Hand Surgeon Loses 7 Papers for 'Serious Misconduct'

Retraction Watch Staff

July 31, 2020

A surgery journal has retracted seven papers by a group in South Korea after an institutional investigation found evidence of "intentional, repetitive, and serious misconduct" in the work. 

The articles, by a team at Ewha Womans University and Seoul National University College of Medicine, appeared in the Journal of Hand Surgery (European Volume) between 2016 and 2019.

According to the journal, in June of 2019, a reviewer raised questions about the sample size in a manuscript by the authors (most of whom remain the same across the papers) — triggering an inquiry by the editors that led to Ewha's investigation.

That investigation found that the first author on all seven articles, Young Hak Roh, an orthopedic surgeon at Ewha, had committed sweeping violations:  

At the request of the Journal Editor and SAGE Publishing, with the agreement of the authors, the articles listed below have been retracted following the outcome of an investigation at the first author's institution into the accuracy of the data, research ethics practices and the lack of Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval.
In June 2019, a reviewer shared concern with the Journal Editor about the data used for sample size determination in a submitted paper by the first author. Thereafter, the authors brought to the attention of the Journal Editor and SAGE that the two Online First articles contained problems in the reported data, including being unable to trace some data in medical records and statistical manipulation, and requested to retract the articles. When asked, the senior authors offered no data verification or clearance of ethical issues for any of the papers listed below. In August 2019, the Journal Editor contacted the first author's institution (Ewha Womans University, South Korea) where a subsequent preliminary investigation was conducted by the institution's Research Integrity Committee. The committee found there was intentional, repetitive, and serious misconduct during the research for these papers listed below. In June 2020, the committee informed the Journal Editor and SAGE that it had concluded that the person subject to investigation had violated provisions in the Bioethics and Safety Act concerning human subjects in research projects and had also committed material and consistent default in the following matters: research approval procedures; period of validity; consent of research subjects; changes in the content of the research plan and consent letter, the number of research subjects and the co-researchers; submission of the interim report, as well as the termination report after obtaining approval for the termination of research, pursuant to the Standard Operation Procedure of the Institutional Review Board under Ewha Womans University Mokdong Hospital; and that Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval had not been properly obtained for the articles listed below.

Neither Roh nor Ewha's IRB has responded to requests for comment. 

Here's the list of papers, the first two of which were online but not in print: 

  • Roh, YH, Kim, S, Gong, SK, Baek, GH. Outcomes of trapeziectomy with ligamentoplasty for trapeziometacarpal arthritis with and without metacarpophalangeal joint hyperextension. J Hand Surg Eur. 2019, doi: 10.1177/1753193419852612.

  • Roh, YH, Kim, S, Gong, SH, Baek, GH. A randomized comparison of ultrasound-guided versus landmark-based corticosteroid injection for trigger finger. J Hand Surg Eur. 2019, doi: 10.1177/1753193419839892.

  • Roh YH, Song JH, Gong HS, Baek GH. Comparison of clinical outcomes after ulnar shortening osteotomy for ulnar impaction syndrome with or without arthroscopic debridement. J Hand Surg Eur. 2019, 44: 589-593. 10.1177/1753193418808160

  • Roh YH, Hong SW, Gong HS, Baek GH. Prognostic effect of pain sensitization in patients with de Quervain's tenovaginosis receiving corticosteroid injection. J Hand Surg Eur. 2019, 44: 385-389. 10.1177/1753193418811565

  • Roh YH, Hong SW, Gong HS, Baek GH. Ultrasound-guided versus blind corticosteroid injections for De Quervain tendinopathy: a prospective randomized trial. J Hand Surg Eur. 2018, 43: 820-824. 10.1177/1753193418790535

  • Roh YH, Noh JH, Gong HS, Baek GH. Effects of metabolic syndrome on the functional outcomes of corticosteroid injection for De Quervain tenosynovitis. J Hand Surg Eur. 2017, 42: 481-486. 10.1177/1753193417694112

  • Roh YH, Lee BK, Baek JR, Park MH, Noh JH, Gong HS, Baek GH. Effect of metabolic syndrome on the outcome of corticosteroid injection for carpal tunnel syndrome. J Hand Surg Eur. 2016, 41: 963-969. 10.1177/1753193416654447

None of the papers has been cited more than twice, according to Clarivate Analytics' Web of Science.

The last author is Goo Hyun Baek, the chair of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Seoul National University College of Medicine. In addition to the seven now-retracted papers, a PubMed search turns up 51 articles by Baek and Roh. We asked Baek if any other of those articles would be retracted but have not heard back.

This article originally appeared on Retraction Watch.

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