Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘not reproducible’ Category

Lesson one: How to design a good experiment

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Len Freedman. Credit: Judy Licht/GBSI

Vivian Siegel. Credit: Maria Nemchuk

It’s clear science has a reproducibility problem. What’s less clear is how to address it. Recently, the U.S. National Institutes of Health awarded the Global Biological Standards Institute (GBSI) $2.34 million to train students in good experimental design (also covered by The Scientist). The first week begins June 2018 at Harvard Medical School. We spoke with Leonard P. Freedman, Founding President and Chief Scientific Officer of GBSI and Vivian Siegel, the education director of the program.

Retraction Watch: Why do students need extra training in experimental design? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

December 12th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Posted in not reproducible

Caught Our Notice: Don’t count your chicken (genes) before they’re hatched

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Via Wikimedia

Title: Molecular Characterization and Biological Activity of Interferon-α in Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus)

What Caught Our Attention: Soon after the paper appeared, the journal was alerted to the fact its findings were at odds with others in the field. When the editor approached the authors, everything fell apart: The authors couldn’t repeat the experiments, and “were also unsure of the molecular probes that were used in the study.” While it isn’t unusual to have doubts about data — since since research is a process of experimentation — it is odd not to know how your experiment was conducted. The paper was retracted less than two months after it was published. The manuscript was accepted two months after it was submitted in early May, theoretically giving reviewers enough time to catch these issues (along with the authors’ failure to cite relevant papers).  

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Science retracts paper after Nobel laureate’s lab can’t replicate results

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Science is retracting a 2014 paper from the lab of a Nobel winner after replication attempts failed to conclusively support the original results.

In January, Bruce Beutler, an immunologist at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, emailed Science editor-in-chief Jeremy Berg to report that attempts to replicate the findings in “MAVS, cGAS, and endogenous retroviruses in T-independent B cell responses” had weakened his confidence in original results. The paper had found that virus-like elements in the human genome play an important role in the immune system’s response to pathogens.

Although Beutler and several co-authors requested retraction right off the bat, the journal discovered that two co-authors disagreed, which Berg told us drew out the retraction process. In an attempt to resolve the situation, the journal waited for Beutler’s lab to perform another replication attempt. Those findings were inconclusive and the dissenting authors continued to push back against retraction.

Berg told us:

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Written by Andrew P. Han

October 26th, 2017 at 2:00 pm

Author blamed for misconduct in Cell paper declines to sign retraction notice  

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Researchers have retracted a 2015 paper in Cell after an investigation revealed the first author committed misconduct.

According to the retraction notice, which first author Ozgur Tataroglu declined to sign, the researchers realized there was an issue with the 2015 paper when they were unable to replicate the findings. Corresponding author Patrick Emery and his team at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester reviewed the data and found “clear evidence” that Tataroglu  — who had been a postdoc in Emery’s lab — “had repeatedly misrepresented and altered primary data,” the notice states.

UMass subsequently conducted an investigation in which it “concluded that the first author committed scientific misconduct.”  

Here’s the retraction notice for “Calcium and SOL Protease Mediate Temperature Resetting of Circadian Clocks:” Read the rest of this entry »

“The data have spoken:” Controversial NgAgo gene editing study retracted

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The author of a 2016 paper describing a potentially invaluable lab tool has retracted it, following heavy criticism from outside groups that could not reproduce the findings.

The paper had already been tagged with an Expression of Concern by the journal, Nature Biotechnology, which included data from multiple groups casting doubt on the original findings. Although the authors, led by Chunyu Han at Hebei University of Science and Technology in China, produced data to support their original findings, the journal has concluded — following “feedback from expert reviewers” — that the additional data “are insufficient to counter the substantial body of evidence that contradicts their initial findings,” according to an editorial released today:

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“We do not want to create false hope”: Authors retract Cell paper they can’t replicate

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A few years ago, researchers in Sweden had something to celebrate: They thought they had discovered a chink in the armor of the most common type of malignant brain cancer.

In a 2014 Cell paper, the team — led by Patrik Ernfors at the Karolinska Institutet — reported that they had identified a small molecule that could target and kill glioblastoma cells — the cancer that U.S. Senator John McCain was just diagnosed with — and prolong survival in mice with the disease. 

Satish Srinivas Kitambi, the paper’s first author, who is also based at the Karolinska Institutet, said the results got the team “really excited:” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

July 20th, 2017 at 11:05 am

Can we do math unconsciously? Replicators of a prominent 2012 study have some doubts

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In 2012, news media were abuzz with a new finding from PNAS: Authors based in Israel had found evidence that our brains can unconsciously process more than we thought — including basic math and reading.  In other words, the authors claimed people could read and do math without even knowing what they were doing.

With such a major development in the field of consciousness research, other groups quickly got to work trying to replicate the findings. Those efforts have taken some twists and turns — including a recent retraction of a replication paper that was, itself, not reproducible (which is not something we see every day). But overall, five years after the initial, remarkable result, the replication efforts are calling it into question.

According to Pieter Moors at KU Leuven, a researcher in this field:

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Dear journals: Clean up your act. Regards, Concerned Biostatistician

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Romain-Daniel Gosselin

Recently, a biostatistician sent an open letter to editors of 10 major science journals, urging them to pay more attention to common statistical problems with papers. Specifically, Romain-Daniel Gosselin, Founder and CEO of Biotelligences, which trains researchers in biostatistics, counted how many of 10 recent papers in each of the 10 journals contained two common problems: omitting the sample size used in experiments, as well as the tests used as part of the statistical analyses. (Short answer: Too many.) Below, we have reproduced his letter.

Dear Editors and Colleagues,

I write this letter as a biologist and instructor of biostatistics, concerned about the disregard for statistical reporting that is threatening scientific reproducibility. I hereby urge you to spearhead the strict application of existing guidelines on statistical reporting. Read the rest of this entry »

Need to find a replication partner, or collaborator? There’s an online platform for that

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Christopher Chartier

Randy McCarthy

Do researchers need a new “Craigslist?” We were recently alerted to a new online platform called StudySwap by one of its creators, who said it was partially inspired by one of our posts. The platform creates an “online marketplace” that previous researchers have called for, connecting scientists with willing partners – such as a team looking for someone to replicate its results, and vice versa. As co-creators Christopher Chartier at Ashland University and Randy McCarthy at Northern Illinois University tell us, having a place where researchers can find each other more efficiently “is in everyone’s best interest.”

Retraction Watch: What inspired you to create StudySwap?

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Written by Alison McCook

April 19th, 2017 at 10:19 am

“Failure is an essential part of science:” A Q&A with the author of a new book on reproducibility

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Reproducibility is everywhere recently, from the pages of scientific journals to the halls of the National Academy of Sciences, and today it lands in bookstores across the U.S. Longtime NPR correspondent Richard Harris has written Rigor Mortis (Basic Books), which is published today. (Full disclosure: I blurbed the book, writing that “Harris deftly weaves gripping tales of sleuthing with possible paths out of what some call a crisis.”) Harris answered some questions about the book, and the larger issues, for us. 

Retraction Watch (RW): Rigor Mortis begins with the story of the 2012 Nature paper by C. Glenn Begley and Lee Ellis that is now famous for sounding the alarm about reproducibility in basic cancer research. But as you document, this is not a problem that began in 2012. When did scientists first start realizing there was a problem? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

April 4th, 2017 at 9:23 am

Posted in not reproducible