Two months after Harvard and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital said they were requesting the retraction of more than 30 papers from a former cardiac stem cell lab there, two American Heart Association journals have retracted more than a dozen papers from the lab.
Recently, we wrote in STAT about the “research integrity czars” that some journals are hiring to catch misconduct and errors. But are there other ways that journals could ensure the integrity of the scientific record? Tom Jefferson, a physician, methods researcher, and campaigner for open clinical trial data, has a suggestion, which he explores in this guest post. (Jefferson’s disclosures are here.)
Readers of Retraction Watch know that the quality control mechanisms in the publication of science, chiefly editorial peer review, are not infallible. Peer review in biomedicine in its current form and practice is the direct descendant of the bedside consultation. In a consultation the object or person under observation (patient/the journal submission) is observed and analyzed by the doctor (editor) who decides what the best course of action is. If unsure, the physician/editor may call on the help of outside specialists (the hospital physicians/referees) to help make a final decision on the therapy and fate of the patient/submission.
Robert Sternberg, a psychology professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, whose work has been cited more than 140,000 times, has had a second paper retracted because he duplicated his previous work.
We’ve seen plagiarizers plagiarizing plagiarizers, but here’s what seems to be a first: A journal has retracted an article that duplicated text…from a paper that had been retracted for containing dubious data.
The Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science published the recycled paper, titled “Development and in vitro-in vivo characterization of chronomodulated multi-particulate drug delivery system of terbutaline sulphate for treatment of nocturnal asthma by box–Behnken statistical design.” The authors were from several institutions in India.
In March 2017, a group of researchers in Vancouver, along with a colleague in Philadelphia, published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) concluding that a particular antibiotic might be useful for treating conditions in people with rare mutations.
Then, this past July, while continuing the work, they had an unexpected result. That made them suspect that the antibiotic they thought they had ordered, gentamicin, wasn’t what they thought it was. With the help of a different company that sells the antibiotic, they confirmed they were studying a different compound — and retracted the paper.
In February of this year, the Joy of Cooking launched what you could call an epic Twitter stream. Inspired by Stephanie Lee’s reporting in BuzzFeed on Brian Wansink — the food marketing researcher at Cornell who later resigned following findings of misconduct by the university — the legendary cookbook pointed out all that was wrong with a 2009 study claiming that their recipes added calories over the years. Those tweets led to coverage in The Verge,The New Yorker, and elsewhere.