Q: How can I retract a published article that was published despite [my request for] withdrawal?

Detailed Question -

I had submitted an article to a low-reputed journal. They asked for a huge [publishing] amount, following which I withdrew the paper. Then, they reduced the article processing charges (APCs). However, I still requested them to withdraw the paper. I had so far not submitted any authorship form. So, I submitted to another journal. However, I saw the article getting published in the [original] journal. I sent them a mail asking for a retraction, but received no response. Where can I report this issue and have my article retracted? Please advise.

1 Answer to this question

Hello Banashree – Welcome to the forum! And let’s get to your query straight away.

This is an unfortunate situation, but this does happen. In fact, this is the typical strategy adopted by predatory journals, as they are called. First, they ask for a huge APC. Then, when the author seeks to withdraw, they levy a withdrawal amount (which they don’t seem to have done in your case). Next, they threaten to inform your supervisor/institute (which they don’t seem to done either). And finally, when all else fails, as a way of getting back at you for not relenting, they go ahead and publish the paper, as a final way of seeking to tarnish your credentials. Also, they typically do not respond to queries, or do so only to extract money.

While the above is unfortunate on its own, what is equally unfortunate is that once the article is published, you cannot do anything about it. The article cannot technically be retracted as retraction is done only by the journal, based on issues such as data falsification or a similar other matter of researcher malpractice. As this is a malpractice by the journal itself (albeit a bogus one), the article cannot be ‘retracted.’ Also, there are no real institutions where you can ‘report’ this matter. Research ethics bodies provide guidelines, but do not mediate.

While this be difficult to know/hear, this article should be considered foregone, considering it a learning experience. You should also immediately write to the other journal where you have submitted the article and ask it to be withdrawn from there, before they can begin processing it in any way. Otherwise, that would be a duplicate submission, another ethical practice. You can inform them of the situation with the earlier journal. They should understand and thus expedite the withdrawal.

Finally, to avoid such submissions/situations in the future, you may keep these resources handy:

Hope that helps. And all the best for your future submissions!