Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Cancer team loses two papers for image manipulation

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bba_2A team spread across multiple institutions in China and McGill University in Canada has retracted two cancer papers over “inaccurate and inappropriately processed Western Blots.”

Some of the figures were also reused between the two articles, both in Biochimica et Biophysica Acta General Subjects.

The articles both tested the cancer-fighting properties of a derivative of the active compound present in Boswellia serrata gum resin.

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Citation manipulation the last straw for modified rice straw paper

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jnm_coverThe Journal of Nanomaterials has retracted a paper on modified rice straw over citation manipulation.

Rice straw, which makes up nearly half of the biomass in rice plants, is generally considered agricultural waste. However, in recent years scientists have discovered ways to modify the raw material to make it capable of absorbing heavy metal ions, making it useful to both prevent and clean up pollution from industrial processes.

The retracted paper, which analyzed the physical properties of different kinds of modified rice straw, was retracted for citation manipulation.

Here’s the short (and to the point) retraction for “Mechanical and Thermal Stability Properties of Modified Rice Straw Fiber Blend with Polycaprolactone Composite”: Read the rest of this entry »

Controversial Italian scientist loses 11 papers from journal he used to edit

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Alberto Carpinteri, via Politecnico di Torino

Alberto Carpinteri, via Politecnico di Torino

Alberto Carpinteri is something of a Renaissance man.

Along with championing a highly controversial form of energy generation called “piezonuclear fission,” which involves crushing rocks, the engineer has argued that the Shroud of Turin really is as old as Jesus, but carbon dating was thrown off by an earthquake.

Not everyone agrees with his ideas: In 2012, more than 1,000 scientists signed a petition asking the Italian National Institute of Metrological Research (or INRIM, of which Carpinteri was director at the time) not to fund piezonuclear fission.

Carpinteri was also editor in chief of the journal Meccanica until 2014, when Luigi Gambarotta took over. Now, Meccanica is retracting 11 of its former EIC’s papers, including the one on the Shroud, and a number on piezonuclear fission, which Wired Italy put on their list of “most famous science hoaxes.” The reason? According to the notice, “the editorial process had been compromised.” Read the rest of this entry »

Teflon toxicity paper fails to stick

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toxicological sciencesAn advanced online paper on prenatal toxicity of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), an industrial chemical used to make waterproof coatings and Teflon, is being retracted due to “some minor errors.”

High blood levels of PFOA have been tied to kidney disease in humans, as well as several cancers in animal models. The majority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s scientific advisory board deemed PFOA “likely to be carcinogenic in humans” in 2006, though a decade later the EPA has yet to make a decision on regulations. The retracted paper found that exposing pregnant mice to PFOA altered hormone pathways in mammary glands.

According to the notice in Toxicological Sciences, there was a duplicated image in one of the figures, as well as “some minor errors.” Here’s figure 5B: Read the rest of this entry »

Nature retracts epigenetics paper by author who lost two Science papers last year

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cover_natureFrank Sauer, formerly of the University of California, Riverside, has had a 2002 letter on epigenetics retracted from Nature due to “inappropriate image manipulation.”

Sauer had two papers retracted from Science last year following a university investigation. Here’s the Nature notice for “Histone methylation by the Drosophila epigenetic transcriptional regulator Ash1:” Read the rest of this entry »

Gynecologic cancer researcher earns eighth retraction

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Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 5.50.31 PMNoriyuki Takai, a gynecologic cancer researcher in Japan, has notched one more retraction — bringing the total to eight — due to figures that were “processed inappropriately” and did “not accurately report the original data.”

According to the notice, Takai alone put the figures together in the 2006 Oncology paper, which tested a histone deacetylase inhibitor on endometrial and ovarian cancer cell lines. The team is part of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Oita University in Japan.

Takai lost four papers in 2013 in Cancer Letters, and three papers in 2012 in Gynecologic Oncology, also due to issues with figures.

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Expression of concern opens floodgates of controversy over lead in water supply

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journal-awwa-cover-feb-2015An expression of concern has been published on a paper that taps into a decades-long fight over how to remove lead from the water supply.

The paper in question, published in the Journal American Water Works Association, supports the safety of a common but frequently criticized way of incrementally removing lead pipes. The expression of concern came after years of back-and-forth  letters to the editor between other scientists and the authors.

Lead water pipes have been causing lead poisoning for generations; some people have even theorized that the ancient Romans’ use of the metal facilitated the empire’s downfall. The dangers of childhood exposure to lead — delayed development, irreversible damage to the brain and nervous system and behavioral problems — have been documented in the U.S. since the 1940s, but the Environmental Protection Agency didn’t start regulating lead levels in drinking water until 1991, when the “lead and copper rule” went into effect. That set the standard for utility companies’ lead testing: if 10 percent or more of samples from homes had lead levels above 15 parts per billion, the companies were required to replace 7% of their lead pipes a year until they met the requirements.

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“Super-surgeon” Macchiarini not guilty of misconduct, per one Karolinska investigation

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Paolo Macchiarini

Paolo Macchiarini

Surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, who is under investigation for allegedly downplaying dangers of an experimental surgery, has been cleared of some misconduct allegations by the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm.

Macchiarini, a thoracic surgeon, has made headlines for repairing damaged airways using tracheas from cadavers and even synthetic tracheas, both treated with the patients’ own stem cells to assist in the transplant.

In a letter to Vice-Chancellor Anders Hamsten dated last month, KI’s Ethics Council refuted a number of accusations leveled against Macchiarini by Pierre Delaere at KU Leuven in Belgium, who had suggested the surgeon had engaged in scientific misconduct, including fabricating data.

The Ethics Council, however, disagreed:

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Written by Alison McCook

April 14th, 2015 at 1:21 pm

Molecular mixup burns chemistry paper

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advanced synthesis and catalysisChemists at Lanzhou University in China did the right thing last month, retracting a paper in Advanced Synthesis & Catalysis because of issues with a reactant that could only be corrected by changing “all the text and quantities.”

When the scientists were adding what was labeled Reactant 1 to the mix, they believed it was α-ethoxycarbonyl-α-azido-N-phenylacetamides. Unfortunately, what they were actually using was a decomposed version of the molecule, which threw everything off.

Here’s the notice for “tert-Butyl Hydroperoxide and Tetrabutylammonium Iodide- Promoted Free Radical Cyclization of α-Azido-N-arylamides”: Read the rest of this entry »

Bigfoot paper corrected because it doesn’t exist — the author’s institution, that is

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Image via Joe Shlabotnik

Image via Joe Shlabotnik

A paper on the genetics of mythical creatures — yeti and bigfoot — is being corrected after the journal discovered the first author, Bryan Sykes, listed a mythical institution.

The Proceedings of the Royal Society B paper, “Genetic analysis of hair samples attributed to yeti, bigfoot and other anomalous primates,” examined 30 samples from “museum and individual collections” that had been labeled as the North American bigfoot, Tibetan yeti, Mongolian almasty, and Sumatran orang pendek. The analysis showed the samples actually came from a variety of species, such as bears, horses, and cows. Perhaps the most striking is the paper’s claim that two samples match with a prehistoric polar bear, “but not to modern examples of the species.”

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Written by Cat Ferguson

April 14th, 2015 at 9:30 am