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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 63  |  Issue : 7  |  Page : 571-584  

Retraction of papers authored by Yuhji Saitoh–Beyond the Fujii phenomenon


1 Department of Anaesthesiology and Critical Care, Gauhati Medical College, Guwahati, Assam, India
2 Department of Microbiology, Jorhat Medical College and Hospital, Jorhat, Assam, India

Date of Web Publication12-Jul-2019

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Priyam Saikia
Department of Anaesthesiology and Critical Care, Gauhati Medical College and Hospital, Guwahati -781 032, Assam
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/ija.IJA_267_19

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Background and Aims: Various aspects of retracted articles authored by Yoshitaka Fujii and their retraction notices have been examined. Yuhji Saitoh has coauthored many articles with Yoshitaka Fujii which were subsequently retracted. Japanese Society of Anesthesiology(JSA) recommends retraction of various articles by Yuhji Saitoh, but various attributes of those and their retraction notices have not been examined. Methods: A list of retracted articles was retrieved from PubMed, Retraction Watch Database and relevant journals. Their retraction notices were obtained from the journal's webpage. Predefined characteristics of the retracted articles and their retraction notices were evaluated against those proposed by Committee on Publication Ethics(COPE). Results: Fifteen such articles were retracted. Two of them were not identified as retracted in the journal webpage. Half of the papers mentioned by JSA are yet to be retracted. Among those retracted, only 13.3% retraction notices were in line with the guidelines published by the COPE. Two retracted articles are yet to be flagged as retracted in PubMed. The median (interquartile range) time required for retraction from the date of declaration of being eligible for retraction is 14(3) months. Data were analysed with Microsoft Excel™(2007). Conclusion: Even after more than 1 year of recommendation, many articles containing evidence of scientific misconduct are yet to be retracted. Among those retracted, the relevant authority failed to follow the prevalent and well-regarded standards of ethics in scholarly publication.

Keywords: Committee on Publication Ethics, research misconduct, retraction notice, retracted publication


How to cite this article:
Saikia P, Thakuria B. Retraction of papers authored by Yuhji Saitoh–Beyond the Fujii phenomenon. Indian J Anaesth 2019;63:571-84

How to cite this URL:
Saikia P, Thakuria B. Retraction of papers authored by Yuhji Saitoh–Beyond the Fujii phenomenon. Indian J Anaesth [serial online] 2019 [cited 2019 Dec 9];63:571-84. Available from: http://www.ijaweb.org/text.asp?2019/63/7/571/262613




   Introduction Top


Speedy retraction of fraudulent research and transparency of the whole process cannot be overemphasised. The Committee on Publication Ethics(COPE) has taken major initiatives to systematically approach this issue. But the credibility of the scientific community is under the shadow of the ever-growing phenomenon of research misconduct. Thus, there is an urgent need to understand different aspects of this phenomenon. Researchers have started to look into various characteristics of retracted articles and their retraction notices in the context of guidelines proposed by COPE.[1]

Four anaesthesiologists, namely, Yoshitaka Fujii, Yuhji Saitoh, Joachim Boldt and Scott Reuben, are well-known researchers with highest numbers of articles retracted for research misconduct.[2] In fact, Yoshitaka Fujii leads the board. Yuhji Saitoh has coauthored frequently with him in many of those retracted articles. Except Yuhji Saitoh, the misdemeanour of the other three researchers has been discussed at length in peer-reviewed literature and received widespread media coverage.[3],[4],[5]

Although Yuhji Saitoh was a frequent coauthor with Yoshitaka Fujii, statistical analysis by Carlisle and Loadsmancast doubt about data integrity in many articles by Yuhji Saitoh in which Yoshitaka Fujii was not a coauthor.[6] An investigation by Japanese Society of Anesthesiology(JSA) in to the accusation of fraud in articles by Yuhji Saitoh has recommended retraction of 10 papers and Yushitaka Fujii was not a coauthor in any of them.[7] Therefore, there is a need for close scrutiny of retraction of research by Yuhji Saitoh in which Yoshitaka Fujii was not a coauthor.

