Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Stolen data prompts Science to flag debated study of fish and plastics

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scienceIn August, Science told us it was considering adding an Expression of Concern to a high-profile paper about how human pollution is harming fish — and yesterday, the journal did it.

The move comes after a group of researchers alleged the paper contains missing data, and the authors followed a problematic methodology. In September, however, the co-authors’ institution, Uppsala University in Sweden, concluded there wasn’t enough evidence to launch a misconduct investigation.

The notice from Science stems from the theft of a computer carrying some of the paper’s raw data, making it impossible to reproduce some of its findings: Read the rest of this entry »

BMJ won’t retract controversial dietary guidelines article; issues lengthy correction

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bmjThe BMJ has released a detailed correction to a much-debated article critiquing the expert report underlying the U.S. dietary guidelines.

After the article was published in 2015, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) organized a letter signed by more than 100 researchers, urging the publication to retract the article. Today, the journal said it found “no grounds” to do so.

However, in a press release accompanying the announcement of the correction, the BMJ notes that some aspects of the CSPI’s criticisms were merited.

Editor in chief Fiona Godlee said in a statement:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

December 2nd, 2016 at 12:08 pm

PubPeer dealt blow in lawsuit against anonymous commenters

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Fazlul Sarkar

Fazlul Sarkar

PubPeer has suffered a setback in an ongoing lawsuit filed by a scientist who alleges the site’s anonymous commenters cost him a job.

This week, judges in the Court of Appeals in Michigan denied the request of the American Civil Liberties Union — which is representing PubPeer — to include an investigative report as part of evidence in the case. The report, by Wayne State University, found the plaintiff — Fazlul Sarkar — had committed widespread misconduct, and should retract scores of papers.

Alexander Abdo of the ACLU told us: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

December 2nd, 2016 at 8:30 am

University of Tokyo opens investigation into retracted stem cell paper

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KCCY_15_22_COVER.inddThe University of Tokyo is investigating a 2011 stem cell paper in Cell Cycle, recently retracted over irregularities in four figures.

The university has confirmed there is an investigation, but would not specify which paper it concerned; the corresponding author on the paper, however, confirmed to us that it is the focus of the investigation.

In the retraction notice, published Nov. 1, the journal wrote: Read the rest of this entry »

Former Stanford researcher up to 5 retractions for unreliable data

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journal-of-memory-and-languageA psychology researcher formerly based at Stanford University has logged her fifth retraction due to unreliable results.

According to the notice in the Journal of Memory and Language, Sandra Lozano takes full responsibility for the retraction.

Apparently, the retraction has been in the works for eight years — and in that time, journals have retracted four other papers co-authored by Lozano.

A Stanford spokesperson told us: Read the rest of this entry »

More co-author misconduct raises NIH neuroscientist’s retraction count to 8

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Stanley Rapoport. Source: NIH

Stanley Rapoport. Source: NIH

Not again.

That’s the sound of learning that a third scientist you worked with committed misconduct.

In the last two years, we reported on two retractions for neuroscientist Stanley Rapoport, the result of misconduct by two different first authors. We’ve since discovered more retractions resulting from those cases — and a new retraction stemming from the actions of yet another co-author.  

Although the latest retraction notice doesn’t reveal the reason for retraction, both the journal editor and Rapoport — based at the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) — confirmed to us that it is the result of misconduct by the last author, Jagadeesh Rao. According to Rapoport, a “number of retractions [for] Rao are still in the works.”

We asked Rapoport for his reaction to multiple cases of misconduct by his colleagues, including the two first authors we’ve already reported on, Fei Gao and Mireille Basselin:

Read the rest of this entry »

18 tips for giving a horrible presentation

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David Sholl

David Sholl

Too many of us have sat through too many bad presentations. And no one wants to give one, either.

Someone who’s seen his fair share of bad talks is David Sholl, of the Georgia Institute of Technology. In this helpful video, “The Secrets of Memorably Bad Presentations,” he presents some tongue-in-cheek advice on how to torture your audience.

(If it’s not immediately obvious — Sholl wants you to do the exact opposite of what he’s suggesting, below.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

November 30th, 2016 at 11:30 am

Surprise! Paper retracted after author tells journal it’s a “pile of dung”

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journal-of-clinical-research-bioethics-logoThis summer, Ottawa Citizen reporter Tom Spears was sitting by a lake on vacation when he opened a spam email from a publisher. Amused to see the sender was a journal focused on bioethics, he got an idea.

I thought, what if I just throw something outrageous at them?

The situation should sound familiar to readers who follow such “sting” operations: Spears submitted a fake paper to the so-called “predatory” journal, it was accepted one month later with no changes, and published.

But after Spears submitted a comment on the paper saying it was “a steaming pile of dung from start to meaningless finish” (which the journal never posted), wrote an article about it (picked up by other outlets, including The Huffington Post Canada) — surprise, surprise! — the paper was retracted.

Most authors don’t celebrate retractions. But Spears told us he felt “sheer triumph:”  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

November 30th, 2016 at 9:30 am

How a researcher’s request to correct one paper turned into 19 retractions

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jcheng

Jin Cheng

Last year, a cancer researcher wrote to the Journal of Biological Chemistry, asking to correct one of his papers. The journal responded by requesting the raw data used to prepare his figures. Then, in a follow-up request, it asked for raw data behind the figures in 20 additional published articles.

And when all was said and done six months later, Jin Cheng ended up with far more than just a single correction: Last month, the journal issued withdrawals for 19 of his papers — including the paper he originally asked to correct — along with one correction.

We’ve pieced together some clues about what happened after reviewing correspondence between representatives of JBC and Moffitt Cancer Center, where Cheng conducted his research. A spokesperson for Moffitt confirmed that the retractions did not initiate from an institutional investigation — but that the institution is now conducting one.

That’s not the way retractions typically happen: Often, journals don’t have the resources to conduct investigations themselves, so institutions mostly take the lead in double-checking papers and, if necessary, contacting the journal to initiate a retraction. Here, it seems the opposite took place.

The Moffitt spokesperson also told us that Read the rest of this entry »

Controversial gene-editing study flagged by Nature journal

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nature-biotechnologyNature Biotechnology has issued an editorial expression of concern (EOC) for a widely criticized study describing a potentially invaluable new lab tool.

The EOC mentions the lack of reproducibility of the gene-editing technique, known as NgAgo. Alongside it, the journal has published a correspondence which includes data from three separate research groups that cast doubt on the original findings.

According to a spokesperson for the journal, some of the paper’s authors have objected to the decision to issue an EOC.

Earlier this month, we reported on a letter signed by 20 researchers which also raised concerns about the genome-editing activities of NgAgo — and alleged the lab that produced the initial results turned away investigators when they attempted to validate the tool in mammalian cells.

Here’s the EOC, published yesterday: Read the rest of this entry »