Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Weekend reads: A flawed paper makes it into Nature; is science in big trouble?; a reproducibility crisis history

with 16 comments

The week at Retraction Watch featured a refreshingly honest retraction, and a big win for PubPeer. Here’s what was happening elsewhere:

Like Retraction Watch? Consider making a tax-deductible contribution to support our growth. You can also follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us to your RSS reader, sign up on our homepage for an emailevery time there’s a new post, or subscribe to our daily digest. Click here to review our Comments Policy. For a sneak peek at what we’re working on, click here.

Written by Ivan Oransky

December 10th, 2016 at 9:30 am

Posted in weekend reads

Comments
  • tomgdow December 10, 2016 at 11:52 am

    I must say I found the article on publication of the lflawed paper in Nature very poorly argued and full of pseudo-scientific, untestable claptrap such as “They just shovelled the data into their computer like you’d shovel food into a cow.”.

    • Bort December 10, 2016 at 12:43 pm

      That’s not pseudoscientific, nor is it untestable. It’s an *opinion* from someone who saw the authors’ original submission.

      By your own rationale, one could argue that your comment is pseudoscience.

    • herr doktor bimler December 10, 2016 at 1:59 pm

      The article at NRC seems to be the third in a series, with previous reports covering the flaws and inadequacies of the Nature paper. I think that is why this third report doesn’t argue against the paper’s statistics… it is more of an attempt to reconstruct what went wrong in Nature’s peer-review.

  • tomgdow December 10, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    In my view, anything that is not testable against he world of experience may be rightly considered outside the scientific method. The statement ‘God exits’ is **an opinion** but it is also non-scientific as it cannot be falsified by testing against the world of experience (ie by experiment). The statement I referred to is IMO meaningless claptrap on many levels: I have never seen anyone shovel food into a cow (but I suppose that is possible), for example. Furthermore, science does not progress on unsubstantiated opinion no matter how eminent. As the Royal Society put it: Nullius in verba.

    • Bort December 10, 2016 at 1:16 pm

      “Shovel food into a cow” is what we call a “metaphor”. “I shovelled food into my mouth” does not mean I actually used a shovel.

      You may not have noticed, but the article is not a peer-reviewed published criticism. As the article says, those are in the works. The article is people giving their opinion on the manuscript and–as the very title of the article suggests–explaining how that manuscript came to be published in Nature.

      Seems like a pretty easy thing to comprehend.

      • tomgdow December 10, 2016 at 6:56 pm

        I don’t think you are at all unusual for considering ‘Shovel food into a cow’ to be a metaphor. This is known (and accepted) the world over since at least the time of Shakespeare. I did notice that the article is not peer-reviewed, and I never said or implied that I did not comprehend any part of the article.

        The article does, however, purport to be a serious criticism of an article in a leading scientific journal. It is reasonable to expect the author to argue within the scientific method and not to resort to ‘sniggers and chuckles’ argument.

  • herr doktor bimler December 10, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    OMICS has bought yet another publisher in Canada. (Tom Spears, Ottawa Citizen)

    The Internet Archive indicates that OMICS had already acquired the publisher back in August 2015:
    https://web.archive.org/web/20150810053106/http://www.icdtdi.ca/home.html

    At the time, the “Intellectual Consortium” and its flagship “Journal of Applied Pharmacy” were flawed but well-meaning: they did not charge authorship or article processing fees. Conceivably its founders were naive, thought they were accepting some financial support, didn’t read the small print, and did not realise that they had ceded control.

    There is a hiatus in the Archive between April 2016 and now, so we don’t get to see the stages of the takeover. But now the J.App.Pharm has acquired a new Editor, all the new sister-journals as additional money-extraction channels, and a policy of charging.

    Tom Spears notes that “[OMICS’] business model is charging upwards of US $1,000 for authors who can’t get published anywhere else, and who need a publication record to advance their careers.” In the case of these Intellectual Consortium spigots, the amount of the charge is unspecified — potential contributors contract themselves to paying however much OMICS later decide. Contributors who can’t pay are referred to a list of “Funding Dodies” where they can scrounge for money. That is, the OMICS business model is about out-sourcing the grift and sub-contracting contributors as scammers on the publisher’s behalf.

