrasing could be just a confusing use of English by a nonnative speaker. Or it could be an instruction to fabricate data. The incident has lit up chemistry blogs since it was highlighted on Aug. 6 at ChemBark, run by St. Louis University chemistry professor Paul J. Bracher, who is also a member of C&EN’s advisory board.

The research in question was carried out by Emma E. Drinkel, Reto Dorta, and coworkers at the University of Zurich. The paper describes palladium and platinum enantioselective catalysts (Organometallics 2013, DOI: 10.1021/om4000067).

According to Organometallics Editor-in-Chief John A. Gladysz, a chemistry professor at Texas A&M University, the submission that was peer reviewed did not contain the snafu. But when the authors revised the manuscript to address reviewer comments, they attached an earlier version of the supporting information, and the mistake was not caught by the journal’s editorial staff.

Gladysz has left the paper on the journal’s website while the matter is under review. Organometallics has asked Dorta to submit the paper’s raw data so they can be scrutinized. Dorta, now at the University of Western Australia, and Drinkel, now at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, in Brazil, are complying with the request. Dorta has not responded to C&EN’s requests for comment.

Susan King, senior vice president for journal publishing at ACS, says that when inquiries are complete “either a correction or a retraction will be published in the journal” according to the guidelines of the independent Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), to which ACS belongs. Virginia Barbour, council chair for COPE, says that the committee’s advice “would be that the journal investigate as far as they are able.”



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