Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘erroneous data’ Category

Scientist who sued university earns two more retractions, bringing total to five

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A scientist who sued his employer for millions of dollars has earned two more retractions, for papers that had already been flagged by the journal.

By our count, Rakesh Kumar now has five retractions and multiple corrections.

Kumar sued his employer, George Washington University, for $8 million, alleging emotional distress when they put him on leave from his position as department chair following a finding of misconduct. That suit was settled last year, for undisclosed terms.

The two newest retractions in the Journal of Biological Chemistry — which tagged the papers with Expressions of Concern last year — both state that, according to Kumar, the problematic figures were assembled by “specific co-authors” — unnamed — in his lab. Here’s the first notice:

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Why don’t the raw data match what was reported in a chemistry paper?

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Chemistry researchers in China have retracted their 2016 paper after reporting that the raw data did not match what they presented in the article.

The authors were attempting to develop a method to produce large amounts of a high-quality two-dimensional form of antimonene, a prized crystal structure that has been notoriously difficult to synthesize reliably.

They were successful, according to the paper, achieving “a large quantity of few-layer antimonene” and demonstrating its “exact atomical structure” and properties.

But they may have spoken too soon. Read the rest of this entry »

“False” results in retracted paper by senator are inaccurate, not fraudulent, say editors

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Daniel Biss

Last week, we wrote about a somewhat remarkable retraction, of a 15-year-old paper by a current Illinois senator who used to be a mathematician. At the time, we were a bit perplexed by the language of the notice, which the senator — who helpfully took our call — couldn’t answer, since he wasn’t involved in drafting the notice.

We’ve since heard back from the journal that retracted the paper, which explained that their phrase that “most results are false” meant the findings by state senator Daniel Biss were inaccurate — not fraudulent.

Here’s more explanation from a joint statement sent to us by Jan van Mill and Jerry Vaughan, the editors in chief of Topology and its Applications:

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Written by Alison McCook

February 23rd, 2017 at 9:30 am

Researchers disagree over how to explain doubts over physics findings

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After an international group of physicists agreed that the findings of their 2015 paper were in doubt, they simply couldn’t agree on how to explain what went wrong. Apparently tired of waiting, the journal retracted the paper anyway.

The resulting notice doesn’t say much, for obvious reasons. Apparently, some additional information came to light which caused the researchers to question the results and model. Although the five authors thought a retraction was the right call, they could not agree on the language in the notice.

Here’s the retraction notice for “Atomistic simulation of damage accumulation and amorphization in Ge,” published online February 2015 in the Journal of Applied Physics (JAP) and retracted two years later in January 2017: Read the rest of this entry »

If you use this research tool without permission, you’ll hear about it

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Sometimes, a seemingly run-of-the-mill retraction notice turns out to be much less straightforward.

Such was the case with a recent retraction of a 2016 paper in a journal published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, apparently over permission to use an evaluation scale designed to test whether patients take their medications as prescribed. But when we looked into this story, we learned this retraction was only the tip of the iceberg – a representative of the evaluation scale (titled “Chief Investigator”) told us he has contacted hundreds of so-called “infringers” over the last year who used the scale without permission. The authors must then apply retroactively and show they’ve used it correctly, and may even have to pay fees. Or, in the case of the retraction we saw (and at least one other in 2016), pull the paper.

According to the chief investigator, Steve Trubow, who oversees licensing and use of the scale worldwide, for some uses, there is no fee – but depending on what the researchers are using the Morisky Medication Adherence Scale (MMAS-8) for, it can cost up to $100,000. Once they’ve used it without permission, there are fees for that, too, Trubow told us:

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Authors retract two statin papers, one with problems “too extensive to revise”

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Researchers in China have retracted two 2016 papers about the possible use of a cholesterol-lowering agent to treat bleeding on the brain.

One of the retracted papers in the Journal of Neurosurgery (JNS) had multiple problems that were “too extensive to revise,” according to the lengthy retraction notice, relating to issues with authorship, data analyses, and patient enrollment. The notice is signed by first author Hua Liu of the Nanjing Medical University in China.

Liu is also the first author of another recently retracted paper in Frontiers in Neuroscience, pulled for incorrectly categorizing patients.

The JNS retraction notice begins: Read the rest of this entry »

Harvard biologist retracts diabetes breakthrough in Cell

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2013 probably felt like it was going to be a great year for stem cell biologist Douglas Melton at Harvard. He had published a buzz-worthy paper in Cell about a new way to potentially boost insulin in diabetics, attracting significant media attention, and eventually gathering nearly 200 citations.

But 2016 is closing out on a less positive tone for Melton — today, he and his colleagues are retracting the paper, after multiple labs (including his own) couldn’t reproduce the findings.

Although the lab has itself already published two articles casting doubt on the original findings, Melton told Retraction Watch he chose to retract the paper to ensure there was no confusion about the original paper’s validity: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

December 27th, 2016 at 10:00 am

Error-laden database kills paper on extinction patterns

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An ecologist in Australia realized a database he was using to spot trends in extinction patterns was problematic, affecting two papers. One journal issued an expression of concern, which has since turned into a retraction. So far, the other journal has left the paper untouched.

The now-retracted paper concluded that medium-sized species on islands tend to go extinct more often than large or small mammalian species. But a little over a year ago, Biology Letters flagged the paper with an expression of concern (EOC), noting “concerns regarding the validity of some of the data and methods used in the analysis.”

Now, last author Marcel Cardillo at Australian National University has come to a new conclusion about extinction patterns. A retraction notice that has replaced the EOC explains:

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Entomology journal retracts 2016 study with flawed analyses

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journal-of-medical-entomologyAn entomology journal has issued its first retraction during the current editor’s nearly 30-year tenure — for a 2016 study with serious flaws in the analyses. 

After the Journal of Medical Entomology (JME) published the study — about the identification of genes that enable an insect to detect odors — an outside researcher wrote a letter to the journal highlighting flaws in the paper. The journal then asked the authors to respond, and enlisted two additional peer reviewers to look into the study, the outside comment, and the authors’ response. They concluded the paper should be retracted.

William Reisen — the journal’s editor-in-chief from the University of California, Davis — said the journal believes the errors were unintentional and there was no fraud on the authors’ part. He added: Read the rest of this entry »

“A sinking feeling in my gut:” Diary of a retraction

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Daniel Bolnick is photographed at HHMI’s Janelia Farms campus on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013 in Ashburn, Va. (Kevin Wolf/AP Images for HHMI)

When an ecologist realized he’d made a fatal error in a 2009 paper, he did the right thing: He immediately contacted the journal (Evolutionary Ecology Research) to ask for a retraction. But he didn’t stop there: He wrote a detailed blog post outlining how he learned — in October 2016, after a colleague couldn’t recreate his data — he had misused a statistical tool (using R programing), which ended up negating his findings entirely. We spoke to Daniel Bolnick at the University of Texas at Austin (and an early career scientist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute) about what went wrong with his paper “Diet similarity declines with morphological distance between conspecific individuals,” and why he chose to be so forthright about it.

Retraction Watch: You raise a good point in your explanation of what went wrong with the statistical analysis: Eyeballing the data, they didn’t look significant. But when you plugged in the numbers (it turns out, incorrectly), they were significant – albeit weakly. So you reported the result. Did this teach you the importance of trusting your gut, and the so-called “eye-test” when looking at data? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

December 8th, 2016 at 9:30 am