Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘data issues’ Category

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Two molecular biologists have withdrawn two 2015 papers published in the same journal, citing image duplication and manipulation, among other issues.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

Journal retracts two papers by authors who lifted others’ data

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A journal has retracted two 2014 papers after the editors discovered the authors used data from other research groups without permission.

The papers, both published in the same issue of Cell Biochemistry and Biophysics and retracted in May, suffered from similar issues—the authors published data that was not theirs. The authors are all based at different institutions in China; as far as we can tell, the papers do not have any authors in common.

When we asked the publisher whether a third party, such as a paper mill, may have been involved, a spokesperson for Springer told us: 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 »

Author retracts nanotechnology paper over doubts about key results

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The corresponding author of a 2015 nanotechnology paper has penned a lengthy — and revealing — retraction notice, explaining why he is not certain about the findings.

In the notice, Chang Ming Li from the Institute for Clean Energy & Advanced Materials (ICEAM) at Southwest University in China, states that there is “insufficient evidence to conclusively” identify the composition of the nanowire array described in the article, which “severely undermines the validity of the reported conclusions.”

The 2015 paper has been considered “highly cited” by Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters, meaning it has received a disproportionate amount of cites given its field and publication year.

Li also said that the paper — which appeared in Physical Chemistry, Chemical Physics — was “submitted and published without my knowledge or permission.” He has not responded to our request to explain how that could have happened, given that he was the corresponding author. Read the rest of this entry »

“Dramatic impact:” Authors misread breast cancer treatment database, retract paper

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A journal has retracted a 2016 study on the use of radiation by breast cancer patients after the authors misinterpreted what was reported in a national cancer database.

Correcting for the error, according to the retraction notice, had a “dramatic impact on the original article data and conclusions.”

Quyen Chu, a surgeon at Louisiana State University Health Shreveport, told us that the problem appears to stem from a misunderstanding about the US National Cancer Database (NCDB). After the paper was published, the NCDB pointed out to Chu that a key data point had not been reliably or consistently collected during the timeframe relevant to the study. The database’s user’s manual says essentially the same thing; Chu said he and his authors read it, but misunderstood it.

The original Journal of the American College of Surgeons study looked at whether a 2004 National Comprehensive Cancer Network treatment guideline — which suggested some patients could avoid radiation on top of surgery and hormone therapy — led to an actual decrease in radiation therapy. But the error forced the authors to drop tens of thousands of patients treated before 2004, which had a severe impact on their ability to draw conclusions.

Chu told us:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew P. Han

May 11th, 2017 at 11:30 am

PLOS upgrades flag on controversial PACE chronic fatigue syndrome trial; authors “surprised”

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PLOS ONE has issued an expression of concern after the authors of a controversial study about chronic fatigue syndrome declined to share some of their data.

In an unusual move, the journal included the authors’ response to the expression of concern (EOC), in which they strongly argue against the notice, and “do not accept that it is justified.”

In 2015, following public requests to review the data, the journal issued an “editor’s note” on the paper, noting the journal’s policy that authors make data and materials available.

There have been numerous requests for data from the “PACE” trial, as the clinical trial is known. Patients and advocates have long disputed the results, arguing that suggesting cognitive behavior and graded exercise therapy could cause harm.

In the latest notice, the journal says it consulted two editorial board members about the paper, a 2012 sub analysis of a controversial clinical trial on chronic fatigue syndrome. The journal then asked the authors to provide the data behind five tables, which would enable researchers to replicate the cost-effectiveness analyses the authors report for different therapies — including graded exercise therapy, which some patient advocates believe could be harmful.

As with previous requests for data, the authors refused to provide it, citing patient confidentiality and consent. The notice explains:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

May 2nd, 2017 at 2:54 pm

No longer in limbo: Journal lifts 2015 expression of concern from chemistry paper

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All too often, when an article is flagged by a journal that’s concerned about the findings, the notice lingers in limbo, leaving readers unclear whether or not to rely on the findings. One chemistry paper’s two-year stint in purgatory ended last month, when the journal lifted its expression of concern (EOC) and replaced it with a correction.

The journal chose to swap the 2015 EOC with a correction after the authors addressed its concerns in a follow-up paper, also published in Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry.

The journal’s executive editor Richard Kelly provided further insights about what happened:

Read the rest of this entry »

Journals retract paper, flag two others by cancer doc under investigation

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Carlo Croce

This weekend, Carlo Croce had some reprieve from the misconduct accusations that have followed him for years (recently described in a lengthy article in the New York Times) and that have prompted his university to re-open an investigation. On Sunday, he received a prestigious award from the American Association for Cancer Research, honoring his work.

But the moment may have been short-lived. Today, Croce received two expressions of concern (EOCs) from PNAS for two well-cited papers published over a decade ago, on which Croce — chair of the Department of Cancer Biology and Genetics at The Ohio State University (OSU) — is last author. The two EOCs cite concerns over duplicated bands. What’s more, another journal recently decided to retract one of his papers, citing figures that didn’t represent the results of the experiments.

PNAS chose to issue EOCs, rather than retractions or corrections, because the authors didn’t agree that the bands were duplicated, according to executive editor Diane Sullenberger. She explained how the journal learned of the issues with the two papers: Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Group whose findings support video game-violence link loses another paper

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Last July, Joseph Hilgard, a postdoctoral fellow at the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, saw an article in Gifted Child Quarterly that made him do a double take. Hilgard, who is studying the effects of violent media on aggressive behavior, said the results of the 2016 paper “caused me some alarm.”

The research—led by corresponding author Brad J. Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at The Ohio State University (OSU)—showed that gifted and non-gifted children’s verbal skills dropped substantially after watching 12 minutes of a violent cartoon. The violent program had a greater impact on the gifted children, temporarily eliminating the pre-video verbal edge they displayed over their non-gifted peers.

To Hilgard, the results suggested that violent media can actually impair learning and performance. But the effect size was huge — so big, Hilgard thought it had to be a mistake. This, plus other questions, prompted Hilgard to contact the authors and the journal. Unfortunately, once he got a look at the data — collected by a co-author in Turkey who became unreachable after the recent coup attempt — the questions didn’t go away. So the journal decided to retract the paper.

Bushman’s body of work has continually supported the idea that violent media increases aggressive behavior, including a controversial 2012 study “Boom, Headshot!” that was retracted earlier this year.

What first struck Hilgard as odd about the 2016 paper was how large the effect of the violent cartoon was: Read the rest of this entry »