Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Weekend reads: They committed misconduct, then earned $100 million in grants; collateral publishing damage

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The week at Retraction Watch featured a frank admission of error by a Nobel Prize winner, and a look at five “diseases” plaguing science. Here’s what was happening elsewhere: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

February 25th, 2017 at 9:30 am

Posted in weekend reads

Editor steps down from journal while it investigates citation irregularities

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Artemi Cerdà

The editor of the journal Land Degradation & Development has stepped down amidst an investigation into citation problems at the journal.

The editor, Artemi Cerdà of the University of Valencia in Spain, has also disappeared from the list of editors at two journals published by the European Geophysical Union, which recently announced that one of its editors had engaged in citation manipulation.

Here’s a statement we just received from a spokesperson for Wiley, which publishes Land Degradation & Development:

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Written by Alison McCook

February 24th, 2017 at 11:35 am

Neuroscientist flags errors in his days-old paper “for the sake of science integrity”

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Only days after his paper was published online, a neuroscientist has posted a comment on PubMed alerting readers to several duplication errors.

Despite the issues, which the researcher says were introduced into the final manuscript after peer review, he reassured readers that they do not influence the final conclusions in the paper.

On February 9, ten days after the article came online, corresponding author Garret Stuber at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill wrote a detailed comment on PubMed Commons, explaining that the “research community” had brought four figure-related errors to his attention. After investigating the concerns, Stuber discovered that the problems emerged after the peer-review process, “while revising the manuscript to comply with Nature Neuroscience’s final formatting guidelines.” In his note, he outlined the specific duplication issues that arose, which he says he plans to detail to the journal in a formal corrigendum letter.

Stuber alerted the scientific community about his PubMed comment via Twitter: Read the rest of this entry »

Does labeling bad behavior “scientific misconduct” help or hurt research integrity? A debate rages

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Is eliminating the concept of “misconduct” a sign of progress in the fight for research integrity, or a step backward?

That’s the debate playing out in Australia, where a proposal from national research bodies would make it the latest country to embrace a broader definition of ethical lapses in research, doing away with the term “misconduct.” Proponents argue the change will encourage more reporting of all types of bad behavior—not just the most extreme forms such as data fabrication, which are typically associated with the term “misconduct.” But critics argue the move could soften enforcement, as every institution applies its own definitions of misbehavior. (To tell us what you think, take our poll at the bottom of the story.)

The proposal comes in the form of a revised edition of Australia’s national research code of conduct.  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mark Zastrow

February 23rd, 2017 at 1:00 pm

“False” results in retracted paper by senator are inaccurate, not fraudulent, say editors

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Daniel Biss

Last week, we wrote about a somewhat remarkable retraction, of a 15-year-old paper by a current Illinois senator who used to be a mathematician. At the time, we were a bit perplexed by the language of the notice, which the senator — who helpfully took our call — couldn’t answer, since he wasn’t involved in drafting the notice.

We’ve since heard back from the journal that retracted the paper, which explained that their phrase that “most results are false” meant the findings by state senator Daniel Biss were inaccurate — not fraudulent.

Here’s more explanation from a joint statement sent to us by Jan van Mill and Jerry Vaughan, the editors in chief of Topology and its Applications:

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Written by Alison McCook

February 23rd, 2017 at 9:30 am

Researcher loses biotech post after reportedly confessing to fraud

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A researcher has lost his position as a Chief Scientific Officer at a DNA sequencing company after he reportedly confessed to fabricating data in a 2015 paper, now retracted by the Journal of Cell Biology.

According to the CEO of Karmagenes, when the company learned about the retraction, the staff “immediately” conferred and decided the researcher — Pranav Ullal — should no longer serve as one of the company’s two CSOs.

Karmagenes CEO Kyriakos Kokkoris told us:

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Written by Alison McCook

February 22nd, 2017 at 12:26 pm

A new reproducibility fix? Get your work checked before it’s published

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Jeffrey Mogil

Malcolm Macleod

Most researchers by now recognize there’s a reproducibility crisis facing science. But what to do about it? Today in Nature, Jeffrey S. Mogil at McGill University and Malcolm R. Macleod at the University of Edinburgh propose a new approach: Restructure the reporting of preclinical research to include an extra “confirmatory study” performed by an independent lab, which verifies the findings before they are published. We spoke with them about how this could work.

Retraction Watch: You’re proposing to restructure animal studies of new therapies or ways to prevent disease. Can you explain what this new type of study should look like, and how researchers will execute it?

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Written by Alison McCook

February 22nd, 2017 at 9:41 am

Former postdoc admitted to fraud in cell bio paper, lead author says

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A researcher in Switzerland has retracted her 2015 paper in the Journal of Cell Biology, saying the first author — her former postdoc — admitted to fabricating multiple aspects of the paper.

After Sophie Martin of the University of Lausanne couldn’t reproduce the data from another manuscript she was preparing to submit, she contacted her former student, Pranav Ullal, who admitted he had fabricated the data, along with two figures in the JCB paper.

A spokesperson for the University of Lausanne told us that Ullal left Switzerland after his contract was over, and is now in India.

Martin told us the whole experience has been upsetting:

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Written by Alison McCook

February 21st, 2017 at 11:30 am

Got “significosis?” Here are the five diseases of academic publishing

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John Antonakis

John Antonakis is psychologist by training, but his research has run the gamut from showing kids accurately predict election outcomes just by looking at candidates’ faces to teaching charisma to people in leadership positions. Now, as the newly appointed editor of The Leadership Quarterly, he’s tackling problems in academic publishing. But his approach is somewhat unique – he sees these problems as diseases (ie, “significosis”) that threaten the well-being of the academic literature. In a new paper, he’s calling on the efforts of researchers, editors, and funders to prevent, diagnose, and treat the five diseases of academic publishing.

Retraction Watch: What prompted you to think about problems in science publishing in terms of diseases? 

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Written by Alison McCook

February 21st, 2017 at 8:00 am

“I placed too much faith in underpowered studies:” Nobel Prize winner admits mistakes

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Daniel Kahneman

Although it’s the right thing to do, it’s never easy to admit error — particularly when you’re an extremely high-profile scientist whose work is being dissected publicly. So while it’s not a retraction, we thought this was worth noting: A Nobel Prize-winning researcher has admitted on a blog that he relied on weak studies in a chapter of his bestselling book.

The blog — by Ulrich Schimmack, Moritz Heene, and Kamini Kesavan — critiqued the citations included in a book by Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist whose research has illuminated our understanding of how humans form judgments and make decisions and earned him half of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics.

According to the Schimmack et al blog, Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

February 20th, 2017 at 12:35 pm