Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘Legal Threats’ Category

Lawyers call libel suit against journal and critic “lawless” but “well written”

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Mark Jacobson

A $10 million defamation suit filed by a Stanford University professor against a critic and a journal may be an assault on free speech, according to one lawyer, but at least it’s “well written.”

Kenneth White, a lawyer at Southern California firm Brown White & Osborn who frequently blogs about legal issues related to free speech at Popehat, told us:

It’s not incompetently drafted, but it’s clearly vexatious and intended to silence dissent about an alleged scientist’s peer-reviewed article.

Scientists have publicly bemoaned the suit’s existence, as reported by several outlets, including Mashable and Nature. Mark Jacobson, an engineering professor at Stanford, has alleged that he was defamed in a June article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), which was critical of a 2015 paper co-authored by Jacobson in the same journal. In a complaint filed Sept. 29 in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Jacobson accused the journal’s publisher, the National Academy of Sciences, and the paper’s first author, Christopher Clack, an executive at a renewable energy analysis firm, of libel.

White told us that there are several pitfalls that could trip up the lawsuit, including a DC law that allows defendants an early opportunity to ask the court to dismiss cases muzzling free speech and recover attorneys’ fees. But another attorney said the complaint should at least clear the lowest hurdle in the way of getting to trial. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew P. Han

November 13th, 2017 at 11:10 am

More duplications for researcher accused of misconduct in lawsuit

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Despite losing a lawsuit against his former mentor, a researcher hasn’t stopped his efforts to discredit his mentor’s work. These efforts have led to new editorial notices — including, most recently, a correction and expression of concern for one paper by a former colleague, who wasn’t even the subject of the lawsuit.

In the 2014 suit, former Brown University postdoc Andrew Mallon said research misconduct by John Marshall — his lab director and former business partner– tainted a 2013 paper published in PLoS Biology. Though the case failed to trigger the retraction Mallon sought, it put his concerns into the public record; the text of the lawsuit includes an accusation of misconduct against Cong CaoMarshall’s former mentee and the first author of that 2013 paper.

Mallon has since contacted journals to raise concerns about papers by Cao, and two journals have taken action. The most recent move: On Aug. 10, the Biochemical Journal did something we don’t see very often — it issued both a correction and an expression of concern (EoC) for one of Cao’s papers: “EGFR-mediated expression of aquaporin-3 is involved in human skin fibroblast migration,” originally published Nov. 14, 2006. Read the rest of this entry »

Swedish prosecutor won’t pursue criminal case against Macchiarini

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Paolo Macchiarini

A Swedish prosecutor has announced she won’t continue investigating a former star surgeon who has since fallen from grace.

Paolo Macchiarini made a name for himself by transplanting synthetic tracheas. After multiple patients died, however, allegations against the researcher have continued to swirl. He was dismissed from the Karolinska Institutet last year, after it reopened its misconduct investigation. The Swedish prosecutor was investigating Macchiarini’s role in the deaths of three out of four patients he operated on five times between 2011-2013.

Although the prosecution concluded that most of the operations proceeded “negligently,” it could not conclude Macchiarini was criminally responsible.

According to the public prosecutor Jennie Nordin:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

October 12th, 2017 at 10:55 am

Dispute over author order torpedoes paper on syndrome linked to autism

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At least one disgruntled co-author has triggered the retraction of a paper presenting a novel approach to treating a rare, genetically inherited condition.

The paper concerned research on Fragile X syndrome (FXS), characterized by both intellectual and physical abnormalities, which is linked autism. A compound that passed through phase 2 clinical trials in October 2015 appeared to partially treat FXS in mice in the study, published earlier this year.

The journal’s notice says the paper was retracted over a dispute among authors about the order in which they are listed on the paper: Read the rest of this entry »

“Credible threats of personal violence” against editor prompt withdrawal of colonialism paper

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A journal has withdrawn an essay that called for a return to colonialism after the editor received alleged threats tied to the article.

Soon after Third World Quarterly published the controversial essay, readers began to object. When the journal defended its decision, 15 editorial board members resigned in response. More than 10,000 people signed a petition to have it retracted. On September 26, the publisher posted a statement — including a detailed timeline of the paper’s peer review process — and said the the author had requested to withdraw the article. However, in the statement, the publisher said that “peer-reviewed research articles cannot simply be withdrawn but must have grounds for retraction.”

