Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Psychological society wants end to posting error-finding algorithm results publicly

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dgpA leading psychology research society in Germany has called for the end of PubPeer postings based on a computer program that trawls through psychology papers detecting statistical errors, saying it is needlessly causing reputational damage to researchers.

Last month, we reported on an initiative that aimed to clean up the psychology literature by identifying statistical errors using the algorithm “statcheck.” As a result of the project, PubPeer was set to be flooded with more than 50,000 entries for the study’s sample papers — even when no errors were detected.

On October 20, the German Psychological Society (DGPs) issued a statement criticizing the effort, expressing concern that alleged statistical errors are posted on PubPeer before authors of original studies are contacted. The DGPs also claimed when mistakes that are detected by statcheck and posted on PubPeer turn out to be false positives, it still results in damage to researchers that is “no longer controllable,” as entries on PubPeer cannot be easily removed.

Today, statcheck’s creators, led by Michèle Nuijten — a PhD student at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, who we’ve previously interviewed about statcheck — responded to DGPs’ critcisms, saying that there is value in Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

October 25th, 2016 at 2:02 pm

Posted in psychology

Should journals abolish word limits for papers?

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We’re asking ourselves that question after reading a recent paper which shows that — in the ecology literature, at least — longer papers gather more citations.

In “Citations increase with manuscript length, author number, and references cited in ecology journals,” Charles Fox at the University of Kentucky and his colleagues found exactly what the title specifies — ecology papers published between 2009 and 2012 received more citations if they were longer, included more authors, and/or had a longer list of references.

It wasn’t a big difference, the authors note in Ecology and Evolution: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

October 25th, 2016 at 11:30 am

Posted in ecology

Parkinson’s researcher avoids jail following fraud conviction

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Caroline Barwood

Caroline Barwood

Parkinson’s researcher Caroline Barwood was handed a two-year suspended jail sentence today after being found guilty of fraud yesterday by a jury in Brisbane, Australia.

A jury had found Barwood guilty of five out of the seven charges against her.

Earlier this year, Bruce Murdoch, a former colleague of Barwood’s at the University of Queensland (UQ) in Australia, pleaded guilty to 17-fraud-related charges, and earned himself the same sentenceIn Barwood’s week-long trial, the court heard that she was previously in an intimate relationship with Murdoch. Both left the UQ in 2013.

Barwood’s attorney, Gregory McGuire, told Retraction Watch  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

October 25th, 2016 at 9:30 am

Australian court finds Parkinson’s researcher guilty of fraud

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Caroline Barwood

Caroline Barwood

A court in Brisbane, Australia, has found Parkinson’s researcher Caroline Barwood guilty of two charges of fraud and three counts of attempted fraud.

Barwood, 31, was formerly based at the University of Queensland (UQ). Released on bail in 2014, Barwood had originally pleaded not guilty to the charges. Yesterday, according to 9News, a jury found her guilty on the five counts, but not on two others.

She will be sentenced tomorrow. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

October 24th, 2016 at 2:00 pm

Retracted paper linking HPV vaccine to behavioral issues republished after revisions

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immunological-researchA retracted study linking the vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV) to behavioral problems in mice has been republished by a different journal.

The paper has been significantly revised, an author told us, but it still comes the same conclusions. 

In February, the journal Vaccine temporarily removed the study without explanation, and told the authors the editor had asked for further review. Later that month, Vaccine retracted the paper, citing “serious concerns regarding the scientific soundness of the article,” and “seriously flawed” methodology. 

In July, another journal — Immunologic Research — republished the paper. The new version of the paper has been significantly changed, co-author Christopher Shaw from the University of British Columbia (UBC) told Retraction Watch:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

October 24th, 2016 at 11:30 am

7 signs a scientific paper’s authorship was bought

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Maria Sol Bernardez Sarria

Peggy Mason

Peggy Mason

Did you know there is a black market for scientific papers? Unfortunately, there is a growing trend of authors purchasing a spot on the author list of papers-for-sale – and the better the journal, the higher the price. This worrisome trend has been on the minds of Peggy Mason at the University of Chicago and Maria Sol Bernardez Sarria of Yale University, formerly associated with the Ethics Committee of the Society for Neuroscience, which publishes the Journal of Neuroscience (Mason as Chair from 2013 to 2015, and Bernardez Sarria as assistant). In this capacity, they regularly scanned several websites and journals for ethics-related information, and developed an approach that might give away sold authorship. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

October 24th, 2016 at 9:30 am

Did you miss Weekend Reads? Here it is.

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Apologies, our email software is acting up again. Here’s today’s Weekend Reads.

Written by Ivan Oransky

October 22nd, 2016 at 9:45 am

Posted in weekend reads

Weekend reads: Why so much research is dodgy; why scientists should shun journals; ethical grey zones

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booksThe week at Retraction Watch featured a cancer researcher retracting 19 studies at once from a single journal, and the story of how a 7-year-old came to publish a paper. Here’s what was happening elsewhere: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

October 22nd, 2016 at 9:30 am

Posted in weekend reads

Cancer researcher retracts 19 studies at once

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Jin Cheng

A former cancer biologist at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida has retracted 19 papers from a single journal.

Jin Cheng, who studies how ovarian cancer develops, withdrew 19 papers from the Journal of Biological Chemistry originally published over the last 15 years, and corrected another. All of the retractions are for image manipulation.

For example, here’s the notice for “Activation of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/Akt pathway by androgen through interaction of p85α, androgen receptor, and Src,” a paper originally published in 2003: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

October 21st, 2016 at 11:38 am

Psst…did you hear? The effect of gossip on misconduct

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Brandon Vaidyanathan

If scientists are hesitant to formally report their colleagues when they suspect them of misconduct, can simply gossiping about their concerns in informal settings – at meetings, conferences, etc – clean up the literature? That’s a question Brandon Vaidyanathan and his colleagues tried to answer in “Gossip as Social Control: Informal Sanctions on Ethical Violations in Scientific Workplaces,” published last month in Social Problems. We spoke with Vaidyanathan, now the director of research at The H.E. Butt Family Foundation and Public Policy Fellow at the University of Notre Dame, about how scientists use gossip to warn others of potential misconduct – and whether it works.

Retraction Watch: What prompted you to discuss the role gossip can play in scientific misconduct? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

October 21st, 2016 at 9:30 am