Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘united states’ Category

What leads to bias in the scientific literature? New study tries to answer

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By now, most of our readers are aware that some fields of science have a reproducibility problem. Part of the problem, some argue, is the publishing community’s bias toward dramatic findings — namely, studies that show something has an effect on something else are more likely to be published than studies that don’t.

Many have argued that scientists publish such data because that’s what is rewarded — by journals and, indirectly, by funders and employers, who judge a scientist based on his or her publication record. But a new meta-analysis in PNAS is saying it’s a bit more complicated than that.

In a paper released today, researchers led by Daniele Fanelli and John Ioannidis — both at Stanford University — suggest that the so-called “pressure-to-publish” does not appear to bias studies toward larger so-called “effect sizes.” Instead, the researchers argue that other factors were a bigger source of bias than the pressure-to-publish, namely the use of small sample sizes (which could contain a skewed sample that shows stronger effects), and relegating studies with smaller effects to the “gray literature,” such as conference proceedings, PhD theses, and other less publicized formats.

However, Ferric Fang of the University of Washington — who did not participate in the study — approached the findings with some caution:

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Written by Alison McCook

March 20th, 2017 at 3:00 pm

Scientist who sued university earns two more retractions, bringing total to five

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A scientist who sued his employer for millions of dollars has earned two more retractions, for papers that had already been flagged by the journal.

By our count, Rakesh Kumar now has five retractions and multiple corrections.

Kumar sued his employer, George Washington University, for $8 million, alleging emotional distress when they put him on leave from his position as department chair following a finding of misconduct. That suit was settled last year, for undisclosed terms.

The two newest retractions in the Journal of Biological Chemistry — which tagged the papers with Expressions of Concern last year — both state that, according to Kumar, the problematic figures were assembled by “specific co-authors” — unnamed — in his lab. Here’s the first notice:

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Prominent NIH researcher up to a dozen retractions

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Stanley Rapoport. Source: NIH

Neuroscientist Stanley Rapoport hasn’t had much luck with his co-authors.

Recently, we’ve reported on multiple retractions of papers co-authored by Rapoport after three different first authors were found to have committed misconduct. Now, the fallout from one of those cases had led to four more retractions, bringing Rapoport’s total to 12.

The latest batch of retractions stem from the actions of Jagadeesh Rao.

Here’s the first notice, issued by Psychopharmacology:

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After lawsuit threat, journal forces author to heavily revise education paper

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Under threat of a lawsuit, an education journal changed its mind about publishing a paper that it had already accepted after peer review.

Last summer, Education Policy Analysis Archives, published by the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University, informed San Francisco State University professor Stanley Pogrow that the journal would be publishing his paper criticizing a widely used reform intervention for schools in poor districts called Success For All.

According to Success For All‘s website, the program is currently used in more than 1,000 schools in 48 states and received just over $10.5 million in grant funding in 2015. In 2010, the program was one of four recipients of the U.S. Department of Education’s $50 million Investing in Innovation Scale‑up grant.

Yet when Success For All’s co-developer, Robert Slavin at Johns Hopkins University, read a pre-publication draft of the paper, he threatened the journal with legal action if they published it. According to Slavin, the manuscript contained “libelous” and “defamatory” statements.

Subsequently, ASU declined to publish the accepted paper, and instead told Pogrow they would only publish a revised piece on the methodology used to evaluate which school interventions are effective — and thus should receive public funds. The revised paper does not directly mention Success For All or Slavin in the text (although it cites past articles by Pogrow criticizing the program). The revision, which Pogrow agreed to, “gutted the article,” he told us.  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Megan Scudellari

March 15th, 2017 at 2:00 pm

Another correction for prominent cancer researcher who’s dodged accusations for decades

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The chair of a biology department who has faced years of misconduct accusations has taken another hit—a lengthy correction due to text “overlap” between one of his PNAS papers and six other articles.

According to the correction, a reader contacted the journal to notify the editors that text and sentences in multiple sections of the 2015 paper — on which Carlo Croce is last author — were lifted from other sources without quotation marks.

