Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

PLOS ONE retracts two papers one year after author says he okayed the move

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PLOS ONE has retracted two 2014 papers from a group of researchers, after an institutional investigation confirmed image duplication. Although the authors initially asked to correct the figures in the two papers, they ultimately agreed with the decision to retract.

Mrinal K. Maitian associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur and corresponding author on the two now-retracted PLOS ONE papersalso corrected a 2016 paper published in PLOS ONE over figure-related errors. Maiti is the only author in common to all papers.

A spokesperson for the journal told us:
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Written by Victoria Stern

November 17th, 2017 at 11:05 am

Caught Our Notice: “Profoundly sorry” researcher retracts Alzheimer’s-DDT paper

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Via Wikimedia

TitleImmune response cytokines as potential biomarkers for DDT induced neurodegeneration

What Caught Our Attention:  Does exposure to pesticides such as DDT influence the onset of Alzheimer’s? Hard to say, especially after a researcher retracted a recent paper purporting to find a link in mice, a few months after a press release was issued about the work. The notice took on an unusual format — Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison Abritis

November 17th, 2017 at 8:00 am

Posted in caught our notice

WHO asks dozens of journals to correct papers on diagnostic tool developed by former collaborators

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In one of the largest such requests we’ve ever heard of, the World Health Organization has asked 46 journals to correct articles that refer to a bone fracture risk diagnostic tool as developed or endorsed by the WHO.

By WHO’s count, the tool — known as Fracture Risk Assessment Tool (FRAX), which has come under scrutiny as experts have questioned its effectiveness — has been linked to the WHO in over 500 scientific articles. The organization wants to change that. The health agency says it has no ties to the tool and claims its developers have spread “misinformation” asserting a link to the WHO. But the tool’s lead developer disputes this, claiming the agency collaborated on the tool from its inception.

Last December, in an editorial published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization titled “Clarifying WHO’s position on the FRAX tool for fracture prediction,” the organization disavowed a connection to the tool:

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Written by Mark Zastrow

November 16th, 2017 at 11:10 am

Posted in Geriatric medicine

A physics journal agreed to retract a paper several months ago. It’s still not retracted.

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A physics journal says it has planned for several months to retract a 2006 paper by a prominent researcher with multiple retractions, after a concerned reader notified the editor about extensive duplication.

But, more than seven months after receiving the complaint, the journal Thin Solid Films has not yet taken action.

So what’s taking so long?

According to the editor, Joseph Greene, the delay occurred because “the publication team missed the request.”

Duplication allegations have followed the paper’s corresponding author Naba K. Sahoo for the past few years. Sahoo, a top physicist in India, has already had seven papers retracted for duplication—five earlier this year (1, 2), and two last year.

Although we did not hear back from the journal or the publisher, Elsevier, forwarded email correspondence provide insights about the Thin Solid Films paper. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

November 16th, 2017 at 8:00 am

Journal replaces anti-vaccine paper it retracted for missing conflicts, “number of errors”

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A journal retracted a paper about how conflicts of interest might be influencing research into the link between vaccines and autism because — wait for it — the authors failed to disclose conflicts of interest.

According to the retraction notice, the editors retracted the paper without the authors’ agreement, because the authors had a host of personal and professional interests in the field they didn’t declare, such as being associated with organizations involved in autism and vaccine safety. What’s more, the article also contained “a number of errors, and mistakes of various types that raise concerns about the validity of the conclusion.”

But now, Science and Engineering Ethics has published a new version of the article that draws similar conclusions to the retracted one, albeit with an updated conflict of interest statement, among other changes. From the abstract of the revised version: Read the rest of this entry »

Caught Our Notice: Oops — paper included proofreader’s query

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Via Wikimedia

Title: Concise Review: Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Neurodegenerative Diseases

What Caught Our Attention: Everyone makes mistakes — but some are more amusing than others. In one recent correction, the publisher (Wiley) admitted to including a proofreader’s query in the published manuscript. But didn’t say what the query was.

