Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘investigator error’ Category

Authors who retract for honest error say they aren’t penalized as a result

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Daniele Fanelli

Are there two types of retractions? One that results from a form of misconduct, such as plagiarism or manipulating figures, and another that results from “honest errors,” or genuine mistakes the authors have owned up to? More and more research is suggesting that the community views each type very differently, and don’t shun researchers who make mistakes and try to correct the record. In yet another piece of evidence, Daniele Fanelli and his colleagues recently published the results of their interviews with 14 scientists who retracted papers for honest errors between 2010-2015. Although much of what scientists said affirmed what Fanelli – based at METRICS (the Meta-Research Innovation Center) at Stanford University – has long argued about retractions due to honest error, some of their answers surprised him.

Retraction Watch: We’ve seen the community reward scientists who retract papers for honest error, including a 2013 paper that showed no citation penalty for researchers who self-retract. Yet the interviewees said they were surprised to realize there weren’t any negative consequences to their self-retractions (some even got kudos for doing it). Why do you think people don’t realize how the community will view honest error?

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Written by Alison McCook

March 27th, 2017 at 9:30 am

Patient misdiagnosed with rare neurological side effect in retracted case study

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When two surgeons in Greece learned that a patient had developed a rare side effect following weight loss surgery, they were eager to publish the case.

After extensive testing, the patient was diagnosed with Wernicke’s encephalopathy—a neurological disorder caused by thiamine deficiency—following a sleeve gastrectomy procedure. As the authors note in the paper, they had seen only eight other cases following the procedure in the literature.

It turns out, theirs was not the ninth. After the patient unfortunately died, he was examined by a coroner, who ruled he did not, in fact, have Wernicke’s encephalopathy. So Dimitrios Manatakis and Nikolaos Georgopoulos, both based at Athens Naval and Veterans Hospital in Greece, have retracted their 2014 case study.

When the first learned of the patient, the authors wanted to alert the surgical community to the case, given the rarity of this side effect, Manatakis told us: Read the rest of this entry »

Physics paper’s results off by factor of 100

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Researchers from China have retracted a physics paper after realizing an error led them to report results that were nearly 100 times too large.

What’s more, the authors omitted key findings that would enable others to reproduce their experiments.

According to the notice, the authors used a value to calculate a feature of electrons—called mobility—that “was approximately 100 times too small,” which led to results that were “100 times too large.” The notice also details several gaps in the presentation of experimental results, which preclude others from duplicating the experiments.

Here’s the retraction notice for “Bulk- and layer-heterojunction phototransistors based on poly[2-methoxy-5-(2′-ethylhexyloxy-p-phenylenevinylene)] and PbS quantum dot hybrids:” Read the rest of this entry »

Neuroscientist flags errors in his days-old paper “for the sake of science integrity”

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Only days after his paper was published online, a neuroscientist has posted a comment on PubMed alerting readers to several duplication errors.

Despite the issues, which the researcher says were introduced into the final manuscript after peer review, he reassured readers that they do not influence the final conclusions in the paper.

On February 9, ten days after the article came online, corresponding author Garret Stuber at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill wrote a detailed comment on PubMed Commons, explaining that the “research community” had brought four figure-related errors to his attention. After investigating the concerns, Stuber discovered that the problems emerged after the peer-review process, “while revising the manuscript to comply with Nature Neuroscience’s final formatting guidelines.” In his note, he outlined the specific duplication issues that arose, which he says he plans to detail to the journal in a formal corrigendum letter.

Stuber alerted the scientific community about his PubMed comment via Twitter: Read the rest of this entry »

Columbia University probe prompts retraction of cardiovascular paper

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A journal has retracted a 2011 study at the request of Columbia University.

According to Jeanine D’Armiento, the study’s last author, the newly retracted paper in Clinical Science contained a figure from a Journal of Hypertension paper published by the same authors earlier that year. 

First and corresponding author Joseph George told Retraction Watch the error was unintentional. A Columbia spokesperson sent us this statement: Read the rest of this entry »

High-profile book on North Korea earns 52 corrections

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The author of a high-profile book about the history of North Korea is issuing 52 corrections to the next edition, scheduled to appear this spring. The changes follow heavy criticism of the book, alleging it contained material not supported by the list of references.

Last month, author Charles Armstrong, a professor at Columbia University, announced on his website that he was issuing the changes after reviewing the book in detail, especially the footnotes. He writes:

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Written by Alison McCook

January 31st, 2017 at 9:30 am

Nuclear fuel container material isn’t as novel as it appeared in now-retracted paper

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A layer of copper sprayed onto steel. (Figure 6 from “Structure and Mechanical Properties of Thick Copper Coating Made by Cold Spray“)

A paper describing the construction of a material that could be used in nuclear fuel containers has been retracted after the authors left out key details.

According to the editor, the omission made the authors’ method seem more novel than it was.

The material is described in “Structure and Mechanical Properties of Thick Copper Coating Made by Cold Spray.” It was published in the January 2016 issue of the Journal of Thermal Spray Technology.

According to the retraction notice, the authors did not specify in the paper how the first layer of copper was sprayed onto the steel:

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Dangerous chemo mistake retracted by journal after two years

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An oncology journal has retracted a 2014 paper that contained a potentially fatal mistake.

Specifically, the paper suggested that a chemotherapy drug be injected intrathecally — i.e., in the spine. But according to the retraction notice, the medical literature has unequivocally shown that that form of treatment is “uniformly fatal.”

The retraction comes approximately 18 months after the journal published a letter to the editor alerting readers to the risky wording in the 2014 paper.

Here’s the notice, issued by Hematological Oncology:

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“We made big mistakes:” Gastric paper pulled with unusual notice

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Sometimes we come across a real head-scratcher.

That happened this week, when we saw a retraction notice for a 2015 paper on gastric cancer in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, which only says the authors “made big mistakes” and contains two fairly significant typos.

Although there’s no sign of a retraction on PubMed, the table of contents for the latest issue of the journal lists the retraction — but includes no hyperlink to the notice. The only way to see it is via a Web cached version. Here’s the text:

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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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