Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘expression of concern’ Category

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 flags two more papers by diabetes researcher who sued to stop retractions (and now has 12)

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A diabetes journal has issued two notices of concern for papers co-authored by a researcher who took another publisher to court after it did the same thing — but ultimately lost.

The notices are for two papers co-authored by Mario Saad — who, after losing his legal battle with the American Diabetes Association, has since accumulated 12 retractions. Both notices — from the journal Diabetologia, published by Springer and the the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) — say they have alerted Saad to their concerns about some of the images in the papers, and the university where he is based was asked to investigate more than one year ago. Since the journal has not yet received any information from the University of Campinas in Brazil, however, it decided to issue expressions of concern for the two papers.

Here’s the text of the first notice:

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Paper by Harvard cancer biologist flagged over “credible concerns”

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A cancer biologist at Harvard who’s issued multiple editorial notices in recent years has received an expression of concern about a 2011 paper, citing “credible concerns” with the data and conclusions.

The publisher does not detail the nature of the issues in the notice.

In the past few years, last author Sam W. Lee lost a Molecular Cell paper in 2013 due to figure duplication and a Journal of Biological Chemistry paper in 2015, citing “manipulated” data in a figure.

Lee also issued two mega-corrections in 2011 in Nature and Current Biology, which also cited figure duplication. Interestingly, both papers were corrected for a second time — the 2006 Current Biology paper in 2016, over figure-related errors, and the 2011 Nature paper in 2015, over concerns the animals used may have experienced excess suffering (prompting an editorial from the journal).

The latest notice, issued by the Journal of Biological Chemistry, doesn’t provide much information for the basis of its expression of concern over Lee’s 2011 paper: Read the rest of this entry »

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:

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Written by Alison McCook

May 2nd, 2017 at 2:54 pm

Journal flags paper about GMO foods over concerns about figures

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A journal has flagged a paper by a researcher who has questioned the safety of genetically modified organisms, after receiving concerns that there were issues with some images.

In the 2006 paper, researchers led by Federico Infascelli, an animal nutrition researcher at the University of Naples, tested the blood of rabbits fed genetically modified soybeans. Starting in November 2015, however, the journal animal fielded concerns that gels appeared manipulated, and a figure legend differed from that in a thesis associated with the research.

This isn’t the first notice issued for Infascelli’s controversial work, which has been under scrutiny in recent years, including by Italian senator and biologist Elena Cattaneo. Last year, he was formally reprimanded by the University of Naples for including manipulated data in three papers.

Although the University of Naples concluded the image manipulations were “not a breach of scientific integrity,” the journal has issued a lengthy expression of concern about the paper:

Read the rest of this entry »

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:

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Journal flags another paper by diabetes researcher who sued to stop retractions

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It would seem that resorting to legal means to avoid editorial notices doesn’t always work.

We’re coming to that conclusion after seeing yet another notice for Mario Saad, based at the University of Campinas in São Paulo, Brazil. In this case, it’s an expression of concern from the Journal of Endocrinology, on a 2005 paper that lists Saad as the second-to-last author. According to the notice, the journal is concerned the paper contains spliced and duplicated images; although the authors offered to repeat the experiments, the journal considered that potential delay “unacceptable.”

Despite Saad’s legal efforts, he is now up to 11 retractions, along with multiple expressions of concern.

Here’s the full text of the notice (which is paywalled, tsk tsk):

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Stuck in limbo: What happens to papers flagged by journals as potentially problematic?

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Hilda Bastian from the National Library of Medicine

Expressions of concern, as regular Retraction Watch readers will know, are rare but important signals in the scientific record. Neither retractions nor corrections, they alert readers that there may be an issue with a paper, but that the full story is not yet clear. But what ultimately happens to papers flagged by these editorial notices? How often are they eventually retracted or corrected, and how often do expressions of concern linger indefinitely? Hilda Bastian and two colleagues from the U.S. National Library of Medicine, which runs PubMed, recently set out to try to answer those questions. We talked to her about the project by email.

Retraction Watch (RW): The National Library of Medicine recently decided to index expressions of concern, which it hadn’t before. Why the change? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

February 28th, 2017 at 9:34 am

Researcher sued to stop retractions; he just earned two more and is now up to 11

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The notices keep coming for diabetes researcher Mario Saad.

Diabetes has just retracted two more of his papers, both of which had been flagged by expressions of concern, citing problems with duplications. What’s more, the journal added another expression of concern to a 2009 paper on which Saad — based at the University of Campinas in São Paulo, Brazil — is listed as last author, again over concerns of duplication.

This isn’t Saad’s first run-in with the journal: In 2015, the researcher sued the publisher, the American Diabetes Association, after it issued expressions of concern for four of his papers. Later that year, a judge dismissed Saad’s defamation suit. The journal eventually retracted the papers.

The latest articles flagged by Diabetes appear to be part of an intricate publishing web, as the journal suggests all papers have used features of previous papers, and also include elements that have been republished by subsequent articles.

Here’s the first retraction notice, for “A Central Role for Neuronal AMP-Activated Protein Kinase (AMPK) and Mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) in High-Protein Diet–Induced Weight Loss:”

Read the rest of this entry »

Plant journal flags fungus paper amid investigation

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A journal has issued an expression of concern (EOC) for a recently published study after a probe identified “problems with the figure presentation.”

According to the EOC notice in New Phytologist, two figures in the paper contained “some anomalies,” and the corresponding author has acknowledged that there are problems with the images.

Here’s the EOC notice: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

January 5th, 2017 at 12:00 pm