The journal has since changed its position, and withdrawn the paper entirely from its site, posting this notice in its place:

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Carlo Croce, Ohio State researcher facing misconduct allegations, suing New York Times for defamation

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Carlo Croce

Carlo Croce, a cancer researcher at The Ohio State University who has faced numerous allegations of research misconduct, has filed a lawsuit against the New York Times, claiming the newspaper defamed him in a March 8 story.

Croce filed the civil suit May 10, in the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, naming as co-defendants Times reporters James Glanz and Agustin Armendariz, publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., and executive editor Dean Baquet. According to court documents, he’s seeking damages in excess of $75,000. The Times lawsuit was first reported by Courthouse News in May, but it’s actually the second defamation suit Croce filed that we know of.

In April, we’ve recently learned, Croce filed a separate defamation lawsuit against David Sanders, a professor at Purdue University and a key source for the Times story. Croce is seeking damages from Sanders in excess of $75,000.

Croce’s lawyer, Thomas Hill, of Columbus, Ohio firm Kegler Brown Hill + Ritter, told Retraction Watch his client was fighting a “David and Goliath battle” against the Times: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew P. Han

September 8th, 2017 at 6:39 pm

Amid legal battle, psych journal issuing caution about torture paper

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A psychology journal plans to issue an editor’s note about a controversial paper exploring what the author called “the biggest scandal to hit” the American Psychological Association (APA) in years.

The note cautions readers that the subject of the paper, published in the SAGE journal Teaching of Psychology, is part of a pending lawsuit, and that “teachers considering using the article in their classrooms” should watch for developments in the case.   Read the rest of this entry »

Researcher who shot dean after being fired for misconduct sentenced to 28 years in prison

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Hengjun Chao. Credit: Westchester County DA

A former researcher at Mount Sinai’s medical school has been sentenced to 28 years in prison for shooting the dean that fired him.

On the morning of Aug. 29, 2016, Chao, 50, attacked Dennis Charney, dean of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, with a shotgun outside a deli in suburban New York. In 2010, Charney fired Chao for scientific misconduct. Charney survived the shot, but was hospitalized for five days.

As reported by the Chappaqua-Mount Kisco Patch yesterday, Judge Barry Warhit sentenced Hengjun Chao to 23 years, each, for attempted murder and assault, to be served concurrently; the maximum sentence for the attempted murder charge that Chao faced was 25 years. The judge also sentenced Chao to the maximum for criminal use of a firearm — five years — which will be served consecutively, bringing the total to 28 years.

In June, a New York jury found him guilty of attempted murder and the two other felony charges.

Stewart Orden, Chao’s defense attorney, told Retraction Watch he was “shocked at the sentence:” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew P. Han

August 10th, 2017 at 12:13 pm

“Right to be forgotten” takes down BMJ’s 15-year-old film review

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A subject in a documentary film about the psychology of religious ideation has pushed the BMJ to take down its review of the film, based on a complaint citing a European internet privacy rule.

On July 3, BMJ posted a retraction notice for an article that barely said anything:

This article has been retracted by the journal following a complaint.

The 2002 article is a review of a documentary film entitled “Those Who Are Jesus,” directed by Steven Eastwood, a British filmmaker. The review has been removed from the BMJ site, as well as PubMed.   

BMJ told Retraction Watch that it took down the film review in response to a European citizen exercising his or her “right to be forgotten,” an internet privacy idea that, according to the European Union, ensures:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew P. Han

August 8th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Authors say patient threatened legal action after being subject of scholarly paper

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A patient appears to have had a change of heart about being featured in a case report.

The patient cannot be identified in the paper published in Journal of Gastrointestinal and Liver Diseases. However, according to the retraction notice, she threatened to sue if the authors did not withdraw it. After receiving the threat, the paper’s corresponding author, Mariano Sica, told us that the authors immediately asked the journal to retract the paper.

We’ve written about similar cases where patients do not provide informed consent or withdraw it, but in this case we haven’t seen the threat ourselves.

We asked Sica if we could see the legal threat, and he said he couldn’t share it, explaining: Read the rest of this entry »