Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Former Pitt psych nursing researcher loses seven papers (and counting) in referencing, plagiarism scandal

with 13 comments

Scott Weber

Scott Weber seems to have been behaving badly. The Journal of Child & Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing (JCAPN) has retracted five of Weber’s papers, dating back to 2009. And the Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (JAANP)and Perspectives in Psychiatric Care also have pulled articles by the nursing researcher. The reason: he misused his sources and plagiarized the work of others.

That’s our interpretation of the retraction notices, which come close to saying as much but don’t quite get there. Here they are, so you can judge for yourself:

The following article from the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, “Nursing Care of Families with Parents Who Are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender,” by Scott Weber, published online 25 January 2010, in Wiley Online Library (www.onlinelibrary.wiley.com), has been retracted by agreement between the journal Editor-in-Chief, Elizabeth Poster, and Wiley Periodicals, Inc. The retraction has been agreed due to references that could not be verified and significant overlap with previously published material. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-6171.2011.00282.x

The following article from the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing,“ Depressive Illness in Teens and Preteens and Effectiveness of the RADS-2 as a First-Stage Assessment. Part 1: Descriptive Paper” by Scott Weber, et al, published online on 17 June 2009, in Wiley Online Library (www.onlinelibrary.wiley.com), has been retracted by agreement between the journal Editor in-Chief, Elizabeth Poster, and Wiley Periodicals, Inc. The retraction has been agreed due to references that could not be verified. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-6171.2011.00283.x

The following article from the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, “Results of Psychometric Testing of the RADS-2 with School-Based Adolescents Seeking Assistance for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Concerns. Part 2: Research Brief,” by Scott Weber, published online on 17 June 2009, in Wiley Online Library (www.onlinelibrary.wiley.com), has been retracted by agreement between the journal Editor-in-Chief, Ellizabeth Poster, and Wiley Periodicals, Inc. The retraction has been agreed due to references that could not be verified. doi:10.1111/j.1744-6171.2011.00284.x

The following article from the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, “Treatment of Trauma- and Abuse-Related Dissociative Symptom Disorders in Children and Adolescents,” by Scott Weber, published online on 3 February 2009, in Wiley Online Library (www.onlinelibrary.wiley.com), has been retracted by agreement between the journal Editor-in- Chief, Elizabeth Poster, and Wiley Periodicals, Inc. The retraction has been agreed due to references that could not be verified. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-6171.2011.00285.x

The following article from the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, “Improving Treatment of Adolescent Depression in Primary Care,” by Scott Weber, et al, published online 7 December 2010, in Wiley Online Library (www.onlinelibrary.wiley.com), has been retracted by agreement between the journal Editor-in-Chief, Elizabeth Poster, and Wiley Periodicals, Inc. The retraction has been agreed due to significant overlap with previously published material. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-6171.2011.00286.x

The notice for the JAANP paper,”Critical care nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists interface patterns with computer-based decision support systems,” and Perspectives is Psychiatric Care are similar. First the JAANP one:

The following article from the Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, published online 26 October 2007, in Wiley Online Library (www.onlinelibrary.wiley.com), has been retracted by agreement between the journal Editor in-Chief, Charon Pierson, and Wiley Periodicals, Inc.:

Critical Care Nurse Practitioners and Clinical Nurse Specialists Interface Patterns with Computer-Based Decision Support Systems by Scott Weber

The retraction has been agreed due to significant overlap with previously published materials.

Then the Perspectives in Psychiatric Care one:

The following article from Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, “Measurement of Parenting Intention, Decision-Making, and Expectations,” by Scott Weber, Betty J. Hill, Dianxu Ren, and Rodger L. Beatty, published online on July 5, 2010, in Wiley Online Library (http://www.onlinelibrary.wiley.com) has been retracted by agreement between the journal editor-in-chief, Geraldine Pearson, and Wiley Periodicals, Inc. The retraction has been agreed due to significant overlap with previously published material.

Ironically, Weber was guest editor for the JCAPN‘s special issue on Mental Health Nursing Care of LGBT Adolescents and Young Adults, which came out in January 2010. An article he wrote for that issue is the first retraction listed above. His editorial, written with Poster, closes with the following passage:

On behalf of all the authors, we believe this compendium of papers will provide nurses and other adolescent health clinicians with new information about this population, including insights on how to most effectively provide mental health care to and with this exciting new generation.

Um, maybe not quite so much of that information was new after all …

We tried to reach Poster but haven’t heard back.

Weber used to be at the University of Pittsburgh, but he has moved on (the dean’s office wouldn’t talk with us). His phone number there is no longer working and his name is no longer in the faculty directory. He does, however, show up as a faculty member at Walden University, an online school whose most recent commencement speaker was Bill Clinton. And he evidently considers himself an expert on ethics, judging from the title of one of his articles in Advance for Nurses: “The Moral Compass of Nursing.”

The lede paragraph puts it nicely:

I frequently am asked business-related questions that fall in the gray area between ethics and legality. Although ethics and law are separate domains, the issues we face in healthcare often intersect these areas. While the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics is the standard of ethical conduct, often nurses are confronted with issues that go beyond these principles.

