Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

“Existence and motive to retaliate:” Judge hands victory to whistleblower scientist

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A Michigan researcher whose accusations of misconduct against his former employers led to years of legal battles has won a judge’s ruling that could earn him his job back.

Over the past few years, Christian Kreipke has been embroiled in legal battles with the Detroit VA Medical Center and Wayne State University, where he held a dual appointment. In 2010, Kreipke accused Wayne State of misusing federal funds — then was fired in 2012 when the university brought its own case of research misconduct against him. In 2013, the VA followed suit. In 2014, Kreipke lost a whistleblower lawsuit against the university. As a result of the Wayne State investigation, journals have retracted five of his papers, some as recently as last month.

In March, a judge ordered the Department of Veterans Affairs to reinstate Kreipke’s position, among other requests.  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

April 24th, 2017 at 3:01 pm

Plant biologist earns string of retractions, bringing total to 9

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A pair of plant biologists has lost a string of papers over concerns about image manipulation. One author has added eight new retractions to his CV; the other has added five.

Last summer, a journal retracted another paper by the pair, also citing suspicions of image manipulation. The latest batch of retractions — issued by seven different journals — includes some papers that have been questioned on PubPeer.

Dibyendu Talukdar, listed at the University of Calcutta in West Bengal, India, is the sole author on three retracted papers. He shares five new retractions with Tulika Talukdar listed at the University of North Bengal. That brings their totals to nine and six, respectively. (We’re not sure if the Drs. Talukdar are related).

We’ll start with the papers they share: Read the rest of this entry »

Weekend reads: A “culture of fear?”; blogs vs. academic papers; neurosurgery retractions on the rise

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The week at Retraction Watch featured a new record for most retractions by a single journal, and an impassioned plea from a biostatistician for journals to clean up their act. Here’s what was happening elsewhere:  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

April 22nd, 2017 at 9:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Chemist wins injunction against university trying to revoke her degree

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A scientist has won an injunction against the University of Texas at Austin, which was deciding whether or not to revoke her PhD.

We’ve been covering the case of Suvi Orr, a chemist now based at Pfizer who earned a PhD in 2008, for a few years. During that time, UT has tried to revoke her degree twice, after the paper that made up part of her dissertation was retracted in 2012 — for allegedly containing falsified data, according to the school. The university revoked her degree in 2014, then reinstated it after she sued.

Last year, the school tried to revoke it again, prompting Orr to sue for a second time — and ask for more than $95,000 in legal fees and expenses.

In a decision released April 20, a Texas Court of Appeals has upheld Orr’s request for an injunction against UT, preventing it from deciding whether to revoke her degree. Specifically, Orr asked that UT not be allowed to make a decision until the court has weighed in on a separate appeal, in which Orr argues the university doesn’t have the right to revoke her degree.

According to her lawyer, David Sergi:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

April 21st, 2017 at 2:52 pm

Dear journals: Clean up your act. Regards, Concerned Biostatistician

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Romain-Daniel Gosselin

Recently, a biostatistician sent an open letter to editors of 10 major science journals, urging them to pay more attention to common statistical problems with papers. Specifically, Romain-Daniel Gosselin, Founder and CEO of Biotelligences, which trains researchers in biostatistics, counted how many of 10 recent papers in each of the 10 journals contained two common problems: omitting the sample size used in experiments, as well as the tests used as part of the statistical analyses. (Short answer: Too many.) Below, we have reproduced his letter.

Dear Editors and Colleagues,

I write this letter as a biologist and instructor of biostatistics, concerned about the disregard for statistical reporting that is threatening scientific reproducibility. I hereby urge you to spearhead the strict application of existing guidelines on statistical reporting. Read the rest of this entry »

Job alert: Biology society hiring editors to screen images

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A biology society is hiring three editors to screen images in submissions to its journal, Journal of Biological Chemistry — which we think is a great idea.

We don’t typically mention job ads on our site, except when they become relevant to cleaning up the literature — and with the latest job ad, the JBC joins the ranks of other journals that have taken a proactive stance against image problems, including manipulation. The publisher, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), plans to hire three “Technical Image Editors,” which will screen the images contained within the thousands of papers the journal publishes each year, many of which contain multiple panels and supplemental data.

