Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘objections to criticism’ Category

“Boom, headshot!” Disputed video game paper retracted

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After a years-long dispute over a 2012 paper which suggested there might be some effects of first-person shooter video games on players, the journal has retracted the paper.

The stated reason in the notice: Some outside researchers spotted irregularities in the data, and contacted the corresponding author’s institution, Ohio State University, in 2015. Since the original data were missing, Communication Research is retracting the paper, with the corresponding author’s okay.

But as our story last month about this years-long dispute reported, there is a bit more to it.  Read the rest of this entry »

BMJ won’t retract controversial dietary guidelines article; issues lengthy correction

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bmjThe BMJ has released a detailed correction to a much-debated article critiquing the expert report underlying the U.S. dietary guidelines.

After the article was published in 2015, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) organized a letter signed by more than 100 researchers, urging the publication to retract the article. Today, the journal said it found “no grounds” to do so.

However, in a press release accompanying the announcement of the correction, the BMJ notes that some aspects of the CSPI’s criticisms were merited.

Editor in chief Fiona Godlee said in a statement:

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Written by Alison McCook

December 2nd, 2016 at 12:08 pm

More questions arise over gene-editing tool

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13238A new letter signed by 20 researchers is casting additional doubts on the validity of a potentially invaluable lab tool — and alleges the lab that produced the initial results turned them away when they tried to replicate its findings in mammalian cells.

In a letter published this week in Protein & Cell, the researchers add their voices to the critics of the gene-editing technique, first described earlier this year in Nature Biotechnology.

The researchers outline their attempts to apply the technique — known as NgAgo — to a variety of cell types, which fell short:

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Is China using organs from executed prisoners? Researchers debate issue in the literature

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Journal of Medical EthicsA researcher is calling for the retraction of a paper about a recent ban in the use of organs from executed prisoners in China, accusing the authors of misrepresenting the state of the practice.

In April 2015, a paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics welcomed the ban by the Chinese government as “a step in the right direction,” but noted that China remains plagued by a crucial shortage in available organs.

Some academics disagreed with the authors’ take on the issue, noting that the paper fails to note that many organs may continue to be harvested from Chinese prisoners of conscience; ultimately, the journal received a letter asking to retract the paper. The journal decided not to, and instead asked the authors to issue a lengthy correction, for instance changing the language about the government decision (“law” became“guideline”), and allowed critics to publish a rebuttal to the paper in May 2016.  Read the rest of this entry »

Upon request, NEJM added note to help Texas distance itself from Planned Parenthood article

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Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 1.41.39 PM

The New England Journal of Medicine added a disclaimer to a recent article about the effects of funding cuts to Planned Parenthood, after a request from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, saying it wanted to distance itself from the paper.

Since the paper was published in February, one author has stepped down from his position at HHSC after facing disciplinary action.

The article suggested that birth rates among a group of lower-income women increased after the state cut down on support for Planned Parenthood. It drew a significant amount of media attention — and concern from the HHSC, which asked the journal to add a disclaimer to the article soon after publication. The journal complied, but embargoed the announcement of the change until 5 p.m. eastern time today.

Here’s the disclaimer that NEJM added to the article:

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NEJM: No plan to clarify wording that led to allegations of breached confidentiality

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NEJMThe New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) has no plans to change the wording of an article that led to allegations of breached patient confidentiality and caused a minor social media firestorm this past weekend, the journal told Retraction Watch.

The paragraph in question appeared in an essay by Lisa Rosenbaum chronicling the history of power morcellation, a technique to remove gynecological organs that the FDA has subjected to a “black box warning” because it can also spread tumors: Read the rest of this entry »

PLOS ONE retracting paper that cites “the Creator”

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Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 10.50.25 AMPLOS ONE has retracted a paper published one month ago after readers began criticizing it for mentioning “the Creator.”

The article “Biomechanical Characteristics of Hand Coordination in Grasping Activities of Daily Living” now includes a reader comment from PLOS Staff, noting: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

March 3rd, 2016 at 4:00 pm

Why publishing negative findings is hard

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Jean-Luc Margot

Jean-Luc Margot

When a researcher encountered two papers that suggested moonlight has biological effects — on both plants and humans — he took a second look at the data, and came to different conclusions. That was the easy part — getting the word out about his negative findings, however, was much more difficult.

When Jean-Luc Margot, a professor in the departments of Earth, Planetary & Space Sciences and Physics & Astronomy at the University of California, Los Angeles, tried to submit his reanalysis to the journals that published the original papers, both rejected it; after multiple attempts, his work ended up in different publications.

Disagreements are common but crucial in science; like they say, friction makes fire. Journals are inherently disinterested in negative findings — but should it take more than a year, in one instance, to publish an alternative interpretation to somewhat speculative findings that, at first glance, seem difficult to believe? Especially when they contain such obvious methodological issues such as presenting only a handful of data points linking biological activity to the full moon, or ignore significant confounders?

Margot did not expect to have such a difficult experience with the journals — including Biology Letters, which published the study suggesting that a plant relied on the full moon to survive: Read the rest of this entry »

Cancer Cell paper under investigation following anonymous queries on PubPeer

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cancer cellA Cancer Cell paper that caused a flurry of activity on the website PubPeer is under investigation, after the last author announced on the site that he’d requested a correction from the journal.

The 2012 paper sparked a lively dialogue last month on the post-publication discussion site, as commenters questioned Western blot images in which some bands appeared to be duplicates. The last author responded, noting he had alerted the journal to a “mishap,” and a correction would be forthcoming. However, some commenters remained unsatisfied, and questioned why the correction was taking so long to appear, as well as the explanation for what went wrong.

A spokesman from Cancer Cell confirmed to us the paper is under investigation: Read the rest of this entry »

Inventors have a dust up over air sampling device

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graphic_amt_cover_homepageTo climate scientist Pieter Tans, a “novel” air sampling device in a recent paper looked a little too familiar. Specifically, like a device that he had invented — the AirCore, which he calls a “tape recorder” for air.

The journal editors came up with a unique solution to the disagreement that followed, which the editor in chief called “rather unclear:” The journal ran an editorial in which both Tans and the authors of the paper contend that their device is unique.

The paper in question, “A novel Whole Air Sample Profiler (WASP) for the quantification of volatile organic compounds in the boundary layer,” was published in Atmospheric Measurement Techniques. It has not been cited, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

It now bears a note, in bold and red: “Please read the Editorial Note before accessing the paper.” 

Here’s how the editorial laid out the case:

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