Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘expression of concern’ Category

Publisher flags paper on same-sex parenting after neo-Nazi group cites it

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A publisher has issued an expression of concern (EoC) about a study that claimed children with same-sex parents were at greater risk of depression and abuse, after posters using statistics from the paper to support a homophobic message appeared in Australia and the US.

On Aug. 21, several news websites reported that these posters were appearing in Melbourne, Australia, citing claims from a 2016 paper published in Depression Research and Treatment, which said that children with same-sex parents are more at risk for depression, abuse, and obesity than children with opposite-sex parents. The poster had also appeared previously in Minneapolis and has been traced to a neo-Nazi group, as reported by HuffPost Australia. Australia is preparing for a national, non-binding, mail-in vote on whether to provide marriage equality for same-sex couples.

The EoC mechanism, which was chosen by the journal’s publisher, Hindawi, is an unusual choice here. The paper’s author, D. Paul Sullins, a sociology professor at The Catholic University of America and the paper’s author, told Retraction Watch that Hindawi contacted him Aug. 21 about the decision. Initially, he told us he didn’t have any “particular objection to it,” but later told us he changed his mind after he read more about COPE’s guidelines for EoCs: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew P. Han

August 25th, 2017 at 11:53 am

Controversial CRISPR paper earns second editorial note

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Against the authors’ objections, Nature Methods has added an expression of concern to a 2017 paper that drew fire for suggesting a common gene editing technique could cause widespread collateral damage to the genome. The latest note — the second to be added in two months — alerts readers to an alternative interpretation of the findings.

When “Unexpected mutations after CRISPR–Cas9 editing in vivo” was published May 30, it immediately drew criticism from many of the top scientists working with CRISPR, including those associated with companies seeking to develop CRISPR-based therapies for humans. Share prices for the two largest companies pursuing CRISPR therapies, Editas Medicine and Intellia Therapeutics, dropped following publication of the article.

On June 14, the journal published a notice to alert readers to “technical criticisms” of the paper. Apparently, that wasn’t sufficient, because the journal is now providing more details on the nature of the criticisms, despite the objections of the paper’s authors:

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Are there foxes in Tasmania? Follow the poop

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Stephen Sarre, based at the University of Canberra in Australia, has made a career out of collecting and analyzing poop.

It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. Part of his work is designed to answer a multi-million dollar question: Is Tasmania home to foxes, a pest that carries rabies and other diseases and can ravage local wildlife? According to the Australian news outlet ABCthe Tasmanian and Australian governments have spent $50 million (AUD) on hunting foxes on the island since 2001 — even though many have debated whether they are even there.

In 2012, after analyzing thousands of fecal samples, Sarre published a paper in the Journal of Applied Ecology which boldly claimed that “Foxes are now widespread in Tasmania.” But many outside researchers didn’t buy it, and quickly voiced their criticisms of the paper, namely that there may be problems with false positives and the methodology used to analyze the samples. Recently, the journal issued an expression of concern for the paper, citing an ongoing investigation into the allegations.

Here’s the expression of concern (paywalled, tsk tsk):

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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:

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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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