How true, how true.

Anyway, we spoke with a publishing source familiar with this case who told  us to expect more retractions of Weber’s work. (He appears to have dozens of citations to his name, many, if not most of which are single-authored articles.) The source also told us that Weber was guilty of massaging the dates of his references — they were all real — to make them look more current. Now, that’s a first for us, and it doesn’t seem like the smartest idea.

We’ll update when we learn more.

Comments
  • Neuroskeptic August 7, 2011 at 6:44 am

    Whoa. Bizarre.

    I took a look through this retracted paper and soon found an example of the mis-dated references. It’s out by 20 years.

    The reference listed is:

    Bowman, E. S., Blix, S. F., & Coons, P. M. (2005). Multiple personality in adolescence: Relationship to incestual experience. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 24, 109–114.

    Which is a real paper…but from 1985, not 2005.

    • Roberta S. August 7, 2011 at 8:48 am

      !! Changing dates of references?? Just to make them look more recent? Geez certainly NOT a very smart move, as it is so damn easy to catch. Bad risk x edge balance…

  • Neuroskeptic August 7, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    Yes. Clearly not the brightest fraudster in the trade. One citation short of a full EndNote library.

    • flyguy359 August 10, 2011 at 8:53 am

      I got an LOL in the comments at retraction watch – I gotta get out more.

    • Kristi August 10, 2011 at 2:35 pm

      One citation short of a full EndNote library? That’s fantastic! I love a nerdy burn.

  • JimR August 8, 2011 at 7:36 am

    I thought Walden University only existed in Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury comic

  • Pyshnov August 8, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    When this was discovered, why it was not taken as obvious typo? Were there other issues, but this one was made a pretext for retraction?

    • Marco August 9, 2011 at 2:13 am

      Pyshnov, follow Neuroskeptic’s link to the paper and go through all references. You will find many examples of citations where something is wrong, and quite often the year of publication.

      Now, if anyone could be so kind and locate one specific reference in that list for me: Maldonado A.R. (2002), it would be great. I checked the journal homepage (Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association) and no such luck finding an author called Maldonado using their search function. No luck combining issue 14 with the year 2002 either (year 2008 and issue 8, respectively). And no luck finding a paper starting on page 119 in either issue. Looking for the title didn’t bring me any hits either. Is this a made-up reference, or have my google skills abandoned me??

  • Pyshnov August 9, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    Marco, you mean the references are made up? To what purpose? Or it all belongs to errata? I guess the result of the investigation should have contained the reason why they considered it a misconduct rather than mistakes, because there is no obvious illicit gain in making them on purpose (as far as only the list of references is affected). If this were discovered by a reviewer, there naturally would be questions asked, not just a rejection.

    • Marco August 10, 2011 at 2:43 am

      Pyshnov, if the dates are just “mistakes”, one wonders how you make a mistake that consistently puts the date more forward by exactly 10 or 20 years. I can imagine typing 1997 when it is 1979, or forget to alter the date in your ref manager, but that’s clearly not the case here. Apart from the reference Neuroskeptic mentioned (+20 years), Dell & Eisenhower and Friedrich and Laporta and Gil (2001) are all dated forward by 10 years. With one exception: Kluft 2005 is actually Kluft 1996.

      And yes, it appears there are also made up references. After finding (or rather, NOT finding) Maldonado, I went through all references and failed to find Deblinger, P.M. & Helfin, G., 1997. Again the journal exists, but date, volume, page numbers, none of it makes any sense in any permutation. Search on the title, and nothing shows up. The subsequent reference to Deblinger, E. & Heflin, A.H., 2006 does exist, but comes from 1996. Now, I can’t help note that “Deblinger & Helfin” looks a lot like “Deblinger & Heflin”, but apart from the Heflin/Helfin, the first names are apparently also different. Hmmmm…I smell a rat.

      I also could not find Williams & Velazquez, but here I’ll give Weber the benefit of the doubt, as the journal does not show all of its past issues (goes back to 2002).

      Don’t ask me to speculate on reasons for any misconduct, this whole case is just weird.

  • Neuroskeptic August 10, 2011 at 6:00 am

    pyshnov: in the paper I linked to, the earliest reference listed is from 1993 and the great majority are post-2000. Although in fact they really go back to 1985 or earlier.

    In other words, thanks to the dodgy dates, the paper seems to be about recent, cutting-edge work – even though it’s not.

    The Abstract says it is a review of “Current research and practice scholarly articles on treatment of children and adolescents…” – 1985 is not current, but 2005 is, so you can see why he might have wanted to change it.

  • Pyshnov August 10, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    So, the author tried to prove that he reviewed the “current research”? That makes a new item in the misconduct policies, and it goes straightforward: “Changing the dates of the reviewed papers to falsely show that the review is reviewing the current research, is a misconduct.”

  • helen-louise August 15, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    In this day and age? With citation indexes online? Is the guy insane?!

    I have to say this is the weirdest case of academic fraud I’ve seen so far.

    Though I wonder why it wasn’t picked up earlier. Is it not a standard practice for reviewers to check out the list of references and make sure they (a) exist and (b) match the points being made?

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