Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

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PLOS ONE retracts paper after researcher admits to fabricating data

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On June 19, 2017, the U.S. Office of Research Integrity published its first misconduct finding of the year. The ORI reported that Brandi M. Baughman — a former research training awardee at the National Institute of Environmental and Health Sciences (NIEHS) — had “falsified and/or fabricated data” in 11 figures in a 2016 paper published in PLOS ONE.

Two days later, on June 21, PLOS ONE retracted the paper. (Note: The retraction process proceeded relatively quickly, but took longer than two days; a spokesperson for the journal told us that the authors alerted the editors of their concerns about the publication in May.)   Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

July 26th, 2017 at 8:00 am

PLOS ONE has faced a decline in submissions – why? New editor speaks

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By some measures, 2016 was a somewhat rocky year for PLOS ONE — it issued some high-profile retractions, and published fewer papers, in part due to a decline in submissions. Still, the first multidisciplinary open-access journal — which accepts all submissions that meet technical and ethical standards, regardless of the results — publishes more than 20,000 papers per year, juggling thousands of editors and reviewers. So what does the future hold for this “large and complex” journal? We spoke with its new editor, Joerg Heber, who assumed the role in November.

Retraction Watch: What are your primary goals for the journal, and how do you plan to achieve them?

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Written by Alison McCook

March 15th, 2017 at 9:42 am

Posted in plos,plos one

When does “overlap” become plagiarism? Here’s what PLOS ONE decided

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Consider this: Fragments of a PLOS ONE paper overlap with pieces of other publications. The authors used them without credit and without quotation marks.

This sounds an awful lot like plagiarism — using PLOS‘s own standards, even. But the journal isn’t calling it plagiarism. They’ve labeled this an instance of “text overlap,” a spokesperson told us, based on the amount of material that the paper shares with others.

The last author — Carlo Croce, who has two retractions under his belt — denies that he plagiarized, and says that his university has cleared him of a plagiarism charge from an anonymous whistleblower.

PLOS fixed this case last year with a correction notice — not the common course of action for a case of confirmed plagiarism. Take a look at the notice for yourself:

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PLOS ONE’s correction rate is higher than average. Why?

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When a high-profile psychologist reviewed her newly published paper in PLOS ONE, she was dismayed to notice multiple formatting errors.

So she contacted the journal to find out what had gone wrong, especially since checking the page proofs would have spotted the problem immediately. The authors were surprised to learn that it was against the journal’s policy to provide authors page proofs. Could this partly explain PLOS ONE’s high rate of corrections?

Issuing frequent corrections isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since it can indicate that the journal is responsive to fixing published articles. But the rate of corrections at PLOS ONE is notably high. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

August 5th, 2016 at 1:05 pm

PLOS ONE flags math paper over algorithm concerns

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PLOS OnePLOS ONE has issued an expression of concern (EOC) for a 2014 math paper after readers raised concerns with its algorithm.

According to the first author of the paper Hafsa Athar Jafree from the University of Karachi in Pakistan — none of the authors agreed to the EOC notice. She told us the paper contains a few typos, which may have made it unclear to some readers, but said the authors had provided all of the necessary information to “justify the presented algorithms.”

A PLOS ONE spokesperson told us the journal decided to issue an EOC after consulting the editorial board, which raised significant concerns about the study.

In 2014, the journal issued a correction to the study to fix several equations in the original article. 

Here’s the EOC, posted July 25: Read the rest of this entry »

PLOS ONE pulls malaria study for “inappropriate manipulation” of figures

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PLOS OnePLOS ONE has retracted a malaria paper after an institutional investigation found evidence the authors had manipulated multiple figures.

According to the notice, the authors’ institution — the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) in New Delhi, India — recommended the journal retract the paper.

Here’s the retraction notice, issued by PLOS ONE on June 30: Read the rest of this entry »

PLOS ONE retracts 2 malaria papers over doubts experiments ever took place

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Authors have retracted a pair of PLOS ONE papers after an investigation suggested the articles might contain some fiction.

In the papers, the authors describe collecting and analyzing the DNA of mosquitoes to look for changes following the introduction of bed nets treated with insecticides to combat malaria. However, an investigation by the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement in France could not confirm some of the experiments ever took place.

Here’s the retraction notice for “How the Malaria Vector Anopheles gambiae Adapts to the Use of Insecticide-Treated Nets by African Populations,” which appears at the top of the paper:

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PLOS ONE republishes removed chronic fatigue syndrome data

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PLOS OnePLOS ONE has republished data that were abruptly removed two weeks ago after the authors expressed concerns they did not have permission to release them.

The dataset — de-identified information from people with chronic fatigue syndrome — was removed May 18, noting it was “published in error.” But this week, the journal republished the dataset, saying the authors’ university had been consulted, and the dataset could be released.

This paper has drawn scrutiny for its similarities to a controversial “PACE” trial of chronic fatigue syndrome.

Here’s the second correction notice for “Therapist Effects and the Impact of Early Therapeutic Alliance on Symptomatic Outcome in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,” released June 1:

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Written by Alison McCook

June 3rd, 2016 at 11:30 am

PLOS ONE paper plagiarized from 17 articles — yes, 17

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PLOSOneA PLOS ONE paper about chronic pain plagiarized from multiple sources — 17, in fact.

According to the retraction notice released by the journal last week, the paper contains “extensive verbatim use of text from other sources.”

How did this make it past the editors? The journal published the paper in 2012 — before it began screening papers for plagiarism, according to a spokesperson.

Here’s the retraction notice for “The Effect of Social Stress on Chronic Pain Perception in Female and Male Mice:”

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Written by Shannon Palus

May 31st, 2016 at 9:30 am

PLOS ONE pulls maize paper with Photoshopped images

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PLOS OnePLOS ONE has retracted a paper after editors learned that some of the images had been manipulated using Photoshop.

First author of the paper, Chuan Li, confirmed that he was responsible, and told Retraction Watch he apologizes for his “low-level mistake.”

Zhongfu Ni, last author of the paper from the China Agricultural University in Beijing, told us that all the co-authors agree with the retraction.

Here’s the retraction notice: Read the rest of this entry »