Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘investigator error’ Category

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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Are rich people meaner? While trying to find out, two teams find errors in each other’s work

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Is having money linked to bad behavior?

A high profile paper published in 2012 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) set out to answer that question — and found that yes, the more money people have, the more likely they are to lie, cheat, and steal. And the greedier they are, the worse they behave. But when a more recent paper tried to replicate some of those findings, it couldn’t.

It turns out, both the original paper and the paper that tried to replicate it contained errors. Although neither appear to affect the main conclusions, the authors of the 2016 replication recently issued a correction; the error in the 2012 paper was initially deemed too insignificant to correct, but the journal has decided to revisit the idea of issuing a correction.

A representative of PNAS told us that the replication paper — and reporting by Retraction Watch — is the reason why: Read the rest of this entry »

“The results are essentially meaningless:” Typos, missing variables found throughout physics paper

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A physics journal has retracted a 2014 paper after a reader discovered a slew of errors.

The paper, published in the Journal of Thermophysics and Heat Transfer, explored how the properties of nanofluidsfluids that contain nanoparticles—change as the fluid moves through different materials.  

According to the editor-in-chief, Greg Naterer, an outside expertAsterios Pantokratoras, based at Democritus University of Thrace in Greececontacted the journal in May 2017 after discovering “errors with symbols in equations and figures.” The journal investigated the concerns and reached out to the paper’s corresponding author V. Ramachandra Prasad at Madanapalle Institute of Technology and Science in India for a response; after several rounds of comments from Pantokratoras and Prasad, the journal concluded that the paper should be retracted.

Naterer explained: Read the rest of this entry »

Authors retract plant biology paper after they realized sample was contaminated

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Plant biologists from China have retracted a 2013 paper in The Plant Cell after discovering that some of the plant material used was “inadvertently contaminated.”

According to the retraction notice, the authors believe the contamination affects the main conclusion of their paper. Read the rest of this entry »

Prominent food researcher retracts paper from JAMA journal, replaces it with multiple fixes

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Brian Wansink

Earlier this week, we reported that high-profile food researcher Brian Wansink — who’s faced months of criticisms about his research — had issued his second retraction. On Thursday, he issued his third.

The retracted paper — a 2012 research letter in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, now JAMA Pediatrics — reported that children were more likely to choose an apple over a cookie if the apple included an Elmo sticker. The same day the paper was retracted, Wansink and his co-authors published a replacement version that includes multiple changes, including to the methodology and the results.

The retraction notice lists the mistakes, which the authors say they made “inadvertently:”

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“A gut-wrenching experience:” Authors retract, replace JAMA paper

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When economist Jason Hockenberry looked at data comparing some of the financial issues facing different U.S. hospitals, he was surprised by what he saw.

Hockenberry was examining the effects of a recently introduced U.S. program that penalizes hospitals with relatively high rates of readmissions for certain conditions by reducing Medicare payments. Although Hockenberry expected hospitals that serve low-income and uninsured patients to have more readmissions (and therefore more penalties), he saw these so-called “safety-net hospitals” had been steadily improving their performance since the program began in 2012, and had faced fewer penalties over time.

The results were so striking, they ended up in JAMA on April 18, 2017. But within one week after publication, Hockenberry learned outside researchers had raised questions about the analysis.

The outside researchers thought the authors had incorrectly categorized some of the safety-net hospitals. After looking into their concerns, Hockenberry — based at Emory University in Atlanta — realized the analysis did contain errors that affect the findings. This week, he and his co-authors retracted the article, replacing it with a corrected version. The new paper still reports that the gap between the penalties faced by safety-net and non-safety-net hospitals is closing — but not for the reasons they initially thought.  

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“Devastating:” Authors retract paper in Nature journal upon discovering error

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Several years ago, Chris Dames thought he had made an exciting discovery, a “secret sauce” that would allow him to design a device using a novel mechanism.

In a 2014 Nature Communications paper, Dames—who works at the University of California at Berkeley—and his team described the first experimental results for the device, a photon thermal diode. A thermal diode conducts heat in one direction but not in the other, and in theory, could have broad applications—for example, provide barriers that shield buildings from excess heat or use heat to power computers.

But two years later, in August 2016, a colleague thought he had discovered a fundamental error in the design of the experiments. Bair Budaev, who also works at the University of California at Berkeley, believed that the authors made a “a fundamental symmetry error” which invalidated their results. Read the rest of this entry »

“Scientifically misleading errors” prompt authors to withdraw paper

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A group of authors have withdrawn a paper after revealing a litany of issues to the journal that published it. Among those issues were “scientifically misleading errors,” “insufficient” validation, and a disagreement between the researchers on whether it should have been published at all.

Optimal DNA structure of reverse-hairpin beacons for label-free and positive surface enhanced Raman scattering assays,” originally published in June in Optical Materials Express (OMEx), was retracted Aug. 7. The paper purported to describe a detection method for RNA associated with influenza virus. It has not yet been cited, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.

Here’s the full list of issues cited in the retraction notice: Read the rest of this entry »

Given “wrong pathology slides,” heart journal retracts paper

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A cardiology journal has retracted a paper after the authors were unable to provide correct pathology slides to replace the wrong ones submitted with the original manuscript.

The paper is titled “Aortic Valve Endocarditis and Coronary Angiography With Cerebral Embolic Protection,” published on April 10, 2017 in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Cardiovascular Interventions (JACC:CI). It has not yet been cited, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.

JACC:CI retracted the paper on Aug. 14, providing this notice: Read the rest of this entry »

Following uproar, surgery journal retracts paper with male-only pronouns

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The Annals of Surgery has retracted a paper that used only male pronouns to describe surgeons following outcry from readers.

The journal plans to replace the article — a recent presidential address of the European Surgical Association — with a new version with more “gender inclusive language.”

The problem, said editor Keith D. Lillemoe, is that the address was delivered in April by previous ESA president Marek Krawczyk in Polish. According to an email Krawczyk sent to ESA leadership, which Lillemoe forwarded to us, Krawczyk says the pronoun “his” can include women in Polish.

Still, Lillemoe told us, the journal believed it needed to quickly retract the paper:

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Written by Alison McCook

July 24th, 2017 at 1:00 pm