Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘society journal retractions’ Category

Lost in translation: Authors blame a language error for wrong diagnosis

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A patient’s “unusual” brain cyst excited several researchers in China so much they published a paper about it in a major journal. Soon a reader identified a glaring mistake: the authors had described the cause of the cyst incorrectly.  

A month after the paper appeared online in November 2016, the reader — a neurologist — published a letter in the journal, pointing out the incorrect diagnosis. In their response, the authors acknowledged the mistake but said it had occurred not because they had misdiagnosed the patient, but because the diagnosis had been mistranslated from Chinese to English.

The editors of Neurology retracted the paper because of the error and published a new version with the correct diagnosis on the same day, June 6.

Although we did not hear back from the paper’s two corresponding authors—Jun Guo and Guan Sun—the journal published a string of letters that chronicles the case.

Here’s the retraction (and replacement) notice:  

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“Some experiments were not performed appropriately:” Florida researchers lose two papers

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Two molecular biologists have withdrawn two 2015 papers published in the same journal, citing image duplication and manipulation, among other issues.

One notice — published in June — explains that, after further investigation, the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC) found certain experiments “were not performed appropriately.” The other notice cites “missing data” and notes that certain data “did not accurately represent experimental conditions.”

The authors of the papers—Daniel L. Kaplan, associate professor at Florida State University who heads a genomics lab, and Irina Bruck, assistant scholar scientist in Kaplan’s lab—also received a correction in JBC this month, which cites image duplication.

The three notices, all published this month in JBC, may reveal a pattern, but there’s still a lot we don’t know. One of the two papers was questioned on PubPeer. Several commenters flagged duplicated images and had questions about the antibody used.

Here’s one retraction notice, published this month: Read the rest of this entry »

Cancer paper retracted after author discovers signs of data manipulation

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A molecular biology journal has retracted a 2017 cancer paper only two months after it appeared online, after the corresponding author notified the journal about possible data manipulation.

According to the notice, Chunsun Fan, from Qidong Liver Cancer Institute & Qidong People’s Hospital in China, requested the retraction after finding “signs of data manipulation” in the paper that was published online in April. The journal, FEBS Letters, acted quickly, publishing a retraction earlier this month.

Here’s the retraction notice for “MiR-19 regulates breast cancer cell aggressiveness by targeting profilin 1:” Read the rest of this entry »

Big corrections usually weaken findings. But a recent NEJM one strengthened them, author says

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A 2016 study in New England Journal of Medicine has received a substantial correction, which affected several aspects of the article.

Typically, an error that affects so much of a paper would undermine the results (and possibly lead to a retraction). But in this case, the revised dose calculations actually strengthened the findings, according to the first author.

The NEJM study aimed to clarify whether patients with a neuromuscular disease called myasthenia gravis benefit from a surgical procedure to remove the thymus. About half of the patients received surgery plus the steroid prednisone, while the rest only received the steroid. The researchers found patients who received the surgery fared better.

Shortly after the paper was published in August 2016, the authors discovered an error in the calculation of the average prednisone dose. According to Gil Wolfe, the first author of the paper, when the researchers corrected the error: Read the rest of this entry »

Former prof fudged dozens of images, says university

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On Dec. 2, 2013, Alison Lakin, the research integrity officer at the University of Colorado Denver, received a concerning email.

The emailer was alleging several problems in a 2012 paper in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, co-authored by one of its high-profile faculty members. Lakin discussed the allegations with some administrators and agreed they had merit; Lakin sequestered an author’s laptop and other materials. Over the next few months, the university learned of additional allegations affecting other papers — and discovered even more serious problems in the JCI paper. Namely, the first author had inserted changes to 21 figures in the paper after submitting it, without alerting the other authors, journal, or reviewers.

That journal retracted the paper this month, citing numerous problems:

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Following outcry, American Psychological Association “refocuses” takedown notice program

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After a deluge of protests from researchers who received notices from the American Psychological Association (APA) to remove papers from their websites, the publisher announced it will shift its focus to commercial sites.