Thus, we aimed to analyse various characteristics of such retracted articles and their retraction notices in the context of guidelines proposed by COPE. We also aimed to examine the status of the articles mentioned in the report of JSA and Carlisle and Loadsman[Online Appendix S2: references, part1].[6],[7]


   Methods Top


We searched PubMed to retrieve 'Retracted Publications' authored by Saitoh Y that does not include Fujii Y as a coauthor(Search Strategy((Retracted Publication[Publication Type]) AND Saitoh Y[Author]) NOT Fujii Y[Author]). Similarly, data about the Publication Type 'Retraction of Publication' was retrieved(Search Strategy Search strategy(Retraction of Publication[Publication Type]) AND Saitoh Y[Author]). 'Author' field of the Retraction Watch Database was inquired with the last name Saitoh. From the suggestions listed by the database, we chose the author name Saitoh, Yuhji. Among the results displayed, papers authored by Yuhji Saitoh in which Yoshitaka Fujii was not a coauthor were chosen.

We visited the webpages of the journals which published the articles retrieved from the previous two searches. The retraction notices and the retracted articles were subsequently downloaded. The webpage of COPE was searched to find out whether the journals containing retracted articles or articles eligible for retraction were members of COPE.[8] An article was regarded as eligible for retraction if it was mentioned in the appendix of the investigation report of the JSA.[7] If they were not members of COPE, we planned to search the webpage of the relevant journal to find out whether COPE is referred to in their journal-related information sheet. Retraction notices were evaluated against the criteria for retraction notices endorsed by COPE[Table1]. We also evaluated whether the PDF versions of the retracted papers are watermarked.[1]
Table 1: Committee on Publication Ethics guideline for retraction notices and retracted articles[1],[9]

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We also observed whether the articles that were found to have violated ethics by investigation by JSA are retracted.[7] The list of articles examined by Carlisle and Loadsmanwas retrieved and we investigated whether any of those were retracted.[6] We emailed the Editor of the journals that were yet to retract articles mentioned in the report by JSA.

Although the report about possible research misconduct in certain papers authored by Yuhji Saitoh was published in 18thDecember 2016, we defined the date of eligibility for retraction as 25thSeptember 2017(date on which the investigation report by JSA was published).[6],[10] Time duration taken for retraction was defined as the duration between date of eligibility for retraction and date of electronic publication(ahead of print) of its retraction notice. If it was not available, the first day of the month of its print publication was considered. We defined 'life time of the retracted articles' as the time duration between the date of publication and retraction. For calculation of the time durations, only the number of months was considered(e.g.,if the duration was 162months and 26days, it was considered as 162months).

All the electronic searches and email contacts were carried out on 5/1/2019 and relevant documents downloaded by the first author. Again on 6/1/2019, the search was repeated by the first author. The second author carried out the search on 7/1/2019 independently. Data were analysed with Microsoft Excel™(2007), USA. Kaplan–Meier survival curve was generated with a freely available online software(http://eurekastatistics.com/kaplan-meier-survival-curve-grapher/).


   Results Top


The search strategy used with results is mentioned in [Figure1]. Among the citations retrieved from Retraction Watch Database, 15 papers met inclusion criteria. All the citations retrieved from PubMed (13 numbers) were included in Retraction Watch Database. We gathered another retracted article from individual journal webpage search. Both these additional papers are available in PubMed, but none was flagged as retracted.
Figure1: Flow diagram of selection of retracted articles and retraction notices

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Eight journals published all the retracted or articles eligible for retraction. Seven were members of COPE. No reference to COPE could be found in the webpage of the remaining journal. Only 2(13%) retraction notices complied with all the parameters mentioned in [Table1][Appendix 1]. Detailed analyses of the retracted articles and retraction notices are available in [Table2][Appendix 1]. Watermark demonstrating the retracted status of the paper was not present on 4(26.6%) papers[Appendix 1].
Table 2: Conformity of retracted articles and retraction notices with parameters evaluated[1],[9] [Appendix 1]

