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Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Another retraction from University of Waterloo, this time for duplication

with 6 comments

Canada’s University of Waterloo is racking up the retractions, with one in July for plagiarism, another earlier this month for faked data from a graduate student who had her master’s degree revoked, and now a third for duplication.

Here’s the notice, for “The influence of friends, family, and older peers on smoking among elementary school students: Low-risk students in high-risk schools,” which appeared in Preventive Medicine in March 2006:

This article has been retracted: please see Elsevier Policy on Article Withdrawal (http://www.elsevier.com/locate/withdrawalpolicy).

This article has been retracted at the request of the Author.

The authors voluntarily retract their article from Preventive Medicine on the grounds that some of the findings have been published elsewhere and were not appropriately referenced. This runs contrary to the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) best practice guidelines for original publication. The data and conclusions published in the article are otherwise scientifically sound.

The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute of Canada (NCIC), the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), the Centre for Behavioural Research and Program Evaluation (CBRPE), and the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit (OTRU). It has been cited 31 times, according to Scopus.

We’re guessing this is the paper that was duplicated, in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention: “The Relationship Between Student Smoking in the School Environment and Smoking Onset in Elementary School Students.”

We tried corresponding author Scott Leatherdale for comment, but have yet to hear back. The university tells Retraction Watch it’s investigating:

As we indicated in our statement entitled, “University of Waterloo Committed to Academic Integrity,” which appeared on our website on September 13, 2012, academic integrity and honesty are a significant part of who we are and how we define ourselves at the University of Waterloo. Academic integrity reflects our commitment to honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility. It is a core value of our institution.

The authors of the article, “The influence of friends, family, and older peers on smoking among elementary school students: Low-risk students in high-risk schools,” which appeared in Preventive Medicine, requested a retraction because some of the information has been published elsewhere and was not properly referenced.

The University of Waterloo has established policies in place to assess and investigate such matters, and a range of well-defined consequences if our high standards for proper conduct are not upheld. The university has a rigorous process in place, and we are following it as we thoroughly investigate this matter.

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Written by Ivan Oransky

November 16, 2012 at 9:30 am

6 Responses

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  1. If it takes this many words to say “we dont tolerate dishonesty” it may be that they have to think further as to who they are: “academic integrity and honesty are a significant part of who we are and how we define ourselves at the University of Waterloo. Academic integrity reflects our commitment to honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility. It is a core value of our institution.”

    Elaine Newman

    November 16, 2012 at 10:36 am

  2. As a researcher at Waterloo this pisses me off to no end. A few idiots are giving us honest researchers a bad name.

    Phil

    November 16, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    • In reply to Phil November 16, 2012 at 12:33 pm

      Problems can be lab-specific, and even down to the single person. One reason that retraction notices should specifiy who was responsible otherwise the innocent get blamed too.

      If it is any consolation, about 10 years ago I worked for somebody for just over a year. I was unhappy about the lack of critical thinking, lack of discussion of what the best way forward was, but was given a ton of mindless work. I was expected to publish after 1 year without time to collect data. I was lucky to find another job. This year I found out that this person has a stream of publications with image manipulation, data reuse, the same data used to represent different things. Looking back on the publications more than 10 years ago you can see that this behaviour had already started. 10 years ago nobody, or at least a very few, ever thought about these things.

      Being in the thick of things you cannot tell. It is only by looking at the publicaitons that you get an idea, the more publications the better. Also you need to suspect that something is not right otherwise you simply would not look for irregularities.

      Fernando Pessoa

      November 16, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    • Perhaps you should be proud to be a member of Waterloo University, many other universities try their utmost to shove these things under the carpet so not to appear on this site or in the news otherwise – to me Waterloo University has a better name now, because at least apparently they take action.

      markj

      November 16, 2012 at 1:01 pm

      • Yeah. It’s just that this is the third retraction from UWaterloo in the last few months so obviously I feel annoyed at my colleagues; none of whom I have known.

        I cannot speak for how other univeristies deal with it, but here, after the big retraction in engineering, the university sent out a huge survey (took about 30 minutes to fill out) to all the graduate students and professors that was very comprehensive in terms of what it was asking. Obviously these things take time but hopefully it produces some good results.

        Phil

        November 16, 2012 at 1:18 pm

      • “because at least apparently they take action.”

        They have?
        The duplication and the plagiarism case seem to have involved processes purely with journals. The alleged falsification case seems to have been nothing more than the unilateral action of a supervisor with no outside oversight or any transparency.

        But perhaps procedural fairness is a foreign concept up north?

        littlegreyrabbit

        November 16, 2012 at 1:38 pm


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