Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Economists go wild over overlooked citations in preprint on prenatal stress

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The_American_Economic_Review_(cover)Citation omissions in an economics preprint have set off a wave of recrimination and speculation on a widely read economics discussion board.

Commenters accuse the authors of purposely omitting citations that would have undermined the paper’s claims to novelty and contributions to the field, leveling acrimony and personal attacks. Economists Petra Persson at Stanford and Maya Rossin-Slater at the University of California, Santa Barbara told us they hadn’t been familiar with the omitted papers at the time they first posted their preprint, but their work remains distinct from these previous studies. Nevertheless, the two quickly updated the preprint of their paper – accepted by the top-tier economics journal American Economic Review – to include additional citations. An editor at the journal said it’s not unusual for authors to request such changes before publication, and dismissed the accusations made on the discussion board, calling the site “not a legitimate source of information.”

The study, “Family Ruptures, Stress, and the Mental Health of the Next Generation,” used data from Swedish national databases to compare mental health outcomes of people born to women who lost a relative while pregnant and women who lost a relative in the first year after giving birth. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Emily Willingham

May 26th, 2016 at 2:00 pm

Cancer researchers: We took data from another lab

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Authors have admitted to using material from another lab for their paper on neuroblastoma.

A spokesperson for Springer told us that the theft came to light when:

The scientists, from whom the data originated, contacted the journal.

The editor in chief of the journal investigated the case, the spokesperson told us, and then issued this retraction notice:

Read the rest of this entry »

Neuroscientist forged co-author’s signature, submitted paper without consent

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European Journal of Neuroscience cover2The European Journal of Neuroscience has pulled a paper after learning that one author’s name had been included without his consent.

Co-editor-in-chief of the journal, Paul Bolam, told us that the Shandong University of Medicine in China (where the work was carried out) conducted an investigation and found “a serious case of academic misconduct” — one author had forged the signature of another researcher, in order to add him as a co-author on a project in which he had not participated.

Here’s the retraction notice, which tells us a bit more: Read the rest of this entry »

Science names new editor-in-chief

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Jeremy Berg

Jeremy Berg, via AAAS

Science has a new editor-in-chief.

As of July 1st, Jeremy M. Berg will be at the helm of the family of journals published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, replacing Marcia McNutt. McNutt is leaving to become president of the National Academy of Sciences.

Berg, now associate senior vice chancellor for science strategy and planning in the health sciences at the University of Pittsburgh, has led the National Institute of General Medical Sciences at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), and was president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) from 2012-2014.

Berg who said in an AAAS press release that he is “thrilled and humbled by the opportunity to work with the team at Science and AAAS,” assumes the role following a year in which one of the world’s most prominent academic journals has faced significant scrutiny. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Shannon Palus

May 25th, 2016 at 5:00 pm

How should journals update papers when new findings come out?

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When authors get new data that revise a previous report, what should they do?

In the case of a 2015 lung cancer drug study in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), the journal published a letter to the editor with the updated findings.

Shortly after the paper was published, a pharmaceutical company released new data showing the drug wasn’t quite as effective as it had seemed. Once the authors included the new data in their analysis, they adjusted their original response rate of 59%  — hailed as one of a few “encouraging results” in an NEJM editorial at the time of publication — to 45%, as they write in the letter. One of the authors told us they published the 2015 paper using less “mature” data because the drug’s benefits appeared so promising, raising questions about when to publish “exciting but still evolving data.”

It’s not a correction, as the original paper has not been changed; it doesn’t even contain a flag that it’s been updated. But among the online letters about the paper is one from the authors, “Update to Rociletinib Data with the RECIST Confirmed Response Rate,” which provides the new data and backstory:

Read the rest of this entry »

Duplicated data gets corrected — not retracted — by psych journal

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Psychological Science

A psychology journal is correcting a paper for reusing data. The editor told us the paper is a “piecemeal publication,” not a duplicate, and is distinct enough from the previous article that it is not “grounds for retraction.”

The authors tracked the health and mood of 65 patients over nine weeks. In one paper, they concluded that measures of physical well being and psychosocial well being positively predict one another; in the other (the now corrected paper), they concluded that health and mood (along with positive emotions) influence each other in a self-sustaining dynamic.

As a press release for the now-corrected paper put it: Read the rest of this entry »

Heart researcher faked 70+ experiments, 100+ images

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ori-logoA former researcher at the University of Michigan and the University of Chicago faked dozens of experiments and images over the course of six years, according to a new finding from the Office of Research Integrity (ORI).

Ricky Malhotra, who studied heart cells, admitted to committing misconduct at both institutions, the ORI said in its report of the case. The fakery involved three National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant applications, one NIH progress report, one paper, seven presentations, and one image file. Despite an investigation at the University of Michigan, where Malhotra was from 2005-2006, he continued this falsification at [University of Chicago], after the [University of Michigan] research misconduct investigation was completed,” according to the ORI. The agency found that he Read the rest of this entry »

Author threatens to sue Elsevier if paper remains retracted

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Computational Materials Science

An author is prepared to sue Elsevier if it doesn’t un-retract his paper.

Computational Materials Science published two papers by the same author just eight months apart; nearly four years later, the journal pulled one for duplication. Author Masoud Panjepour, affiliated with Isfahan University of Technology in Iran, told us that he is working with a lawyer to negotiate a solution. However, if the publisher does not un-retract the paper, he does “not rule out filing a lawsuit.”

Here’s the retraction notice for “The effect of temperature on the grain growth of nanocrystalline metals and its simulation by molecular dynamics method,” which appeared last November:

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Paper plagiarizes from handwritten manuscript

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semiform groupThis case of plagiarism is a little weirder than usual.

A paper has been retracted from Semigroup Forum because it includes material taken from another researcher’s manuscript — which was handwritten. In fact, the same journal had already published a paper by the plagiarized researcher, also based on the same manuscript. The journal editor told us that, although the two papers are similar, they are not word-for-word copies, and thus escaped detection.

The retraction notice for “Varieties of bands with a semilattice” gives more details about the handwritten manuscript:

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Written by Shannon Palus

May 24th, 2016 at 11:30 am

Researcher who sued to stop retractions gets his sixth

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Mario Saad

Mario Saad

A sixth retraction has appeared for a diabetes researcher who previously sued a publisher to try to stop his papers from being retracted.

Mario Saad‘s latest retraction, in PLOS Biology, stems from inadvertent duplications, according to the authors.  Though an investigation at Saad’s institution — the University of Campinas in Brazil — found no evidence of misconduct, a critic of the paper told The Scientist he does not believe that the issues with blots were inadvertent.

Previously, Saad sued the American Diabetes Association to remove four expressions of concern from his papers; they were later retracted, even though Unicamp recommended keeping three of them published.

Here’s the new retraction notice, for “Gut Microbiota Is a Key Modulator of Insulin Resistance in TLR 2 Knockout Mice:” Read the rest of this entry »