Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘australia retractions’ Category

Controversial Australian journalist’s paper flagged by journal

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The Journal of Biological Chemistry has added an expression of concern to a 2003 paper that arose from the PhD thesis of a once-prominent — and controversial — science journalist in Australia.

The first author of the paper is Maryanne Demasi, a journalist whose reporting created unintentional headlines in recent years. In 2013, she produced a controversial series about cholesterol and fat (and even cast doubt on cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins); in 2016, she was fired from the science program Catalyst, after it aired an episode alleging wi-fi could cause brain tumors.

Now, it appears the research community is taking a second look at some of the work underlying her PhD in rheumatology from Royal Adelaide Hospital. Here’s the notice from the journal:

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Project to “fact check” genetic studies leads to three more retractions. And it’s just getting started.

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Jennifer Byrne

A project to identify studies doomed by problematic reagents has triggered three more retractions, bringing the total to five.

Jennifer Byrne, a scientist at the University of Sydney, who developed the the idea of double-checking the nucleic acid sequences of research materials — thereby ensuring studies were testing the gene in question — told Retraction Watch that all three retractions came after she started emailing journals in January  to alert them to the problems: Read the rest of this entry »

Authors withdraw study, citing “accidentally duplicated” images

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Researchers in Australia have withdrawn a 2006 paper in The Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC), citing image duplication.

In the withdrawal notice, published July 14, 2017, the authors claim that the “errors do not impact the underlying scientific findings of the article.”

Although the notice does not mention an investigation, a comment on PubPeer on March 2017—signed by Mark Hargreaves, the vice-chancellor at the University of Melbourne—indicates that the university conducted an investigation to assess the issues in the paper and determined that research misconduct “did not occur.”

Here’s the withdrawal notice for “Induction of the unfolded protein response in familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and association of protein-disulfide isomerase with superoxide dismutase 1:” Read the rest of this entry »

Lost citation snuffs out Aussie fire paper

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A journal has retracted a 2016 paper on wildfires in Australia because the authors neglected to cite earlier work — an unintentional lapse, they said.

The article, “Projected changes in Australian fire regimes during the 21st century and consequences for Ecosystems,” appeared in the International Journal of Wildland Fire. The authors are Sandy Harrison and Douglas Kelley,  of the University of Reading, in the UK. Kelley appears to have done his share of the work as a PhD student at Macquarie University in Australia.

According to the notice: Read the rest of this entry »

Work by group at Australian university faces scrutiny

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A journal is investigating research by a group in Australia, after receiving “serious allegations” regarding a 2017 paper about treating eye burns.

The journal, Frontiers in Pharmacology, has issued an expression of concern (EOC) for the 2017 paper while it investigates. The notice does not specify the nature of the allegations.  Meanwhile, several other papers by the three researchers, based at Deakin University in Geelong, Australia, have also come under scrutiny. Late last month, Frontiers in Pharmacology retracted a 2015 paper by Kislay Roy, Rupinder Kanwar, and Jagat R Kanwar, citing image duplication. A 2015 paper in Biomaterials received a correction in May 2017, again flagging image duplication.

Roy, the first author on the papers, is a postdoctoral research fellow; Rupinder Kanwar, a middle author, is a senior lecturer; and Jagat R Kanwar, the corresponding author on all three, is head of the Nanomedicine-Laboratory of Immunology and Molecular Biomedical Research.

Gearóid Ó Faoleán, the ethics and integrity manager at Frontiers in Pharmacology, explained that the investigation into the flagged article is ongoing and the EOC “must serve as the extent of our public statement for the present.”

A spokesperson for Deakin University declined to comment on the allegations: Read the rest of this entry »

Are there foxes in Tasmania? Follow the poop

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Stephen Sarre, based at the University of Canberra in Australia, has made a career out of collecting and analyzing poop.

