Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Investigation finds data issues polluted air quality paper

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1-s2.0-S0013935113X0009X-cov150hAn investigation at the Queensland University of Technology in Australia has found that a paper on air pollution and human health contains a host of issues with the data and its analysis. The paper has been retracted with a very detailed note from Environmental Research.

The issues with the paper include an “incorrect analysis of the data,” and its failure to properly cite multiple papers and one researcher’s contributions. Ultimately, according to the retraction note, the investigation found that the “conclusions of the paper are flawed.”

“Submicrometer particles and their effects on the association between air temperature and mortality in Brisbane, Australia” has been cited three times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

The retraction note is very, very detailed. It outlines the problems with the paper:

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Honest errors take down math paper

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1-s2.0-S0022247X15X00217-cov150hAn incorrect proof has felled a math paper. There’s not too much to say in a straightforward situation like this one, which we’ve seen before — the result of honest errors, not any malfeasance.

Here’s the abstract for “Spectral mapping theorem for generalized Kato spectrum:”

In this paper, we give an affirmative answer to Mbekhta’s conjecture (Mbekhta, 1990) about the pseudo Fredholm operators in Hilbert space. As a consequence, we characterize pseudo Fredholm operators and we prove that the generalized Kato spectrum satisfies the spectral mapping theorem in the Hilbert spaces setting.

The paper — published in the Journal of Mathematical Analysis and Applications — has been cited twice, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

Here’s the retraction note:

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Written by Shannon Palus

November 26th, 2015 at 9:30 am

Prominent nutrition researcher Marion Nestle retracting recent article

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jphp_journal_coverProminent nutrition expert Marion Nestle is pulling an opinion piece she recently co-authored in the Journal of Public Health Policy following revelations that the piece contained multiple factual errors and failed to reveal her co-author’s ties to one of the subjects of the article.

The article, “The food industry and conflicts of interest in nutrition research: A Latin American perspective,” was published October 29 and raised concerns about the conflicts of interest that can occur when a food company pairs with a public health organization. Specifically, the article critiqued the supposed relationship between the biggest beverage distributor in Guatemala and the leading Guatemala-based public health organization, aligned to distribute a fortified supplement for undernourished children.

However, after the paper appeared, Nestle learned they had misrepresented the relationship between the key parties, and failed to disclose that her co-author, Joaquin Barnoya, received “a substantial portion of his salary” from INCAP. Retracting the opinion was the best solution, Nestle wrote on her blog today: Read the rest of this entry »

Black hole paper by teenaged prodigy retracted for duplication

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Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 8.39.44 AMAn astrophysics journal is retracting a paper on black holes whose first author is a teenager about to earn his PhD, after learning the paper “draws extensively” from a book chapter by the last author.

Many papers are pulled for duplication, but few get a news release from the publisher about it. In a move that we approve of, the editors of The Astrophysical Journal announced the forthcoming retraction on the American Astronomical Society (AAS) website.

The paper‘s first author Song Yoo-Geun who turns 18 this month, and is on track to earn his doctorate next year from the University of Science and Technology in South Korea. According to the news release, the paper borrows heavily from a book chapter published in 2002 by his adviser and co-author, Seok Jae Park at the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute.

AAS is handling this very quickly. The paper was published in October, someone alerted the journal to the duplication on November 14, and the announcement of the retraction went up on the AAS website just ten days later.

The retraction note for “Axisymmetric nonstationary black hole magnetospheres: revisited” will be published in the next issue of ApJ. In the meantime, the news release explains what happened:

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Now this is good news: In policy change, JBC will now make retraction notices informative

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47.coverReaders of this blog know that we have had a few stock villains over the years. High on the list has been the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC), and we’ve criticized repeatedly the journal’s unwillingness to provide any information about the reasons for retractions. For as long as we’ve been around, the JBC’s stock retraction statement seemed to be:

This article has been withdrawn by the authors.

Times have changed. According to an editorial published earlier this month, the JBC says it will now be giving readers as much information as possible about the retraction notices it prints. The editorial, written by interim editor-in-chief F. Peter Guengerich of Vanderbilt University, alludes to the heat the journal has been taking about its opacity: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by amarcus41

November 25th, 2015 at 9:30 am

Author withdraws entire issue after overseeing his own peer review

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home_cover-31The editor and author of most of the papers in a special issue of a math journal told us he is withdrawing the entire issue following revelations that he had coordinated the peer-review process.

