Breslow Dinosaur Paper Pulled by JACS

April 26th, 2012

JACS has removed Ronald Breslow’s “Space Dinosaur” paper from its Web site. Users who click to view the PDF are greeted with the following message:

This article was removed by the publisher due to possible copyright concerns. The Journal’s Editor is following established procedure to determine whether a violation of ACS Ethical Guidelines to Publication of Chemical Research has occurred.

This is an interesting move by the editors. While the paper has not yet appeared in print, its presence on the ASAP site constitutes “official” publication. There is something unwholesome about making the paper vanish. After all, isn’t that why we have addition/correction notices? Otherwise, why wouldn’t we go just into the original documents and change them?

Update (9:05 PM) — The guide “Notice to Authors of JACS Manuscripts” verifies that the ASAP version constitutes official publication of the paper:

Authors must consider that the publication date for a paper is the date of first disclosure, either the Just Accepted date, ASAP date, or date on which the issue is posted on the web.

I guess it is possible to un-ring a bell.

28 Responses to “Breslow Dinosaur Paper Pulled by JACS”

  1. See Arr Oh Says:

    (Still have a .pdf version saved…email me at seearroh_AT_gmail_DOT_com should you still want to peruse it!)

  2. Anon Says:

    Pretty sure this is a special case because the material is copyrighted by Tet Lett or whatever other journal it is self-plagiarized from and JACS keeping it up would be illegal. It’s not just an ethical violation, it’s a violation of copyright law, and that makes the whole “does a Perspective have to be original research?” angle kind of a moot point.

  3. Paul Says:

    I definitely recognize that point, but it opens up a can of worms. I was always under the impression that journals did not “unpublish” papers. Under the “old” system, it would be impossible to “unpublish” something. Journals always note that even though the system is now electronic, in order to make changes, you have to file addition/correction notices as you did back in the olden days. If JACS is going to make an exception here, for copyright violation, then what justification do they have for not making other changes to the original manuscript?

    In JACS’s favor, it seems like this is how ACS Pubs rolls with respect to self-plagiarism—they pull papers completely. In the ACS Nano papers mentioned in that link, they *were* published in print, so it sets up a weird dynamic where the Web versions and the print versions are different.

    What, exactly, is the JACS policy? Shouldn’t they disclose it to us. It is our journal, after all. If they can pull papers that may result in ACS being taken to court, what if I make a mistake by defaming someone’s chemistry in print? I could be held liable for damages by a court—just as ACS Publications could be held liable for damages by violating copyright in this case. Would JACS agree to replace my original paper, or would I have to file an addition/correction?

    This isn’t the biggest deal in the world, but it’s not exactly straightforward.

  4. leftscienceawhileago Says:

    This isn’t a case where copyright law dictates that JACS’ publication is unconditionally illegal.

    Tet Lett. could easily grant use of the article to the JACS, but that action would certainly be inconsistent with each journal’s own policies. A previous ACS president setting such a precedent would be problematic.

    Just wanted to point out that copyright itself doesn’t make it illegal, it’s still a matter between the two parties involved; this is a matter of each journal (and author) maintaining credibility.

  5. Paul Says:

    I don’t think these publication houses would risk wasting money suing each other over manuscripts like this one. They’ve all got such a good profit-making scheme going; why ruin it?

    But, if lawsuits do come into play, what’s going to happen when we use anti-plagiarism software programs to screen old papers against each other? It’d make an interesting study.

  6. Paul Says:

    And, oops…the Breslow paper *was* published in print…. pp. 6887–6892

  7. Chemistry Blog » Blog Archive » The case of the disappearing (space) dinos Says:

    […] what happens next? Paul at Chembark has pointed out that this is rather an odd step to take. He argues that an addition or correction […]

  8. eugene Says:

    I don’t think the NaH catalysis paper ever made it out of ASAP and it was there for about a year.

  9. See Arr Oh Says:

    @eugene – That paper (NaH) was great blogger fodder. Helped get me into this game (ahhh, 2009…)

  10. Paul Says:

    OK…JACS pulled the original NaH-as-an-oxidant paper and posted it and the original Supporting Info as new Supporting Info in the Addition/Correction.

    This procedure is different from the Breslow treatment and also does not jive with how this Sezen-Sames retraction was handled.

    Too much inconsistency.

  11. Mitch Says:

    @Paul. Those are completely different circumstances. It would be wrong for ACS to use the same formula in every single case. The Dinos paper is clearly in the realm of copyright concerns, and ACS could be liable every single time it gets downloaded.

  12. Paul Says:

    So, again, what is the policy? …that JACS will pull papers only in circumstances where the ACS might face a financial loss? If that’s the case, fine; just come out and say it.

  13. The Curious Wavefunction Says:

    I was intrigued by Michael Eisen’s comment on the Nature News article. Eisen thinks it’s totally unwarranted to retract a paper if it doesn’t indulge in real plagiarism (from others), fraud or data tampering. His point is that the actual content of the paper is still accurate, sensible and original so the paper should not be retracted.