Kaoru Sakabe, Data Integrity Manager at ASBMB, told us:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

April 21st, 2017 at 9:30 am

“Ethical ambiguity:” When scientific misconduct isn’t black and white

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David Johnson

Elaine Howard Ecklund

Some types of misconduct are obvious – most researchers would agree cooking data and plagiarizing someone’s work are clear no-nos. But what about overhyping your findings? Using funding allocated to an unrelated project, if it keeps a promising young student afloat? On these so-called “gray” areas of research behavior, people aren’t so clear what to do. A few years ago, David R. Johnson at the University of Nevada Reno and Elaine Howard Ecklund at Rice University interviewed hundreds of physicists; their conclusions appeared recently in Science and Engineering Ethics (and online in 2015).

Retraction Watch: Your paper discusses “ethical ambiguity” – what does that mean? Can you provide examples of such behavior?

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Written by Alison McCook

April 20th, 2017 at 12:00 pm

A new record: Major publisher retracting more than 100 studies from cancer journal over fake peer reviews

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Springer is retracting 107 papers from one journal after discovering they had been accepted with fake peer reviews. Yes, 107.

To submit a fake review, someone (often the author of a paper) either makes up an outside expert to review the paper, or suggests a real researcher — and in both cases, provides a fake email address that comes back to someone who will invariably give the paper a glowing review. In this case, Springer, the publisher of Tumor Biology through 2016, told us that an investigation produced “clear evidence” the reviews were submitted under the names of real researchers with faked emails. Some of the authors may have used a third-party editing service, which may have supplied the reviews. The journal is now published by SAGE.

The retractions follow another sweep by the publisher last year, when Tumor Biology retracted 25 papers for compromised review and other issues, mostly authored by researchers based in Iran. With the latest bunch of retractions, the journal has now retracted the most papers of any other journal indexed by Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters. In 2015, its impact factor — 2.9 — ranked it 104th out of 213 oncology journals.

Here’s more from Springer’s official statement, out today:

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Written by Alison McCook

April 20th, 2017 at 9:00 am

“Think of the unthinkable:” JAMA retraction prompts author to urge others to share data

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A few months ago, a researcher told Evelien Oostdijk there might be a problem with a 2014 JAMA study she had co-authored.

The study had compared two methods of preventing infection in the intensive care unit (ICU). But a separate analysis had produced different results.

Oostdijk, from the University Medical Center Utrecht in The Netherlands, immediately got to work to try to figure out what was going on. And she soon discovered the problem: The coding for the two interventions had been reversed at one of the 16 ICUs. This switch had “a major impact on the study outcome,” last author Marc Bonten, also from the University Medical Center Utrecht, wrote in a blog post about the experience yesterday, because it occurred at “one of the largest participating ICUs.”

When Oostdijk and a researcher not involved in the study analyzed the data again, they discovered a notable difference between the revised and original findings: The new analysis revealed that one of the interventions had a small but significant survival benefit over the other.

Oostdijk and Bonten, who supervised the re-analysis, notified their colleagues of the revised study outcomes and contacted the journal requesting a retraction and replacement, which was published yesterday in JAMA.

According to the notice of retraction and replacement:

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Written by Victoria Stern

April 19th, 2017 at 12:45 pm

Need to find a replication partner, or collaborator? There’s an online platform for that

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Christopher Chartier

Randy McCarthy

Do researchers need a new “Craigslist?” We were recently alerted to a new online platform called StudySwap by one of its creators, who said it was partially inspired by one of our posts. The platform creates an “online marketplace” that previous researchers have called for, connecting scientists with willing partners – such as a team looking for someone to replicate its results, and vice versa. As co-creators Christopher Chartier at Ashland University and Randy McCarthy at Northern Illinois University tell us, having a place where researchers can find each other more efficiently “is in everyone’s best interest.”

Retraction Watch: What inspired you to create StudySwap?

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Written by Alison McCook

April 19th, 2017 at 10:19 am