Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘united states’ Category

Journal won’t look at allegations about papers more than six years old, nor comment on those from “public websites”

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After a paper is published, how long should a journal consider allegations of misconduct? For one journal, that answer is: Six years.

We see plenty of journals that retract papers at least 10 years old over concerns regarding misconduct, but in a recent editorial, Molecular and Cellular Biology announced it would pursue allegations made within six years after a paper is published. This rule mirrors federal regulations (which apply to the U.S. Office of Research Integrity), which also decline to investigate allegations if at least six years have passed since the incident supposedly occurred — but with some exceptions, such as if the misconduct could have an impact on public health.

Incidentally, the same issue of the journal includes a retraction notice for a paper published seven years ago, citing image duplications. A spokesperson for the American Society for Microbiology (which publishes the journal) told us the journal investigated the paper in 2016, within the cutoff period.

Here’s the key text from the editorial:

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“Authors’ negligence” causes “a plethora of data errors”

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Sometimes, even a short notice catches our attention.

Such was the case with a recent retraction issued by Oncotarget for a 2016 paper related to the genetics that drive cancer.

Here’s the notice:

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Rutgers prof announces retraction on his blog

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A Rutgers computer scientist is retracting conference proceedings via an unusual channel: his personal blog.

On April 7, Anand Sarwate wrote that he was retracting a mathematical proof from the proceedings from the 2016 IEEE International Conference on Acoustics, Speech, and Signal Processing (ICASSP), after discovering errors that invalidated the result.

He explains in the blog post why the mistake occurred:

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Journal retracts Ohio State CrossFit study at center of lawsuits

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The fallout continues for a study conducted at a local CrossFit gym by researchers at The Ohio State University. First it was corrected, now it’s been retracted, and it continues to be the basis of litigation against both the authors and the publisher.

Editors at the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research have decided to pull the 2013 study after learning that the research protocol had not been approved by Ohio State’s institutional review board (IRB).

Over the past few years, the study has spawned several lawsuits, including a defamation suit brought by gym owner Mitch Potterf against Ohio State that landed him a six-figure settlement, as well as an ongoing suit by Potterf against the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA, which publishes the journal). The CrossFit brand has also sued the NSCA. [See update at end of post for more on that case.]

An NSCA statement issued May 30 describes what happened: Read the rest of this entry »

Publisher retracts “conceptual penis” hoax article

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File this under “not a surprise.” After the authors of a paper entitled “The conceptual penis as a social construct” confessed it was a hoax immediately after publication, the publisher has retracted it.

The notice is sparse:

This article has been retracted by the publisher. For more information please see the statement on this article.

In that statement, which we covered last week, the publisher said published the paper after choosing reviewers whose “expertise did not fully align with this subject matter.”

We asked co-author James Lindsay what he thought about that explanation:

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Written by Alison McCook

June 2nd, 2017 at 11:14 am

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

NIH neuroscientist up to 16 retractions

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Stanley Rapoport. Source: NIH

Neuroscientist Stanley Rapoport just can’t catch a break.

Rapoport, who’s based at National Institute on Aging, is continuing to experience fallout from his research collaborations, after multiple co-authors have been found to have committed misconduct.

Most recently, Rapoport has had four papers retracted in three journals, citing falsified data in a range of figures. Although the notices do not specify how the data falsification occurred, Jagadeesh Rao, who was recently found guilty of research misconduct, is corresponding author on all four papers.

Back in December, Rapoport told us that a “number of retractions [for] Rao are still in the works:” Read the rest of this entry »

BMJ journal yanks paper on cancer screening in India for fear of legal action

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BMJ Global Health has pulled a paper that criticized U.S. research of the effects of cervical cancer screening in India over defamation concerns.

That’s not what the notice on the paper says, however — at the moment, it just reads:

This article has been withdrawn.

However, forwarded email correspondence between the first author and an associate publisher reveals the journal published the paper and planned a press release, then realized it should be reviewed by a legal adviser. When first author Eric J. Suba at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center inquired about the status of the paper and any potential press release, he was told the journal could no longer publish it, out of concern they would be taken to court.

Suba told us that, when he learned the paper would be pulled:

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Would-be Johns Hopkins whistleblower loses appeal in case involving Nature retraction

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A former researcher at Johns Hopkins who voiced concerns about a now-retracted paper in Nature has lost another bid for whistleblower protection.

Daniel Yuan, a longtime statistician for former Hopkins yeast geneticist Jef Boeke, was dismissed in 2011, after he’d spent years raising concerns about research coming out of the lab. Yuan’s criticisms, which continued after he stopped working for Boeke, peaked in 2012 after Boeke and former labmate Yu-li Lin published paper in Nature. Later that year, Lin was found dead in his lab, a suspected suicide. In 2013, the paper was retracted, citing an inability to reproduce the main conclusions. 

Since 2013, Yuan has pursued a wrongful termination lawsuit, claiming that federal regulations surrounding scientific misconduct afforded him protection from retaliation.

In late March, Maryland’s highest court ruled against Yuan, saying that those misconduct regulations are “too vague” to offer cover to employees claiming whistleblower protection. According to lawyers we consulted, the decision could make it harder for would-be whistleblowers to fight retaliation, while also giving institutions more leeway to handle these issues on their own.

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Written by Andrew P. Han

May 25th, 2017 at 11:50 am

Publisher blames bad choice of reviewer for publication of hoax paper on penis as “social construct” 

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Less than a week after publishing a much-discussed hoax paper, a scholarly publisher has acknowledged that it had chosen reviewers for the paper whose “expertise did not fully align with this subject matter.”

The subject matter: that the penis should not be considered an anatomical organ, but more as a concept – “a gender-performative, highly fluid social construct.” Upon publication, the authors immediately admitted the paper was a prank, arguing that its publication illustrates a lack of intellectual and scientific rigor in some social sciences, especially gender studies. But others have questioned whether it really demonstrates that at all.

In response to the revelation of the hoax, Taylor & Francis associate editorial director Emma Greenword published a statement about the process that led to this entanglement: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Emily Willingham

May 24th, 2017 at 3:20 pm