This is the second correction for Croce in PNAS regarding overlap issues in just the last few weeks—the first was published on March 7 (see here). In both instances, PNAS did not call the textual similarities plagiarism, but the notice details multiple instances of overlap.

Croce, the chair of the department of cancer biology and genetics at The Ohio State University (OSU), is no stranger to controversy.

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Written by Victoria Stern

March 15th, 2017 at 11:30 am

Prominent physicist loses paper over data falsification

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A paper by a promising nanotechnologist has been retracted for data falsification.

Dmitri Lapotko, a Belarusian researcher with a background in laser weaponry, made a name for himself at Rice University in Houston, where he studied the use of nanotechnology to diagnose and treat human diseases. That work earned him significant press coverage, including stories in the New York Times and Science.

But that nanobubble may be bursting. The journal Theranostics has retracted a 2011 paper on which Lapotko is the last and corresponding author, citing questions over data falsification. What’s more, another journal has warned readers there may be a problem with a figure in a 2012 paper on which Lapotko is listed as last author.

Lapotko has since left Rice for Masimo Corp., a developer of monitoring devices for patients in the operating room.

According to the Theranostics notice:

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Cancer researcher has dodged accusations for decades (and has a new correction)

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Today isn’t a great day for Carlo Croce, chair of the department of cancer biology and genetics at The Ohio State University (OSU).

The New York Times has a lengthy article detailing the misconduct accusations that have swirled around Croce for years. We’ve covered many, but The Gray Lady obtained documents that show there have been many more.

The story mentions a 2013 letter from Ohio State University to pseudonymous whistleblower Clare Francis (which we reported on in 2014), acknowledging Francis’s allegations against Croce. However, in the letter, an administrator said OSU saw no reason to investigate Croce.

The story didn’t stop there, as the Times reports:

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“Hindsight’s a bitch:” Colleagues dissect painful retraction

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Two blog posts are shining additional light on a recent retraction that included some unanswered questions — namely, the identity of the researcher who admitted to manipulating the results.

To recap: Psychological Science recently announced it was retracting a paper about the relationship between the words you use and your mood after a graduate student tampered with the results. But the sole author — William Hart, an assistant professor at the University of Alabama — was not responsible.

The post raised some questions — for instance, who was the graduate student, and if his or her work was so influential to a paper, why was he/she not listed as an author? Hart declined to identify the student, but two new blogs — including one by one of Hart’s collaborators at the University of Alabama — are providing more details.

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3rd retraction appears for fired Pfizer breast cancer researcher

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Pfizer has retracted a paper by a former employee who was fired after the company discovered she had been doctoring data.

The retraction, in Molecular Cancer Research, is the third of five papers Pfizer asked to retract, after an investigation discovered they contained duplicated images. The papers have been discussed on PubPeer, which is also mentioned in the latest retraction notice.

As a result of the investigation, Pfizer terminated the employment of Min-Jean Yin, the last author on the newly retracted paper.

According to the notice, Yin and five of her co-authors agreed to the retraction:

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Researcher who lost whistleblower lawsuit logs 4 more retractions

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A brain journal has retracted four papers by a researcher due to image duplications that the university uncovered during an investigation into his work.

According to the retraction notice, Wayne State University found that Christian Kreipke had used several images in these articles “to represent different results in grant proposals and/or poster presentations,” and that the data were unreliable. Kreipke now has a total of five retractions, by our count.

As we’ve reported before, Wayne State and Kreipke have been engaged in conflict for several years. In 2012, Kreipke was dismissed from his assistant professor post at Wayne State after the university said it found evidence of research misconduct, according to Courthouse News. Kreipke fired back against the university, filing a whistleblower lawsuit. In it, Kreipke claimed that the institution was “involved in a conspiracy,” according to unsealed court documents, in which it had swindled the U.S. government out of millions in research funding.

A judge dismissed the case in 2014, but the conflict between Kreipke and Wayne State was not over. Read the rest of this entry »