Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

It’s not just whistleblowers who deserve protection during misconduct investigations, say researchers

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Sven Hendrix

Lex Bouter

In 2010, the former PhD supervisor of Sven Hendrix, a neuroanatomist at Hasselt University in Belgium, was accused of misconduct. Although the allegations were eventually dropped, the experience was emotionally and professionally draining – and Hendrix wanted the research community to know about it. In 2015, he shared his story at a conference in Rotterdam; in the audience was Lex Bouter at Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, who works on research integrity (and is co-chair of this year’s World Conference on Research Integrity [WCRI], happening now). Bouter invited Hendrix to write a paper with him. This month, Accountability in Research published “Both Whistle Blowers and the Scientists They Accuse are Vulnerable and Deserve Protection,” an abstract of which is being presented today at the WCRI. We spoke with Hendrix and Bouter about their paper.

Retraction Watch: The title of your paper kind of says it all. Can you say more about what prompted you to write it?

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Written by Alison McCook

May 29th, 2017 at 8:00 am

Weekend reads: The editor who’s a dog; the fake author; a monument to peer review

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The week at Retraction Watch featured the retraction of a much-discussed paper on using blockchain to prevent scientific misconduct, and a researcher who lost nine studies at once from a single journal. Here’s what was happening elsewhere: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

May 27th, 2017 at 9:30 am

Posted in weekend reads

“There is an injustice in this article”

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The editors of a plant biology journal have retracted a 2007 paper because of “an injustice.”

According to the notice, the editors of Cytologia found evidence of “apparent figure manipulation,” and decided to retract the paper.

This marks the 10th retraction for plant biologist Dibyendu Talukdar.

Talukdar, who is first and corresponding author on the 2007 paper and listed at the University of Calcutta in West Bengal, India, received his first retraction last July, which also cited suspected figure manipulation. Earlier this year, Talukdar received eight more retractions in seven different journals, all describing concerns over potential image duplication and manipulation.

Here’s the most recent retraction notice in Cytologia: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

May 26th, 2017 at 1:30 pm

Paper with duplicated image “sequentially builds” on neuroscience work, authors argue

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A neurochemistry journal has retracted a paper from a group in China over a duplicated image.

According to the notice, the authors used the same image in the two papers to represent different experimental conditions. The only distinguishing feature between the images: “apparent brightness changes.”

The authors defended their actions, explaining that the research published in Journal of Neurochemistry “sequentially builds” on their previous study in Journal of Neuroinflammation, which they mention in the 2015 paper’s discussion. In the notice, the authors were quoted saying:  Read the rest of this entry »

Would-be Johns Hopkins whistleblower loses appeal in case involving Nature retraction

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A former researcher at Johns Hopkins who voiced concerns about a now-retracted paper in Nature has lost another bid for whistleblower protection.

Daniel Yuan, a longtime statistician for former Hopkins yeast geneticist Jef Boeke, was dismissed in 2011, after he’d spent years raising concerns about research coming out of the lab. Yuan’s criticisms, which continued after he stopped working for Boeke, peaked in 2012 after Boeke and former labmate Yu-li Lin published paper in Nature. Later that year, Lin was found dead in his lab, a suspected suicide. In 2013, the paper was retracted, citing an inability to reproduce the main conclusions. 

Since 2013, Yuan has pursued a wrongful termination lawsuit, claiming that federal regulations surrounding scientific misconduct afforded him protection from retaliation.

In late March, Maryland’s highest court ruled against Yuan, saying that those misconduct regulations are “too vague” to offer cover to employees claiming whistleblower protection. According to lawyers we consulted, the decision could make it harder for would-be whistleblowers to fight retaliation, while also giving institutions more leeway to handle these issues on their own.

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Written by Andrew P. Han

May 25th, 2017 at 11:50 am

Journal retracts nine papers in one day by author under investigation at the Weizmann Institute

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On April 27, the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC) retracted nine papers by a researcher based in Israel, including some dating back to 2000.

The reason: Image manipulation.

Michal Neeman, vice president of The Weizmann Institute of Science, told us that the researcher, Rony Seger, is under investigation following an allegation of misconduct affecting papers in multiple journals.

So far, we’ve found 11 retractions for papers by Seger, a molecular biologist. In the notices, the authors state they have “full confidence” in the findings, and in many instances have replicated the work.

According to Neeman:

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Publisher blames bad choice of reviewer for publication of hoax paper on penis as “social construct” 

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Less than a week after publishing a much-discussed hoax paper, a scholarly publisher has acknowledged that it had chosen reviewers for the paper whose “expertise did not fully align with this subject matter.”

The subject matter: that the penis should not be considered an anatomical organ, but more as a concept – “a gender-performative, highly fluid social construct.” Upon publication, the authors immediately admitted the paper was a prank, arguing that its publication illustrates a lack of intellectual and scientific rigor in some social sciences, especially gender studies. But others have questioned whether it really demonstrates that at all.

In response to the revelation of the hoax, Taylor & Francis associate editorial director Emma Greenword published a statement about the process that led to this entanglement: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Emily Willingham

May 24th, 2017 at 3:20 pm

Authors retract much-debated blockchain paper from F1000

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The authors of a popular — and heavily debated — F1000Research paper proposing a method to prevent scientific misconduct have decided to retract it.

The paper was initially criticized for allegedly plagiarizing from a graduate student’s blog — and revised to try to “rectify the overlap.” But according to F1000, it is now being retracted after an additional expert identified problems with the methodology.

Today, F1000 added this editorial note to the paper:

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Written by Alison McCook

May 24th, 2017 at 12:35 pm

Author retracts nanotechnology paper over doubts about key results

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The corresponding author of a 2015 nanotechnology paper has penned a lengthy — and revealing — retraction notice, explaining why he is not certain about the findings.

In the notice, Chang Ming Li from the Institute for Clean Energy & Advanced Materials (ICEAM) at Southwest University in China, states that there is “insufficient evidence to conclusively” identify the composition of the nanowire array described in the article, which “severely undermines the validity of the reported conclusions.”

The 2015 paper has been considered “highly cited” by Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters, meaning it has received a disproportionate amount of cites given its field and publication year.

Li also said that the paper — which appeared in Physical Chemistry, Chemical Physics — was “submitted and published without my knowledge or permission.” He has not responded to our request to explain how that could have happened, given that he was the corresponding author. Read the rest of this entry »

Reuters removes story on gender confirmation surgery because firm mistakenly released data

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Reuters has removed a story about gender confirmation surgery, saying it included problematic data.

The public relations firm representing the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) — which generated the data in the report  — took responsibility, saying it supplied Reuters with data the ASPS did not want released.

Yesterday, Reuters pulled its version of a widely-reported story about an increase in such surgeries in the U.S. (Later, it pulled the withdrawal notice as well, only to make it reappear at a different URL.)

The story, originally posted just after midnight yesterday, reported a 19 percent increase in those procedures from 2015 to 2016, based on data provided the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). Around 1 pm US Eastern time that day, Reuters put up a withdrawal notice in place of the original story:

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Written by Andrew P. Han

May 23rd, 2017 at 3:00 pm