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All the retracted articles were available in the journal webpage, but 2(13.3%) of them were not identified as retracted[Appendix 2]. The PDF version of these two articles was also not watermarked, and both were published by one journal. Among the 13 articles identified as retracted, the PDF of version of 2(15.3%) articles was not watermarked. Although not watermarked, the retraction notice was made available along with the article in the PDF version of another article. Two retracted articles were not flagged as retracted in PubMed[Appendix 2]. Although JSA recommended for retraction, 5(50%) articles were not retracted till the day of our search.[7] Among the 32 papers analyzed by Carlisle and Loadsman, one was not published.[6] Among those 31 published papers, 22 met our inclusion criteria and 10 among those have been retracted[Appendix 2].

Two articles were retracted prior to publication of the report by JSA, and in one the date of retraction could not be determined[Appendix 1]. The median [interquartile range (IQR)] time required for retraction from the date of declaration of being eligible for retraction is 14(3) months. Kaplan–Meier survival curve with 95% confidence interval for the time from eligibility to actual retraction are presented in [Figure2]. The median(IQR) of the lifetime of the retracted article is 234(128) months.
Figure2: Kaplan–Meier survival curve with 95% confidence interval of the time from eligibility to actual retraction of papers by Yuhji Saitoh without Yoshitaka Fujii as a coauthor

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Two journals contained articles deemed eligible for retraction by JSA but not retracted till 07/1/2019.[7] One journal is yet to respond to our email. The Editor-in-Chief of the other journal informed that 'the mail from JSA recommending the retraction of the article had not been forwarded to the editor-in-chief until the end of the last year due to administrative error' and they have 'just started appropriate procedures'. This article was subsequently retracted 3months after our email to the journal editor. This retraction notice was not included in the results mentioned above.


   Discussion Top


We observed that although eligible for retraction, half of the papers are yet to be retracted and only 13.3% retraction notices complied with the recommendations of COPE.

It is the responsibility of the scientific community to uphold the benchmark of ethics in science. Retraction is the only way to purge fraudulent researches, and a uniform retraction policy ensures its accuracy and relevance. But retraction policies of journal are not uniform.[11],[12] Absence of external or internal guidance may be some of the reasons for disparities in retraction policies.[11] The first guideline by COPE for retraction was published in 2009.[11] Although many journals lack a defined retraction policy, it is heartening to find that the number of journals with defined retraction policies is on the rise.[12] COPE, describing the code of conduct for journal editor, mentions that they should 'always be willing to publish corrections, clarifications, retractions and apologies when needed'.[13] The COPE expects its members to follow it. But there may be many reasons why an editor may be reluctant to retract.[14]

There are many intricacies and obstructions to initiate investigations of suspected research misconduct and its subsequent retraction.[15],[16] In our study, the prompt response by one journal is assuring, and it revealed that possible administrative issues in the editorial office may also hinder retraction. The keenness of a substantial number of journal editors and publishers to respond and act accordingly to queries about non-retraction of fraudulent research is encouraging.[1] We sincerely wished to receive some feedback from the journal editor of the other journal so as to have some more insight into the reason(s) for non-retraction of fraudulent research. JSA has urged 'respective journals to make retractions or take any other actions they deem necessary'.[7] These non-retractions reinforce the fact that that there is yet no mechanism that ensures retraction of article that warrants it.[17] In fact, many journal editors may be 'unaware of the need for retraction' of research deemed eligible for retraction.[1] The retraction of hundreds of papers tainted with scientific misconduct is welcome, but relevant organisations should construct mechanisms that mend the gap between report of investigative agency, the concerned journals and other stakeholders. We suggest that all the stakeholders must develop a common protocol to follow if any authoritative agency finds evidence of research misconduct. There must be mechanism to evaluate if that protocol is being followed. We expect COPE to take the lead.

Standardised retraction notices ensure complete and transparent information about retracted article. Across different specialties, sizeable numbers of retraction notices do not comply with the guidelines of COPE.[1],[18],[19] Except one, all the journals evaluated in our study are members of COPE. It is disconcerting that even being a member, a majority of retraction notices failed to comply the guidelines of COPE.

