Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘canada’ Category

Are rich people meaner? While trying to find out, two teams find errors in each other’s work

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Is having money linked to bad behavior?

A high profile paper published in 2012 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) set out to answer that question — and found that yes, the more money people have, the more likely they are to lie, cheat, and steal. And the greedier they are, the worse they behave. But when a more recent paper tried to replicate some of those findings, it couldn’t.

It turns out, both the original paper and the paper that tried to replicate it contained errors. Although neither appear to affect the main conclusions, the authors of the 2016 replication recently issued a correction; the error in the 2012 paper was initially deemed too insignificant to correct, but the journal has decided to revisit the idea of issuing a correction.

A representative of PNAS told us that the replication paper — and reporting by Retraction Watch — is the reason why: Read the rest of this entry »

Journal to retract paper called “anti-vaccine pseudoscience”

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A journal is planning to retract a paper that purported to link a component of vaccines to autism in mice.

The paper, about the effects of aluminum adjuvants in vaccines on the immune response in the brains of mice, is the second retraction for co-authors Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic, of the University of British Columbia. The journal’s editor told us he and the authors are jointly retracting the paper. 

Just over a month old, the paper has already received plenty of criticism. Numerous commenters on PubPeer have allegedly identified image duplications and other problems with the paper. One commenter described “clear and deliberate” removal of control results in the paper, while others suggested gel bands were duplicated within the paper, and appear similar to those from another paper published in 2014 by Shaw and Tomljenovic. In a blog post, David Gorski, a professor and surgeon at Wayne State University, called the paper “antivaccine pseudoscience.”

Shaw, the paper’s last author, told us that his lab became aware of the PubPeer discussion a few weeks after publication:  Read the rest of this entry »

Nature tags glacier paper with note of concern due to data mix-up

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Nature has tagged a recent paper on the importance of glacial melt to water supply in Asia with an expression of concern (EoC), after receiving a tip that the author had misused some data.

The EoC for “Asia’s glaciers are a regionally important buffer against drought,” published by Hamish Pritchard, a glaciologist at the British Antarctic Survey, came out today. The May 11, 2017 article — which has been cited three times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science — considers the contribution of glaciers to water supply in Central Asia and the potential for glacier loss to exacerbate water stress in the region. The paper received limited news coverage when it came out from science sites, including

Pritchard appears to have improperly used a particular data set — an error that was reported to the journal by two outside experts within weeks after the paper was published.  Read the rest of this entry »

“It was an honest mistake:” Author retracts and replaces chemistry paper 15 years later

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In 2001, Chris Orvig was happy when his team had synthesized a molecule with potential therapeutic applications. He and his colleagues published their findings in a 2002 paper in Inorganic Chemistry.

Over a decade later, Orvig discovered a pivotal error in the paper: The authors had misidentified the compound.

Orvig, a professor of chemistry at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, told us: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

August 30th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Posted in canada

Toronto wife-husband research team lose bid to re-open labs

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Shereen Ezzat. Source: University Health Network

Sylvia Asa. Source: University of Toronto

A pair of Canadian scientists may be running out of options to save their laboratories, which have been permanently closed based on findings of research misconduct.

Sylvia Asa, once the head of the largest hospital diagnostic laboratory in Canada, and her husband and collaborator Shereen Ezzat, have spent almost five years fighting allegations of research misconduct involving data falsification and fabrication in more than a dozen published papers. The couple’s work has been scrutinized by their employer, University Health Network (UHN), a healthcare system affiliated with the University of Toronto, in two investigations. The investigations did not find evidence that Asa or Ezzat were directly involved in image falsification or fabrication; however, they concluded that, as supervisors, they failed to conform to accepted standards and practices as they related to scientific rigor and accountability.

After the first investigation, UHN decided to temporarily close both Asa and Ezzat’s labs. After the second, the UHN decided to make that closure permanent. The couple have had three papers retracted and at least one correction.