  14. leftscienceawhileago Says:

    I wonder if people like Eisen would be as tolerant if the author weren’t Breslow but, say, some unknown professor in India.

  15. Mitch Says:

    @Paul. “…that JACS will pull papers only in circumstances where the ACS might face a financial loss?” It is a very straight forward concept.

  16. probability cloud Says:

    The problem isn’t with copyright, or self-plagiarism even. It’s a problem with the scientific culture that measures your worth by number of publications. Breslow’s just playing the game of self-promotion, rehashing the same old shit in any journal unwilling to perform due diligence during their review process. How else do you get to be the author of over 400 publications?!

  17. Capek Says:

    @probability cloud — “How else do you get to be the author of over 400 publications?” Well, one way is to work your ass off for 55 years. What’s your strategy?

    Personally, I don’t see the necessity of denigrating Breslow’s contributions to the field of chemistry. Personally, I have huge issues with the scientific culture at Columbia, and it’s not like this recent paper is their only transgression. But I think we can call for a strident response from the ACS and the scientific community to the problem of plagiarism without casting aspersions recklessly. I don’t think Breslow should get a pass because of his stature, but that’s no reason to belittle the work his group has conducted that has stood up over time (represented by the majority of those 400 papers).

  18. The Curious Wavefunction Says:

    I second Capek’s comments. None of this should detract from Breslow’s undoubtedly important and valuable contributions to chemistry and the chemistry community over a long and very successful career. Most of us would be lucky if we could accomplish half of what he did in research, service and education.

  19. See Arr Oh Says:

    @Capek, Ash – Thirded.

    SAHA, Breslow intermediates, cyclopropenyl cation, artificial enzymes…all great science, and deserve their due. Hope he’s remembered more for them, and less for this fiasco.

  20. Hap Says:

    Publishing a lot of papers isn’t necessarily bad – only publishing lots of bad ones. Enough of Breslow’s have been good that he isn’t just publishing junk.

  21. Anonymous(i.e. Untenured Prof) Says:

    Not intended as a justification for obvious self-plagiarism, but I wonder how many PIs of Breslow’s age indulge in this tendency? They ‘grew up’ in an era when publications were manually typed and structures hand drawn… what were the odds someone that read his JACS article back in the day would also have had a subscription to the Israel Journal of Chemistry? It was a lot more effort to produce manuscripts and thus, perhaps solely on a practical basis, these types of repetition weren’t judged as harshly in the past?

  22. JACS temporarily pulls “space dinosaurs” paper for alleged duplication « Retraction Watch Says:

    […] reported by the Chembark blog and Nature, the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS) has pulled a paper by Ronald […]

  23. eugene Says:

    Off topic, but speaking of Breslow intermediates, I believe Peter Schreiner’s group from Giessen has finally isolated some in a cold matrix and were even able to some reactions with them, maybe look here: ?

    Back on topic, down with Breslow! (that’s what you get for never isolating any of your intermediates anyways).

    Untenured Prof: Actually, my grad school library had a subscription to the Israel Journal of Chemistry and I’ve seen it at some other chemistry libraries. I think it’s pretty widespread and I was leafing through it while bored in the library one day. It’s mostly a review journal and every issue is a special theme. It doesn’t even come out every month probably because they don’t have enough contributions. I think it’s prestigious enough as a review journal because everyone wants to suck up to the Technion and Weizmann so that they get to give an invited talk in a Med country with decent science and have a chance to go to Jerusalem and Dead Sea as a tourist, that they send their reviews there. That’s the only reason I can explain why so many libraries in the States have subscriptions to it and so many big players in their fields publish reviews there.

  24. Link Collection: Space Dinosaur Paper | ChemBark Says:

    […] Chemistry & Chemical Research « What the ACS Must Do Regarding the Dinosaur Paper Breslow Dinosaur Paper Pulled by JACS […]

  25. My Advice to Breslow | ChemBark Says:

    […] ChemBark A Blog About Chemistry & Chemical Research « Breslow Dinosaur Paper Pulled by JACS […]

  26. S Says:

    The way in which retractions are handled depends on the stage of the publication process. The NaH paper never made it into an issue, so the original article became SI for the Add-Corr that was the retraction. If a paper was in an issue, it can’t be removed, but rather is clearly labeled in as many places as possible and linked to the Add-Corr retraction. This process was different at the time of the Sames retractions – I didn’t look closely enough to see what issue you have with how those were handled.

  27. How C&EN and JACS Have Changed Since Sames-Sezen | ChemBark Says:

    […] contrast, C&EN ran a story reporting the withdrawal of Breslow’s offending paper less than a day after it was pulled from the JACS site. In both […]

  28. Anon Says:

    This paper was withdrawn on May 16, 2012 (J. Am. Chem. Soc.2012, 134, 8287).

    This invited Perspective was withdrawn at the request of the author due to similarity to his previously published reviews, specifically those in Tetrahedron Letters [1] and the Israel Journal of Chemistry [2]. The author stands by the scientific findings and conclusions as published in those reviews.

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