Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

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“The results are essentially meaningless:” Typos, missing variables found throughout physics paper

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A physics journal has retracted a 2014 paper after a reader discovered a slew of errors.

The paper, published in the Journal of Thermophysics and Heat Transfer, explored how the properties of nanofluidsfluids that contain nanoparticles—change as the fluid moves through different materials.  

According to the editor-in-chief, Greg Naterer, an outside expertAsterios Pantokratoras, based at Democritus University of Thrace in Greececontacted the journal in May 2017 after discovering “errors with symbols in equations and figures.” The journal investigated the concerns and reached out to the paper’s corresponding author V. Ramachandra Prasad at Madanapalle Institute of Technology and Science in India for a response; after several rounds of comments from Pantokratoras and Prasad, the journal concluded that the paper should be retracted.

Naterer explained: Read the rest of this entry »

NY court: Cornell faces being held in contempt after denying physics professor tenure (twice)

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Mukund Vengalattore

Cornell University and a high-powered dean at the school face being held in contempt of court in a case stemming from their decision to deny tenure to a physics professor.

Assistant professor Mukund Vengalattore told Retraction Watch he believes the school and the dean are violating a judge’s order instructing them to completely redo his tenure review process. Neither the university nor the dean has done any of the things the judge asked them to do, and even suspended his paycheck for the first two weeks of June, he said.

In 2014 Gretchen Ritter, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, denied Vengalattore tenure, citing a weak publication record, an inability to accept advice from colleagues, and a poor group dynamic fostered in his lab [Exhibit C in this court document]. But on appeal, a faculty panel found that the review process had been affected by sexual misconduct allegations from a former graduate student.  Vengalattore told Retraction Watch the allegations were “completely false.”

However, last year, Ritter again denied Vengalattore tenure, a decision backed by Cornell’s provost, Michael Kotlikoff. As first reported by Inside Higher Ed in May, Vengalattore then took Cornell and Ritter to court. Judge Richard Rich ruled on that case in November, finding that the alleged misconduct “tainted” the process and that the school had deviated from its established procedures in a “necessary” but “secretive” way, denying Vengalattore due process:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew P. Han

June 27th, 2017 at 1:49 pm

Physics paper’s results off by factor of 100

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Researchers from China have retracted a physics paper after realizing an error led them to report results that were nearly 100 times too large.

What’s more, the authors omitted key findings that would enable others to reproduce their experiments.

According to the notice, the authors used a value to calculate a feature of electrons—called mobility—that “was approximately 100 times too small,” which led to results that were “100 times too large.” The notice also details several gaps in the presentation of experimental results, which preclude others from duplicating the experiments.

Here’s the retraction notice for “Bulk- and layer-heterojunction phototransistors based on poly[2-methoxy-5-(2′-ethylhexyloxy-p-phenylenevinylene)] and PbS quantum dot hybrids:” Read the rest of this entry »

Researchers disagree over how to explain doubts over physics findings

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After an international group of physicists agreed that the findings of their 2015 paper were in doubt, they simply couldn’t agree on how to explain what went wrong. Apparently tired of waiting, the journal retracted the paper anyway.

The resulting notice doesn’t say much, for obvious reasons. Apparently, some additional information came to light which caused the researchers to question the results and model. Although the five authors thought a retraction was the right call, they could not agree on the language in the notice.

Here’s the retraction notice for “Atomistic simulation of damage accumulation and amorphization in Ge,” published online February 2015 in the Journal of Applied Physics (JAP) and retracted two years later in January 2017: Read the rest of this entry »

Physics journal removes study for breach of confidentiality

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applied-physics-lettersA physics journal has retracted a 2016 study after learning that the author published it without the knowledge or permission of the funder, which had a confidentiality agreement in place for the work.

According to the retraction notice in Applied Physics Letters, the paper also lifted content from other researchers without due credit. Given the “legal issue” associated with the breach of confidentiality, the journal has decided to remove the paper entirely. 

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

Make America Retract Again: Physics group yanks release that quoted Trump, angered scientists

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american-physical-societyBowing to outraged scientists, the American Physical Society (APS) has retracted a press release (archived here) it issued yesterday that urged President-elect Donald Trump to  “Make America Great Again” by strengthening “scientific leadership.”

The statement, attributed to Tawanda Johnson, in the APS’ Washington, D.C. office, congratulated Trump on his victory over Hillary Clinton and said the nation must “reclaim its scientific leadership, which it has lost during the past decade. APS believes that such policies” — which it did not specify — “will help the Trump administration achieve its goal captured by its slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

The release goes on to claim that the United States ranks 10th worldwide in “overall innovation,” thanks in part to less-than-adequate funding for scientific research.

Social media went predictably bonkers as the release made the rounds. From Twitter: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by amarcus41

November 10th, 2016 at 3:48 pm

Texas participant in physics breakthrough repaid $5M in misspent funds

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utrgvThe Texas institute that participated in the groundbreaking gravitational waves discovery had to repay nearly $5 million in funding after misusing and misreporting benefits, according to audits obtained by The Monitor.

The infractions occurred at The University of Texas Brownsville, which has since become part of The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV). Once the issues were discovered, UTRGV had to make the reimbursements.

As The Monitor reported: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

October 6th, 2016 at 2:05 pm

Physics journal retracts paper without alerting author

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An Elsevier journal has angered an author by removing his study without telling him.

After spending months asking the journal why it removed the paper — about a heavily debated theorem in physics — and getting no response, the author threatened to seek damages from the journal and publisher for “permanently stigmatizing” his work. Yesterday, an Elsevier representative told the author what happened: Experts told the journal the paper had a major mistake, so the journal decided to withdraw the study, but failed to tell the author due to an “internal error.”

That explanation didn’t satisfy study author Joy Christian, scientific director of the Einstein Centre for Local-Realistic Physics in Oxford, UK, who has demanded the journal either republish the article or remove it and return the copyright to him, or he will pursue legal action.

Here’s the cryptic publisher’s note for “Local causality in a Friedmann–Robertson–Walker spacetime:” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

September 30th, 2016 at 12:00 pm

Physics journal pulls two papers for data shortcuts

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New Journal of PhysicsA publisher is retracting two papers today by a team of physicists who took a short cut in reporting their data.

The papers present a method for imaging very small things — like biological processes on a molecular scale — that could be an alternative to electron microscopy, as the authors explain in a video. But after the papers were published in the New Journal of Physics, last author Ulf Leonhardt, now based at the Weizmann Institute of Science, found out that some of the data

 were pixel-by-pixel mirror-symmetric, which is impossible for genuine experimental data.

One of the researchers co-authored a subsequent paper that acknowledges one of the papers incorrectly assumed the data were symmetrical, and could therefore be extrapolated from one side to the other. A representative of the publisher told us they have not seen any signs of misconduct, and the problem seemed to result from a “series of apparent miscommunications between the authors.”

Here’s the retraction notice for “Evidence for subwavelength imaging with positive refraction:” Read the rest of this entry »

Science retracts physics paper after magnetic field wasn’t what it seemed

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F1.mediumScience has retracted an August paper on an interesting electric current researchers observed in a kind of material called a topological insulator. Well, a current the researchers — based at Stanford and MIT — thought they had observed.

A magnetic field with particular attributes reported in the paper seemed to provide evidence of the current. But the researchers soon discovered that the field might have been, in part, an artifact of the very device they used to detect it. The authors, along with a few other researchers, have published that subsequent finding on the physics preprint server, arXiv.

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