Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

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MEDLINE/PubMed will stop identifying partial retractions. Here’s why.

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pubmedRetraction Watch readers may be familiar with partial retractions. They’re rare, and not always appreciated: The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) says that “they’re not helpful because they make it difficult for readers to determine the status of the article and which parts may be relied upon.”

Today, the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), which runs MEDLINE/PubMed, announced that the vast database of scholarly literature abstracts is no longer going to identify partial retractions.

We spoke to NLM’s David Gillikin about the change: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

September 29th, 2016 at 11:30 am

Heads up: “Borrowing” your student’s work will earn you a partial retraction — and a five-year publishing ban

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jeailWe have a curious case for the “avoiding the p word” files from the Journal of East Asia & International Law.

The paper in question, “Border Enforcement of Plant Variety Rights: A Comparison between Japan and Taiwan,” was written by Shun-liang Hsu and appeared in the Spring 2012 issue of the journal. Here are the first two pages.

The notice is quite detailed. It begins with the allegations against Hsu: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

January 29th, 2014 at 9:30 am

A partial retraction appears for former Salzburg crystallographer who admitted misconduct

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j imm april 2013A paper by a crystallographer fired from his university for misconduct has been partially retracted.

Last year, we covered the case of Robert Schwarzenbacher, formerly of Salzburg University. Schwarzenbacher had provided the crystallographic data for a paper in the Journal of Immunology, but those results raised questions with another crystallographer and prompted an investigation by the university.  Schwarzenbacher admitted he’d committed misconduct, although he recanted at one point, and was eventually fired.

Now, the authors have retracted the crystallographic data from the Journal of Immunology paper. Here’s the partial retraction, which is listed as a correction:
Read the rest of this entry »

Lost in translation: Authors blame a language error for wrong diagnosis

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A patient’s “unusual” brain cyst excited several researchers in China so much they published a paper about it in a major journal. Soon a reader identified a glaring mistake: the authors had described the cause of the cyst incorrectly.  

A month after the paper appeared online in November 2016, the reader — a neurologist — published a letter in the journal, pointing out the incorrect diagnosis. In their response, the authors acknowledged the mistake but said it had occurred not because they had misdiagnosed the patient, but because the diagnosis had been mistranslated from Chinese to English.

The editors of Neurology retracted the paper because of the error and published a new version with the correct diagnosis on the same day, June 6.

Although we did not hear back from the paper’s two corresponding authors—Jun Guo and Guan Sun—the journal published a string of letters that chronicles the case.

Here’s the retraction (and replacement) notice:  

Read the rest of this entry »

Authors who retract for honest error say they aren’t penalized as a result

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Daniele Fanelli

Are there two types of retractions? One that results from a form of misconduct, such as plagiarism or manipulating figures, and another that results from “honest errors,” or genuine mistakes the authors have owned up to? More and more research is suggesting that the community views each type very differently, and don’t shun researchers who make mistakes and try to correct the record. In yet another piece of evidence, Daniele Fanelli and his colleagues recently published the results of their interviews with 14 scientists who retracted papers for honest errors between 2010-2015. Although much of what scientists said affirmed what Fanelli – based at METRICS (the Meta-Research Innovation Center) at Stanford University – has long argued about retractions due to honest error, some of their answers surprised him.

Retraction Watch: We’ve seen the community reward scientists who retract papers for honest error, including a 2013 paper that showed no citation penalty for researchers who self-retract. Yet the interviewees said they were surprised to realize there weren’t any negative consequences to their self-retractions (some even got kudos for doing it). Why do you think people don’t realize how the community will view honest error?

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

March 27th, 2017 at 9:30 am

Unusual: Neurology removes author dinged for misconduct from 2016 paper

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Neurology has partially retracted a 2016 paper, replacing a figure and removing the author who contributed it after he was found guilty of misconduct.

The journal has replaced the figure with a new one that confirmed the findings of the original, and swapped the name of Andrew Cullinane with the scientist who constructed the new figure using a new dataset. Last year, the U.S. Office of Research Integrity declared that Cullinane had falsified data in this paper and one other while working as a postdoctoral fellow in the Medical Genetics Branch at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI).

Cullinane appears to be at Howard University in Washington D.C., according to his LinkedIn page. He is listed as an assistant professor in the Basic Sciences/Anatomy department of the university’s College of Medicine.

Here’s the partial retraction notice from the journal:

Read the rest of this entry »

EMBO journals retract figures in two papers missing source data

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Journals published by the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) have retracted a handful of figures in two papers with the same last and first authors.

After some figures in the 2005 and 2007 papers were flagged on PubPeer and the authors couldn’t provide the original data, the journals decided to retract parts of the papers, since other data supported the remaining conclusions, according to the Head of Scientific Publications at EMBO.

The partial retractions are labeled as corrigenda by the journals. Earlier this year, the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) announced it would be classifying partial retractions as errata, noting they had been used so rarely by journals.

Both lengthy corrigenda (also reported by Leonid Schneider) contain statements from the authors and the editors. The statements from the authors provide detailed explanations about the problems with the figures in question; here’s an excerpt from the editor’s statement in The EMBO Journal corrigendum: Read the rest of this entry »

Patient didn’t okay including her picture in plastic surgery paper

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indian-journal-of-plastic-surgeryA plastic surgery journal in India has retracted an article about rehabilitation following removal of an eye after a patient contacted the editors to say she hadn’t consented to publish her picture.

Mukund Jagannathan, the journal’s editor-in-chief and a plastic surgeon in India, told Retraction Watch:

The patient wrote to the editor, mentioning that her photo was present in the article originally published, and politely asked us to remove her photos from public display on the Internet.

Asked whether the journal considered issuing a partial retraction to only hide the patient’s identity, Jagannathan said: Read the rest of this entry »

Family decries publication of child’s picture in open access journal

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indian-journal-of-dermatology-venereology-and-leprologyAn author of a paper about a boy with a rare genetic disorder has retracted it after the patient’s family revoked permission to use his photo.

The 2012 paper in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology (IJDVL) told the tale of a 14-year old boy with Delleman syndrome, a condition that often results in the development of cysts within the cavities of the skull, leading to malformations in the eyes, brain, and skin.

Mabel Nocito, the study’s first and corresponding author from Hospital Churruca in Buenos Aires, Argentina told us the parents initially gave permission to publish their son’s picture, but then became concerned when they realized the paper was freely accessible: Read the rest of this entry »

Former Duke researcher at center of lawsuit lodges 16th retraction

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ajrcmb-2016-55-issue-5-coverTwo former researchers at Duke University at the center of a lawsuit by a whistleblower to recoup millions in federal funding have lost yet another paper.

This is hardly the first retraction for Erin Potts-Kant, who used to work in the pulmonary lab of now-retired William Michael Foster. Earlier this year, a lawsuit filed by a former colleague of Potts-Kant and Foster was unsealed alleging that the pair — along with the university — included fraudulent data in materials involving more than 60 grants, worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

That is the legal side of their story. The science publishing side is that Potts-Kant and Foster have been steadily adding to their list of retractions — this paper represents her 16th, and his 13th.

Here’s the notice for “Nitric oxide mediates relative airway hyporesponsiveness to lipopolysaccharide in surfactant protein A-deficient mice:” Read the rest of this entry »