Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Weekend reads: Weaponized plagiarism; bias against low-income country research; the uncited papers

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The week at Retraction Watch featured commentary on yet another paper claiming a link between autism and vaccines, a welcome useful retraction notice, and a rewrite of a paper that influenced car seat guidelines. Here’s what was happening elsewhere: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

December 16th, 2017 at 10:16 am

Posted in weekend reads

University requests 4th retraction for psychologist under fire

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Jens Förster

The University of Amsterdam has requested another retraction for a prominent social psychologist, after reviewing the dissertations he supervised while at the university.

The university made the announcement this week after reviewing the theses supervised by Jens Förster, whose own work has been subject to considerable scrutiny.

The results of this investigation come more than two years after an initial probe into Förster’s work, which found several of his papers likely contained unreliable data; three of these papers have been retracted and four have received expressions of concern. Förster, who recently left his position at Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany to start a private psychology practice, has always maintained that he did not manipulate his data. In 2015, he turned down a professorship, citing the toll the investigation had taken. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

December 15th, 2017 at 11:14 am

“This is about saving kids’ lives:” Authors update pivotal car seat safety results

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A BMJ journal has published an updated analysis of a 2007 paper that shaped current car seat safety recommendations, which reports less conclusive findings about the safest way to install the seat.

The updated analysis follows an expression of concern the journal Injury Prevention added to the paper in June 2017, after the authors and an outside expert could not replicate the results.

The 2007 paper made a big claim: Children ages one to two years old are five times more likely to sustain serious injuries in a crash when restrained in a forward-facing car seat than a rear-facing seat.

Benjamin Hoffman, a professor of pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland who was not involved in the 2007 research, told us: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

December 15th, 2017 at 8:00 am

Mathematician protests retraction, alleging “manhunt”

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A math journal has retracted a 2015 paper after three outside experts informed the editors that “the paper contains errors which invalidate its main results.”

According to the retraction notice, published in the July 2017 issue of Manuscripta Mathematica, the author Ilya Karzhemanov “has not admitted to the alleged errors and disagrees with the retraction.”

It’s unclear when exactly the paper was retracted, but Karzhemanov, now associate professor at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, posted the now-retracted paper on arXiv in June 2017 and explained his “strong disagreement” with the retraction: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

December 14th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Caught Our Notice: A retraction that is “useful for investigators”

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Via Wikimedia

Title:  Yeast CAF-1 assembles histone (H3-H4) 2 tetramers prior to DNA deposition

What Caught Our Attention: Informative retraction notices can be infrequent, but rarer still are notices that fulfill an oft-ignored function: To be a source of learning for others in the field. Here, the authors offer a nearly 800-word “detailed description of the issues” with “some observations that may be useful for investigators conducting similar studies.” These authors embraced the retraction process, carefully explaining their findings or the lack thereof, for each figure from their now-retracted paper.     Read the rest of this entry »

Doctor with 9 retractions loses lawsuit over work as expert witness

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Cory Toth

A Canadian doctor with nine retractions due to misconduct has lost a court case seeking payment for an expert medical exam he performed in August 2014. The exam took place several months after his university found he had allowed a breach of research integrity in his lab and a month before news of the investigation and his departure from the school made national news in Canada.

On Dec. 5, Cory Toth, a former professor at the University of Calgary (U of C), appeared in an Edmonton, Alberta courtroom as the plaintiff in a lawsuit filed in Provincial Civil Court. The story was first reported by the Edmonton Journal.

Court documents, which we’ve made available here, show that in April 2016 Toth sued Western Medical Assessments (WMA) — the company that hired him to perform the exam, which was used in another case — and Michele Reeves — the lawyer who hired WMA. Toth alleged that he never received payment for his work and sought Can$2,000 (US$1,552) plus interest. In his claim, he said that despite the U of C finding: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew P. Han

December 13th, 2017 at 11:00 am

“Utterly awful:” David Gorski weighs in on yet another paper linking vaccines and autism

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David Gorski, via Wayne State

Retraction Watch readers may be forgiven for thinking that there has been at least a small uptick in the papers that claim to link autism and vaccines, and yet tend to raise more questions than they answer. Sometimes, they are retracted. See here, here and here, for example. We talk to David Gorski, well known for his fights against pseudoscience, about the most recent example.

Retraction Watch (RW): You describe a recent paper reporting high levels of aluminum in the brains of people with autism as “utterly awful.” What are your main criticisms of the paper? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

December 13th, 2017 at 8:00 am

Posted in elsevier

Lesson one: How to design a good experiment

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Len Freedman. Credit: Judy Licht/GBSI

Vivian Siegel. Credit: Maria Nemchuk

It’s clear science has a reproducibility problem. What’s less clear is how to address it. Recently, the U.S. National Institutes of Health awarded the Global Biological Standards Institute (GBSI) $2.34 million to train students in good experimental design (also covered by The Scientist). The first week begins June 2018 at Harvard Medical School. We spoke with Leonard P. Freedman, Founding President and Chief Scientific Officer of GBSI and Vivian Siegel, the education director of the program.

Retraction Watch: Why do students need extra training in experimental design? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

December 12th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Posted in not reproducible

Psychologist under fire leaves university to start private practice

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Jens Förster

Jens Förster, a prominent social psychologist whose work has been subject to much scrutiny, recently left his position at Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany to start a private psychology practice.

We’ve verified with the university that Förster no longer works there, but the circumstances of his exit are not entirely clear. 

Förster’s research has faced considerable scrutiny in the past few years. A 2015 report describing an investigation into Förster’s work concluded that several of his papers likely contained unreliable data. Three of those papers have been retracted and four others have received expressions of concern. Förster, however, has denied allegations that he manipulated his data. In 2015, he turned down a prestigious professorship, citing the personal toll the investigation had taken. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

December 12th, 2017 at 8:00 am

ORI: Ex-grad student “falsified and/or fabricated” data in PNAS submission

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A former graduate student falsified or fabricated data in a manuscript submitted to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, according to the Office of Research Integrity at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In a finding released Dec. 8, ORI said that Matthew Endo, a former graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly” caused false data to be recorded, and “falsified and/or fabricated data and related images” by altering, reusing, or relabeling them.

Endo has agreed to a settlement, effective Nov. 16, which requires him to work under supervision for three years on projects supported by the U.S. Public Health Service, among other conditions.

The manuscript entitled “Amphotericin primarily kills human cells by binding and extracting cholesterol” was submitted to PNAS, but withdrawn prior to peer review.

Specifically, ORI found that Endo used tactics to make results look better than they actually were, such as altering a laboratory test result to make a drug preparation “appear more pure than in the actual results of experimentation,” and lying about the number of times he’d run an experiment.  As an example: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew P. Han

December 11th, 2017 at 2:40 pm

Posted in Uncategorized