The articles, published online earlier this year, recently received an expression of concern after the journal realized the guest editor David Gao, at the Federation University Australia, had coordinated the peer-review process. This was a major no-no, since Gao was also an author of 11 of the 13 papers. Mathematics and Mechanics of Solids slated the articles to be peer reviewed again, by reviewers not chosen by Gao.

Gao told us what happened next, from his perspective — he changed his mind about publishing the papers in MMS:

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New Retraction Watch partnership will create retraction database

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cos_logoAs our readers know, one of the goals of our work at Retraction Watch is to create a free, comprehensive database of retractions. That effort is generously funded by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and The Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

Today, we’re excited to announce that our parent organization, The Center For Scientific Integrity (CSI), has partnered with The Center For Open Science (COS) to create that database on the Open Science Framework (OSF).

It’s a natural collaboration, says Retraction Watch co-founder and CSI executive director Ivan Oransky:

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Written by Alison McCook

November 24th, 2015 at 11:30 am

Posted in RW announcements

Improving reproducibility: What can funders do? Guest post by Dorothy Bishop

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We’re pleased to present a guest post from Dorothy Bishop, a researcher who focuses on neurodevelopmental disorders at Oxford University, and is also heavily involved in efforts to improve reproducibility in science, including chairing the steering committee of a recent symposium on the topic organised by the Academy of Medical Sciences. Here, she talks about one of the themes that emerged from that symposium – the crucial role of funders in boosting reproducibility.

Dorothy Bishop. Credit: Robert Taylor

Dorothy Bishop. Credit: Robert Taylor

Look at the selection criteria for any major funding agency, and you will find it aims to support research that is “ground-breaking,” “innovative,” “high-risk,” and “at the frontiers of knowledge.”

But are these criteria delivering the best science? Think about the “reproducibility crisis,” familiar to many Retraction Watch readers: Evidence is growing that a high proportion of published research findings are not robust. This is bad news for funders; irreproducible research is a waste of money, and actually impedes scientific progress by filling the literature with irreproducible false-positive findings that, once published, never die.

A major source of irreproducibility comes from research that is funded but never reported. As I have noted previously, many researchers have a backlog of unpublished findings. All too often, they sit on a mountain of data that is unpublished simply because it is not the most exciting thing on their desk, and they need to be working on a new project in order to remain competitive. Negative results – e.g. where a promising treatment shows no effect, or an anticipated association between a genotype and phenotype fails to emerge — are likely to end up in the file drawer. By lingering in obscurity, they contribute to publication bias and the consequent distortion of the truth.

In October, the Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS) published a report considering reasons for irreproducibility in biomedical research and ways to overcome them. It was clear that the problem was not down to any one cause, and that a range of solutions needed to be considered — some bottom-up (such as better training of researchers), and some top-down, driven by institutions, publishers and, the focus of this post, funders.

To my mind, the most important thing that funders could do is to treat reproducibility as a key criterion for funding research. Here are some specifics: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

November 24th, 2015 at 9:30 am

Posted in not reproducible

JAMA retracts second paper by heart researcher

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Screen-Shot-2015-10-27-at-10.53.53-AMA heart researcher who fabricated trial participants has notched a second JAMA retraction. The retraction comes at the request of her co-authors, after an investigation by her former employer wasn’t able to confirm that this study was valid.

In September, we learned that Anna Ahimastos, who used to work at Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia, had “fabricated [records] for trial participants that did not exist” in a JAMA trial for a blood pressure drug, according to principal investigator Bronwyn Kingwell.  That trial was retracted, along with a sub analysis.

An investigation by the institute found problems or sufficient doubt in several more publications. This second JAMA retraction is number 5 for Ahimastos, of 8 total expected.

The paper, “Effect of perindopril on large artery stiffness and aortic root diameter in patients with Marfan syndrome: a randomized controlled trial” Read the rest of this entry »

Scott Reuben notches 25th retraction, for a letter to the editor

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Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 11.08.26 AMAnother domino has fallen for the infamous and prolific former anesthesiologist Scott Reuben. This time it’s a retraction for a letter to the editor that cites one of his since-retracted papers.

The letter, published in 2001, argues that local anesthesia is a “safe, reliable, inexpensive, and practical alternative to the use of epidural, spinal, or general anesthesia” for outpatient knee surgery. But to support his point, he uses one of his papers that has since been retracted for data fabrication.

The note from Anesthesia & Analgesia explains:
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