Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Weekend reads: Authorship for sale, STAP stem cell scandal finally over?

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booksThis was a week of stem cell retractions, fake peer reviews, legal threats, and we announced that we’ve been awarded a $400,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation. Here’s what was happening elsewhere:

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Written by Ivan Oransky

December 20th, 2014 at 9:30 am

Posted in weekend reads

Elsevier retracting 16 papers for faked peer review

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Khalid Zaman

Fake peer reviews: They’re all the rage.

Sixteen papers are being retracted across three Elsevier journals after the publisher discovered that one of the authors, Khalid Zaman, orchestrated fake peer reviews by submitting false contact information for his suggested reviewers.

This particular kind of scam has been haunting online peer review for a few year now, as loyal Retraction Watch readers know. This one is a classic of the genre: According to Elsevier’s director of publishing services, Catriona Fennell, an editor first became suspicious after noticing that Zaman’s suggested reviewers, all with non-institutional addresses, were unusually kind to the economist’s work.

Elsevier has actually hired a full-time staff member with a PhD in physics and history as a managing editor to do the grunt work on cases like this. Flags were first raised in August, at which point the ethics watchdog went to town digging through all of Zaman’s other publications looking for suspicious reviews coming from non-institutional addresses provided by the scientist, an economist at COMSATS Information Technology Center in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Here’s the main notice: Read the rest of this entry »

Are companies selling fake peer reviews to help papers get published?

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copeFaked peer reviews — a subject about which we’ve been writing more and more recently — are concerning enough to a number of publishers that they’ve approached the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) to work together on a solution.

In the past, we have reported on a number of cases in which authors were able to submit their own peer reviews, using fake email addresses for recommended reviewers. But what seems to be happening now is that companies are offering manuscript preparation services that go as far as submitting fake peer reviews. And that, no surprise, worries publishers.

Here’s COPE’s statement out today: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

December 19th, 2014 at 7:37 am

That new beetle? Actually, it’s really an old beetle

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Acanthophorus serraticornis via Wikimedia Commons.

A team of entomologists in India had to put their new species celebration on hold last year, when they found out their discovery had already been discovered.

The Journal of Insect Science paper, initially published in December 2012, was retracted in October 2013, after several entomologists confirmed that the beetle was actually a previously identified species called Acanthophorus serraticornis. (The notice has a November 2014 date, but we understand that’s because the journal switched servers.)

Here’s the notice for “A new record of longicorn beetle, Acanthophorus rugiceps, from India as a root borer on physic nut, Jatropha curcas, with a description of life stages, biology, and seasonal dynamics”: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Cat Ferguson

December 18th, 2014 at 3:30 pm

Stem cell researcher retracts neuron paper for “image aberrations”

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embo journalJens Christian Schwamborn, a stem cell researcher at the University of Luxembourg, is retracting a 2007 paper on how to grow brain cells.

The paper, “Ubiquitination of the GTPase Rap1B by the ubiquitin ligase Smurf2 is required for the establishment of neuronal polarity,” was published while Schwamborn was at Westfälische Wilhelms‐Universität Münster in Germany. An anonymous critic had sent questions about the study to Germany’s DFG in the middle of last year, and later to Paul Brookes, who posted them on PubMed Commons.

Those criticisms match the problems listed in the detailed notice: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

December 18th, 2014 at 9:30 am

Stem cell researchers sue Harvard, claiming faulty investigation lost them job offers

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Piero Anversa

Piero Anversa, a stem cell researcher at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital, and a colleague, Annarosa Leri, have sued Harvard over an investigation into their work that they claim has cost them millions in a forfeited sale of their company, and job offers.

The team has had a paper in Circulation retracted, and a paper in The Lancet subject to an expression of concern.

In the suit, first reported by the Boston Business Journal and the Boston Globe, Anversa and Leri blame a co-author for the issues in the papers, and claim that their Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

December 17th, 2014 at 6:53 pm

Posted in harvard

Stem cell researcher Hanna “working…to correct the unfortunate and inadvertent mistakes” in papers

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Jacob Hanna

Jacob Hanna of Israel’s Weizmann Institute has been a media darling for years, including as a member of the 2010 Technology Review 30 under 35 for his work with stem cells.

However, questions have been mounting about his research, both on PubPeer (which has critical comments for 15 papers he’s an author on) and in other stem cell labs, who have not been able to reproduce much of Hanna’s work.

We asked Hanna about a PubPeer entry specific to a 2005 paper in BloodCommenters have accused the authors of figure manipulation and possible data republication. Here’s a figure from that post: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Cat Ferguson

December 17th, 2014 at 1:00 pm

Mix-and-match text topples microbiome paper

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iemA group of gastroenterology researchers in Italy has lost their 2010 paper in Internal and Emergency Medicine, the journal of the Italian Society of Internal Medicine, for plagiarizing and duplicate publication.

The article, “Gut microbiota and related diseases: clinical features,” was published as a supplement by a team from the University of Bologna. Its conclusions: Read the rest of this entry »

Shingles-stroke connection paper earns expression of concern for “errors in data presentation”

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neurologyThe journal Neurology has issued an expression of concern for a paper linking shingles and stroke, which got press attention when it was published.

The journal’s note refers to “errors of data presentation,” which author Judith Breuer more narrowly defined as mistakes during transcription of a table. It’s unclear whether the results themselves – that herpes zoster, the virus that causes shingles, is a risk factor for stroke and other vascular problems – are being called into question.

Here’s the expression of concern for “Herpes zoster as a risk factor for stroke and TIA: A retrospective cohort study in the UK”: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Cat Ferguson

December 17th, 2014 at 9:30 am

Former postdoc threatens Retraction Watch with lawsuit over vague defamation claims

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Varun Kesherwani

Varun Kesherwani

In April 2012, we wrote about a case of disputed authorship and misused data involving one Varun Kesherwani, a former postdoc at the University of Nebraska.

As we reported then, Kesherwani was first author of a paper in Cytokine. The second author, Ajit Sodhi, of Banaras Hindu University, claimed to have had no knowledge of the article and had not given Kesherwani permission to use the results. Thus, the retraction.

Since then, we have received numerous messages from Kesherwani objecting to our post — he claims it has hurt his employment prospects — and demanding that we take it down. At one point he even suggested in an email that we pay him to go away: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by amarcus41

December 16th, 2014 at 12:32 pm