Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

“We made big mistakes:” Gastric paper pulled with unusual notice

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Sometimes we come across a real head-scratcher.

That happened this week, when we saw a retraction notice for a 2015 paper on gastric cancer in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, which only says the authors “made big mistakes” and contains two fairly significant typos.

Although there’s no sign of a retraction on PubMed, the table of contents for the latest issue of the journal lists the retraction — but includes no hyperlink to the notice. The only way to see it is via a Web cached version. Here’s the text:

Read the rest of this entry »

“Boom, headshot!” Disputed video game paper retracted

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After a years-long dispute over a 2012 paper which suggested there might be some effects of first-person shooter video games on players, the journal has retracted the paper.

The stated reason in the notice: Some outside researchers spotted irregularities in the data, and contacted the corresponding author’s institution, Ohio State University, in 2015. Since the original data were missing, Communication Research is retracting the paper, with the corresponding author’s okay.

But as our story last month about this years-long dispute reported, there is a bit more to it.  Read the rest of this entry »

Undisclosed conflicts of interest usually lead to corrections – but for some journals, that’s not enough

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When authors are faced with filling out a journal’s conflict of interest form, deciding what qualifies as a relevant conflict can be tricky. When such omissions come to light, only rarely do they result in retractions – and certainly not author bans. But there are exceptions.

In October, the journal Chest retracted a 2015 review article exploring how mechanical ventilation can be used most effectively to manage acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) after finding that the authors failed “to disclose all relevant conflicts of interest.” What’s more, the journal initially planned to ban the two authors with undisclosed conflicts from submitting papers to the journal for three years, but ultimately decided against it.

The Committee on Publication Ethics says that retractions may be warranted in cases of undisclosed conflicts of interest, but in our experience, most notices that cite that reason mention other problems with the paper, as well. Not this case – here, the only thing that seemed wrong with the paper was the authors’ failure to mention their ties to a ventilator company. The authors requested a correction – the usual fix, one accepted by the other journals they contacted – but to Chest, that wasn’t enough.

Here’s the retraction notice for “Mechanical Ventilation as a Therapeutic Tool to Reduce ARDS Incidence”: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

January 19th, 2017 at 11:45 am

What turned a cancer researcher into a literature watchdog?

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Jennifer Byrne

Sometime in the middle of 2015, Jennifer Byrne, professor of molecular oncology at the University of Sydney, began her journey from cancer researcher to a scientific literature sleuth, seeking out potentially problematic papers.

The first step was when she noticed several papers that contained a mistake in a DNA construct which, she believed, meant the papers were not testing the gene in question, associated with multiple cancer types.  She started a writing campaign to the journal editors and researchers, with mixed success. But less than two years later, two of the five papers she flagged have already been retracted.

When asked why she spent time away from bench research to examine this issue, Byrne told us:  Read the rest of this entry »

A Harvard whistleblower was subjected to a forced mental exam. Here’s why.

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Last March, a PhD student at Harvard filed a misconduct allegation against his mentor, a prominent stem cell researcher. Three months later, he was taken from his home by police in the middle of the night for a forced psychiatric evaluation.

How did this happen? Read the rest of this entry »

At last, cancer reproducibility project releases some results — and they’re mixed

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Nearly five years ago, researchers suggested that the vast majority of preclinical cancer research wouldn’t hold up to follow-up experiments, delaying much needed treatments for patients. In a series of articles publishing tomorrow morning, eLife has released the results of the first five attempts to replicate experiments in cancer biology — and the results are decidedly mixed.

As our co-founders Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky write in STAT, the overall take-home message was that two studies generated findings similar to the original, one did not replicate the original, and two others were inconclusive.

They quote Brian Nosek, a psychologist at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, who runs the Center for Open Science, who has been leading the replication effort in his own field:

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Written by Alison McCook

January 18th, 2017 at 1:53 pm

How to spot a “citation cartel”

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Iztok Fister Jr

Do you know the difference between a group of researchers in the same field who cite each other’s related work, and a group of authors who purposefully cite each other in order to boost their own profiles? It’s not easy to do, say researchers in a new article about so-called “Citation cartels.” In Frontiers in Physics, Matjaz Perc and two Iztok Fisters (Senior and Junior) from the University of Maribor in Slovenia present an algorithm to help identify groups of researchers citing each other for overly collegial reasons. (For more on the phenomenon, see a recent column in STAT by our co-founders.) We spoke with first author Iztok Fister Jr.

Retraction Watch: What exactly are “citation cartels”? How do they differ from groups of researchers in the same field who tend to cite each other because their research is related in some way, without any nefarious intent? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

January 18th, 2017 at 9:30 am

Why did Beall’s List of potential predatory publishers go dark?

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Jeffrey Beall

Jeffrey Beall, the University of Colorado Denver librarian who has since 2008 chronicled “potential, possible, or probable” predatory publishers, has — at least for now — pulled the plug on his influential, and at times controversial, site.

The decision to take down the site — and Beall’s faculty page at the Auraria Library, where he remains a tenured associate professor — was his own, the University of Colorado Denver tells Retraction Watch.

The site, scholarlyoa.com, which just earlier this month included a list of more than 1,000 such publishers, now contains no information. The sudden change was noted Sunday on Twitter, where questions about the move — catalogued, along with some answers, by Emil Karlsson — swirled for two days. Beall’s faculty page was also taken down. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

January 17th, 2017 at 4:24 pm

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Breast cancer studies by fired Pfizer employee retracted

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Last year, Pfizer fired one of its scientists following an investigation that ended with requests for retraction of five of her studies. Now, two of the five papers, which were first flagged on PubPeer, have been retracted.

One notice cites the Pfizer investigation, which found that cancer researcher Min-Jean Yin had included duplicated images in all five papers. Yin is the last author on both retracted papers.

Here’s the first notice from Clinical Cancer Research, which says most or all of the questioned images appear to be duplicates, and Pfizer — who sponsored the study and requested the retraction — can’t find the originals:
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“Crucial experiments” missing from retracted plant study

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A 2016 study was retracted from a Frontiers journal after editors realized the authors had omitted experiments that didn’t support the hypothesis. 

Gearóid Ó Faoleán, ethics and integrity manager at Frontiers, which publishes Frontiers in Plant Science, told us:

In accordance with our complaints protocol, the Field Chief Editor led the investigation that resulted in the decision to retract the paper.

Here’s the retraction notice: Read the rest of this entry »