When a journal is delisted, authors pay a price

Shocked, confused, disappointed — these are the reactions of authors who recently published in a cancer journal that was delisted by a company that indexes journals.

Recently, Clarivate Analytics announced it would discontinue indexing Oncotarget after the first few issues of 2018 — as a result, the journal would not receive a current impact factor. The company did not tell us a specific reason why, simply saying it “no longer meets the standards necessary for continued coverage.” Last year, the journal was also removed from the U.S. government biomedical research database MEDLINE, also with no explanation. (At the time, the National Library of Medicine’s Associate Director for Library Operations told us readers who are familiar with the guidelines MEDLINE follows when deselecting journals “can draw their own conclusions” as to why Oncotarget was removed.)

After we covered Clarivate’s decision to delist Oncotarget, many posted comments on the story, including suggestions the move could hurt authors who submitted papers before the announcement. (Some comments also appeared to be versions of the same request that the journal be indexed through January 15.)

We reached out to many of the corresponding authors on papers in the January 26 issue, the seventh issue published in 2018. Many are based at leading institutions around the world; all had submitted their manuscripts months ago. Some noted that they were surprised by the decision, as the review process appeared quite rigorous; some told us that if they’d known the journal was going to be delisted, they would not have submitted their papers there.

Continue reading When a journal is delisted, authors pay a price

Indexing company praises cancer journal, then kicks it out

A company that indexes journals — which, in turn, designates their impact factors — has delisted Oncotarget, a cancer journal that was recently removed from MEDLINE.

Just three months ago, on October 18, the indexing company Clarivate Analytics (formerly part of Thomson Reuters) named Oncotarget a “rising star” in the field of molecular biology and genetics.

News of the Clarivate delisting has been circulating on Chinese-language blogs, and Oncotarget acknowledged what happened on its own website:

Continue reading Indexing company praises cancer journal, then kicks it out

Lead author changes co-author’s name on a paper without his permission. Why?

Here’s a rather odd case: A postdoctoral researcher says his former boss changed his name on a paper without his permission. According to the postdoc, Antonio Herrera-Merchan, his principal investigator at University of Granada insisted on the name change to distance them both from a scandal in Herrera-Merchan’s previous lab.

After publishing a paper in Oncotarget in October 2017, Herrera-Merchan’s name was changed on the paper. Now, two versions of the paper exist: an earlier version that lists Antonio Herrera-Merchan as first author, and the current version that spells his name without “Merchan.”*  

We’ve obtained an email exchange between his former boss, Pedro Medina, and Oncotarget, requesting the name change.

Medina told us Herrera-Merchan always used the name “Herrera” in his lab: Continue reading Lead author changes co-author’s name on a paper without his permission. Why?

Widely used U.S. government database delists cancer journal

The U.S. government biomedical research database MEDLINE no longer includes a cancer journal with a storied past.

Starting August 2017, researchers looking up journals indexed in MEDLINE (which is accessed via PubMed) could no longer find new articles published by Oncotarget, once included on the now-defunct list of possibly predatory journals compiled by librarian Jeffrey Beall.

Joyce Backus, the National Library of Medicine’s Associate Director for Library Operations, declined to say why Oncotarget had been deselected from MEDLINE:

Continue reading Widely used U.S. government database delists cancer journal

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

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:

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

A “plethora of data errors” prompts authors to retract oncology paper

Researchers in China have retracted a 2016 cancer imaging paper because they introduced “a plethora of data errors” while preparing the article for submission.

Although the retraction notice provides no details on what these errors are or how exactly they occurred, it does point the finger at the researchers, explaining that the data errors happened as a result of their “negligence.”

Here’s the 2017 retraction notice for “Rituximab-conjugated, doxorubicin-loaded microbubbles as a theranostic modality in B-cell lymphoma,” published November 25, 2016 in Oncotarget: Continue reading A “plethora of data errors” prompts authors to retract oncology paper

Prostate cancer paper flagged by ORI is retracted following PETA prompt

cover_issue_129_en_USA federal investigation into a paper on prostate cancer has now led to a retraction. In an unusual twist, it happened following a request from the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

In January, the Office of Research Integrity reported that corresponding author Dong Xiao “intentionally fabricated data” in an Oncotarget study of how a steroid inhibits the growth of prostate cancer. Xiao, a former cancer researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, claimed that he had tumor data from more mice than he did, and falsified several figures.

In July, after no sign of the retraction, a researcher at PETA followed up with the journal, Oncotarget, on behalf of the organization “and our more than 3 million members and supporters to request the immediate retraction.”

Last month, they received a reply from the publisher, which they forwarded to us:

Continue reading Prostate cancer paper flagged by ORI is retracted following PETA prompt

Former Pitt cancer researcher admits to faking findings

Dong Xiao
Dong Xiao

A former researcher at the University of Pittsburgh inflated the number of mice used in his experiments, and faked data in a number of images in a paper reporting the results, according to the Office of Research Integrity (ORI).

Dong Xiao admitting to having

intentionally fabricated data contained in a paper entitled ‘Guggulsterone inhibits prostate cancer growth via inactivation of Akt regulated by ATP citrate signaling,’ specifically Figure 6G,

the ORI reports. The paper was published in  in July 2014 in Oncotarget. Here’s Figure 6: Continue reading Former Pitt cancer researcher admits to faking findings