The better a database is in tracking retraction notices, the more easily retracted article can be identified.[19] We observed that search strategy using the name of author and the Publication TypeRetraction of Publication failed to retrieve many relevant data. COPE suggests the use of name of author and title of the article in the heading of the retraction notice.[9] We believe that an unambiguous recommendation by COPE to use both will make retraction notices more visible in PubMed. Two of the retracted papers were not flagged by PubMed. Late indexation of retraction notices is known and it should be kept in mind while using PubMed.[20]

A retracted paper is no longer a part of human knowledge. But in many instances, such articles get citations, many being positive citations.[19],[21] Such instances have tremendous ramifications.[22] Identification of retracted material is of unconditional importance. It is alarming that 20% articles were not identified as retracted in journal webpage or in PubMed. The widespread use of electronic devices increases the chance of unsuspecting authors to cite retracted article if it is not flagged in the journal webpage, electronic databases or lack of watermark in the PDF version.[1]

We observed that the time from eligibility to actual retraction is lower than those for Fujii, Boldt and Reuben.[1] But it must be noted that many articles are still not retracted. The long duration taken for retraction from publication is notable. Science purges the fraudulent papers, but takes time. This time lag pollutes the literature and negates the very essence of science. This needs to be changed. Although the method proposed by Carlisle has generated debate, its application during review process is one courageous step.[23],[24]

We would like to mention a few limitations of our study. The methodology used by Retraction Watch Database to collect information on retracted publication is not in public domain. Moreover, only a subset of journals is abstracted in PubMed and we searched the webpages of only those journals that have published either retracted publications or randomised trials with probable ethics violation. There must have been journals that published other types of paper by Yuhji Saitoh.


   Conclusion Top


Not all the papers authored by Yuhji Saitoh without Yoshitaka Fujii as a coauthor have been retracted. Among those retracted, many do not conform to the guideline set by COPE. There is a vast scope to improve the process of handling research that breaches ethics of scientific scholarly publications.

Acknowledgement

The authors thank Mr. Nayanmoni Sarma, Lecturer, Department of English, Brilliant Academy, Mangaldai, Assam, for language editing.

Authors would also like to acknowledge that views expressed in the submitted article are his or her own and not an official position of the institution.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



Appendix 2: Adocument mentioning retracted articles by Yuhji Saitoh retracted but not identified as retracted in journal webpage and PubMed, eligible for retraction but not retracted and mentioned in the list by Carlisle etal. but not retracted

  1. Articles not identified as retracted on journal webpage-


    1. Saitoh Y, Nakazawa K, Makita K, Tanaka H, Toyooka H. Visual evaluation of train-of-four and double burst stimulation, fade at various currents, using a rubber band. Eur J Anaesthesiol. 1997 May;14(3):327-32.
    2. Saitoh Y, Nakazawa K, Makita K, Tanaka H, Amaha K. Evaluation of Residual Neuromuscular Block Using Train-of-Four and Double Burst Stimulation at the Index Finger. Anesth Analg. 1997 Jun;84(6):1354-8.


  2. Articles not identified as retracted in PubMed


    1. Saitoh Y, Nakazawa K, Makita K, Tanaka H, Amaha K. Evaluation of Residual Neuromuscular Block Using Train-of-Four and Double Burst Stimulation at the Index Finger. Anesth Analg. 1997 Jun;84(6):1354-8.
    2. Hattori H, Saitoh Y, Nakajima H, Sanbe N, Akatu M, Murakawa M. Visual evaluation of fade in response to facial nerve stimulation at the eyelid. J Clin Anesth. 2005 Jun;17(4):276-80.