It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. Part of his work is designed to answer a multi-million dollar question: Is Tasmania home to foxes, a pest that carries rabies and other diseases and can ravage local wildlife? According to the Australian news outlet ABCthe Tasmanian and Australian governments have spent $50 million (AUD) on hunting foxes on the island since 2001 — even though many have debated whether they are even there.

In 2012, after analyzing thousands of fecal samples, Sarre published a paper in the Journal of Applied Ecology which boldly claimed that “Foxes are now widespread in Tasmania.” But many outside researchers didn’t buy it, and quickly voiced their criticisms of the paper, namely that there may be problems with false positives and the methodology used to analyze the samples. Recently, the journal issued an expression of concern for the paper, citing an ongoing investigation into the allegations.

Here’s the expression of concern (paywalled, tsk tsk):

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A troubling new way to evade plagiarism detection software. (And how to tell if it’s been used.)

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Ann Rogerson

Recently, at the end of a tutorial, a student asked Ann Rogerson a question she’d never heard before: Was it okay to use paraphrasing tools to write up assignments? Rogerson, a senior lecturer in the faculty of business at the University of Wollongong in Australia, was stumped — she’d never heard of these tools before.

It turns out, the student had learned of the tool from another student. For an assignment, the student had taken wording from a journal article and run it through a free online tool that automatically paraphrases text, so it evades plagiarism detection software.

Immediately, Rogerson remembered wording from a previous student submission that had always bugged her — in an assignment about employee performance reviews, the student had written awkward phrases such as “constructive employee execution” and “worker execution audits.” A lightbulb went off for Rogerson.

She immediately went to her computer, looked up the tools on Google, and easily found one. She typed in “employee performance reviews,” and the tool spit out “representative execution surveys.”

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Written by Alison McCook

April 26th, 2017 at 9:30 am

Does labeling bad behavior “scientific misconduct” help or hurt research integrity? A debate rages

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Is eliminating the concept of “misconduct” a sign of progress in the fight for research integrity, or a step backward?

That’s the debate playing out in Australia, where a proposal from national research bodies would make it the latest country to embrace a broader definition of ethical lapses in research, doing away with the term “misconduct.” Proponents argue the change will encourage more reporting of all types of bad behavior—not just the most extreme forms such as data fabrication, which are typically associated with the term “misconduct.” But critics argue the move could soften enforcement, as every institution applies its own definitions of misbehavior. (To tell us what you think, take our poll at the bottom of the story.)

The proposal comes in the form of a revised edition of Australia’s national research code of conduct.  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mark Zastrow

February 23rd, 2017 at 1:00 pm

Do you calculate if you should accept an invite to peer review? Please stop, say journal editors

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Raphael Didham

Scientists are always pressed for time; still, Raphael Didham of the University Western Australia was surprised when he fell upon a group of early career scientists using a spreadsheet formula to calculate whether one was obligated to accept an invitation to review a paper, based on how many manuscripts he’d submitted for review. “I recall that sharp moment of clarity that you sometimes get when you look up from the keyboard and realise the world you (thought you) knew had changed forever,” Didham and his colleagues write in a recent editorial in Insect Conservation and Diversity. We spoke with Didham about how to convince scientists that peer reviewing is a benefit to their careers, not a burden.

Retraction Watch: You talk about the current problem of “zero-sum” reviewing. Could you define that in the context of the scientific peer review system? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

January 26th, 2017 at 11:45 am

What turned a cancer researcher into a literature watchdog?

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Jennifer Byrne

Sometime in the middle of 2015, Jennifer Byrne, professor of molecular oncology at the University of Sydney, began her journey from cancer researcher to a scientific literature sleuth, seeking out potentially problematic papers.

The first step was when she noticed several papers that contained a mistake in a DNA construct which, she believed, meant the papers were not testing the gene in question, associated with multiple cancer types.  She started a writing campaign to the journal editors and researchers, with mixed success. But less than two years later, two of the five papers she flagged have already been retracted.

When asked why she spent time away from bench research to examine this issue, Byrne told us:  Read the rest of this entry »