Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Weekend reads: A flawed paper makes it into Nature; is science in big trouble?; a reproducibility crisis history

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The week at Retraction Watch featured a refreshingly honest retraction, and a big win for PubPeer. Here’s what was happening elsewhere: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

December 10th, 2016 at 9:30 am

Posted in weekend reads

Journal reverses acceptance of study linking vaccines to autism

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A journal posted an abstract online suggesting a link between vaccines and autism. After a firestorm of criticism, it removed the abstract, saying it was going to be re-reviewed. Now, the journal has decided to formally reject it.

As we reported last month, Frontiers in Public Health removed the abstract after it sparked criticism on social media. After doing so, the journal released a public statement claiming that the paper was “provisionally accepted but not published,” noting that the journal had reverted it to peer review to ensure it was re-reviewed.

Now, Gearóid Ó Faoleán, ethics and integrity manager at Frontiers (the journal’s publisher), told Retraction Watch that after consultation with an external expert, the journal has rejected the paper, adding: Read the rest of this entry »

Diabetes researcher loses prestigious professorship

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The German Research Foundation (DFG) has announced today that it is withdrawing a professorship it awarded leading diabetes researcher Kathrin Maedler in 2014.

In recent years, Maedler — based at the University of Bremen in Germany — has faced questions about her work, including allegations of duplication and image manipulation. So far, she has issued one retraction, two expressions of concern, and multiple corrections. After an investigation, the University of Bremen concluded last month that Maedler’s work contained several duplications that were the result of negligence, noting there is not enough evidence to support charges of scientific misconduct.

But this hasn’t stopped the DFG from revoking the prestigious Heisenberg professorship it awarded Maedler in 2014. A Google-translated version of statement released by the DFG (in German) today concludes that Maedler did, in fact, commit misconduct, as she

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Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

December 9th, 2016 at 11:30 am

Dispute over shooter video games may kill recent paper

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Can playing first-person shooter video games train players to become better marksmen?

A 2012 paper — titled “Boom, Headshot!” — presented evidence to suggest that was, in fact, true. But after enduring heavy fire from critics (one of whom has long argued video games have little lasting impact on users), the authors are planning to retract the paper, citing some irregularities with the data. Although the journal has apparently agreed to publish a revised version of the paper, last year the researchers’ institution decided to launch a misconduct investigation against one of the two co-authors.

Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at the Ohio State University, headed the research along with then-postdoc Jodi Whitaker, now an assistant professor at the University of Arizona.

According to a recent email from the editor of Communication Research to two critics of the paper, the retraction notice will look something like this:  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by trevorlstokes

December 9th, 2016 at 9:30 am

A paper was published in 2015; the authors already lost the data

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American Journal of Physiology Renal PhsyiologyThe authors of a 2015 study have retracted it after discovering that several Western blots in their paper “do not represent the experiments that were reported.”

They couldn’t check some of the original blots, because — according to the retraction notice in the American Journal of Physiology – Renal Physiology — they could not be located. The ones that could be found, however, are “inconsistent with what is presented in the figures.”

Here’s the retraction notice, published last month: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

December 8th, 2016 at 11:30 am

“A sinking feeling in my gut:” Diary of a retraction

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Daniel Bolnick is photographed at HHMI’s Janelia Farms campus on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013 in Ashburn, Va. (Kevin Wolf/AP Images for HHMI)

When an ecologist realized he’d made a fatal error in a 2009 paper, he did the right thing: He immediately contacted the journal (Evolutionary Ecology Research) to ask for a retraction. But he didn’t stop there: He wrote a detailed blog post outlining how he learned — in October 2016, after a colleague couldn’t recreate his data — he had misused a statistical tool (using R programing), which ended up negating his findings entirely. We spoke to Daniel Bolnick at the University of Texas at Austin (and an early career scientist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute) about what went wrong with his paper “Diet similarity declines with morphological distance between conspecific individuals,” and why he chose to be so forthright about it.

Retraction Watch: You raise a good point in your explanation of what went wrong with the statistical analysis: Eyeballing the data, they didn’t look significant. But when you plugged in the numbers (it turns out, incorrectly), they were significant – albeit weakly. So you reported the result. Did this teach you the importance of trusting your gut, and the so-called “eye-test” when looking at data? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

December 8th, 2016 at 9:30 am

PubPeer wins appeal of court ruling to unmask commenters

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Fazlul Sarkar

PubPeer is having a good day.

In a new ruling, a trio of judges on the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed a 2015 decision mandating the site reveal the identity of anonymous commenters after a scientist sued them, claiming they cost him a job offer.

The judges stated that Fazlul Sarkar, the scientist suing the commenters, can continue pursuing a defamation case, but: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

December 7th, 2016 at 1:17 pm

Remaining fraud charges withdrawn for Parkinson’s researcher

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Caroline Barwood

Caroline Barwood

Two remaining charges against a Parkinson’s researcher recently convicted of fraud have been dropped by an Australian court.

In October, Caroline Barwood, formerly at the University of Queensland (UQ) in Brisbane, was found guilty of five out of seven charges. Subsequently, Barwood was handed two suspended sentences: one for two years, and another for 15 months, both to be served concurrently. She will not serve jail time.

Initially, Barwood pleaded not guilty to the three charges of fraud and four instances of attempted fraud — unlike her former UQ colleague Bruce Murdoch, who pleaded guilty to 17 fraud-related charges in March, and also earned himself a two-year suspended sentence

Barwood was found guilty of five charges against her, but the jury could not reach a majority verdict on one count of fraud and another of attempted fraud. She was asked to re-attend court for a “mention.” 

On December 6, those charges were withdrawn. Barwood told us: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

December 7th, 2016 at 11:30 am

Researchers retract paper after they run out of breast milk

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If you think something is amiss with your data, running an experiment again to figure out what’s going on is a good move. But it’s not always possible.

A team of researchers in Seoul recently found themselves in a bind when they needed to check their work, but were out of a key substance: breast milk.

The shortage led them to the retract their 2016 paper on a micronutrient found in breast milk that helps protect infants’ retinas. “Association between lutein intake and lutein concentrations in human milk samples from lactating mothers in South Korea,” was published online last spring in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 

Here’s the retraction notice: 

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Physics journal removes study for breach of confidentiality

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applied-physics-lettersA physics journal has retracted a 2016 study after learning that the author published it without the knowledge or permission of the funder, which had a confidentiality agreement in place for the work.

According to the retraction notice in Applied Physics Letters, the paper also lifted content from other researchers without due credit. Given the “legal issue” associated with the breach of confidentiality, the journal has decided to remove the paper entirely. 

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