  3. List of articles that were recommended to be retracted by Japanese Society of Anesthesiologists but not retracted6


    1. Saitoh Y, Tanaka H, Toyooka H, Amaha K. Recovery of post-tetanic and train-of-four responses at the first dorsal interosseous and adductor pollicis muscles in patients receiving vecuronium. Can J Anaesth. 1996 Apr;43(4):362-7.
    2. Saitoh Y, Koitabashi Y, Makita K, Tanaka H, Amaha K. Train-of-four and double burst stimulation fade at the great toe and thumb. Can J Anaesth. 1997 Apr;44(4):390-5.
    3. Saitoh Y, Nakajima H, Hattori H, Aoki K, Katayama T, Murakawa M. Neuromuscular blockade can be assessed accelerographically over the vastus medialis muscle in patients positioned prone. Can J Anaesth. 2003 Apr;50(4):342-7.
    4. Saitoh Y, Hattori H, Sanbe N, Nakajima H, Akatu M, Murakawa M. Delayed recovery of vecuronium neuromuscular block in diabetic patients during sevoflurane anesthesia. Can J Anaesth. 2005 May;52(5):467-73.
    5. Saitoh Y, Aoki K, Okazaki M, Hirama T, Isosu T, Murakawa M. Reversal of vecuronium with neostigmine: a comparison between male and female patients. Fukushima J Med Sci. 2009 Dec;55(2):61-70.


  4. List of articles mentioned by Carlisle et al and not retracted5


    1. Saitoh Y, Nakazawa K, Toyooka H, Amaha K. Optimal stimulating current for train-of-four stimulation in conscious subjects. Can J Anaesth. 1995 Nov;42(11):992-5.
    2. Saitoh Y, Tanaka H, Toyooka H, Amaha K. Recovery of post-tetanic and train-of-four responses at the first dorsal interosseous and adductor pollicis muscles in patients receiving vecuronium. Can J Anaesth. 1996 Apr;43(4):362-7.
    3. Saitoh Y, Nakazawa K, Makita K, Tanaka H, Toyooka H. Evaluation of residual neuromuscular blockade using modified double burst stimulation. Acta Anaesthesiol Scand. 1997 Jun;41(6):741-5.
    4. Saitoh Y, Koitabashi Y, Makita K, Tanaka H, Amaha K. Train-of-four and double burst stimulation fade at the great toe and thumb. Can J Anaesth. 1997 Apr;44(4):390-5.
    5. Oshima T, Kasuya Y, Terazawa E, Nagase K, Saitoh Y, Dohi S. The anxiolytic effects of the 5-hydroxytryptamine-1A agonist tandospirone before otolaryngologic surgery. Anesth Analg. 2001 Nov;93(5):1214-6.
    6. Saitoh Y, Kaneda K, Murakawa M. Onset of vecuronium-induced neuromuscular block after a long priming interval. J Anesth. 2002;16(2):102-7.
    7. Nakajima H, Hattori H, Aoki K, Katayama T, Saitoh Y, Murakawa M. Effect of milrinone on vecuronium-induced neuromuscular block. Anaesthesia. 2003 Jul;58(7):643-6.
    8. Saitoh Y, Nakajima H, Hattori H, Aoki K, Katayama T, Murakawa M. Neuromuscular blockade can be assessed accelerographically over the vastus medialis muscle in patients positioned prone. Can J Anaesth. 2003 Apr;50(4):342-7.
    9. Saitoh Y, Hattori H, Sanbe N, Nakajima H, Akatu M, Murakawa M. Delayed recovery of vecuronium neuromuscular block in diabetic patients during sevoflurane anesthesia. Can J Anaesth. 2005 May;52(5):467-73.
    10. Hattori H, Saitoh Y, Nakajima H, Sanbe N, Akatu M, Murakawa M. Gabexate mesilate hastens recovery from vecuronium-induced neuromuscular blockade. Eur J Anaesthesiol. 2005 Jan;22(1):20-4.
    11. Oshima T, Murakami T, Saitoh Y, Yokota M, Kasuya Y. Inhibitory effects of landiolol and nicardipine on thiopental-induced yawning in humans. J Anesth. 2010 Apr;24(2):168-72.
    12. Saitoh Y, Oshima T, Nakata Y. Acceleromyographic monitoring of neuromuscular block over the orbicularis oris muscle in anesthetized patients receiving vecuronium. J Clin Anesth. 2010 Aug;22(5):318-23.




 
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