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Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Aussie university asks for retraction, investigates former neurology researcher for fraud

with 14 comments

uqThe University of Queensland has decided to get out in front of a serious research misconduct scandal by issuing a press release about the item even before, well, we could get a hold of the story.

The affair involves Bruce Murdoch (all of his links at UQ are defunct), an expert in movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. Murdoch isn’t named in the release, but he is the corresponding author of the retracted paper, which is called out in the statement.

According to UQ, Murdoch seems to have published a paper in the European Journal of Neurology on research he never conducted — and on the basis of which he received a $20,000 grant. The paper has been cited six times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

UQ has called for a retraction of the paper, although that does not appear to have happened yet.

Here’s the release, from Peter Høj, president and vice chancellor of the institution, in its entirety:

The University of Queensland (UQ) is investigating events that have led to the retraction of a paper published in an academic journal.

As a result of its investigation to date, UQ has asked the journal that published the paper to retract it on the grounds that: “no primary data can be located, and no evidence has been found that the study described in the article was conducted.”

A former UQ staff member from the Centre for Neurogenic Communication Disorders Research was corresponding author on the paper.

Published online in October 2011 in the European Journal of Neurology, the paper was titled Treatment of articulatory dysfunction in Parkinson’s disease using repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation.

The journal has agreed to the retraction.

UQ’s ongoing investigation is in line with its Research Misconduct Policy and Procedures, and the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research. The Code was developed by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), the Australian Research Council and Universities Australia.

UQ has informed the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) of the allegations, and will receive further advice from the CMC once it has received the inquiry panel’s final report.

UQ has returned a $20,000 grant from a non-government organisation, due to our concerns it had been allocated on the basis of information from the discredited paper.

There was no National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding relevant to the paper, but UQ has taken the measure of advising the NHMRC of the progress of the investigation.

UQ researchers contribute to more than 6000 published refereed papers annually.

UQ places the highest importance on upholding the integrity of our research and will not only continue to do so with vigilance but will seek to identify further measures to strengthen that endeavour.

By having the paper retracted, the University enables the global scientific community to learn that the research reported in the paper has no place in the body of scientific knowledge, and so cannot be used as a basis for further research.

The release echoes a memo from Høj that we were forwarded early this morning:

Dear Colleagues

The University of Queensland staff and students publish more than 6,000 refereed papers annually.  In doing so, we take all necessary steps to ensure that the material published by our staff is of the highest quality.

The excellence of these publications, their value to the global research community, and their potential to benefit society are all underpinned by the integrity of the research.

We need to be certain that any actions taken by the international research community in response to our papers are taken with full confidence in the integrity of the research.

It is therefore with much disappointment that I inform you that the University has seen it necessary to seek a retraction of a paper with a former UQ colleague from the Centre for Neurogenic Communication Disorders Research, as corresponding author.

Following extensive investigations, we do not have confidence in the research integrity of the paper titled Treatment of articulatory dysfunction in Parkinson’s disease using repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, which was published online in October 2011 in the European Journal of Neurology.

UQ has asked the journal that published the paper to retract it on the grounds that: “no primary data can be located, and no evidence has been found that the study described in the article was conducted.”

Having concluded the need to retract this paper, the University is finalising investigation into how the integrity issues arose, and what consequential actions may need to be taken.

UQ’s investigation is in line with its Research Misconduct Policy and Procedures, and the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research. The Code was developed by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), the Australian Research Council (ARC) and Universities Australia.

UQ has informed the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) of the allegations, and will receive further advice from the CMC once it has received the inquiry panel’s final report.

UQ has returned a $20,000 grant from a non-government organisation, due to our concerns it had been allocated on the basis of information from the discredited paper.

There was no National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding relevant to the paper, but UQ has taken the measure of advising the NHMRC of the progress of the investigation.

By having the paper retracted, UQ enables the global scientific community to learn that the research reported in the paper has no place in the body of scientific knowledge, and so cannot be used as a basis for further research.

I can assure you that UQ places the highest importance on upholding the integrity of our research and will not only continue to do so with vigilance but also seek to identify further measures to strengthen that endeavour.

This obligation is collective, and extends to our role in upholding the reputation of high-quality research as an instrument of local and global benefits.

For the record, I also wish to inform you that I took the step to inform the press of this matter.  You should therefore not be surprised to read about it shortly.

Regards

Peter Høj

President and Vice-Chancellor

Professor Peter Høj 

Vice-Chancellor and President

The University of Queensland

UQ’s transparency is a welcome contrast to how another area university, Queensland University of Technology (QUT), has handled allegations of misconduct. In a case we first covered in December, QUT, The Courier-Mail reports, has denied graduate student whistleblower Luke Cormack

access to the results of an independent “evaluation” of a cell growth formulation that was described in a research paper on human embryonic stem cell cultivation written by his former colleagues,

Read more about that case here.

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Written by amarcus41

September 3, 2013 at 9:42 am

14 Responses

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  1. I’m not sure that the grant was given to conduct the retracted research; it only says that it was allocated based on the findings- which sounds to me like they only recently gave out the grant (possibly to him) on the basis of the study; and then the questioned it.
    If you could clarify that would be helpful.

