Springer Nature has retracted a book chapter which critics say was plagued with “extremely offensive and outdated” statements about the deaf community.
The chapter, “Literature Review on Sign Language Generation,” was published in September 2022 as part of Data Management, Analytics and Innovation: Proceedings of ICDMAI 2022 (International Conference on Data Management, Analytics and Innovation). The authors, five researchers at the Cummins College of Engineering for Women in Pune, India, attempted to review work on sign language translation – specifically with artificial intelligence and machine learning.
From the abstract:
The deaf and dumb community uses sign language to communicate. Sign language is a language of signs including facial expressions and not of spoken words. It is a visual mode of communication. The position of hands, the movement of fingers and the expressions on the face play a vital role in sign language. Sign languages have a very limited set of words. The grammar is difficult to understand. On the contrary, spoken languages across the globe have a rich vocabulary. It is difficult for signers to understand a spoken language. There is a need to develop a system that establishes a link between spoken and sign languages. Translating from spoken languages to sign languages is a challenging task. This paper presents the state-of-the work that has been done in the field of translating English (a spoken language) to Indian Sign Language.
When referring to members of the deaf community, the terms “deaf” and “hard of hearing” are widely accepted, according to the National Association of the Deaf. The “deaf and dumb” phrasing used in the abstract, however, is the “granddaddy of all negative labels pinned on deaf and hard of hearing people,” according to the association.
Soon after publication, the paper’s abstract received sharp criticism on Twitter:
Springer Nature’s official account replied on September 29, two days after the original tweet that drew attention to the article:
Thank you for getting in touch. We are looking into this as a matter of priority.
— Springer Nature (@SpringerNature) September 29, 2022
The paper was retracted on November 19. The chapter had multiple issues, according to the retraction notice:
The Series Editor has retracted this article. After publication, concerns were raised regarding the use of inappropriate language and incorrect statements regarding the deaf community and sign language users. There was a lack of collaboration between the authors and the community described in the article. The authors apologize for any harm caused by these mistakes. Additionally, Figs. 1 and 6 contain materials that have been previously published in  and , respectively, but the citations and licence statements are missing in the figure legends. The authors have stated that they did not obtain appropriate permissions to reuse these figures.
All authors agree to this retraction.</…….