Springer and the Double Dip

A quick post after stumbling upon a paper that got retracted years ago, but the publisher isn’t going to tell you. Springer still charges $40 (plus tax) to read the retracted paper itself — then will happily charge you another $40 for selling you the retraction notice.

Here’s the paper I came across. It got retracted years ago:

Carsten Boltze et al., HSP90 is a key for telomerase activation and malignant transition in pheochromocytoma, Endocrine (2003), doi: 10.1385/ENDO:22:3:193

As a side note, the paper lists Regine Schneider-Stock as a coauthor. Several other papers from her group have also been retracted, as detailed on Retraction Watch in 2016.

Even though the paper was retracted in 2004, you wouldn’t know it if you visited its landing page published by Springer Link.

Maybe I need new glasses. But to me there’s no sign at all here that the paper was retracted. Not good.

So basically, Springer is trying to sell us a paper that has been retracted. It is like buying baby food that got recalled because of glass found in the jars. You would hope the retailer wouldn’t try to sell you a jar at all, let alone charge you the full price.

But no. This equivalent of a baby food jar with glass shards is still happily sitting on the shelf, waiting for a naive customer to buy it. Springer has had more than 16 years to label it as retracted, but somehow this never happened.

Retracted in 2004

The retraction notice can’t be found easily, although if you have installed the PubPeer browser extension, you might see there are comments left on this paper.

Luckily PubMed has the paper clearly flagged as Retracted.

A double whammy

It gets worse.

If you try to download the Retraction Withdrawal notice (no idea what the difference is), you are in for another surprise.

Springer asks for another $40 to access it.

That’s right. It’s like hearing there has been a recall on some baby food jars, but having to buy the recall notice for a hefty price to know if your particular jar is affected or not.

Well, this is not good. Repeat after me: Retraction Notices Should Be Free.

COPE, the Committee of Publication Ethics — of which Springer is a member — clearly states this in their Retraction Guidelines:

What is in the Withdrawal Notice?

Here’s a screenshot of the Withdrawal Notice.

Interestingly, the paper has additional problems not mentioned in the notice. Figure 1 appears to have some serious concerns:

So, not only was part of this paper very similar to another paper from this group, a figure appears to have been inappropriately altered as well. Note the disappearing 145 bp bands.

It’s a double whammy for sure.

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