    James Badsol

    September 3, 2013 at 10:33 am

    • That’s what we meant, so we’ve edited the relevant sentence to make it clearer. Thanks for the careful read.

      ivanoransky

      September 3, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    • Well, at least they caught him before he spent the money.

  2. As I understood it the grant was returned because it was based on the discredited paper.

    ktwop

    September 3, 2013 at 12:14 pm

  3. I’m pleased to see that at least the University of Queensland treats allegations of research misconduct seriously, rather than pretending that no proper investigation is required (Section 8 in next link).

    As many readers are aware, I consider the University of Sydney’s Australian Paradox scandal to be a serious episode in “research misconduct” as defined by the National Health and Medical Research Council: Sections 1-10 at http://www.australianparadox.com

    Where is the University of Sydney’s media release echoing what the University of Queensland is saying about the importance of scientific integrity?

    “…UQ places the highest importance on upholding the integrity of our research and will not only continue to do so with vigilance but will seek to identify further measures to strengthen that endeavour.

    By having the paper retracted, the University enables the global scientific community to learn that the research reported in the paper has no place in the body of scientific knowledge, and so cannot be used as a basis for further research. …”

    Why is the University of Sydney’s policy on scientific integrity different from UQ’s policy on scientific integrity? Why is the Group of Eight all over the place on the basic issue of scientific integrity?

    Readers, in my opinion, the only credible way forward for the University of Sydney is via the correction or retraction of its spectacularly faulty Australian Paradox paper.

    Here’s a version of what any Retraction Notice might look like:

    Abstract: It has been brought to our attention by a reader of Nutrients that the conclusion of “a consistent and substantial decline” in Australian per-capita sugar consumption between 1980 and 2010 in “The Australian Paradox: A Substantial Decline in Sugars Intake over the Same Timeframe that Overweight and Obesity Have Increased” is based in part on data that was falsified by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). MDPI has a strict “zero tolerance policy” towards the use of falsified data, whether the authors were aware of the invalidity of the data or not. Moreover, there are various other major errors and misinterpretations that collapse the credibility of the manuscript’s conclusion of “an inverse relationship” between sugar consumption and obesity. Taking public-health considerations into account – particularly the growing evidence that excessive sugar consumption is a major contributor to global obesity and type 2 diabetes, together the greatest public-health challenge of our times: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/33/11/2477.full.pdf – the Editorial Team and Publisher have determined that this manuscript should be retracted. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause”. (http://retractionwatch.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/journal-to-feature-special-issue-on-scientific-misconduct-seeks-submissions/?replytocom=61954#respond )

    rory robertson former fattie

    September 3, 2013 at 2:07 pm

  4. I find it concerning that there is so much pussy-footing in the way the case has been discussed in the media. For example, Professor Joe Lynch on ABC News radio (http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2013/s3840754.htm) stated: “And if it’s true that the paper was written up and submitted without any experiments having been done, that would be a very unusual situation”. Regarding research procedures, he also said “Yes I’d say it is a long way from normal.”.

    I realize that the whole situation is still under investigation but surely, if it is true, it is a LITTLE BIT MORE THAN “A very unusual situation” and “long way from normal”.

    Sue

    September 13, 2013 at 2:37 am

    • Agreed. The alleged situation of no data to substantiate the findings of the authors is far from the norm as can get. A lack of data suggests the actual research was never done and that the findings are a total fabrication…..When will the University of Queensland come clean on this research?….The whole issue has slipped from public scrutiny. What about the two other authors on the paper…what is there respective roles in this matter. As Prof Joe Lynch outlines, PhD and post doctoral students go and collect the data…..are authors Ng and or Barwood PhD or post doc and if so what is their story of the collection of data, which would have been substantial given the allegedly longitudinal nature of the alleged research?

      Pedro

      September 29, 2013 at 6:48 am

  5. Shame to read this. Murdoch was a very exciting keynote at the 2012 Speech Pathology Australia conference in Hobart. Will share this link with my colleages.

    Fiona

    October 26, 2013 at 1:32 am

  6. It looks like the EJN paper may have just been the tip of the iceberg for fraudulent work by Murdoch/Barwood. Recent news item (8 November 2013) on them suggests more papers are dodgy……e.g., plagiarism and appropriating other people’s research as their own….

    “The ABC understands the university is now investigating whether the papers were the work of other academics not listed as authors or were plagiarised”.

    I wonder what else will come out…..what is going on with these two where such a trusting relationship has allowed this situation to develop?

    Pedro

    November 9, 2013 at 3:53 pm

  7. Ken

    April 4, 2014 at 7:10 am

    • “Statistical errors” where they claim 15 control participants but only 7 really existed? I’m awaiting further news.

      Pedro

      April 5, 2014 at 12:35 am

      • Control participants were double matched to patients i.e. each control participant was matched to more than one patient. The retraction and news article say it all.

        Curious

        April 5, 2014 at 5:27 pm

        • Response to Curious:
          For this retraction (which was from the European Journal of Neurology (not the most recent one which was from Aphasiology), there were NO participants at all….zilch. The retracted paper from the journal Aphasiology is a separate issue (but by the same authors)

          Pedro

          April 5, 2014 at 9:10 pm


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