Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Post-publication peer review in action: Science flags paper just days after publication

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Science has issued an expression of concern for a widely covered materials science paper published on Friday, citing issues with the supplementary data.

The paper — which caught the attention of multiple news outlets — added properties to cotton fibers in vitro, potentially enabling researchers to manufacture fabric that can fluoresce or carry magnetic properties.

The move to issue an expression of concern was unusually quick. According to the journal, an expert who received the paper from a journalist under a media embargo contacted Science to flag issues in some of the supplementary data. At the time of this post, the paper does not yet have an entry on PubPeer.

Here’s the full expression of concern:

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Stem cell scientist appealing dismissal loses another paper

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Susana Gonzalez

A once-prominent stem cell biologist, who recently lost both her job and a sizable grant, has lost her fifth paper.

Recently, Molecular and Cellular Biology retracted a 2003 paper by Susana Gonzalez. Last February, the National Center for Cardiovascular Research (CNIC) in Spain dismissed her from her position over allegations of misconduct. The reason: suspicions of data manipulation.

As with a previous retraction, the journal said Gonzalez “could not be reached for approval of this retraction.”  

Here’s the full notice:

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Weekend reads: Fired for fake peer review; world’s most prolific fraudster; peer reviewers behaving badly?

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The week at Retraction Watch featured a post on just how much an authorship costs if you want to buy one, anger over charges to use a common research tool, and the revocation of a PhD from a once-rising star scientist. Here’s what was happening elsewhere: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

September 16th, 2017 at 9:38 am

Posted in weekend reads

Project to “fact check” genetic studies leads to three more retractions. And it’s just getting started.

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Jennifer Byrne

A project to identify studies doomed by problematic reagents has triggered three more retractions, bringing the total to five.

Jennifer Byrne, a scientist at the University of Sydney, who developed the the idea of double-checking the nucleic acid sequences of research materials — thereby ensuring studies were testing the gene in question — told Retraction Watch that all three retractions came after she started emailing journals in January  to alert them to the problems: Read the rest of this entry »

Chem journal cautions readers about data in three papers

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A chemistry journal has issued expressions of concern for three papers after a reader notified the editors of “unexplained discrepancies” in the data.

According to the notices, after the editors of Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry confirmed the problems, they contacted the corresponding author on the three papers, Pradeep Kumar—who works at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)-National Chemical Laboratory in Pune, India—as well as the director of CSIR, Ashwini Kumar Nangia. The institution conducted its own internal review of the spectra and concluded the authors did not intentionally alter them.

Still, the journal and institution could not confirm the accuracy of the data, and the journal published expressions of concern to warn readers about the issues.

Here’s the expression of concern for “A general and concise asymmetric synthesis of sphingosine, safingol and phytosphingosines via tethered aminohydroxylation:”

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Chemistry journal issues correction longer than original paper

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A 2011 chemistry paper required corrections so extensive that the author published the changes as a second, longer paper.

Both papers, published in the Chinese Journal of Chemistry, described the synthesis of a protein molecule with potential therapeutic applications in cancer. But when the paper’s corresponding author Yikang Wu tried to continue the work, he discovered that a substantial part of the 2011 study was incorrect.

The original paper is not marked with any editor’s note, even though the new paper — which is three pages longer than the 2011 version — acknowledges it is a “partial retraction/correction of previous results.” The new paper does appear in the list of “related content” for the 2011 article.

Given the errors, in the 2017 paper, Wu and his co-authors write: Read the rest of this entry »

Two more retractions for former US prof who altered dozens of images

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Two journals have retracted papers by a biologist who was recently found guilty of misconduct by his former employer, the University of Colorado Denver, bringing the total to five.

The investigation report by UC Denver, which we obtained earlier this year via a public records request, had recommended one of the two newest retractions, which appears in the journal Hepatology. The other retraction, in the Journal of Immunology, was not flagged by the report — which found, among other conclusions, that Almut Grenz had altered multiple values in research that had already been submitted for peer review.

Here’s the notice for the Journal of Immunology paper:

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Authorship for sale: Some journals willing to add authors to papers they didn’t write

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Got $300? Then you can be added as an author to a paper — even if you had no role in the research.

That’s right — some journals are willing to add authors to papers they didn’t write, often for a fee. This realization comes from one of the many sting experiments we’ve witnessed over the years, designed to expose the perils of the publishing industry, in which some journals will claim to peer review and publish any manuscript for a fee — no matter how nonsensical the content. Pravin Bolshete, a medical writer and researcher from India, wanted to explore a different side of predatory publishing — would journals agree to add a fictional author to a manuscript he/she didn’t write?

Presenting his findings at the Eighth Peer Review Congress this week in Chicago, Bolshete reported that, after sending hundreds of emails to publishers considered predatory according to the now-defunct (and controversial) list compiled by librarian Jeffrey Beall, 16% agreed to add an author to a paper.

Bolshete told us:

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Written by Alison McCook

September 13th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Pay to play: Scientists are bristling over the cost of a common research tool

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A commonly used questionnaire designed to predict how well patients will stick to their drug regimen is stirring up some controversy in the publishing world. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

September 13th, 2017 at 8:00 am

Posted in RW announcements

Copenhagen revokes degree of controversial neuroscientist Milena Penkowa

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The University of Copenhagen has stripped Milena Penkowa of her doctoral degree, after determining she had covered up problems with her research.

According to a release issued today by the university, Penkowa falsified documents to allay suspicions that she had not performed some animal experiments as she’d reported.

This development is the latest in a long story: In 2015, the Copenhagen City Court ruled that Penkowa had forged experiments as part of her thesis, and handed her a nine-month suspended sentence. Penkowa appealed that ruling, and last year, another court dismissed the most serious charges.

But there was enough evidence for the University of Copenhagen’s Faculty’s Academic Council to vote unanimously last week to revoke her degree:

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Written by Alison McCook

September 12th, 2017 at 3:03 pm