Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

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Post-publication peer review in action: Science flags paper just days after publication

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Science has issued an expression of concern for a widely covered materials science paper published on Friday, citing issues with the supplementary data.

The paper — which caught the attention of multiple news outlets — added properties to cotton fibers in vitro, potentially enabling researchers to manufacture fabric that can fluoresce or carry magnetic properties.

The move to issue an expression of concern was unusually quick. According to the journal, an expert who received the paper from a journalist under a media embargo contacted Science to flag issues in some of the supplementary data. At the time of this post, the paper does not yet have an entry on PubPeer.

Here’s the full expression of concern:

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Weekend reads: Fired for fake peer review; world’s most prolific fraudster; peer reviewers behaving badly?

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The week at Retraction Watch featured a post on just how much an authorship costs if you want to buy one, anger over charges to use a common research tool, and the revocation of a PhD from a once-rising star scientist. Here’s what was happening elsewhere: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

September 16th, 2017 at 9:38 am

Posted in weekend reads

What should journals do when peer reviewers do not disclose potential conflicts?

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Peer reviewers, like authors, are supposed to declare any potential conflicts of interest. But what happens when they don’t?

Take this case: In a court transcript from Feb. 23, 2017, Bryan Hardin testified that he was a peer reviewer on a 2016 paper in Critical Reviews in Toxicology, which found that asbestos does not increase the risk of cancer. In the deposition, Hardin—who works at the consulting firm Veritox—also said that he has testified in asbestos litigation on behalf of automakers, such as Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler, but said he had not disclosed these relationships to the journal.

Last year, the first author of the 2016 review withdrew a paper from another journal (by the same publisher) which concluded asbestos roofing products are safe, following several criticisms — including not disclosing the approving editor’s ties to the asbestos industry. In this latest case, the journal told us it believes the review process for the paper was up to snuff, but two outside experts we consulted said they believed Hardin’s relationships — and failure to disclose them — should give the journal pause.

We obtained a copy of the transcript from Christian Hartley, who was representing a man suing a mining company because the man developed cancer after being exposed to asbestos at work. When Hartley asked Hardin whether he had told the journal about testifying for companies involved in asbestos litigation, Hardin responded:

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Researcher who stole manuscript during peer review earns second retraction

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The researcher whose brazen theft of a manuscript he had reviewed prompted a “Dear plagiarist” letter from the aggrieved author once the deceit was discovered has lost a second paper for plagiarism.

International Scholarly Research Notices, a Hindawi publication, has retracted a 2012 study by Carmine Finelli and colleagues, citing widespread misuse of text from two previously published articles. The removal was prompted by the curiosity of a scientist in England who, on reading about Finelli’s first retraction, made the logical assumption: once a plagiarist, often a plagiarist.

The review article was titled “Physical Activity: An Important Adaptative Mechanism for Body-Weight Control.” The journal is not indexed by Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, but the paper has been cited seven times, according to Google Scholar. According to the retraction notice: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by amarcus41

August 1st, 2017 at 8:00 am

Weekend reads: 10 rules for research misconduct; peer review’s black box; the rich get richer

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The week at Retraction Watch featured authors making a difficult decision to retract once-promising findings about gliobastoma, and sanctions for a researcher in whose lab image manipulations were found. Here’s what was happening elsewhere: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

July 22nd, 2017 at 9:36 am

Posted in weekend reads

Fake peer review, forged authors, fake funding: Everything’s wrong with brain cancer paper

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The paper had everything: Fake peer review, forged authors, even a fake funder.

In other words, it had nothing.

A 2015 paper is the latest retraction stemming from an investigation into fake peer review by Springer, which has now netted more than a hundred papers.

According to a spokesperson at Springer: Read the rest of this entry »

Fake peer review strikes again for pair of authors

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Two authors who had a paper retracted for fake peer review in 2015 have lost another for the same reason.

Elsevier recently retracted the second paper by the duo, a 2015 paper in a cancer journal, after finding evidence of fake peer review. The paper was submitted in October 2014 and accepted just a week before our piece on fake peer review appeared in Nature.

According to the notice, after investigating the paper, which appeared in Cancer Letters, the publisher concluded that it was accepted “based upon the positive advice of at least two faked reviewer reports.” The notice also explained that the identities of several authors “could not be confirmed.” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

June 29th, 2017 at 8:00 am

Can a tracking system for peer reviewers help stop fakes?

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Andrew Preston Credit: Victoria University of Wellington

The problem of fake peer reviews never seems to end — although the research community has known about it since 2014, publishers are still discovering new cases. In April, one journal alone retracted 107 papers after discovering the review process had been compromised. By tracking individual reviewers’ contributions, Publons — recently purchased by Clarivate Analytics — thinks that it can help curtail the problem of faked reviews. Co-founder and CEO Andrew Preston spoke to us about how it might work — and how the site has responded to recent criticism about accessibility to review data.

Retraction Watch: What is Publons doing to help combat the problem of faked reviews? 

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Written by Alison McCook

June 23rd, 2017 at 10:00 am

Meet PubPeer 2.0: New version of post-publication peer review site launches today

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Since it launched in 2012, PubPeer has grown to become a standard part of the scientific lexicon, and its numerous post-publication discussions have led to more editorial notices than we can count. But it’s also faced its share of critics, including a scientist who took the site to court to unmask commenters he alleged had cost him a job offer. The site won that case on appeal, but is today launching new features that will make it impossible for the site to reveal users’ identities, as well as easier to read and format comments. We spoke with PubPeer co-founder Brandon Stell about what to expect from the new site.

Retraction Watch: What changes have you introduced to the site?

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Written by Alison McCook

June 15th, 2017 at 8:00 am

Posted in pubpeer selections

Yikes: Peer reviewer stole (and published) author’s data

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A gastroenterology and hepatology journal has retracted a 2017 review after discovering it included data “accessible only during peer review for another journal.”

Although we don’t know the details of this particular case—for instance, how the editors and publisher of Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics learned about the transgression and which author was responsible—the journal acted quickly to retract the paper, which was published online in March.

Here’s the retraction notice for “Systematic review: benefits and harms of transarterial embolisation for treating hepatocellular adenoma:”

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