Earlier this week, researchers took to Twitter to lament the takedown notices they had received from the APA; one posted the letter in place of his paper. The letters were part of a pilot program by the APA to remove “unauthorized online postings of APA journal articles.”

That program has now taken a bit of a turn. In a release yesterday, the APA says that:

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Written by Alison McCook

June 16th, 2017 at 10:39 am

Journal flags cancer paper from Karolinska researchers

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A journal has issued an expression of concern (EOC) for a 2011 cancer paper, while Karolinska Institutet investigates “concerns” about some of the data.

After the Journal of Cell Science (JCS) received a tip from a reader, it investigated, but was unable to resolve the concerns. So the journal asked KI–where all the authors work–to investigate further, and issued an EOC to alert readers that there may be an issue with the paper.

According to the notice, the questions center on data from Fig. 1A, but the notice does not specify the nature of the concerns. The 2011 paper received a correction in 2016, which cites inadvertent figure duplication.

Earlier this year, the paper’s last author Boris Zhivotovsky and second author Helin Vakifahmetoglu-Norberg retracted a 2008 paper from Oncogene over potential image duplication. That retraction caught our attention because it was prompted by a 2016 correction to the paper, which had raised additional questions about potential duplication; ultimately, the authors retracted both the paper and its correction.

Here’s the expression of concern for the 2011 JCS paper: Read the rest of this entry »

Journal won’t look at allegations about papers more than six years old, nor comment on those from “public websites”

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After a paper is published, how long should a journal consider allegations of misconduct? For one journal, that answer is: Six years.

We see plenty of journals that retract papers at least 10 years old over concerns regarding misconduct, but in a recent editorial, Molecular and Cellular Biology announced it would pursue allegations made within six years after a paper is published. This rule mirrors federal regulations (which apply to the U.S. Office of Research Integrity), which also decline to investigate allegations if at least six years have passed since the incident supposedly occurred — but with some exceptions, such as if the misconduct could have an impact on public health.

Incidentally, the same issue of the journal includes a retraction notice for a paper published seven years ago, citing image duplications. A spokesperson for the American Society for Microbiology (which publishes the journal) told us the journal investigated the paper in 2016, within the cutoff period.

Here’s the key text from the editorial:

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Authors retract two plant biology papers over duplicated images

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Plant scientists have issued two retractions after noticing several images had been duplicated within and across the papers.

The papers both appeared in March 2002 in The Plant Cell and The Plant Journal.

The last author on both papers — Jonathan Jones, a professor and group leader at The Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, UK — took responsibility for the duplications. He told us:

As last author I was responsible for checking the papers but did not notice the similarities between figures in the different papers.  I regret this and took action as soon as I realized there was an issue. Both papers went through peer review and the issue was not picked up at that point either.

Susana Rivas, the first author on both papers, has collaborated with beleaguered plant scientist Oliver Voinnet — and was a second author on one of his eight retractions (which we covered here).

The editor-in-chief of TPJ Christoph Benning said that, after the authors contacted them, the journals looked into the issue, confirmed the duplications and then retracted the papers: Read the rest of this entry »

NEJM issues unusual warning for readers about 1980 letter on opioid addiction

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This week, the New England Journal of Medicine issued a type of editor’s note we’ve never seen before, on a highly influential letter published nearly 40 years ago.

Above the one-paragraph letter, which reports data suggesting pain medications are not likely to cause addiction, the journal has added a note warning readers that the letter has been “heavily and uncritically cited” by sources using it to suggest opioids are not addictive.

In essence, the journal isn’t commenting on the merits of the letter — the problem is how it’s been used by others.

The same issue of the journal includes a letter by researchers based in Canada who analyzed how the 1980 letter had been cited, noting:

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Written by Alison McCook

June 2nd, 2017 at 8:00 am