  • Steven Clarke December 10, 2016 at 10:52 pm

    I looks to me that there is something amiss with the NRC article “A Flawed Paper Makes Its Way Into Nature”. The NRC article quotes Jean-Marie Robine saying “In France, there are now about 30 people over the age of 110”. I don’t know where the number comes from. From the latest list of the widely respected Gerontology Research Group (http://www.grg.org/SC/SCindex.html) there are only 46 such individuals validated in the whole world; only 4 of these are in France. The statement that there were none in 1960 and “about 30” presently gives to me a false impression that there has been a large increase of people over 110 years old in the last half century or so; I do not believe that this is the case and this makes me think that the NRC article is itself biased and flawed.

  • herr doktor bimler December 11, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    “In France, there are now about 30 people over the age of 110”

    I wonder if the tense has changed slightly during translation, and if Robine was referring to a cumulative count of supercentenarians — not necessarily those who are alive right now.

  • Hester van Santen December 13, 2016 at 9:32 am

    Hi Steven, thanks for pointing this out. No, this was not a translation error. I am checking this with JM Robine and will get back to you.

  • Hester van Santen December 14, 2016 at 4:47 am

    Hi, I checked and the number quoted was correct. The exact number is 34 supercentenarians (people of age 110+) currently living in France, Jean-Marie Robine explained. These data have been gathered by Laurent Toussaint. By the way, there are currently about 21.000 centenarians (people of age 100+) in France!

    • herr doktor bimler December 14, 2016 at 5:05 am

      Thanks!

  • Robert Young December 15, 2016 at 7:05 pm

    Greetings,

    The GRG’s “World Supercentenarian Rankings List” is for the “oldest validated living persons”, NOT “ALL” supercentenarians.

    http://www.grg.org/SC/WorldSCRankingsList.html

    Of the 34 people on Mr. Laurent Toussaint (a GRG correspondent’s list), which includes both validated and unvalidated data and a lower age threshold (110.00 instead of 111.75), there are four persons currently validated to be old enough to attain the world rankings. One must understand that 50% of persons who turn 110 die at age 110, and of those who reach their 111th birthday, 50% again die at 111, so only a small number of persons will reach age 112+. For the 5th French case, age 112+, the case is currently in the stage of gathering documents but is likely nearing completion. In regards to both the Nature article and the Hester van Santen response to it, I would be pleased to explain details regarding GRG data, should we be asked.

  • Robert Young December 15, 2016 at 11:55 pm

    Robert Young
    Greetings,
    The GRG’s “World Supercentenarian Rankings List” is for the “oldest validated living persons”, NOT “ALL” supercentenarians.
    http://www.grg.org/SC/WorldSCRankingsList.html
    Of the 34 people on Mr. Laurent Toussaint (a GRG correspondent’s list), which includes both validated and unvalidated data and a lower age threshold (110.00 instead of 111.75), there are four persons currently validated to be old enough to attain the world rankings. One must understand that 50% of persons who turn 110 die at age 110, and of those who reach their 111th birthday, 50% again die at 111, so only a small number of persons will reach age 112+. For the 5th French case, age 112+, the case is currently in the stage of gathering documents but is likely nearing completion. In regards to both the Nature article and the Hester van Santen response to it, I would be pleased to explain details regarding GRG data, should we be asked.

    Put another way: age 110+ is like the major leagues; age 112+ is like the all-star team. One cannot expect world-scale coverage when the reality is that there are an estimated 1,000 persons now living worldwide age 110+, of which at least 20%-30% (200-300) are validatable (i.e., a system of recordkeeping existed 110+ years ago in only a minority of the world’s population…if the records don’t exist, there’s no way to validate the claim, as science has not yet devised a biological method for determining someone’s age).

  • Post a comment

    Threaded commenting powered by interconnect/it code.