Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

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Lawsuit involving PubPeer unmasks commenter as pseudonymous whistleblower Clare Francis

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pubpeerAn attorney for Fazlul Sarkar, the Wayne State University researcher who claims he lost a job offer because of comments about his research on PubPeer, has asked a judge to reconsider last month’s decision not to release information about the site’s anonymous commenters. As a consequence, the brief in support of that motion identifies a key commenter as the pseudonymous Clare Francis.

On March 19, a Michigan court ruled that PubPeer had to disclose identifying information about a single commenter, who left the second of these comments: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

April 13th, 2015 at 9:30 am

Clare Francis scores a bullseye: Journal of Cell Biology paper retracted for image manipulation

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jcbIf you’re a journal editor or publisher, there’s a good chance your email inbox has seen its share of emails from “Clare Francis,” who has been crusading against text and image duplication in papers for some years now. Some editors have grown quite weary of those emails, sometimes because they don’t want to deal with anonymous whistleblowers, and sometimes because they have found Clare’s claims to be without merit.

But the Journal of Cellular Biology is one journal that has apparently continued to take them seriously. Today, they retract “Follistatin induction by nitric oxide through cyclic GMP: a tightly regulated signaling pathway that controls myoblast fusion,” a 2006 paper about which Francis first raised concerns in early November. Here’s the notice, one of those wonderfully detailed ones that make us squeal like schoolgirls meeting the Beatles: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

January 22nd, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Three figures in blood pressure paper were manipulated, says journal

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A pharmacology journal has retracted a 2011 paper after concluding images in three figures had been manipulated.

According to the British Journal of Pharmacology, four of the five authors claim they played no role in the manipulation. There is no comment from the remaining author, first author Ian Morecroft, a research associate at the University of Glasgow.

Here’s more from the notice, which says an investigation at the University of Glasgow is ongoing:

Read the rest of this entry »

Weekend reads: Investigations need sunlight; should we name fraudster names?; how to kill predatory journals

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The week at Retraction Watch featured a lawsuit threat following criticism of a popular education program, and the new editor of PLOS ONE’s explanation of why submissions are down. Here’s what was happening elsewhere: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

March 18th, 2017 at 9:30 am

Posted in weekend reads

Cancer researcher has dodged accusations for decades (and has a new correction)

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Today isn’t a great day for Carlo Croce, chair of the department of cancer biology and genetics at The Ohio State University (OSU).

The New York Times has a lengthy article detailing the misconduct accusations that have swirled around Croce for years. We’ve covered many, but The Gray Lady obtained documents that show there have been many more.

The story mentions a 2013 letter from Ohio State University to pseudonymous whistleblower Clare Francis (which we reported on in 2014), acknowledging Francis’s allegations against Croce. However, in the letter, an administrator said OSU saw no reason to investigate Croce.

The story didn’t stop there, as the Times reports:

Read the rest of this entry »

Sarkar vs. John Doe: What happened at this week’s hearing involving PubPeer

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Fazlul Sarkar

Fazlul Sarkar

On Tuesday, lawyers representing both sides of the ongoing suit filed by a scientist against PubPeer commenters appeared in court, alleging their criticisms of his work cost him a new job at the University of Mississippi.

In the case described as “FAZLUL SARKAR V JOHN DOE,” lawyers representing PubPeer, Sarkar, and the anonymous commenter at the heart of the case spoke before two judges (one was absent). As the case now stands, a judge has ruled that all but one of the commenters can remain anonymous, and PubPeer has filed an appeal, earning the support of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), as well as Google and Twitter.

According to one of the attorneys representing PubPeer, Alex Abdo at the ACLU, things proceeded as expected. Their main argument, he said, was: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

October 6th, 2016 at 9:30 am

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

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PLOSOne

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:

Read the rest of this entry »

Meet the researcher with 13 retractions who’s trying to sue PubPeer commenters: Fazlul Sarkar

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Fazlul Sarkar

Fazlul Sarkar

Fazlul Sarkar has not had a good month: In the last few weeks, he has earned 13 retractions across four journals, the latest in the fallout from a string of legal cases that have pitted him against one of science publishing’s major players.

Sarkar gained attention in 2014 when he sued anonymous commenters of PubPeer for defamation, and for potentially costing him a new gig at the University of Mississippi. But before all that, he was a respected researcher with hundreds of published papers, 38 of which were cited at least 100 times each. He’d also received $12.8 million in NIH funding for his research. So how did it all fall apart?

With the involvement multiple lawsuits, multiple institutions, and multiple people — some of whom are anonymous — it can get complex trying to keep track of it all. So for your convenience, we’ve compiled a timeline of recent events in the case: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Michael Koziol

August 12th, 2016 at 9:30 am

Weekend reads: NFL, NIH butt heads on concussion research; should all papers be anonymous?

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booksThe week at Retraction Watch featured our annual roundup of the year’s top retractions for The Scientist, a retraction from Science, and claims about a book Aristotle never wrote. Here’s what was happening elsewhere: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

December 26th, 2015 at 9:30 am

Posted in weekend reads

Cut and paste and a PC crash: figure manipulations sink two papers

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jnc

Two papers by an overlapping group of researchers in Italy have been retracted for manipulated figures.

In late 2013, perennial tipster Clare Francis sent their concerns about several papers, including the two that have been retracted, by authors who frequently publish together. One of the papers, in the Journal of Neurochemistry, is from a team led by Ferdinando Nicoletti; four other papers from the group have been criticized on PubPeer for image manipulation, which he addressed via email with us.

The second retracted paper, from the Journal of Immunology, has shares one author with the first: Patrizia Di Iorio of the University of Chieti, though according to Nicoletti she had no role in preparing the figures.

Here’s the April 2014 notice for “Neuroprotection mediated by glial group-II metabotropic glutamate receptors requires the activation of the MAP kinase and the phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase pathways” in the Journal of Neurochemistry. It’s behind a paywall, but the journal has assured us this is against policy and they will be fixing it shortly:
Read the rest of this entry »