Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘data issues’ Category

Post-publication peer review in action: Science flags paper just days after publication

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Science has issued an expression of concern for a widely covered materials science paper published on Friday, citing issues with the supplementary data.

The paper — which caught the attention of multiple news outlets — added properties to cotton fibers in vitro, potentially enabling researchers to manufacture fabric that can fluoresce or carry magnetic properties.

The move to issue an expression of concern was unusually quick. According to the journal, an expert who received the paper from a journalist under a media embargo contacted Science to flag issues in some of the supplementary data. At the time of this post, the paper does not yet have an entry on PubPeer.

Here’s the full expression of concern:

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Given “wrong pathology slides,” heart journal retracts paper

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A cardiology journal has retracted a paper after the authors were unable to provide correct pathology slides to replace the wrong ones submitted with the original manuscript.

The paper is titled “Aortic Valve Endocarditis and Coronary Angiography With Cerebral Embolic Protection,” published on April 10, 2017 in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Cardiovascular Interventions (JACC:CI). It has not yet been cited, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.

JACC:CI retracted the paper on Aug. 14, providing this notice: Read the rest of this entry »

Journal knew about problems in a high-profile study before it came out — and did nothing for over a month

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In June, Gene Emery, a journalist for Reuters Health, was assigned to write a story about an upcoming paper in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, set to come off embargo and be released to the public in a few days. Pretty quickly, he noticed something seemed off.

Emery saw that the data presented in the tables of the paper — about awareness of the problem of heart disease among women and their doctors — didn’t seem to match the authors’ conclusions. For instance, on a scale of 1 to 5 rating preparedness to assess female patients’ risk (with 5 being the most prepared), 64% of doctors answered 4 or 5; but the paper said “only a minority” of doctors felt well-prepared (findings echoed in an accompanying press release). On Monday June 19, four days before the paper was set to publish, Emery told the corresponding author — C. Noel Bairey Merz, Medical Director of the Women’s Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles — about the discrepancy; she told him to rely on the data in the table.

But the more Emery and his editors looked, the more problems they found with the paper. They alerted the journal hours before it was set to publish, hoping that was enough to halt the process. It wasn’t.

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Study of social media retracted when authors can’t provide data

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A business journal has retracted a 2016 paper about how social media can encourage young consumers to become devoted to particular brands, after discovering flaws in the data and findings.

The paper—published in South Asian Journal of Global Business Research, now called South Asian Journal of Business Studies—was retracted in June 2017, after the journal learned of flaws that called the “validity of the data and reported findings” into question.

Here’s the retraction notice for “Evaluating the influence of social media on brand sacralization: an empirical study among young online consumers”: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

July 31st, 2017 at 9:26 am

Months after neuroscientist flagged errors, Nature journal corrects them — and more

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When a neuroscientist noticed there were problems with his January 2017 paper in Nature Neuroscience, he didn’t wait for the journal to take action — instead, he published his concerns about four figures on PubMed Commons. Months later, the journal has issued formal corrections to those figures — along with several more.   

In February 2017, we praised Garret Stuber for alerting the scientific community to issues in his paper only 10 days after it first appeared online. On Twitter, he directed followers to the comment on PubMed Commons and asked them to retweet “for the sake of science integrity” — yet another example of how more researchers are taking matters into their own hands to alert readers to flaws in their papers. But according to the journal, the problems with the paper were more extensive than Stuber initially reported. Read the rest of this entry »

“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:

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Written by Andrew P. Han

May 11th, 2017 at 11:30 am