Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Retraction for prostate cancer paper duplication leaves authors penitent, “happy”

with 25 comments

Perhaps fittingly in today’s age of sensitive feelings, the typical reaction to a retraction (per the notices, at least) is apology. But bliss?

Expert Opinion on Investigational Drugs has a new one in the annals of penitence. At issue is a 2010 paper titled “Horizon scanning for novel therapeutics for the treatment of prostate cancer,” by Dieletta Bianchini. Turns out the authors had published the same (or nearly so) paper two months earlier in a different journal. Here’s the notice:

The publisher of Expert Opinion on Investigational Drugs and authors have retracted the following article:

Diletta Bianchini, Andrea Zivi, Shahneen Sandhu, Johann S de Bono

Expert Opinion on Investigational Drugs December 2010, Vol. 19, No. 12: 1487-1502.

Upon investigation, it was found that the article constitutes a case of redundant publication, due to its similarity to a paper previously published in Annals of Oncology (‘Horizon scanning for novel therapeutics for the treatment of prostate cancer’, D Bianchini, A Zivi, S Sandhu and JS de Bono), Ann Oncol. 2010 Oct; 21 Suppl 7:vii43-55.

We would like to state that this situation was due to an honest error, and the authors are happy for the article to be retracted and would like to apologise for any inconvenience this causes to readers.

As the Bard might have said, wethinks the authors doth protest too much.

The now-retracted paper has been cited once, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge, while the original version has been cited five times.

As it happens, Bianchini, a UK oncologist, found herself in the papers about year ago after her efforts to verify her husband’s marital fidelity with a car tracker backfired embarrassingly. The husband found the device, which had been planted by a private eye, and thought it was a bomb.

Said Bianchini:

I’m just so sorry it happened. It was a huge mistake and I was out of my mind.

Sorry, but not happy, we guess.

Comments
  • Neuroskeptic (@Neuro_Skeptic) September 24, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Is “redundant publication” just a euphemism for “trying to publish the same stuff twice”?

  • Theora (@theorajones) September 24, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    FWIW, my impression is that, in British English, “happy” used this way doesn’t quite mean happy but more like “perfectly willing”. So, “the authors are perfectly willing for the article to be retracted” – which is rather less blissful.

    • JudyH September 24, 2012 at 1:06 pm

      Yes. The editor meant “The authors agree with the decision to retract.”

      • AnonEditor September 25, 2012 at 11:26 am

        Indeed, I believe that once brought to their attention the authors were willing to accept the decision to retract the article and provided no obstacles to the editors.

      • David Hardman September 25, 2012 at 12:04 pm

        Reply to AnonEditor September 25, 2012 at 11:26 am

        Didn’t they know that anyway?

  • placemat September 24, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    Why on earth did you include a reference to the husbands infidelity and the car tracker???? Is RW now just a tabloid blog where you include salacious gossip with retraction notices (“if she doesn’t even trust her husband, I’m sure she’s the type who cheats on their research…”).

    If you want to be taken seriously as an objective source of information and discussion about scientific integrity then be SERIOUS and OBJECTIVE. The opening sentence to this posting is just stupid.

    There is a trend I am noticing in RW….sarcastic headlines (with unfunny puns) and comments that are mere gossip and innuendo…..

    • littlegreyrabbit September 24, 2012 at 7:16 pm

      Adam Marcus is the pun-meister, Ivan Oransky is far too respectable – although I was extremely disappointed with AM that he allowed a cheetah paper slide by without deploying the obvious pun.

      It is only blog, let us not get on the high horses – just in case AM finds a retraction in the Journal of Equine Physiology.

    • Elaine Newman September 24, 2012 at 7:18 pm

      I continue to adnire the work of Retraction Watch- it has increasedthe attention being paid to standards to a remarkable degree,
      However Ialso feel that it is sliding into gossip and less detailed and clever criticism. Like “placemat” I find that the blog has a considerable tendency to disrespect women; the example of the UK oncologisr who worried that her husband was unfaithful has nothing to do with RW- I doubt that RW would have been as interested
      in astory about male idiosyncracies,Elaine Newman

      • chris brasher September 24, 2012 at 7:32 pm

        i have to agree. i get that they are trying to deal with an important topic with a sense of humour, but it does sometimes come over as if they find the whole thing hilarious and doing it for a joke (which i realise is not their goal)

      • Dr. Andy September 24, 2012 at 8:32 pm

        Here is a previous entry in which the idiosyncracies (as well as criminal behavior) of a male UK doctor are detailed. I actually like hearing about this sort of stuff, but either way it is hard to accuse them of sexism.

  • placemat September 24, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    Thanks Dr. Andy – The post that you linked makes the suggestion that because the Dr. was sexually promiscuous and tried to poison his mistress, we “shouldn’t be too surprised to learn” that his papers are retracted – this is just sheer tabloid crap.

    Its hard to consider RW seriously if their approach to weave news about retractions in with gossipy details about the sexual and private lives of the individuals involved.

    Now, I am sure some will argue that this blog tries to take a ‘light-hearted’ approach to writing about retractions. But on many occasions Ivan Oransky has bemoaned the fact that authors, editors and journals don’t respond to his enquires about retractions – based on these kinds of posting, why should they? So that their comments can be portrayed through lazy, tabloid journalism?

    The lack of transparency and openness surrounding retractions and errors in science is a serious issue. The effects of retractions are also very serious. If RW want to be taken seriously (especially by scientists and editors) they should refrain from tabloid gossip and lazy journalism (unless, of course, that is what they strive for).

    Little Grey Rabbit, I think we should very much get on our high horse about this kind of stuff.

