The waiting game: A university requests a retraction. Then it waits three years.

On June 25, 2015, following an investigation into the work of a then-graduate student at University College Cork in Ireland, the senior author of a 2014 paper in PLOS ONE requested its retraction. The paper, said senior author Zubair Kabir in an email to Iratxe Puebla, the journal’s managing editor, was “fundamentally flawed.”

Puebla responded on July 1, saying she would contact the graduate student — Olurotimi Bankole Ajagbe, corresponding author of the paper — and get back to Kabir. A few more emails, including one on Aug. 26, 2015, in which Ajagbe also requested the retraction, resulted. On August 31, Puebla wrote to Ivan Perry, head of Cork’s department of public health, where Ajagbe had been working on his PhD, to say she would discuss the case with colleagues and follow up.

And then Cork waited. Continue reading The waiting game: A university requests a retraction. Then it waits three years.

Glasgow professor leaves post amidst multiple retractions

A professor specializing in the health of children and pregnant women has left her post at the University of Glasgow, and issued three retractions in recent months.

All three notices — issued by PLOS ONE — mention an investigation at the university, which found signs of data manipulation and falsification. Fiona Lyall, the last author on all three papers, is also the only author in common to all three papers; she did not respond to the journal’s inquiries.

According to the University of Glasgow, the affiliation listed for Lyall, she is no longer based at the university. When we asked about the circumstances of her departure, the spokesperson told us the university has a “commitment to confidentiality,” but noted:

Continue reading Glasgow professor leaves post amidst multiple retractions

Over authors’ objections, PLOS ONE retracts paper claiming Shroud of Turin showed evidence of trauma

A year ago, PLOS ONE published a study claiming that there was strong evidence that a person wrapped in the Shroud of Turin — according to lore, the burial shroud of Jesus Christ — had suffered “strong polytrauma.”

Today, they retracted it.

According to the retraction notice for “Atomic resolution studies detect new biologic evidences on the Turin Shroud,” Continue reading Over authors’ objections, PLOS ONE retracts paper claiming Shroud of Turin showed evidence of trauma

Three years after questions surfaced, PLOS ONE retracts paper about potential antibiotic

In April 2015, two high-profile chemistry bloggers — and their commenters — raised questions about a paper that had been published in PLOS ONE some 18 months earlier. More than three years later, the journal has now retracted the paper, with a notice that echoes the 2015 blog posts.

So what took so long? PLOS tells Retraction Watch: Continue reading Three years after questions surfaced, PLOS ONE retracts paper about potential antibiotic

Have you seen more detail in PLOS ONE retraction notices? You’re welcome

If you’ve been pausing at some detailed PLOS ONE notices lately — such as one issued last month for a cancer paper that lists 21 shortcomings — you’re not alone.

According to a spokesperson for the publisher, the journal has been progressively pushing towards more transparency in its notices — in part, because it was getting too many calls from our reporters, asking about details that weren’t in the notice but that were “easily answerable.” This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a journal become more transparent following these kinds of questions — the Journal of Biological Chemistry, for instance, has become much more informative in its retraction notice, following criticism for its previous opacity.

Both the spokesperson and editor Joerg Heber, who took the role in November 2016, were quick to clarify that the increase in detail of notices is not only due to our queries — instead, it’s meant to benefit the entire scientific community. According to the spokesperson:

Continue reading Have you seen more detail in PLOS ONE retraction notices? You’re welcome

Caught Our Notice: Hey peer reviewers — did you even read this paper??

What Caught Our Attention: A tree of life paper has been axed — and based on the information in the retraction notice, we’re wondering how it ever passed peer review.

Specifically, the notice states a review of the paper found “concerns regarding the study design, methodology, and interpretation of the data.” Overall, the research “contradict(s) a large body of existing literature and do(es) not provide a sufficient level of evidence to support the claims made in the paper.” Um, so what did it get right?

Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Hey peer reviewers — did you even read this paper??

Caught Our Notice: Forged email for corresponding author dooms diabetes paper

Title: Naringin Alleviates Diabetic Kidney Disease through Inhibiting Oxidative Stress and Inflammatory Reaction

What Caught Our Attention: PLOS ONE had a few reasons for retracting a 2015 paper about a treatment for kidney disease due to diabetes: For one, despite what the paper claims, the authors did not obtain ethical approval to conduct the reported animal experiments. In addition, the corresponding author had no idea the paper had been submitted and published. How could a corresponding author be kept in the dark? It turns out, the journal was given an incorrect email address for him, so he didn’t receive any communications around the paper. (One author apparently used a third party editing company.) Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Forged email for corresponding author dooms diabetes paper

Caught Our Notice: Duplicates, errors prompt two retractions for same author

Titles: 1) Angiopoietin-Like 4 Confers Resistance to Hypoxia/Serum Deprivation-Induced Apoptosis through PI3K/Akt and ERK1/2 Signaling Pathways in Mesenchymal Stem Cells

2) Novel Mechanism of Inhibition of Dendritic Cells Maturation by Mesenchymal Stem Cells via Interleukin-10 and the JAK1/STAT3 Signaling Pathway

What Caught Our Attention: In the span of 48 hours, PLOS ONE retracted two papers this month that were co-authored by Bo Yu, based at Key Laboratories of Education Ministry for Myocardial Ischemia Mechanism and Treatment and The Second Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University in China. Both notices cite multiple duplications and errors, and conclude:

Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Duplicates, errors prompt two retractions for same author

Journal retracts study linking “gut makeover” to weight loss, improved health

Over the objections of the authors, PLOS ONE has retracted a paper linking a diet designed to restore healthy gut bacteria to weight loss and other benefits.

The study, published in June 2017, claimed to show that a “Microbiome restoration diet improves digestion, cognition and physical and emotional wellbeing.” The diet was one championed by The Gut Makeover, whose author, Jeannette Hyde, is also a co-author on the paper (which the paper clearly disclosed). The diet is “designed to improve the health and diversity of the microbiome,” the microbiota that live within us.

The paper apparently prompted some criticisms, and even led one academic editor at PLOS ONE to resign. The journal  now says “the conclusions of this study are not supported by the data presented,” and have retracted it. But the case may reveal more about the limitations of peer review at the journal than it does about any weaknesses of the study. Continue reading Journal retracts study linking “gut makeover” to weight loss, improved health

Caught Our Notice: Voinnet co-author issues another correction

Title: AtsPLA2-α nuclear relocalization by the Arabidopsis transcription factor AtMYB30 leads to repression of the plant defense response

What Caught Our Attention:  A previous collaborator with high-profile plant biologist Olivier Voinnet (who now has eight retractions) has issued an interesting correction to a 2010 PNAS paper. Susana Rivas is last author on the paper, the correction for which notes some images were duplicated, and others were “cropped and/or stretched to match the other blots.” Rivas is currently a group leader at The Laboratory of Plant-Microbe Interactions (LIPM), “a combined INRA-CNRS Research Unit.” Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Voinnet co-author issues another correction