Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘nature publishing group’ Category

Instead of retracting a flawed study, a journal let authors re-do it. It got retracted anyway.

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When a journal discovers elementary design flaws in a paper, what should it do? Should it retract immediately, or are there times when it makes sense to give the researchers time to perform a “do-over?”

These are questions the editors at Scientific Reports recently faced with a somewhat controversial 2016 paper, which reported that microRNAs from broccoli could make their way into the nuclei of human cells — suggesting that the food we eat could affect our gene expression.

After the paper appeared, researcher Kenneth Witwer at Johns Hopkins — who was not a co-author — posted comments on PubMed Commons and the paper itself, noting that the authors hadn’t properly designed the experiment, making it impossible for them to detect broccoli microRNAs. 

But instead of retracting the paper, the journal decided to give the authors time to do the experiments again, this time with correctly designed molecular biology tools. When that failed, they retracted it — and as part of the notice, reported the exact opposite conclusion of the original.

Witwer said the authors did a “tremendous job” with the follow-up study, but he still thinks the journal should have retracted the paper immediately. Letting the authors redo it is “a dangerous precedent to set,” he told us:   

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Journal alerts readers to “technical criticism” of CRISPR study

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A Nature journal has posted a editor’s note to a recent letter on potential unintended consequences of CRISPR gene editing, after an executive at a company trying to commercialize the technology said the paper should be retracted.

The original article, published on May 30 as a correspondence in Nature Methods, suggested that using CRISPR in mice can lead to unexpected mutations. But last week, the journal added an “Editorial note” online. Nature Methods says the notice is not an expression of concern, which would be a stronger suggestion that the paper is problematic; it simply wants to alert readers to the fact that, as the note states:

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NIH neuroscientist up to 16 retractions

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Stanley Rapoport. Source: NIH

Neuroscientist Stanley Rapoport just can’t catch a break.

Rapoport, who’s based at National Institute on Aging, is continuing to experience fallout from his research collaborations, after multiple co-authors have been found to have committed misconduct.

Most recently, Rapoport has had four papers retracted in three journals, citing falsified data in a range of figures. Although the notices do not specify how the data falsification occurred, Jagadeesh Rao, who was recently found guilty of research misconduct, is corresponding author on all four papers.

Back in December, Rapoport told us that a “number of retractions [for] Rao are still in the works:” Read the rest of this entry »

A university asked for numerous retractions. Eight months later, three journals have done nothing.

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Anil Jaiswal

When journals learn papers are problematic, how long does it take them to act?

We recently had a chance to find out as part of our continuing coverage of the case of Anil Jaiswal at the University of Maryland, who’s retracted 15 papers (including two new ones we recently identified), and has transitioned out of cancer research. Here’s what happened.

As part of a public records request related to the investigation, we received letters that the University of Maryland sent to 11 journals regarding 26 “compromised” papers co-authored by Jaiswal, four of which had been retracted by the time of the letter. The letters were dated between August and September 2016 (and one in February) — although, in some cases, the journals told us they received the letter later. Since that date, three journals have retracted nine papers and corrected another, waiting between four and six months to take action. One journal published an editorial note of concern within approximately two months after the university letter.

And six journals have not taken any public action.

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Five retractions for engineering duo in South Korea over duplication, fraudulent data

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An engineering student in South Korea and a professor have retracted five papers from four different journals for reasons ranging from figure duplication to manipulated or fraudulent data.

Jae Hyo Park, who is pursuing his PhD, and Seung Ki Joo, a professor in the department of material science and engineering at Seoul National University in South Korea, appear on all five papers as first and last author, respectively.

According to an official at IOP Publishing, the retractions began when a third party contacted them last March about “potential misconduct” in a paper published earlier that year in one of its journals—Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics. The IOP official Simon Davies explained: Read the rest of this entry »

The latest sting: Will predatory journals hire “Dr. Fraud”?

