Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘methodological problems’ Category

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

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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

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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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Oops: Supposedly untreated cancer patients had surgery, after all

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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

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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 »

“A sinking feeling in my gut:” Diary of a retraction

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Daniel Bolnick is photographed at HHMI’s Janelia Farms campus on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013 in Ashburn, Va. (Kevin Wolf/AP Images for HHMI)

When an ecologist realized he’d made a fatal error in a 2009 paper, he did the right thing: He immediately contacted the journal (Evolutionary Ecology Research) to ask for a retraction. But he didn’t stop there: He wrote a detailed blog post outlining how he learned — in October 2016, after a colleague couldn’t recreate his data — he had misused a statistical tool (using R programing), which ended up negating his findings entirely. We spoke to Daniel Bolnick at the University of Texas at Austin (and an early career scientist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute) about what went wrong with his paper “Diet similarity declines with morphological distance between conspecific individuals,” and why he chose to be so forthright about it.

Retraction Watch: You raise a good point in your explanation of what went wrong with the statistical analysis: Eyeballing the data, they didn’t look significant. But when you plugged in the numbers (it turns out, incorrectly), they were significant – albeit weakly. So you reported the result. Did this teach you the importance of trusting your gut, and the so-called “eye-test” when looking at data? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

December 8th, 2016 at 9:30 am

Study errors “may have placed you or your child at a greater risk of harm”: 2014 letter to parents

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Mani Pavuluri

Mani Pavuluri

Three psychiatric studies of children contained a myriad of problems that may have put participants at greater risk than was disclosed by consent forms, according to a 2014 letter sent to hundreds of the participants and their families.

Through a public records request, we’ve obtained a copy of the letter — which lists a host of problems in the studies, ranging from enrolling ineligible patients, not informing families of the risks associated with the studies, and skipping tests intended to minimize the risks associated with lithium.

In 2013, Mani Pavuluri told the University of Illinois at Chicago that one of her study participants had been hospitalized — an event which prompted the university to halt three of her studies, launch a misconduct probe, and send letters to approximately 350 families of children participating in the research, notifying them of what happened.

The letter concludes:

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Tomato study didn’t get co-author okays, includes unreliable data

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scientia-horticulturaeA journal has retracted a paper examining the traits of drought-resistant tomatoes after an investigation at the first author’s institution in Italy found a number of problems.

For starters, the first author — Maria Riccardi of the National Research Council of Italy-Institute for Agricultural and Forest Systems in the Mediterranean (CNR-ISAFOM) in Ercolano, Naples, Italy — apparently submitted the paper without consulting the study’s four other listed co-authors. What’s more, according to the retraction notice in Scientia Horticulturae, the paper’s description of the experiment “does not reflect the real conditions under which the data was collected,” rendering the findings invalid.  

Riccardo d’Andria, CNR-ISAFOM’s former director who conducted an investigation into the case, said Read the rest of this entry »

Authors pull two papers about faulty glucose meters after industry prompts

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4.coverTwo papers evaluating glucose meters — used by diabetics to monitor blood sugar levels — suggested that a couple of the devices don’t work as well as they should. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the companies that sell those meters objected to how the studies were conducted. By all accounts, the companies appear to be justified in their complaints.

In both cases, researchers used blood drawn from veins to test the meters. But manufacturers of the WaveSense JAZZ and GlucoRx glucose meters said their devices are designed to work with fresh blood from a finger-prick. Both papers have now been retracted.

The retraction notice for “Technical and clinical accuracy of five blood glucose meters: clinical impact assessment using error grid analysis and insulin sliding scales,” published in 2015 in the Journal of Clinical Pathology, hints at the issue:

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Authors retract (and replace) cardiac rehab study in JAMA journal

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jama-internal-medicine

Researchers have retracted and replaced a 2014 paper in JAMA Internal Medicine after realizing a number of errors had affected the findings.

The authors note the mistakes do not have a significant impact on the overall proportion of heart patients who participated in cardiac rehab. However, a number of findings were affected, such as the difference in participation in cardiac rehab defined by race, and how the overall participation has changed throughout the years.

Therefore, JAMA Internal Medicine has published a lengthy notice of retraction and replacement, which explains the errors made in the original paper, and updated the first paper with a new version of the study.

The retraction and replacement notice, issued this week, starts: Read the rest of this entry »

Costly genotyping mistake forces lab to pull 3rd paper

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KPSB_11_09_COVER.inddA few months ago, an author alerted us to two retractions — including one in PNAS — after realizing his team had been using plants affected by inadvertent genotyping errors for an entire year. He initially told us these were the only two papers affected, but more recently reached out to say he had to pull a follow-up article, as well.

Recently, Steven C. Huber contacted us about the newest retraction, noting he was submitting a notice to the editor of Plant Signaling and Behavior:

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