Two years after he shared a draft of a “random brain fart side-project,” an astronomer sees a version published — without his name

Peter Yoachim

In 2015, Peter Yoachim became interested in how long astronomers remained active astronomers or, more to the point, how long they continued publishing in astronomy.

Yoachim, an astronomer at the University of Washington in Seattle, dug into some data, “did a burst of work in late 2015/early 2016, then fizzled out by 2017 when I ran out of time to work on it.” As he told Retraction Watch: Continue reading Two years after he shared a draft of a “random brain fart side-project,” an astronomer sees a version published — without his name

Political scientist asks for correction, gets flip-flop

Ryan Enos

You’d think that if an author asked a journal to correct a modest mistake, the journal would oblige. After all, many researchers have to be dragged kicking and screaming to correct the record.

But for Ryan Enos, a political scientist at Harvard, self-correction of a paper he had published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) took far more steps than one might have hoped. Continue reading Political scientist asks for correction, gets flip-flop

Researchers retract PNAS paper when they realize they’d been victims of an antibiotic switcheroo

Gentamicin B1, via PubChem

In March 2017, a group of researchers in Vancouver, along with a colleague in Philadelphia,  published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) concluding that a particular antibiotic might be useful for treating conditions in people with rare mutations.

Then, this past July, while continuing the work, they had an unexpected result. That made them suspect that the antibiotic they thought they had ordered, gentamicin, wasn’t what they thought it was. With the help of a different company that sells the antibiotic, they confirmed they were studying a different compound — and retracted the paper.

Here’s the notice for “Gentamicin B1 is a minor gentamicin component with major nonsense mutation suppression activity:” Continue reading Researchers retract PNAS paper when they realize they’d been victims of an antibiotic switcheroo

A 2015 PNAS paper is six pages long. Its correction is four pages long.

Sometimes, corrections are so extensive, they can only be called one thing: Mega-corrections.

Recently, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) issued a four-page correction notice to a paper about a compound that appeared to reduce the chances a cancer will recur. The notice describes figure duplication, problems with error bars and figure legends — as well as the loss of statistical significance for some data.

According to the authors’ statement in the notice:

Continue reading A 2015 PNAS paper is six pages long. Its correction is four pages long.

An awkward correction later, these researchers have a warning for would-be authors

Mitchell Knutson

Mitchell Knutson learned to take a journal’s policies seriously the hard way.

Early in 2017, Knutson, a professor at the University of Florida in Gainesville who studies iron metabolism, had findings he and his team were excited about publishing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). So they submitted a manuscript on January 30. Continue reading An awkward correction later, these researchers have a warning for would-be authors

Journals flag two papers by prominent researcher — who is also on trial for domestic abuse

Adeel Safdar was once a rising star in the field of kinesiology. After completing his doctorate degree at McMaster University in Canada, working with one of the titans of his field, Safdar took a postdoc at Harvard, then accepted a newly created chair position at another university in Ontario.

That all came crashing down last year, when Safdar went on trial in Canada, accused of horrifically abusing his wife. Over the course of the trial, allegations arose about his research, prompting two journals to flag papers he co-authored with his former mentor, Mark Tarnopolsky.

Tarnopolsky — author of more than 400 papers, which have collectively been cited more than 17,000 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science — told Retraction Watch:

Continue reading Journals flag two papers by prominent researcher — who is also on trial for domestic abuse

PNAS wouldn’t let authors cite unpublished manuscript. Now, it admits it was wrong.

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When researchers submitted a paper about a type of microparticle to PNAS, they wanted to give credit where it was due, and cite an unpublished manuscript that helped guide their work. But the journal’s policy forbid citing unpublished work, and the reference was removed before publication. Now, concerns from the authors of that unpublished work have prompted the journal to have a change of heart.  

Continue reading PNAS wouldn’t let authors cite unpublished manuscript. Now, it admits it was wrong.

UCSF-VA investigation finds misconduct in highly cited PNAS paper

PNAS has corrected a highly cited paper after an investigation found evidence of misconduct.

The investigationconducted jointly by the University of California, San Francisco, and the San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Centeruncovered image manipulation in Figure 2D, which “could only have occurred intentionally.” The institutions, however, could not definitively attribute the research misconduct to any individual.

According to the notice, the UCSF-VA committee determined that a correction to the 2008 PNAS paperwhich explores the genetic underpinnings of prostate cancerwas “appropriate,” and the authors have now replaced the problematic figure with a corrected version. The 2008 paper has been cited 630 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.

A spokesperson for PNAS told Retraction Watch: Continue reading UCSF-VA investigation finds misconduct in highly cited PNAS paper

Overlooked virus “generated a mess,” infected highly cited Cell, PNAS papers

When Alexander Harms arrived at the University of Copenhagen in August 2016, as a postdoc planning to study a type of antibiotic resistance in bacteria, he carried with him a warning from another lab who had recruited him:

People said, “If you go there, you have to deal with these weird articles that nobody believes.”

The papers in question had been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2011 and Cell in 2013. Led by Kenn Gerdes, Harms’s new lab director, the work laid out a complex chain of events that mapped out how an E. coli bacterium can go into a dormant state, called persistence, that allows it to survive while the rest of its colony is wiped out.

Despite some experts’ skepticism, each paper had been cited hundreds of times. And Harms told us:

I personally did believe in the published work. There had been papers from others that kind of attacked [the Gerdes lab’s theory], but that was not high-quality work.

But by November 2016, Harms figured out that the skeptics had been right.  Continue reading Overlooked virus “generated a mess,” infected highly cited Cell, PNAS papers

Florida investigation can’t ID culprit who falsified data in retracted PNAS paper

When the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences retracted a gene therapy paper in December, it declared that some of the data had been falsified and mentioned a research misconduct investigation. But the notice said nothing about who was responsible.

Via a public records request, Retraction Watch has obtained investigation documents from the University of Florida, which show the focus had been narrowed down to two of the paper’s three co-first authors. But the investigation committee didn’t assign blame to either one. According to their final report, dated Oct. 24, 2016:

there was not enough direct evidence to either implicate or exonerate either of these individuals.

Over the course of the formal investigation, which lasted from early August to late October 2016,  the committee was able to determine that data in the PNAS paper had been falsified. However, it said: Continue reading Florida investigation can’t ID culprit who falsified data in retracted PNAS paper