Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘sage’ Category

Journals flag two papers by psychologist Jens Förster

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forster-j-a1Journals have flagged two papers by prominent social psychologist Jens Förster — whose work has been subject to much scrutiny — over concerns regarding the validity of the data. 

Förster already has three retractions, following an investigation by his former employer, the University of Amsterdam (UvA) in the Netherlands. In 2014, we reported on the first retraction for Förster for one of three studies with odd patterns that were flagged by the UvA investigation, a 2012 paper in Social Psychological and Personality Science; subsequently, the Netherlands Board on Research Integrity concluded that data had been manipulatedThree statistical experts from the UvA then carried out a more in-depth analysis of 24 publications by Förster, and found eight to have “strong evidence for low scientific veracity.”

Last year, Förster agreed to retract two more papers as part of a deal with the German Society for Psychology (DGPs); those retractions appeared earlier this year. All three papers that Förster has lost until now are from the “strong evidence for low scientific veracity” category. Recently, two more of Förster’s papers from the same category were flagged with notices, but not retracted.

One “statement of institutional concern,” issued by Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, reads:
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A retraction cluster? Two papers retracted for overlap with other retractions

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molecular biology reportA cluster of papers by different authors has been retracted for sharing text, even though some papers were submitted at the same time.

How is that possible? A spokesperson for Springer told us that they have reason to believe a third-party company may have helped prepare the papers for publication, and in the process might have spread the material around to multiple manuscripts.

The details of the cluster are a bit perplexing, so bear with us. Two of the papers — that were published only months apart — have already been retracted, as we reported in April. Now, two other papers have been retracted from Molecular Biology Reports — and both notices cite the previously retracted papers. The new notices also say that there’s reason to believe that the peer-review process was compromised.

All papers conclude that a certain polymorphism could signal a risk for coronary artery disease among Chinese people.

We’ll start with the retraction notice for “Fibroblast growth factor receptor 4 polymorphisms and coronary artery disease: a case control study,” which cites the two papers that were retracted previously:

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We’re blinded by positive results. So what if we removed them?

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Mike Findley

Mike Findley

The problem of publication bias — giving higher marks to a paper that reports positive results rather than judging it on its design or methods — plagues the scientific literature. So if reviewers are too focused on the results of a paper, would stripping a paper of its findings solve the problem? That was the question explored in a recent experiment by guest editors of Comparative Political Studies. Mike Findley, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin and one of the guest editors of the journal, talked to us about a new paper explaining what they learned.

Retraction Watch: Can you explain what a “results-free” paper looks and reads like? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

August 15th, 2016 at 2:00 pm

“We should err on the side of protecting people’s reputation:” Management journal changes policy to avoid fraud

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Patrick Wright, via the University of South Carolina

Patrick Wright, via the University of South Carolina

How can academic journals ensure the integrity of the data they publish? For one journal, the key is looking deeply at statistics, which revealed crucial problems in the research of recent high-profile fraudsters such as Anil Potti. Editor-in-chief of the Journal of Management, Patrick Wright from the University of South Carolina, recently authored an editorial about how he’s taken those lessons to heart — and why he believes retractions don’t always hurt a journal’s reputation. 

RW: Can you take us through the changes in the editorial policy of your journal? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

July 13th, 2016 at 9:30 am

A prominent psychiatry researcher is dismissed. What’s happening to his papers?

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neumeister

Alexander Neumeister. Source: Yale School of Medicine

After a prominent researcher was dismissed due to multiple instances of misconduct in his studies, how are journals responding?

When an investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found multiple issues with the work of psychiatry researcher Alexander Neumeister, New York University (NYU) Langone Medical Center shut down eight of his studies. (Disclosure: The author of this post is an NYU journalism student, but has no relationship with the medical school.) The agency concluded the studies, which involved using experimental drugs to relieve symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), were tainted by lax oversight, falsified records, and inaccurate case histories, according to the New York Times. (Neuroskeptic also recently analyzed the case.)

