Pharmacy School Dean Has Book Review Retracted for Matching Passages

Ivan Oransky, MD

May 24, 2019

A book review by the incoming dean of a leading pharmacy school in Canada has been retracted from the Lancet because "substantial passages...match parts of a review of the same book" by a newspaper columnist.

Kishor Wasan, Ellen Wasan, and Jawahar Kalra, all currently at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, wrote a review of Danielle Martin's Better Now: Six Big Ideas to Improve Health Care for All Canadians that was published in November 2017. In a retraction notice published online today, the journal writes, "In February, 2019, we learned that substantial passages in this book review match parts of a review of the same book by André Picard published in January, 2017. We are therefore retracting this book review and the payment for the review has been returned."

Kishor Wasan, the corresponding author of the review, is slated to become dean of the University of Toronto on July 1. Wasan told Medscape Medical News that it was "kind of a silly thing that happened."

After the Lancet commissioned a 1500-word review, Wasan said, he and his coauthors looked for other reviews of the book. In the first three drafts of their review, which Wasan said he provided to the Lancet, Picard's review was credited. The strategy, he said, was to quote from his review and then build their perspective on top of that.

When the Lancet asked for more of the authors' perspectives, the Picard citation was dropped, "but we didn't modify the text," Wasan said. "I missed that in the galley proofs. I'm definitely partly responsible here."

Wasan heard from the journal in March. "Initially they thought we had plagiarized. But we were all quoting from the same book. This was a book review." The Lancet agreed not to refer to plagiarism in its retraction notice, but Wasan was hoping for a retraction and replacement, saying, "We did not intend to deceive."

Elizabeth Church, a University of Toronto spokesperson, told Medscape Medical News: "The university has just learned about this and we are gathering information."

"The Right Decision"

"I agreed with them 100% that they should retract it. It was bad that that version was published," Wasan said. "This has never happened before to me in my career. In our business, our reputation is everything. I don't know what to do."

Wasan said he would like to apologize to Martin, to Picard, and to the readers of the Lancet.

"We judged that retraction was the right decision in this case," Joanna Palmer, an executive editor of the Lancet, told Medscape Medical News, "We have no further comment."

Picard told Medscape Medical News that he did not know about the situation until a week ago, when the Lancet told him they would be retracting the review.

"I guess, as the saying goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," Picard said.

Ivan Oransky, MD, is vice president for editorial at Medscape and cofounder of Retraction Watch. At various times in the past, he has written obituaries for the Lancet.

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