APS News

Questioned Papers in Physical Review Journals Retracted

retractedAPS journals are printing retractions of six papers as a result of the Lucent Technologies/Bell Labs inquiry into misconduct by Jan Hendrik Schön. Two of the papers, published in Physical Review B, were implicated in the Lucent investigation chaired by Malcolm Beasley of Stanford University. They were retracted with the agreement of all authors.

Four additional papers, published in Physical Review B and Physical Review Letters, but not studied by the Lucent investigation, were retracted with the agreement of all authors except Schön. Two papers, one that included Schön as a coauthor and the other with Schön as the sole author, remain in the literature after the authors indicated that they do not wish to retract them.

According to APS Editor-in-Chief Martin Blume, in view of the seriousness of the issue, APS felt it prudent to contact Schön and all of his living coauthors (one is deceased) about articles in APS journals, although only two of the eight articles were explicitly discussed in the Lucent report. Information from these coauthor indicates scientific concerns for all the retracted papers. "Given the notoriety of this case, we felt that people ought to know the status of all of the articles," Blume says.

All coauthors felt the papers should be retracted. Schön declined to join in this statement except with regard to the two papers mentioned in the Lucent report. Given the preponderance of evidence from the Lucent report and the opinions of Schön's coauthor, the APS decided it was in the best interests of the community to report the fact that these articles are being retracted by most of the authors, while also reporting Schön's contrary view. Retractions will appear in upcoming print issues of the journals and online versions will have notations to indicate the retractions. The online tables of contents and abstracts of the papers will include a message with links to the full text retractions.

The editors of the Physical Review journals have chosen to leave the retracted papers available online as part of the research record, just as they remain in archived print copies of the journal. However, online versions will appear with clear statements of retraction and all papers affected will be accompanied by links to the retractions. These notations will appear so that researchers will be able to see them regardless of how they navigate to the versions of the papers online. "We do not want to tamper with the archive of published papers," says Blume. "It will say in red 'retraction.' It's like a scarlet letter." The retractions also link to the full text of the Beasley report, which Lucent has given the APS permission to mirror at a permanent web address associated with the journals. It is available at http://publish.aps.org/reports/. In the past, Schön has denied committing misconduct, saying only that he made "mistakes."


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