We reached out to the journals that have published Neumeister’s papers, to ask if these recent events have caused them to take a second look at his work. Several have responded, with some noting they plan to investigate, or will do so if asked by the institution. But many believe there is little cause for concern. Read the rest of this entry »

Heir claims part of review about political scientist is defamatory, journal partially retracts

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European Journal of CommunicationA communications journal has retracted parts of a paper about a famous German political scientist after her great-nephew threatened the journal with legal action, claiming bits of the paper were defamatory.

The European Journal of Communication (EJC) retracted the parts of the paper that reviewed a biography of Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, published in Germany in 2013. The biography was titled Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann: Demoskopin zwischen NS-Ideologie und Konservatismus;” a Google-translate of that title gives “Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann: pollster between Nazi ideology and conservatism.”

Noelle-Neumann is most well known for her mass communication theory, the “Spiral of Silence,” which refers to the tendency to remain silent on a subject when your view opposes that of the masses. Because parts of the paper are now redacted, it is unclear what statements were potentially defamatory. Read the rest of this entry »

Columbia investigation reveals researcher faked data — and a degree

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InnateImmunityA researcher faked data and a masters degree, according to an investigation by Columbia University.

He’s also earned his fourth retraction. The new notice, along with one we’ve uncovered from 2014, provide some information on the extent of the deception of Robert Frumento, who left Columbia a decade ago, around the time that the now-retracted papers were published.

Here’s the new retraction notice:

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Conservative political beliefs not linked to psychotic traits, as study claimed

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American Journal of Political Science

Researchers have fixed a number of papers after mistakenly reporting that people who hold conservative political beliefs are more likely to exhibit traits associated with psychoticism, such as authoritarianism and tough-mindedness.

As one of the notices specifies, now it appears that liberal political beliefs are linked with psychoticism. That paper also swapped ideologies when reporting on people higher in neuroticism and social desirability (falsely claiming that you have socially desirable qualities); the original paper said those traits are linked with liberal beliefs, but they are more common among people with conservative values.

We’re not clear how much the corrections should inform our thinking about politics and personality traits, however, because it’s not clear from the paper how strongly those two are linked. The authors claim that the strength of the links are not important, as they do not affect the main conclusions of the papers — although some personality traits appear to correlate with political beliefs, one doesn’t cause the other, nor vice versa.

In total, three papers have been corrected by authors, and a correction has been submitted on one more.

We’ll start with an erratum that explains the backstory of the error in detail. It appears on “Correlation not Causation: The Relationship between Personality Traits and Political Ideologies,” published by the American Journal of Political Science: Read the rest of this entry »

Concerns attached to three more papers by retraction-laden management researcher

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Fred Walumbwa

Fred Walumbwa

Fred Walumbwa, a management researcher with eight seven retractions, has received three expressions of concern from two journals after he failed to provide raw data following an investigation into potential errors.

In the past, Walumbwa has said he only keeps data until his papers are published, but a lack of raw data has become a common theme in his notices, which now also include four corrections, and one other EOC (making a new total of four). There are no standard rules about how long to store raw data, but one journal that issued two of the new EOCs has since updated its submission policy to require that authors keep data for at least five years.

Walumbwa currently works at Florida International University. When concerns about the statistics were raised about five of his papers in Personnel Psychology, the journal conducted an investigation that led to flagging two of those articles, the expression of concern explains:

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Makeup use linked to testosterone levels? Not so fast, says retraction

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Psych SciA psychology journal is retracting a 2015 paper that attracted press coverage by suggesting women’s hormone levels drive their desire to be attractive, after a colleague alerted the last author to flaws in the statistical analysis.

The paper, published online in November, found women prefer to wear makeup when there is more testosterone present in their saliva. The findings were picked up by various media including Psychology Today (“Feeling hormonal? Slap on the makeup”), and even made it onto reddit.com.

However, upon discovering a problem in the analysis of the data, the authors realized that central finding didn’t hold up, according to Psychological Science‘s interim editor, Stephen Lindsay: Read the rest of this entry »