We looked around, and think we found the added notes in the abstract on the PubMed entry (emphasis ours):  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison Abritis

November 15th, 2017 at 8:00 am

The “phantom reference:” How a made-up article got almost 400 citations

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Here’s a mystery: How did a nonexistent paper rack up hundreds of citations?

Pieter Kroonenberg, an emeritus professor of statistics at Leiden University in The Netherlands, was puzzled when he tried to locate a paper about academic writing and discovered the article didn’t exist. In fact, the journal—Journal of Science Communications—also didn’t exist.

Perhaps Kroonenberg’s most bizarre discovery was that this made-up paper, “The art of writing a scientific article,” had somehow been cited almost 400 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.

Anne-Wil Harzing, a professor of International Management at at Middlesex University in London, who recounted Kroonenberg’s discovery in her blog, wrote: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

November 14th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Journal silently fixes emergency care paper — after misleading press coverage

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Last month, a colleague of emergency medicine doctor Daniel Waxman sent him some newly reported findings that took him by surprise. Waxman knew from the title of a press release about the recent paper — “Nearly Half of U.S. Medical Care Comes From Emergency Rooms” — that something was wrong.

Immediately I said, that’s not true. It’s just crazy.

Waxman quickly realized the mistake: The data were based only on care provided in hospitals — much of which, not surprisingly, originates from emergency departments (EDs). But the title of the paper, the abstract, and other places in the text do not specify that. What’s more,  the press release about the study says the findings relate to “all medical care.” The journal has since changed the paper, including the title, to make that distinction clear, but not provided any editorial notice indicating the text had been updated. Meanwhile, the press release and news stories about the original study continue to report the “surprising” original findings.

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Written by Alison McCook

November 14th, 2017 at 8:00 am

Lawyers call libel suit against journal and critic “lawless” but “well written”

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Mark Jacobson

A $10 million defamation suit filed by a Stanford University professor against a critic and a journal may be an assault on free speech, according to one lawyer, but at least it’s “well written.”

Kenneth White, a lawyer at Southern California firm Brown White & Osborn who frequently blogs about legal issues related to free speech at Popehat, told us:

It’s not incompetently drafted, but it’s clearly vexatious and intended to silence dissent about an alleged scientist’s peer-reviewed article.

Scientists have publicly bemoaned the suit’s existence, as reported by several outlets, including Mashable and Nature. Mark Jacobson, an engineering professor at Stanford, has alleged that he was defamed in a June article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), which was critical of a 2015 paper co-authored by Jacobson in the same journal. In a complaint filed Sept. 29 in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Jacobson accused the journal’s publisher, the National Academy of Sciences, and the paper’s first author, Christopher Clack, an executive at a renewable energy analysis firm, of libel.

White told us that there are several pitfalls that could trip up the lawsuit, including a DC law that allows defendants an early opportunity to ask the court to dismiss cases muzzling free speech and recover attorneys’ fees. But another attorney said the complaint should at least clear the lowest hurdle in the way of getting to trial. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew P. Han

November 13th, 2017 at 11:10 am

Caught Our Notice: Dear peer reviewer, please read the methods section. Sincerely, everyone

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Via Wikimedia

TitlePlasma contributes to the antimicrobial activity of whole blood against Mycobacterium tuberculosis

What Caught Our Attention: A big peer review (and perhaps academic mentorship) fail.  These researchers used the wrong anticoagulant for their blood samples, leading them to believe that certain blood components were fighting microbes. The authors counted the number of colonies to show how well or poorly Tuberculin mycobacteria were growing in cultures — but blood samples need anticoagulants to prevent clots before analysis, and they used an anticoagulant that actually prevented the microbes from colonizing. The authors (and reviewers) should have known this from  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison Abritis

November 13th, 2017 at 8:00 am