Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘united states’ Category

Breast cancer studies by fired Pfizer employee retracted

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Last year, Pfizer fired one of its scientists following an investigation that ended with requests for retraction of five of her studies. Now, two of the five papers, which were first flagged on PubPeer, have been retracted.

One notice cites the Pfizer investigation, which found that cancer researcher Min-Jean Yin had included duplicated images in all five papers. Yin is the last author on both retracted papers.

Here’s the first notice from Clinical Cancer Research, which says most or all of the questioned images appear to be duplicates, and Pfizer — who sponsored the study and requested the retraction — can’t find the originals:
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Watch out for predatory journals, and consider retract/replace, suggests medical journal group

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Darren Taichman

The challenges facing science publishing are ever-evolving, and so too are the recommendations for how to face them. As such, the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) frequently updates its advice to authors. In December, 2016, it made some notable changes – specifically, asking authors to pay closer attention to where they publish, in order to avoid so-called “predatory” journals, and encouraging more authors to consider “retracting and replacing” a paper with an updated version when the problems stem from honest error (something more journals have been embracing). We spoke with Darren Taichman, Executive Deputy Editor of the Annals of Internal Medicine and Secretary of the ICMJE, about the changes.

Retraction Watch: The first set of recommendations was issued in 1978 — how have they evolved, generally speaking, since then?

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Written by Alison McCook

January 13th, 2017 at 11:30 am

Journal retracts surgery study with data “not intended for use in research”

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A journal has retracted a surgery study by researchers at Brown University after noticing it included data that was not intended for research purposes. (Incidentally, the data were collected by the publisher of the journal.)

Ingrid Philbert, managing editor of the Journal of Graduate Medical Education — which published the paper — told Retraction Watch that senior staff at the publisher alerted the journal that they suspected the authors had used data from a confidential source:

This is a fairly new set of case log data, and as the collector [of] the data, the [Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)] gets to determine the use and it has decreed that this data be used solely for accreditation decisions.

Philbert said the journal asked the authors where they got the data:

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Nature paper with massive correction can’t be reproduced, says independent group

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In 2011, authors of a Nature letter caught some flak for issuing a lengthy correction to a neuroscience paper that had raised eyebrows within days of publication — including some suggestions it should be retracted.

The correction notice, published months after the original letter, cited errors in image choice and labeling, but asserted the conclusions remained valid.

Now, those conclusions appear up for debate. In a recent Nature Brief Communications Arising (BCA) article, a team that raised concerns about the paper five years ago says they are unable to reproduce the results. But the authors of the original paper aren’t convinced: They argue that the BCA fails to cite important evidence, has a “complete absence or low quality of analysis,” and the scientists disregard some of their data.

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ORI misconduct findings fell in 2016. Why? We ask the director

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Kathy Partin

Every year, the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI) issues a series of findings against researchers it has determined committed fraud of some kind. In contrast to many agencies such as the National Science Foundation and around the world, the ORI names the offender, describes the offense, and states the penalty – often a temporary ban on federal funding, for instance.

2016 brought a lot of changes to the agency – it was director Kathy Partin‘s first year, which brought reports of staff unrest (and threats to resign). But there was another notable feature of last year, as we and others have noted – the agency issued only seven findings of misconduct, compared to 14 in 2015 and 11 the year before. (Once a sanction has lifted the finding disappears from the ORI site; here is a count of the agency’s activity from previous years.) We spoke to Partin about this relative lack of action from the agency last year.

Retraction Watch: Why are there so much fewer notices this year than last?  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

January 3rd, 2017 at 11:30 am

“My time and energy were stolen:” Peer reviewer reacts to retraction

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Martha Alibali

When a former Stanford psychology researcher lost her fifth paper last year due to unreliable results, one researcher took particular notice: Martha Alibali at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Why? She had reviewed the 2006 paper, and took to social media to express her dismay at the result of the time and effort she spent on the research. We spoke with Alibali further about her reactions to the news.

Retraction Watch: You reviewed the paper more than 10 years ago. Can you recall what you thought about it? In retrospect, were there any red flags or doubts you had about the findings that you wish you’d caught?

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Written by Alison McCook

January 3rd, 2017 at 9:30 am

Harvard biologist retracts diabetes breakthrough in Cell

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2013 probably felt like it was going to be a great year for stem cell biologist Douglas Melton at Harvard. He had published a buzz-worthy paper in Cell about a new way to potentially boost insulin in diabetics, attracting significant media attention, and eventually gathering nearly 200 citations.

But 2016 is closing out on a less positive tone for Melton — today, he and his colleagues are retracting the paper, after multiple labs (including his own) couldn’t reproduce the findings.

Although the lab has itself already published two articles casting doubt on the original findings, Melton told Retraction Watch he chose to retract the paper to ensure there was no confusion about the original paper’s validity: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

December 27th, 2016 at 10:00 am

U.S. gov’t physicist sentenced to 18 months in prison for fraud

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A physicist formerly based at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for faking data. 

According to the United States Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of California, after receiving millions in government funding between 2008 and 2012, Sean Darin Kinion submitted faked data and reports to make it seem like he’d performed quantum computing work. Kinion pled guilty in June, 2016 to “a scheme to defraud the government out of money intended to fund research.” He has also been ordered to pay back $3,317,893 to the government.

As readers may know, scientists who commit misconduct are rarely sentenced to prison, although there are some exceptions — most notably, Dong-Pyou Han, who last year was sentenced to nearly five years in prison (and pay back $7 million) after spiking rabbit blood samples to make a HIV vaccine look more effective.

Lynda Seaver, director of public affairs at the LLNL, told us Kinion was dismissed in February 2013, following an investigation that found “some discrepancies in his work.”

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

December 23rd, 2016 at 1:30 pm

Researchers retract two well-cited papers for misconduct

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A scientist in Germany has lost two papers that were collectively cited more than 500 times, after an investigation at her former university found her guilty of scientific misconduct.

The probe into Tina Wenz by the University of Cologne in Germany, her former employer, recommended that six of her papers — which have induced some chatter on PubPeer — should be retracted. One of these papers was pulled by Cell Metabolism last year. Now, Cell Metabolism has pulled another of Wenz’s papers, and she has also lost another study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), which was previously corrected. 

First, here’s the PNAS retraction notice, issued today: Read the rest of this entry »

We’re not “citation police:” No more errata for omitted citations, says economics journal

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An economics journal has corrected a paper for the second time for failing to cite previous studies — and said in a separate note that it no longer plans to publish similar errata, with rare exceptions. 

In September 2015, we reported on the first erratum for “Incentives for Creativity” — a paper that analyzed ways of inspiring creativity in the workplace — after it failed to cite relevant papers. One year on, the same paper has another erratum for a similar reason: not citing relevant papers from another field.

You don’t often see two errata for the same mistake — omitted citations — on one paper. Even less often do you see journal editors co-publishing a note saying they don’t plan on issuing any more such notices. Here’s an excerpt from the editor’s note in Experimental Economics: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

December 15th, 2016 at 9:30 am