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Katarzyna Pisanski

From time to time, academics will devise a “sting” operation, designed to expose journals’ weaknesses. We’ve seen scientists submit a duplicated paper, a deeply flawed weight loss paper designed to generate splashy headlines (it worked), and an entirely fake paper – where even the author calls it a “pile of dung.” So it wasn’t a huge surprise when Katarzyna Pisanski at the University of Sussex and her colleagues found that so-called “predatory” journals – which are allegedly willing to publish subpar papers as long as the authors pay fees – often accepted a fake editor to join their team. In a new Nature Comment, Pisanski and her team (Piotr Sorokowski, Emek Kulczycki and Agnieszka Sorokowska) describe creating a profile of a fake scientist named Anna O. Szust (Oszust means “a fraud” in Polish). Despite the fact that Szust never published a single scholarly article and had no experience as a reviewer or editor, approximately one-third of predatory journals accepted Szust’s application as an editor. We spoke with Pisanski about the project.

Retraction Watch: What made you conceive of this project, and what did you hope to accomplish?

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Written by Alison McCook

March 22nd, 2017 at 2:00 pm

Nature paper adds non-reproducibility to its list of woes

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Despite taking some serious hits, a 2006 letter in Nature isn’t going anywhere.

Years ago, a university committee determined that two figures in the letter had been falsified. The journal chose to correct the paper, rather than retract it — and then, the next year, published a correction of that correction due to “an error in the production process.” To round it out, in June of last year, Nature published a rebuttal from a separate research group, who had failed to replicate the letter’s results.

Still, the first author told us there are no plans to retract the paper, since the follow up experiments published in the corrections confirmed the paper’s conclusions.

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Written by Cat Ferguson

March 21st, 2017 at 9:30 am

Two more retractions for stem cell researcher appealing her dismissal

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Susana Gonzalez

Susana Gonzalez, a rising star in stem cell research, has had a rough year.

In addition to being fired from her former research institute (which she is now appealing), one of her grants (totaling nearly 2 million Euros) was suspended. Most recently, she has received two new retractions in Nature Communications over figure duplications and missing raw data. By our count, she has a total of three retractions.

Both of the new notices say the papers contained figures duplicated in other papers by Gonzalez, and neither includes Gonzalez among the list of co-authors who agreed to the retraction.

Gonzalez was dismissed from her position at the National Center for Cardiovascular Research (CNIC) in Spain last February over allegations of misconduct. According to the head of basic research at CNIC, Gonzalez is still embroiled in a legal battle with the Center over her dismissal. Vicente Andrés could not go into detail because of the ongoing litigation, but he told us: Read the rest of this entry »

Huh? Cancer paper gets retracted because of its correction

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Here’s a rather odd case: When readers raised issues about some of the images in a 2008 cancer paper, the authors issued a correction last year. But when readers asked additional questions about the corrected images, the authors decided to retract the paper entirely, along with its correction.

Both the original and corrected versions were questioned on PubPeer.

Here’s the retraction notice for the 2008 article “PRIMA-1MET induces mitochondrial apoptosis through activation of caspase-2,” published in Oncogene, which includes a link to the July 2016 correction: Read the rest of this entry »

Neuroscientist flags errors in his days-old paper “for the sake of science integrity”

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Only days after his paper was published online, a neuroscientist has posted a comment on PubMed alerting readers to several duplication errors.

Despite the issues, which the researcher says were introduced into the final manuscript after peer review, he reassured readers that they do not influence the final conclusions in the paper.

On February 9, ten days after the article came online, corresponding author Garret Stuber at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill wrote a detailed comment on PubMed Commons, explaining that the “research community” had brought four figure-related errors to his attention. After investigating the concerns, Stuber discovered that the problems emerged after the peer-review process, “while revising the manuscript to comply with Nature Neuroscience’s final formatting guidelines.” In his note, he outlined the specific duplication issues that arose, which he says he plans to detail to the journal in a formal corrigendum letter.

Stuber alerted the scientific community about his PubMed comment via Twitter: Read the rest of this entry »