Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

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PubPeer wins appeal of court ruling to unmask commenters

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Fazlul Sarkar

PubPeer is having a good day.

In a new ruling, a trio of judges on the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed a 2015 decision mandating the site reveal the identity of anonymous commenters after a scientist sued them, claiming they cost him a job offer.

The judges stated that Fazlul Sarkar, the scientist suing the commenters, can continue pursuing a defamation case, but: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

December 7th, 2016 at 1:17 pm

PubPeer dealt blow in lawsuit against anonymous commenters

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Fazlul Sarkar

Fazlul Sarkar

PubPeer has suffered a setback in an ongoing lawsuit filed by a scientist who alleges the site’s anonymous commenters cost him a job.

This week, judges in the Court of Appeals in Michigan denied the request of the American Civil Liberties Union — which is representing PubPeer — to include an investigative report as part of evidence in the case. The report, by Wayne State University, found the plaintiff — Fazlul Sarkar — had committed widespread misconduct, and should retract scores of papers.

Alexander Abdo of the ACLU told us: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

December 2nd, 2016 at 8:30 am

Scientist embroiled with PubPeer engaged in “widespread research misconduct,” investigation finds

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Fazlul Sarkar

Fazlul Sarkar

An investigation into a scientist suing PubPeer commenters over criticisms of his work has concluded that the researcher engaged in widespread misconduct and should retract 42 papers.

The investigation report by Wayne State University, obtained by The Scientist, reveals that Fazlul Sarkar created a research environment that encouraged productivity but cut corners when it came to integrity: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

October 19th, 2016 at 2:00 pm

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

Scientist faces off with PubPeer commenters in new hearing next week

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Fazlul Sarkar

Fazlul Sarkar

On Tuesday, a Detroit courtroom will hear arguments in a case against PubPeer commenters, in which a scientist alleges their criticisms of his work cost him a new job at the University of Mississippi.

This isn’t the first time both sides have met in court: Fazlul Sarkar first gained attention in 2014 when he sued anonymous commenters of PubPeer for defamation; in 2015, a judge ruled that all but one of the commenters should be allowed to remain anonymous. PubPeer has filed an appeal, earning the support of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), as well as Google and Twitter.

Meanwhile, Sarkar has earned 18 retractions, many citing an institutional investigation at Wayne State University.

We spoke with attorney Alex Abdo at the ACLU, who is representing the PubPeer commenters in this case, about what to expect at next week’s hearing.

Retraction Watch: What will happen at this hearing? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

September 29th, 2016 at 2:00 pm

Here’s why more than 50,000 psychology studies are about to have PubPeer entries

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pubpeerPubPeer will see a surge of more than 50,000 entries for psychology studies in the next few weeks as part of an initiative that aims to identify statistical mistakes in academic literature.

The detection process uses the algorithm “statcheck” — which we’ve covered previously in a guest post by one of its co-developers — to scan just under 700,000 results from the large sample of psychology studies. Although the trends in Hartgerink’s present data are yet to be explored, his previous research suggests that around half of psychology papers have at least one statistical error, and one in eight have mistakes that affect their statistical conclusions. In the current effort, regardless of whether any mistakes are found, the results from the checks are then posted to PubPeer, and authors are alerted through an email.

Till now, the initiative is one of the biggest large-scale post-publication peer review efforts of its kind. Some researchers are, however, concerned about its current process of detecting potential mistakes, particularly the fact that potentially stigmatizing entries are created even if no errors are found. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

September 2nd, 2016 at 11:35 am

Five more retractions for researcher who sued PubPeer commenters brings tally to 18

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Fazlul Sarkar

Fazlul Sarkar

A cancer researcher who tried to sue PubPeer commenters for criticizing his work has earned five more retractions, bringing his total to 18. 

All of the new retractions for Fazlul Sarkar, formerly based at Wayne State University in Michigan, appear in the International Journal of Cancer. All cite an institutional investigation, and relate to issues with images.

With 18 retractions, Sarkar has now earned a spot on our leaderboard.

We first encountered Sarkar when he subpoenaed PubPeer to reveal the names of anonymous commenters that potentially cost him a job at the University of Mississippi. Earlier this month, a Wayne State spokesperson confirmed to us that Sarkar has now retired from the university. (To get up to speed, check out our timeline on the major events in this case.)

Here’s the first of the retraction notices, issued today: 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

Journal flags two papers by prominent diabetes researcher, more questioned on PubPeer

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DiabetesDiabetes has issued two expressions of concern (EOCs) for papers co-authored by leading diabetes researcher Kathrin Maedler, adding to her previous count of one retraction and three corrections.

Both papers were questioned on PubPeer, alongside several others co-authored by Maedler, who is based at the University of Bremen in Germany. As we previously reported, PubPeer comments have led to one retraction for Maedler in the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC), and corrections in various other journals.

One of those corrections has now earned an EOC from Diabetes, which also extends to the original paper. Here are the notices, which asks the University of Bremen to investigate further:  Read the rest of this entry »

Botanist pair’s paper retracted, others questioned on PubPeer

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Plant Science TodayA plant sciences journal has pulled a 2016 paper for manipulated images after the study came under question at PubPeer.

According to the notice, the authors claim that the images were supplied by a “service provider;” the editor-in-chief of the journal told us he doesn’t have any details on this third party’s identity.

The first author of the retracted paper in Plant Science Today Dibyendu Talukdar, from the University of Calcutta in West Bengal, India — has several other papers being questioned on PubPeer. His co-author, Tulika Talukdar, who is based at Acharya Prafulla Chandra Roy Government College in West Bengal, India, according to her ResearchGate page, is a co-author on three of these papers. According to the present paper, however, Tulika Talukdar is affiliated with Raja Peary Mohan College, which is part of the University of Calcutta.

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

Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

July 5th, 2016 at 2:00 pm