    • Jon Beckmann September 25, 2012 at 7:47 am

      What you say would make sense, had this comment been written by the site owners. But it was not. It was a comment by some random guy on this site. Starting to censor comments is a slippery slope. I applaud Ivan and Adam for being open minded about this.

      • littlegreyrabbit September 25, 2012 at 8:59 am

        errr…open minded about what precisely, Dr Beckmann? Do you have any specific complaints – don’t be shy.

        I would like nothing better if there was a new retraction from Nature every week. But there isn’t. Most retractions are fairly humdrum affairs, nor do most of them strike to the very heart of the scientific enterprise, much as we might wish they did. Assuming that Dr Bianchini didn’t make a genuine mistake, then she is guilty of no more that padding her publications list.

        The remit of this blog is very narrow: generally the authors won’t pick up an issue until there has been a retraction, or at least the very clear signs of a retraction in the offing. By definition that means the various systems have at least partially worked. Equally, by definition, if there are systemic problems in some areas of science, then this blog will only reflect them poorly. As Dr Beckmann himself has said in the past: if this is the sum total of scientific wrong-doing, then science is doing splendidly.

        If you want 365 entries a year – or very close to – and you are sticking just to retractions, then you have to expect a lot of fairly unexciting minutae that need a bit of spicing up.

      • placemat September 25, 2012 at 9:18 am

        Jon, both comments I referred to – the first about the husbands infidelity (in this post) and the second about the Dr’s sexual history (in the post Dr Andy referred to) were made by ADAM MARCUS – not a random guy.

        I agree, comments on posts should not be censored. But if Adam and Marcus themselves make comments about the sexual lives of the scientists and their families, they shouldn’t be surprised if authors/editors don’t want to take this blog seriously.

      • chirality September 25, 2012 at 9:46 am

        Per her own words, Bianchini was out of her mind when she engaged in spousal espionage. Mybe she was still out of it when she duplicated the submission of her manuscript. This could constitute extenuating circumstances in the court of public opinion. Even the PC brigade should see this.

      • Jon Beckmann September 25, 2012 at 12:58 pm

        Placemat, I had not realized the original comment was made by A || M. What can I say? That’s why they are journalists and not scientists, perhaps?

      • littlegreyrabbit September 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm

        well spotted, Jon.
        There are, in fact, many indicators that AM has a journalistic rather than an academic research background, which the cognoscenti can pick up on.
        For example, he has been known to go fully 30 minutes without patronising anyone.

  • Neuroskeptic (@Neuro_Skeptic) September 25, 2012 at 8:09 am

    I for one am absolutely happy with RW’s post and thought the tone was perfect.

    There. I said it.

  • David Hardman September 25, 2012 at 10:23 am

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daily_Mail

    It was in the public domain.

    “It had an average daily circulation of 1,991,275 copies in April 2012.[10] Between June and December 2011 it had an average daily readership of approximately 4.371 million, of whom approximately 3.689 million were in the ABC1 demographic and 1.596 million in the C2DE demographic.[10]”

  • amarcus41 September 25, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    For the record: Adam, Marcus, Ivan and Oransky are but two people (AM, IO).

    • Toby White September 25, 2012 at 2:12 pm

      Which is a pity. Besides, Adam, Marcus, Ivan & Oransky sounds like a particularly intimidating old-money Chicago law firm. I suspect you could extort seven-figure settlements just by using that name on the letterhead.

    • blatnoi September 26, 2012 at 7:46 am

      This reminds me of an old Soviet joke (but you have to be from there to get it). A Chukcha comes back from Moscow and tells everyone back in the village. “I just found out that Lenin and Marx are actually two different people, but ‘Slava KPSS’ is not a person at all, so we don’t have to change the number of statues on the monument or the description.”

    • placemat September 29, 2012 at 10:11 pm

      Adam, maybe you can tell us why you added details about the sex lives and gossip of the individuals involved, and how this adds to the retractions stories….

      • Fernando Pessoa September 30, 2012 at 2:31 am

        In reply to placemat September 29, 2012 at 10:11 pm

        “car was mistaken for a bomb” does not sound like sex life.

  • JudyH September 25, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    Although I think it was unwarranted to include information about an unrelated salacious incident in the personal life of someone who is now in the sad situation of having a paper retracted, I doubt that such posts on RW, few or many — and they certainly are few, are the reason for the reluctance of subjects to respond to inquiries about their retractions. They refuse to respond because they hope to limit the negative publicity about themselves. It’s a time-honored strategy and it often works. The more material the person provides, whether justifying or expressing remorse or railing against media intrusiveness into what is supposedly none of the public’s business, the more column inches or airtime or digital zeros and ones can be devoted to the story. In the absence of quotes from the horse’s mouth, the reporter/writer must hunt for talkative friends, rehash information from relevant published stories, and even search for unrelated information about the same person, all of which is less compelling than a juicy contemporaneous quote about the retraction. If you starve the story, there is a chance that it will be replaced by other news that is easier to gather. So people stonewall and hope to get through it with the smallest amount of publicity possible.

    I disagree that people fail to take Retraction Watch seriously. I think they do take it seriously and that’s why they don’t want to respond. Bad enough that the journal and their department head know. No need to spread the word more widely. I imagine that the scientist dreads walking into a room and thinking that any random sudden hush is caused by everybody thinking, “Hey, that’s the guy who had to retract because (fill in the offense).” I doubt that scientists are dreading a retraction because of the embarrassing personal information that will be dredged up and added to the story. Publicity about the retraction itself is what they want to avoid. Just my humble opinion.

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