Recently, the pair faced yet another setback. After they asked an Ontario court to review two of UHN’s decisions, on July 13, a judge found no fault with either one. Justice Ian Nordheimer, one of three judges who considered Asa and Ezzat’s request, said in his written opinion Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew P. Han

July 28th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Lancet retracts (and replaces) paper a year after authors report error that changes “all numbers”

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In March 2016, researchers in Switzerland and Canada published a meta-analysis in The Lancet, exploring the optimal painkiller and dose for treating pain in knee and hip osteoarthritis. Soon after, the authors were informed of an error that would change “all numbers” in a paper that may influence clinical practice.

The authors contacted The Lancet immediately, in July 2016, to inform them of the issue. Sven Trelle, the paper’s corresponding author, also told us: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

July 10th, 2017 at 11:02 am

Instead of retracting a flawed study, a journal let authors re-do it. It got retracted anyway.

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When a journal discovers elementary design flaws in a paper, what should it do? Should it retract immediately, or are there times when it makes sense to give the researchers time to perform a “do-over?”

These are questions the editors at Scientific Reports recently faced with a somewhat controversial 2016 paper, which reported that microRNAs from broccoli could make their way into the nuclei of human cells — suggesting that the food we eat could affect our gene expression.

After the paper appeared, researcher Kenneth Witwer at Johns Hopkins — who was not a co-author — posted comments on PubMed Commons and the paper itself, noting that the authors hadn’t properly designed the experiment, making it impossible for them to detect broccoli microRNAs. 

But instead of retracting the paper, the journal decided to give the authors time to do the experiments again, this time with correctly designed molecular biology tools. When that failed, they retracted it — and as part of the notice, reported the exact opposite conclusion of the original.

Witwer said the authors did a “tremendous job” with the follow-up study, but he still thinks the journal should have retracted the paper immediately. Letting the authors redo it is “a dangerous precedent to set,” he told us:   

Read the rest of this entry »

NEJM issues unusual warning for readers about 1980 letter on opioid addiction

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This week, the New England Journal of Medicine issued a type of editor’s note we’ve never seen before, on a highly influential letter published nearly 40 years ago.

Above the one-paragraph letter, which reports data suggesting pain medications are not likely to cause addiction, the journal has added a note warning readers that the letter has been “heavily and uncritically cited” by sources using it to suggest opioids are not addictive.

In essence, the journal isn’t commenting on the merits of the letter — the problem is how it’s been used by others.

The same issue of the journal includes a letter by researchers based in Canada who analyzed how the 1980 letter had been cited, noting:

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Written by Alison McCook

June 2nd, 2017 at 8:00 am

Journal: Here’s why we didn’t retract this duplicated paper

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Here’s something we don’t see every day: A journal explains in an erratum notice why it chose not to retract a paper that contains data published elsewhere.

According to the Journal of Business and Psychology, the authors violated the journal’s transparency policy by failing to disclose that they’d used the same data in their 2014 in three others. However, the editors ultimately concluded the current paper was different enough from the other three to save it from being retracted.

Here’s the erratum: Read the rest of this entry »

When most faculty publish in predatory journals, does the school become “complicit?”

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Derek Pyne

Predatory journals – which charge high fees and often offer little-to-no vetting of research quality – are a problem, and lately an easy target for authors eager to spoof the problems of the publishing system. Although many researchers try to steer clear, not all do – a recent paper showed that some top economists publish papers in potentially predatory journals. Now, a new paper in the Journal of Scholarly Publishing reports the problem may be even more widespread. Derek Pyne found that most of his colleagues at the School of Business and Economics at Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia, Canada have at least one paper in a predatory journal. We talked to Pyne about how his colleagues and administrators reacted to his findings – and how he believes they should address them.

Retraction Watch: Why did you decide to look at how many of your colleagues in the business school have published in predatory journals?

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Written by Alison McCook

May 9th, 2017 at 9:30 am