Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘erroneous data’ Category

Caught Our Notice: A retraction that is “useful for investigators”

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Via Wikimedia

Title:  Yeast CAF-1 assembles histone (H3-H4) 2 tetramers prior to DNA deposition

What Caught Our Attention: Informative retraction notices can be infrequent, but rarer still are notices that fulfill an oft-ignored function: To be a source of learning for others in the field. Here, the authors offer a nearly 800-word “detailed description of the issues” with “some observations that may be useful for investigators conducting similar studies.” These authors embraced the retraction process, carefully explaining their findings or the lack thereof, for each figure from their now-retracted paper.     Read the rest of this entry »

”Definitely embarrassing:” Nobel Laureate retracts non-reproducible paper in Nature journal

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A Nobel Laureate has retracted a 2016 paper in Nature Chemistry that explored the origins of life on earth, after discovering the main conclusions were not correct.  

Some researchers who study the origins of life on Earth have hypothesized that RNA evolved before DNA or proteins.  If true, RNA would have needed a way to replicate without enzymes. The Nature Chemistry paper found that a certain type of peptide — which may have existed in our early history — made it possible for RNA to copy itself.

Jack W. Szostaka professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., who shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol Greider for their pioneering research on aging—told us he was “incredibly excited” when he “thought we had at least a partial solution to this problem,” which researchers have been working on for over 50 years.  

But in subsequent experiments, Tivoli Olsen — a member of Szostak’s lab — could not reproduce the 2016 findings. When she reviewed the experiments from the Nature Chemistry paper, she found that the team had misinterpreted the initial data: The peptide in question did not appear to provide an environment that fostered RNA replication.

The errors were “definitely embarrassing,” Szostak told us: Read the rest of this entry »

Lancet retracts and replaces news story about controversial abortion drug

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The Lancet has retracted a journalist-written piece about a controversial drug used off-label to induce abortions, and replaced it with a corrected version.

In the retraction notice, the journal said it “removed the information that we believe to be inaccurate.”

The article, first published Oct. 28, 2017, highlights Pfizer’s decision to withdraw the drug, misoprostol, from the French market in 2018, and explores the ongoing debate surrounding its uses and safety. Approved to treat ulcers, misoprostol is more often used off-label to induce labor or medical abortions, despite reports of serious side effects, including hemorrhaging and birth defects “sometimes associated with fetal death.” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

November 21st, 2017 at 11:30 am

After losing two video game-violence papers, co-author’s weapons paper is flagged

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Can seeing a weapon increase aggressive thoughts and behaviors?

A meta-analysis on the so-called “weapons effect” has been flagged with an expression of concern by a SAGE journal, after the researchers discovered errors affecting at least one of the main conclusions.

The paper found that the presence of weapons increased people’s aggressiveness, but not feelings of anger. However, the corresponding author, Arlin James Benjamin, who works at University of Arkansas–Fort Smith, told us:

we would urge considerably more caution in interpreting the impact of weapons on behavioral outcomes based on those initial re-analyses.

Last author Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at the Ohio State University (OSU), was the corresponding author on two now-retracted papers linking video games and violence. Read the rest of this entry »

Retract, replace, retract: Beleaguered food researcher pulls article from JAMA journal (again)

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Brian Wansink

A high-profile food researcher who’s faced heavy criticism about his work has retracted the revised version of an article he’d already retracted last month.

Yes, you read that right: Brian Wansink at Cornell University retracted the original article from JAMA Pediatrics in September, replacing it with a revised version. Now he’s retracting the revised version, citing a major error: The study, which reported children were more likely to choose an apple over a cookie if the apple included an Elmo sticker, was conducted in children 3-5 years old, not 8-11, as the study reported.

Although Wansink told BuzzFeed he asked the journal to retract the paper, Annette Flanagin, Executive Managing Editor for The JAMA Network, told us the editors requested the retraction:

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After journal retracts their paper, authors post rebuttal on arXiv

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In July 2017, just days after accepting and publishing a paper, a physics journal discovered several scientific errors” and decided to retract it.

But the authorsAlexander Kholmetskii and Tolga Yarman—strongly objected to the journal’s decision, so much so they published a detailed rebuttal to the retraction on the preprint server arXiv.

The paper explores a new principle related to Einstein’s theory of relativity. According to the authors, after the Canadian Journal of Physics notified them on July 17 about the decision to retract the paper, they asked the editor to publish their objection “to defend our sound point of view, and beyond this, our scientific reputation.” But Kholmetskiiwho lists his affiliation at Belarus State University in Minsk, and Yarman, a professor at Okan University in Istanbul—told us that the editor found their response “inappropriate.” As a result, the authors turned to aiXiv to protest the retraction.

Here’s the retraction notice for “Conservative relativity principle and energy-momentum conservation in a superimposed gravitational and electric field:” Read the rest of this entry »

Researcher apologizes for ignoring early warnings about earthquake data

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In 2016, three researchers published data they had collected on a series of devastating earthquakes that hit Japan earlier that year.

But, in late September 2017, one of the authors—Hiroyuki Goto—revealed that the Kumamoto Earthquake data contained “wide reaching errors”—and an outside expert had warned him the data might be problematic nine months earlier.  

Goto, an associate professor in the Disaster Prevention Research Institute at Kyoto University, issued two statements in which he acknowledged the errors, but did not indicate how they occurred. According to The Japan Times, Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology is investigating whether the data “was falsified or fabricated due to inconsistencies with other readings taken nearby.” A report in another Japanese paper, The Mainichi, notes that Osaka University—where one of the authors, Yoshiya Hata, works—is looking into the matter as well.

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Written by Victoria Stern

October 18th, 2017 at 8:52 am

Boys will be boys: Data error prompts U-turn on study of sex differences in school

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The authors of a 2017 paper on emotional and behavioral gaps between boys and girls have retracted the article after discovering a coding error that completely undermined their conclusions.

The revelation prompted the researchers to republish their findings in the same journal, this time with a title that flips the narrative.

The PsychJournal study, first published in March, looked at self-regulation — loosely defined as the ability to get stuff done and keep a lid on it —  in boys and girls in German elementary schools. Although previous studies had found girls might do better on this front, the authors, from the University of Leipzig and New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus, initially found the opposite:

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Errors in govt database prompt authors to retract and replace paper in JAMA journal

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Researchers have retracted and replaced a June 2016 paper in JAMA Internal Medicine after discovering errors in their data.

The paper explored whether Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) — groups of health care providers who earn more when they deliver high-quality care without boosting costs  — improve care and lower health care costs for Medicare patients. The paper’s corresponding author, Carrie H. Colla, and her colleagues examined Medicare data over five years and found the ACOs provided “ modest savings on average”  and less hospital care.  

But the data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) contained errors. According to Colla, after the paper was published, CMS “let us know in the fall [2016] that there were errors in the files, but weren’t able to give us final replacement files until winter.” Read the rest of this entry »

Chem journal cautions readers about data in three papers

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A chemistry journal has issued expressions of concern for three papers after a reader notified the editors of “unexplained discrepancies” in the data.

According to the notices, after the editors of Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry confirmed the problems, they contacted the corresponding author on the three papers, Pradeep Kumar—who works at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)-National Chemical Laboratory in Pune, India—as well as the director of CSIR, Ashwini Kumar Nangia. The institution conducted its own internal review of the spectra and concluded the authors did not intentionally alter them.

Still, the journal and institution could not confirm the accuracy of the data, and the journal published expressions of concern to warn readers about the issues.

Here’s the expression of concern for “A general and concise asymmetric synthesis of sphingosine, safingol and phytosphingosines via tethered aminohydroxylation:”

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