Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘investigator error’ Category

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

“We were devastated:” Authors retract paper after realizing they had used the wrong mice

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Raymond Pasek and Maureen Gannon

Longtime readers of Retraction Watch may recall a 2011 post about a research team that retracted a paper after realizing that they had ordered the wrong mice. Maureen Gannon and Raymond Pasek of Vanderbilt University contacted us earlier this week to alert us to a similar case: Their retraction, earlier this month, of a 2016 paper from American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism after discovering that “a colleague from another lab had mistakenly supplied us with the wrong transgenic mouse line.”

We strongly believe that sharing this example will encourage other researchers to do the right thing when a mistake is discovered and promote academic integrity,” they wrote. So we asked them to answer a few questions about their experience with “Connective tissue growth factor is critical for proper β-cell function and pregnancy-induced β-cell hyperplasia in adult mice,” a paper that has been cited twice, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science

Retraction Watch: How, and when, did you become aware of the error? Read the rest of this entry »

Lost in translation: Authors blame a language error for wrong diagnosis

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A patient’s “unusual” brain cyst excited several researchers in China so much they published a paper about it in a major journal. Soon a reader identified a glaring mistake: the authors had described the cause of the cyst incorrectly.  

A month after the paper appeared online in November 2016, the reader — a neurologist — published a letter in the journal, pointing out the incorrect diagnosis. In their response, the authors acknowledged the mistake but said it had occurred not because they had misdiagnosed the patient, but because the diagnosis had been mistranslated from Chinese to English.

The editors of Neurology retracted the paper because of the error and published a new version with the correct diagnosis on the same day, June 6.

Although we did not hear back from the paper’s two corresponding authors—Jun Guo and Guan Sun—the journal published a string of letters that chronicles the case.

Here’s the retraction (and replacement) notice:  

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Big corrections usually weaken findings. But a recent NEJM one strengthened them, author says

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A 2016 study in New England Journal of Medicine has received a substantial correction, which affected several aspects of the article.

Typically, an error that affects so much of a paper would undermine the results (and possibly lead to a retraction). But in this case, the revised dose calculations actually strengthened the findings, according to the first author.

The NEJM study aimed to clarify whether patients with a neuromuscular disease called myasthenia gravis benefit from a surgical procedure to remove the thymus. About half of the patients received surgery plus the steroid prednisone, while the rest only received the steroid. The researchers found patients who received the surgery fared better.

Shortly after the paper was published in August 2016, the authors discovered an error in the calculation of the average prednisone dose. According to Gil Wolfe, the first author of the paper, when the researchers corrected the error: Read the rest of this entry »

“Authors’ negligence” causes “a plethora of data errors”

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Sometimes, even a short notice catches our attention.

Such was the case with a recent retraction issued by Oncotarget for a 2016 paper related to the genetics that drive cancer.

Here’s the notice:

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Rutgers prof announces retraction on his blog

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A Rutgers computer scientist is retracting conference proceedings via an unusual channel: his personal blog.

On April 7, Anand Sarwate wrote that he was retracting a mathematical proof from the proceedings from the 2016 IEEE International Conference on Acoustics, Speech, and Signal Processing (ICASSP), after discovering errors that invalidated the result.

He explains in the blog post why the mistake occurred:

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Researchers mistakenly administer three-fold higher dose of anesthesia

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Researchers have retracted a 2016 paper after discovering that they accidentally administered three times the reported dose of anesthesia to rats.

In the Experimental Physiology paper, the authors set out to mathematically map how rats’ blood pressure changes under different conditions, which required the rats to be anesthetized. But their findings were called into question when they found the rats had received a much higher concentration of anesthesia than intended. According to the notice, this higher dose compromised the “objectives of the experiment.”

The corresponding author Karol Ondrias, from the Institute of Molecular Physiology and Genetics at the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Bratislava, told us how the dosing error occurred: Read the rest of this entry »

“Think of the unthinkable:” JAMA retraction prompts author to urge others to share data

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A few months ago, a researcher told Evelien Oostdijk there might be a problem with a 2014 JAMA study she had co-authored.

The study had compared two methods of preventing infection in the intensive care unit (ICU). But a separate analysis had produced different results.

Oostdijk, from the University Medical Center Utrecht in The Netherlands, immediately got to work to try to figure out what was going on. And she soon discovered the problem: The coding for the two interventions had been reversed at one of the 16 ICUs. This switch had “a major impact on the study outcome,” last author Marc Bonten, also from the University Medical Center Utrecht, wrote in a blog post about the experience yesterday, because it occurred at “one of the largest participating ICUs.”

When Oostdijk and a researcher not involved in the study analyzed the data again, they discovered a notable difference between the revised and original findings: The new analysis revealed that one of the interventions had a small but significant survival benefit over the other.

Oostdijk and Bonten, who supervised the re-analysis, notified their colleagues of the revised study outcomes and contacted the journal requesting a retraction and replacement, which was published yesterday in JAMA.

According to the notice of retraction and replacement:

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Written by Victoria Stern

April 19th, 2017 at 12:45 pm

Chemistry papers challenged a paradigm — until the authors spotted a pivotal error

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Several years ago, a group of four chemists believed they had stumbled upon evidence that contradicted a fairly well-established model in fluid dynamics.

Between 2013 and 2015, the researchers published a series of four papers detailing their results — two in ACS Macro Letters and two in MacromoleculesTimothy P. Lodge, the journals’ editor and a distinguished professor at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, explained that the results were “somewhat controversial,” because they appeared to contradict the generally accepted model for how some polymer fluids move.

Indeed, the papers sparked debate between the authors and other experts who questioned the new data, arguing it didn’t upend the previous model.

Then, in 2015, the authors realized their critics might be correct.  Read the rest of this entry »

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