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Journal retracts all 23 articles in special issue

A journal has retracted an entire special issue over concerns the guest-edited papers underwent a “compromised” peer review process. 

In a supplement to Volume 337 Issue 1 of Annals of Operations Research, 23 papers were retracted with the same statement: 

The Editor-in-Chief and the publisher have retracted this article. The article was submitted to be part of a guest-edited issue. An investigation by the publisher found a number of articles, including this one, with a number of concerns, including but not limited to compromised editorial handling and peer review process, inappropriate or irrelevant references or not being in scope of the journal or guest-edited issue. Based on the investigation’s findings the Editor-in-Chief therefore no longer has confidence in the results and conclusions of this article.

The articles in the guest-edited issue, Prescriptive Analytics Using Machine Learning and Mathematical Programming for Sustainable Operations Research, were published between June 2022 and October 2023. 

A landing page for the issue doesn’t appear on the journal’s website because the concerns came before the special issue was completed, a representative from Springer told us in an email. They didn’t provide information on how these concerns came to light or the specifics of the investigation’s findings, saying the investigation is still ongoing. 

The guest editor, Abbas Mardani, is a researcher at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. He was named in the top 1% of Highly Cited Researchers in 2021 and 2022 in Clarivate’s Web of Science. Several of his papers have comments on PubPeer questioning the theorems. Mardani did not respond to our request for comment. 

Angappa Gunasekaran, a researcher at Penn State Harrisburg in Dauphin County, and a co-author of one of the retracted papers, “Prescriptive analytics applications in sustainable operations research: conceptual framework and future research challenges,” called the retraction a “social taboo.” 

His colleague, Deepa Bhatt Mishra, disagreed with the retraction, according to the notice. “I fully support Dr. Deepa Bhatt Mishra and my other co-authors in placing the blame on the publisher,” Gunasekaran told us in an email. He denied having any connection to Mardani prior to submitting the article.

Gunasekaran said his research group submitted a draft to the call for papers posted on the website of Annals of Operations Research.  They expected “the individual responsible for editing the special issue is a respected scholar in their field.” He continued: 

It is not the responsibility of the authors to know how the papers are processed, or the circumstances under which decisions are made. All we know is that our submission underwent more than two rounds of rigorous revisions and took quite some time. Unfortunately, we received a retraction email from the publisher that lacked clarity and transparency, and in the end, we authors paid a heavy price for the irresponsible actions of Guest Editor, the EIC of the journal, and the publisher. 

Last July, the journal retracted 81 papers from another special issue, using the same notice as the recent retractions. “These papers comprise the one other special issue in the journal that the Springer Nature Research Integrity unit identified as part of their ongoing investigations work,” a spokesperson for the publisher said. “We are committed to ensuring the integrity of the publication record and these retractions reflect our ongoing work in that regard.”

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