Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Mystery: PLOS One seeks investigation after publishing two papers with “substantial overlap”

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Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 4.27.21 PMPLOS One has retracted one of two cancer papers with “substantial overlap” that were reviewed simultaneously by different editors.

This one’s a bit of a mystery — neither of the papers share an author, and no authors share institutions. Once the editors discovered the overlap, they contacted the authors. One group of authors provided the requested documentation for the experiments. The other did not — so the editors retracted that article, even though it was published months before the other one.

In the meantime, the editors have asked the authors’ institutions investigate how the articles — which contain entire identical sentences, and some extremely similar figures — were put together. According to a statement from the editors:

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Written by Shannon Palus

October 6th, 2015 at 2:30 pm

There’s “no evidence” research was conducted at all in retracted cancer paper

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cov200h (1)To one reader of a paper on a nerve cancer, the researchers, based at a hospital in China, seemed to have found a very large number of cases of a rare cancer to study. That observation triggered an investigation into the paper that led to its retraction — and the concern that the authors in the paper never did the research at all.

The authors say they recruited 156 patients who had a particular kind of cancer that affects the tissue around nerves, known as malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors. For context on how rare that is: Other researchers found a mere 1,182 new cases over a nearly four-decade period in the U.S. The study, according to the methods section of the paper, was supposedly done with patients who had a specific type of the disease, and who were

consecutively recruited from Wuhan Union Hospital, Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan (Hubei, China) between July 2000 and November 2012

According to the retraction note for “Common genetic variants in the microRNA biogenesis pathway are associated with malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor risk in a Chinese population,” the hospital where the work was done never treated all of those patients:

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Written by Shannon Palus

October 6th, 2015 at 11:30 am

Dutch investigation of researcher violated rules of “fair play”: Ombudsman

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Pankaj Dhonukshe

Pankaj Dhonukshe

The National Ombudsman of The Netherlands has criticized some aspects of an investigation by Utrecht University that found a researcher had committed “a violation of academic integrity.”

Specifically, the Ombudsman found the investigation — which we covered last year — did not adequately involve the affected researcher, Pankaj Dhonukshe, and therefore violated rules of “fair play.” Dhonukshe expressed relief in a statement he emailed to us about the ruling: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

October 6th, 2015 at 9:30 am

Investigation ends in 6th retraction for Voinnet

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PLOS PathogensA sixth paper co-authored by plant researcher Olivier Voinnet has been retracted by PLOS Pathogens “following an investigation into concerns.”

The investigation found “several band duplications” in one figure provided by fifth author, Patrice Dunoyer, who took it from “the Master thesis of a former student working under his supervision, without the prior consultation or consent of this student,” according to the notice. There was also an incorrect “loading control” in another figure, attributed to first author Raphael Sansregret and last author Kamal Bouarab. 

Voinnet and Bouarab, the study’s corresponding authors, took full responsibility for “the publication of this erroneous paper.”

Although investigators found that the raw data in the duplicated figure backed up its conclusions, “given the nature and extent of data manipulation,” the authors asked the journal to retract the paper .

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“Irresolvable authorship dispute” leads to retraction of tropical disease paper

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Microbiology AustraliaA paper on schistosomiasis, a tropical disease spread by parasitic worms that live in freshwater snails, has been pulled because of an “irresolvable authorship dispute.”

Microbiology Australia published the retraction earlier this month in an agreement with the editors and the authors. Unfortunately, the notice doesn’t provide many details and that’s pretty much all we know.

Here’s the notice in full:

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Weekend reads, part 2: Criminalizing scientific fraud; Nobel Prize folly; boosting impact factor

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booksThere were so many items to choose from this week for Weekend Reads — probably because it was Peer Review Week — that we decided to split them into two posts. Here’s part 2: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

October 4th, 2015 at 9:30 am

Posted in weekend reads

Weekend reads, part 1: Editor slams PubPeer; scientific fraud pays off

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booksThe week at Retraction Watch featured yet another case of fake peer review, and a court sentence for a Danish researcher found to have committed fraud. Here’s what was happening elsewhere (stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow): Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

October 3rd, 2015 at 9:30 am

Posted in weekend reads

Publisher bans authors for apparent plagiarism

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Three authors have been banned from journals published by IGM Publication, including the Journal of Medical Science and Clinical Research.

The ban — a relatively infrequent occurrence in publishing — comes after the publisher removed a 2014 article that seems to have merely changed the title and authors of a 2013 article  from another journal.

When a tip from a reader pointed to the possibility of duplication between the two articles, Read the rest of this entry »

Author objects to retraction for not “faithfully represented” immunology figures

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The Journal of ImmunologyAll but one of the authors of a study about the immune response to H. pylori have agreed to a retraction in The Journal of Immunology, due to two of the paper’s figures not being “faithfully represented.”

Authors of the 2006 paper said they were unable to provide the original unedited scans “due to inadequate archiving dating back almost 10 years.” The authors — with the exception of the first author, Sushil Kumar Pathak, apologized for the error.

The notice, which has been appended to the pdf, reads:

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Violent songs can lead to spicy food, and other lessons we learned from corrected graphic

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A correction to a 2011 paper doesn’t change its main conclusion: Hearing song lyrics about violence — “let the bodies hit the floor,” for example — can prompt aggressive behavior, even more so than violent imagery in music videos.

The correction follows an investigation by Macquarie University that found errors in data analysis to be an “honest mistake.”

During the study — “The effect of auditory versus visual violent media exposure on aggressive behaviour: The role of song lyrics, video clips and musical tone,” published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology — the authors measured the effect of violent songs or imagery using the “hot sauce paradigm.” In this model, researchers estimate people’s level of aggression by how much hot sauce they give another person to eat. The study found that, indeed, people who are exposed to violence — particularly, lyrics —  give more hot sauce to their neighbors. It has been cited 6 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

One aspect of the paper prompted a tweet from a Dutch journalist: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Shannon Palus

October 1st, 2015 at 2:30 pm