Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘methodological problems’ Category

“Strange. Very strange:” Retracted nutrition study reappears in new journal

with one comment

In an unusual turn of events, a nutrition paper has come back to life a year after being pulled from its original publication.

After the paper was retracted from the journal Obesity, the authors revised it and republished it in another journal, Pediatric Obesity. Both journals are published by Wiley. The second version of the paper doesn’t mention the previous retraction. Indeed, the journal editor told us he didn’t know the paper had been retracted. Still, he stood by his decision to publish it.

The authors told us the paper was retracted after editors at Obesity raised concerns over the authors’ methodology. The authors revised the paper, adding some analysis and explanation of their methodological approach, and said the new version was accepted by peer reviewers before being published in Pediatric Obesity.

However, an outside expert who reviewed both papers for us said he thinks the authors didn’t change enough. According to Patrick McKnight, head of the Measurement, Research methodology, Evaluation, and Statistics group at George Mason University and a Statistical Advisory Board member of

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Megan Scudellari

March 28th, 2017 at 9:30 am

Physics paper’s results off by factor of 100

without comments

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 »

When does animal research become unnecessary and cruel? A paper’s methods give a biologist pause

with 16 comments

Elies Bik

Microbiologist Elies Bik is well-known for applying a close eye to studies, and has spent years anonymously submitting reports on plagiarism and image duplication to journal editors. Last year, she published an analysis of work, with troubling results – that 1 in 25 biomedical papers contains inappropriate duplications in images. She’s never stopped reading papers closely, and recently flagged one on Twitter for concerns about its methodology. Although Bik is not against animal research, she said the treatments rats faced in the paper made her queasy – and didn’t seem justified. She explains her reasoning below.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

February 28th, 2017 at 11:45 am

“I placed too much faith in underpowered studies:” Nobel Prize winner admits mistakes

with 9 comments

Daniel Kahneman

Although it’s the right thing to do, it’s never easy to admit error — particularly when you’re an extremely high-profile scientist whose work is being dissected publicly. So while it’s not a retraction, we thought this was worth noting: A Nobel Prize-winning researcher has admitted on a blog that he relied on weak studies in a chapter of his bestselling book.

The blog — by Ulrich Schimmack, Moritz Heene, and Kamini Kesavan — critiqued the citations included in a book by Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist whose research has illuminated our understanding of how humans form judgments and make decisions and earned him half of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics.

According to the Schimmack et al blog, Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

February 20th, 2017 at 12:35 pm

What turned a cancer researcher into a literature watchdog?

without comments

Jennifer Byrne

Sometime in the middle of 2015, Jennifer Byrne, professor of molecular oncology at the University of Sydney, began her journey from cancer researcher to a scientific literature sleuth, seeking out potentially problematic papers.

The first step was when she noticed several papers that contained a mistake in a DNA construct which, she believed, meant the papers were not testing the gene in question, associated with multiple cancer types.  She started a writing campaign to the journal editors and researchers, with mixed success. But less than two years later, two of the five papers she flagged have already been retracted.

When asked why she spent time away from bench research to examine this issue, Byrne told us:  Read the rest of this entry »

“Crucial experiments” missing from retracted plant study

without comments

A 2016 study was retracted from a Frontiers journal after editors realized the authors had omitted experiments that didn’t support the hypothesis. 

Gearóid Ó Faoleán, ethics and integrity manager at Frontiers, which publishes Frontiers in Plant Science, told us:

In accordance with our complaints protocol, the Field Chief Editor led the investigation that resulted in the decision to retract the paper.

Here’s the retraction notice: Read the rest of this entry »

Authors retract two statin papers, one with problems “too extensive to revise”

without comments

Researchers in China have retracted two 2016 papers about the possible use of a cholesterol-lowering agent to treat bleeding on the brain.

One of the retracted papers in the Journal of Neurosurgery (JNS) had multiple problems that were “too extensive to revise,” according to the lengthy retraction notice, relating to issues with authorship, data analyses, and patient enrollment. The notice is signed by first author Hua Liu of the Nanjing Medical University in China.

Liu is also the first author of another recently retracted paper in Frontiers in Neuroscience, pulled for incorrectly categorizing patients.

The JNS retraction notice begins: Read the rest of this entry »

Error-laden database kills paper on extinction patterns

without comments

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:

Read the rest of this entry »

Oops: Supposedly untreated cancer patients had surgery, after all

with one comment

gmrThe first author of a 2016 paper has retracted it after realizing that all the lung cancer patients that were supposed to have been untreated did, in fact, have surgery to remove their tumors. 

Zhao Kai, the study’s first author from the Qilu Hospital of Shandong University and Zibo Central Hospital (both in China), took full responsibility for the error.

Here’s the retraction notice, published last month in Genetics and Molecular Research: Read the rest of this entry »

Entomology journal retracts 2016 study with flawed analyses

with one comment

journal-of-medical-entomologyAn entomology journal has issued its first retraction during the current editor’s nearly 30-year tenure — for a 2016 study with serious flaws in the analyses. 

After the Journal of Medical Entomology (JME) published the study — about the identification of genes that enable an insect to detect odors — an outside researcher wrote a letter to the journal highlighting flaws in the paper. The journal then asked the authors to respond, and enlisted two additional peer reviewers to look into the study, the outside comment, and the authors’ response. They concluded the paper should be retracted.

William Reisen — the journal’s editor-in-chief from the University of California, Davis — said the journal believes the errors were unintentional and there was no fraud on the authors’ part. He added: Read the rest of this entry »