Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘cell press’ Category

Genetic disorder gets name change, but patient’s father still not happy

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Credit: Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man

The leading genetic disease database has chosen a new name for a genetic condition, following complaints from a man whose son has the condition.

On Aug. 11, 2017, two days after our coverage of the situation, the Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) database changed the primary name of the phenotype associated with mutations in the RPS23 gene. The new name describes a set of features: “Brachycephaly, Trichomegaly, and Developmental Delay,” or BTDD.

Brachycephaly describes a condition where the back of the head is abnormally flat and trichomegaly refers to extra length, curling, pigmentation, or thickness of the eyelashes.

Marc Pieterse, of the Netherlands, has a son with the rare RPS23 mutation, one of two known patients in the world. The mutation affects ribosomes, cell components involved in protein production. On Aug. 9, we reported on Pieterse’s crusade against OMIM’s original name for the condition, which dubbed it a syndrome. He has feared that calling it a syndrome would “stigmatize” his son’s condition and tried to get the paper underpinning the OMIM entry retracted. The American Journal of Human Genetics has said it will not retract the paper.

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Written by Andrew P. Han

August 16th, 2017 at 9:55 am

Fearing “stigmatization,” patient’s father seeks retraction of paper on rare genetic mutation

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The father of a boy with a rare genetic mutation has accused a scientist of exploiting his child by proclaiming the defect a “genetic syndrome” and naming it after herself.

At an impasse with scientists investigating, publicizing, and interpreting his son’s condition, the father seems willing to use any leverage he can muster to remove the “syndrome” entry in an online genetic disease database. Based solely on an email he obtained from the database director, the father became convinced that if the paper underpinning the entry were retracted, the syndrome would go down with it. So earlier this year, he withdrew his consent and asked the journal that published the paper for a retraction, based on improper patient consent. He has also threatened to lob accusations of research misconduct at the paper’s last author. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew P. Han

August 9th, 2017 at 8:00 am

Why did it take a journal two years to retract a paper after a misconduct finding?

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A 2014 paper containing data manipulated by a former graduate student has finally been retracted, two years after the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI) published its findings.

In August 2015, the ORI published a report that Peter Littlefield, who was working on his PhD at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), had committed “research misconduct by falsifying and/or fabricating data” in two papers. Littlefield agreed to correct or retract the papers–one published in Chemistry & Biology and the other in Science Signaling.  

When we contacted Chemistry & Biology back in August 2015, a spokesperson for Cell Press told us the journal was figuring out “the best way to correct the scientific record.”

Apparently that took two years. In the meantime, the journal did not issue an expression of concern or otherwise notify readers of the issues. Read the rest of this entry »

Journal retracts paper eight months after U.S. Feds announce findings of misconduct

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In August, the U.S. Office of Research Integrity announced that a former postdoctoral fellow at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) doctored data in two published papers.

It took one journal a little longer than five months to remove the researcher’s name from the co-author list, and replace one figure.

It took the second journal more than eight months to retract the paper.

Here’s the notice for “A BLOC-1 Mutation Screen Reveals that PLDN Is Mutated in Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome Type 9,” published by the American Journal of Human Genetics (AJHG):

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Researchers retract two well-cited papers for misconduct

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A scientist in Germany has lost two papers that were collectively cited more than 500 times, after an investigation at her former university found her guilty of scientific misconduct.

The probe into Tina Wenz by the University of Cologne in Germany, her former employer, recommended that six of her papers — which have induced some chatter on PubPeer — should be retracted. One of these papers was pulled by Cell Metabolism last year. Now, Cell Metabolism has pulled another of Wenz’s papers, and she has also lost another study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), which was previously corrected. 

First, here’s the PNAS retraction notice, issued today: Read the rest of this entry »

How a Cell journal weeds out the “bad apples”

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Anne Granger (left) and Nikla Emambokus (right)

Anne Granger (left) and Nikla Emambokus (right)

There are a lot of accusations about research misconduct swirling around, and not every journal handles them the same. Recently, Cell Metabolism Scientific Editor Anne Granger and Cell Metabolism Editor-in-Chief Nikla Emambokus shared some details about their investigative procedure in “Weeding out the Bad Apples.” We talked to them about why they don’t necessarily trust accusations leveled on blogs (including ours), but will consider the concerns of anyone who approaches the journal directly – even anonymously.

Retraction Watch: What made you decide to write an editorial about research fraud now? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

November 25th, 2016 at 9:30 am

Cell Press won’t retract papers despite one author confessing to fraud

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Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 18.54.35Cell Press journals will not be retracting two papers that were flagged with expressions of concern (EOCs) in April after one author claimed to have manipulated some experiments.

In a strange turn of events, as we previously reported, the study’s corresponding author refuted the claims of the author who confessed to fraud, citing concerns about his “motives and credibility.” Since then, two independent labs repeated the authors’ experiments, and “largely confirm” the central conclusions of a Cell paper, but were inconclusive regarding a paper in Molecular Cell. Regardless, in both cases, the journals have decided to take no further action. 

Both expressions of concern (and their associated editorial notes) will remain online, as part of the “permanent record,” a Cell Press spokesperson told us.

The spokesperson added more about the investigation process: Read the rest of this entry »

Authors retract 2016 cancer study when data don’t align with figures

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cell-death-and-differentiationResearchers have retracted a 2016 cancer study, citing discrepancies between the data and images presented in the paper. 

Although the retraction notice itself contains relatively little information, we’ve obtained a letter from the last author — Jun-Li Luo of The Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Florida — to the editor-in-chief of Cell Death and Differentiation that says a bit more. 

According to the letter, after receiving the anonymous email, Luo conducted an investigation, contacting co-authors who contributed each of the figures in question. Although Luo writes that he has no reason to suspect fraud, the researchers were not able to provide some of the original data.

PubPeer commenters have questioned figures 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 in the study, “IKKα-mediated biogenesis of miR-196a through interaction with Drosha regulates the sensitivity of cancer cells to radiotherapy.”

In the letter, Luo tells Gerry Melino, co-editor-in-chief of the journal from the University of Leicester, UK, that figures 3D and 3E were provided by the study’s first author, Xing Fang, adding: Read the rest of this entry »

When does “overlap” become plagiarism? Here’s what PLOS ONE decided

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PLOSOne

Consider this: Fragments of a PLOS ONE paper overlap with pieces of other publications. The authors used them without credit and without quotation marks.

This sounds an awful lot like plagiarism — using PLOS‘s own standards, even. But the journal isn’t calling it plagiarism. They’ve labeled this an instance of “text overlap,” a spokesperson told us, based on the amount of material that the paper shares with others.

The last author — Carlo Croce, who has two retractions under his belt — denies that he plagiarized, and says that his university has cleared him of a plagiarism charge from an anonymous whistleblower.

PLOS fixed this case last year with a correction notice — not the common course of action for a case of confirmed plagiarism. Take a look at the notice for yourself:

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How can we improve preclinical research? Advice from a diabetes researcher

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Daniel Drucker

Daniel Drucker

By all accounts, science is facing a crisis: Too many preclinical studies aren’t reproducible, leading to wasted time and effort by researchers around the world. Today in Cell Metabolism, Daniel Drucker at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto details numerous ways to make this early research more robust. His most important advice: more transparent reporting of all results (not just the positive findings), along with quantifying, reporting, tracking, and rewarding reproducibility, for both scientists and journals and universities/research institutes.

Retraction Watch: Which of your recommendations will researchers most object to, and why? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

September 13th, 2016 at 12:05 pm