Overlooked virus “generated a mess,” infected highly cited Cell, PNAS papers

When Alexander Harms arrived at the University of Copenhagen in August 2016, as a postdoc planning to study a type of antibiotic resistance in bacteria, he carried with him a warning from another lab who had recruited him:

People said, “If you go there, you have to deal with these weird articles that nobody believes.”

The papers in question had been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2011 and Cell in 2013. Led by Kenn Gerdes, Harms’s new lab director, the work laid out a complex chain of events that mapped out how an E. coli bacterium can go into a dormant state, called persistence, that allows it to survive while the rest of its colony is wiped out.

Despite some experts’ skepticism, each paper had been cited hundreds of times. And Harms told us:

I personally did believe in the published work. There had been papers from others that kind of attacked [the Gerdes lab’s theory], but that was not high-quality work.

But by November 2016, Harms figured out that the skeptics had been right.  Continue reading Overlooked virus “generated a mess,” infected highly cited Cell, PNAS papers

Caught Our Notice: Forgot to make your article open access? It’ll cost you (with a correction)

Via Wikimedia

Title: Industrial antifoam agents impair ethanol fermentation and induce stress responses in yeast cells

What Caught Our Attention: When authors decide they want to make their articles freely available after they’ve already been published, how should publishers indicate the change, if at all? Recently, Ross Mounce (@rmounce) thought it was odd a Springer journal issued a formal correction notice when the authors wanted to make their paper freely available, and we can’t say we disagree.  As he posted on Twitter:

Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Forgot to make your article open access? It’ll cost you (with a correction)

Copenhagen revokes degree of controversial neuroscientist Milena Penkowa

The University of Copenhagen has stripped Milena Penkowa of her doctoral degree, after determining she had covered up problems with her research.

According to a release issued today by the university, Penkowa falsified documents to allay suspicions that she had not performed some animal experiments as she’d reported.

This development is the latest in a long story: In 2015, the Copenhagen City Court ruled that Penkowa had forged experiments as part of her thesis, and handed her a nine-month suspended sentence. Penkowa appealed that ruling, and last year, another court dismissed the most serious charges.

But there was enough evidence for the University of Copenhagen’s Faculty’s Academic Council to vote unanimously last week to revoke her degree:

Continue reading Copenhagen revokes degree of controversial neuroscientist Milena Penkowa

Denmark to institute sweeping changes in handling misconduct

In six weeks, new policies for handling misconduct in Denmark will go into effect, which alter the definition of misconduct and establish clear policies for who handles such allegations.

Starting July 1, research misconduct will be limited to how it’s typically defined elsewhere — fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism (the previous definition included serious breaches of good scientific practices). All such allegations will be investigated by a central body, The Board for the Prevention of Scientific Misconduct — not at the institutions where the allegations are focused, as it has been in the past. Institutions, however, will remain responsible for investigating allegations of so-called Questionable Research Practices (QRPs) — such as only reporting data that support your hypothesis — and must publicize their policies for handling (QRPs).

The Board for the Prevention of Scientific Misconduct will replace the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD).

You can read the press release from the Ministry of Higher Education and Science here. We translated it into English, here.

Continue reading Denmark to institute sweeping changes in handling misconduct

Plant journal flags fungus paper amid investigation

A journal has issued an expression of concern (EOC) for a recently published study after a probe identified “problems with the figure presentation.”

According to the EOC notice in New Phytologist, two figures in the paper contained “some anomalies,” and the corresponding author has acknowledged that there are problems with the images.

Here’s the EOC notice: Continue reading Plant journal flags fungus paper amid investigation

Danish university revokes PhD of anti-terrorism researcher

Nasrullah Memon
Nasrullah Memon

Anti-terrorism researcher Nasrullah Memon has lost his PhD after a committee in Denmark found he had plagiarized his doctoral thesis.

He’s also recently been let go by his latest employer, the University of Southern Denmark in Odense; a spokesperson for the university told us the decision stemmed from budgetary cutbacks, and was unrelated to the loss of his PhD.

We previously reported on 15 retractions for papers co-authored by Memon; in 2014, the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD) ruled that Memon’s thesis had been plagiarized.

In May this year, an official from Aalborg University (AAU) in Denmark — where Memon earned his PhD — told us the university was considering whether to revoke Memon’s PhD. They ultimately decided to do so, Inger Askehave, AAU’s pro-rector, told Retraction Watch: Continue reading Danish university revokes PhD of anti-terrorism researcher

Danish court dismisses charges against neuroscientist in appeal of fraud verdict

court-caseA Copenhagen court has cleared neuroscientist Milena Penkowa of the most serious charges against her after she appealed a 2015 verdict that she had faked data.

According to the CPH Post, the Eastern High Court in Copenhagen dismissed the case. Although the court acknowledged she had committed fraud, it declared it was not “serious forgery.”

On Facebook, Penkowa posted a message (according to the Facebook translation): Continue reading Danish court dismisses charges against neuroscientist in appeal of fraud verdict

Seven more retractions for anti-terrorism prof brings count to 15

MemonAnti-terrorism researcher Nasrullah Memon has notched seven more retractions, bringing his total up to 15 — earning him a spot on our leaderboard.

We previously reported on eight pulled papers authored by Memon, based at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense. There was some confusion over whether his count then increased to nine — but, following a retracted retraction, his total was back to eight.

Now, it seems like the retracted retraction has been re-retracted, and six other of Memon’s publications have been pulled. Memon has also been found guilty of plagiarising his PhD thesis, and more of his work is being questioned online.

The retraction notices for the newly pulled material — all published by Springer — include the following statement: Continue reading Seven more retractions for anti-terrorism prof brings count to 15

Denmark court clears controversial psychologist of misconduct charges

helmuth-nyborg-180
Helmuth Nyborg

A Danish court has determined that psychologist Helmuth Nyborg did not commit misconduct in a controversial 2011 paper which predicted an influx of immigrants into Denmark would lower the population’s average IQ by the latter part of this century.

The ruling, reported by the Danish newspaper Politiken, overturns a previous finding of misconduct by the the Danish Committees for Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD). It’s yet another example of scientists bringing academic disputes to the courthouse — just last year, a Danish court overturned another misconduct ruling by the DCSD against physiologist Bente Klarlund Pedersen.

The 2011 paper by Nyborg, “The Decay of Western Civilization: Double Relaxed Darwinian Selection,” appeared in Personality and Individual Differences, and quickly aroused concerns in a group of Danish scientists. The main charges: That the article denied authorship to another author, and misused a reference.

As first reported in the Danish press, an inquiry by the Danish Committees for Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD) concluded in 2013 that: Continue reading Denmark court clears controversial psychologist of misconduct charges

Mol bio paper pulled by PLOS following investigation into figures

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 11.58.47 AMPLOS Biology has retracted a paper about the molecular details of β-catenin expression following an investigation by the first author’s institution in Italy.

The investigation, by the Istituto Nazionale per la Ricerca sul Cancro, found that there were multiple “figure anomalies.” According to the note:

An explanation of inadvertent error was given for some of the issues identified, while for two issues, a satisfactory explanation could not be provided.

First author Roberto Gherzi says none of his co-authors helped prepare the figures. The authors maintain that the conclusions are unaffected, but that assurance wasn’t enough for the journal. Here’s more from the lengthy retraction note, which provides some backstory on the “serious concerns” regarding the data:

Continue reading Mol bio paper pulled by PLOS following investigation into figures