Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘science (journal)’ Category

Dear journals: Clean up your act. Regards, Concerned Biostatistician

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Romain-Daniel Gosselin

Recently, a biostatistician sent an open letter to editors of 10 major science journals, urging them to pay more attention to common statistical problems with papers. Specifically, Romain-Daniel Gosselin, Founder and CEO of Biotelligences, which trains researchers in biostatistics, counted how many of 10 recent papers in each of the 10 journals contained two common problems: omitting the sample size used in experiments, as well as the tests used as part of the statistical analyses. (Short answer: Too many.) Below, we have reproduced his letter.

Dear Editors and Colleagues,

I write this letter as a biologist and instructor of biostatistics, concerned about the disregard for statistical reporting that is threatening scientific reproducibility. I hereby urge you to spearhead the strict application of existing guidelines on statistical reporting. Read the rest of this entry »

Headline-grabbing Science paper questioned by critics

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When zoologists at the University of Oxford published findings in Science last year suggesting ducklings can learn to identify shapes and colors without training (unlike other animals), the news media was entranced.

However, critics of the study have published a pair of papers questioning the findings, saying the data likely stem from chance alone. Still, the critics told us they don’t believe the findings should be retracted.

If a duckling is shown an image, can it pick out another from a set that has the same shape or color?  Antone Martinho III and Alex Kacelnik say yes. In one experiment, 32 out of 47 ducklings preferred pairs of shapes they were originally shown. In the second experiment, 45 out of 66 ducklings preferred the original color. The findings caught the attention of many media outlets, including the New York Times, The Atlantic, and BuzzFeed.

Martinho told us:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by trevorlstokes

March 13th, 2017 at 11:30 am

High-profile Science paper retracted for misconduct

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Science has retracted a high-profile immunology paper after a probe concluded the corresponding author had committed misconduct.

The paper — which initially caught media attention for suggesting a protein could help boost the immune system’s ability to fight off tumors — has been under a cloud of suspicion since last year, when the journal tagged it with an expression of concern, citing a university investigation.

That investigation — at Imperial College London — has concluded that the paper contained problematic figures that were the result of research misconduct. All were prepared by last and corresponding author Philip Ashton-Rickardt, who took full responsibility. Even though the paper was published in 2015, some original blots and accompanying details have disappeared.

Today, the journal released a retraction notice: Read the rest of this entry »

Stolen data prompts Science to flag debated study of fish and plastics

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scienceIn August, Science told us it was considering adding an Expression of Concern to a high-profile paper about how human pollution is harming fish — and yesterday, the journal did it.

The move comes after a group of researchers alleged the paper contains missing data, and the authors followed a problematic methodology. In September, however, the co-authors’ institution, Uppsala University in Sweden, concluded there wasn’t enough evidence to launch a misconduct investigation.

The notice from Science stems from the theft of a computer carrying some of the paper’s raw data, making it impossible to reproduce some of its findings: Read the rest of this entry »

Eighth Voinnet paper retracted — this one from Science

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Olivier Voinnet

Olivier Voinnet

A high-profile plant scientist who has been racking up corrections and retractions at a steady clip has had another paper — this one from Science — retracted.

The retraction, of a paper that had been previously corrected, is the eighth for Olivier Voinnet. According to the notice, the correction did not address all the figure problems with the paper, which “cannot be considered the result of mistakes.”

Here’s the notice in full: Read the rest of this entry »

Inquiry finds no evidence of misconduct in high-profile Science paper flagged by allegations

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scienceAn expert group at Uppsala University has recommended not proceeding with a full investigation into allegations of misconduct in a high-profile Science paper showing how human pollution may be harming fish.

The June paper — which caught the media’s attention for suggesting fish larvae are eating small particles of plastic rather than their natural prey — became the focus of scrutiny soon after it was published when a group of researchers raised allegations of misconduct. Earlier this year, Science told us it was considering issuing an Expression of Concern (EOC) for the paper, and Uppsala said it was conducting an inquiry, the first step in determining whether to launch a formal investigation.

The expert group who conducted the preliminary investigation has ultimately recommended against an investigation of the paper, according to an Uppsala spokesperson: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

September 20th, 2016 at 2:15 pm

High-profile Science paper on fish and plastics may earn notice of concern

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science mag coverScience is considering adding an expression of concern (EOC) to a June paper that caught the media’s attention for showing how human pollution may be harming fish, following allegations of research misconduct.

A group of researchers allege the paper — which suggested fish larvae are eating small particles of plastic rather than their natural prey — contains missing data and used a problematic methodology. After the researchers submitted a formal letter (available here), Uppsala University in Sweden is now conducting an inquiry, the first step in determining whether to launch a formal investigation.

A spokesperson from Science told Retraction Watch that once the journal independently verifies that an investigation is underway, it will issue an EOC for the paper: Read the rest of this entry »

How does Jeremy Berg plan to address reproducibility in Science?

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Jeremy Berg

Jeremy Berg, via AAAS

The former director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences at the U.S. National Institutes of Health has a new job. On July 1st, biochemist Jeremy Berg will take the helm as the editor-in-chief of Science. He’s currently the associate senior vice chancellor for science strategy and planning in the health sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. We spoke to him about challenges he’ll be facing in his new role: treating science’s replication problem, boosting transparency, and making papers as widely available as possible.  

You told us in an earlier conversation that diagnosing and treating science’s replication problem is major issue in publishing. Can you give us some specifics about how you plan to address it at Science? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Shannon Palus

June 14th, 2016 at 11:30 am

Science names new editor-in-chief

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Jeremy Berg

Jeremy Berg, via AAAS

Science has a new editor-in-chief.

As of July 1st, Jeremy M. Berg will be at the helm of the family of journals published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, replacing Marcia McNutt. McNutt is leaving to become president of the National Academy of Sciences.

Berg, now associate senior vice chancellor for science strategy and planning in the health sciences at the University of Pittsburgh, has led the National Institute of General Medical Sciences at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), and was president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) from 2012-2014.

Berg who said in an AAAS press release that he is “thrilled and humbled by the opportunity to work with the team at Science and AAAS,” assumes the role following a year in which one of the world’s most prominent academic journals has faced significant scrutiny. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Shannon Palus

May 25th, 2016 at 5:00 pm

“Science advances incrementally:” Researchers who debunked gay canvassing study move field forward

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David Broockman

Joshua Kalla

How easy is it to change people’s minds? In 2014, a Science study suggested that a short conversation could have a lasting impact on people’s opinions about gay marriage – but left readers disappointed when it was retracted only months later, after the first author admitted to falsifying some of the details of the study, including data collection. We found out about the problems with the paper thanks to Joshua Kalla at the University of California, Berkeley and David Broockman at Stanford University, who tried to repeat the remarkable findings. Last week, Kalla and Broockman published a Science paper suggesting what the 2014 paper showed was, in fact, correct – they found that 10-minute conversations about the struggles facing transgender people reduced prejudices against them for months afterwards. We spoke with Kalla and Broockman about the remarkable results from their paper, and the shadow of the earlier retraction.

Retraction Watch: Let’s start with your latest paper. You found that when hundreds of people had a short (average of 10 minutes) face-to-face conversation with a canvasser (some of whom were transgender), they showed more acceptance of transgender people three months later than people with the same level of “transphobia” who’d talked to the canvasser about recycling. Were you surprised by this result, given that a similar finding from Michael LaCour and Donald Green, with same-sex marriage, had been retracted last year? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

April 14th, 2016 at 9:30 am