Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘reference problems’ Category

Miffed at exclusion from a meta-analysis, researcher writes own “expression of concern”

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On June 10, Psycho-Oncology, a journal that publishes research on the “psychological, social, behavioral, and ethical” side of cancer, received a complaint.

In a letter, Ad Kaptein, a researcher at the Leiden University Medical Centre, in the Netherlands, wrote to say that a review and meta-analysis published by the journal that month hadn’t adequately cited the relevant literature in the field, including seven studies co-authored by Kaptein himself. The authors of the original paper say they had considered citing Kaptein’s work but decided against it, for various reasons.

The journal considered Kaptein’s complaint valid enough to publish his letter. But the letter carries the title “Expression of concern” — a term usually reserved for editorial notices issued by the journal to warn readers about some aspects of an article. But in this case, the author supplied the term, not the journal — yet the letter is tagged as an Expression of Concern on PubMed, giving the impression the paper has received a formal editorial notice.

Journal Co-Editor Maggie Watson told Retraction Watch:

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Written by Andrew P. Han

September 28th, 2017 at 11:10 am

Reader complaints prompt retraction of meta-analysis of heart-failure drug

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A cardiology journal has retracted a 2016 meta-analysis after the editors had an, ahem, change of heart about the rigor of the study.

The article, “Ivabradine as adjuvant treatment for chronic heart failure,” was published in the International Journal of Cardiology, an Elsevier title.

The authors, a group at the Federal University of São Paulo, Brazil, concluded that: Read the rest of this entry »

Historian returns prize for high-profile book with 70+ corrections

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A historian based at Columbia University has returned a 2014 prize after criticisms prompted him to issue more than 70 corrections to his prominent book about North Korea.

Charles Armstrong told Retraction Watch he returned the 2014 John K. Fairbank Prize he received for “Tyranny of the Weak” due to “numerous citation errors.” The book has faced heavy criticism, including allegations of plagiarism and using invalid sources.

The American Historical Society, which issues the Fairbank Prize, released a statement last week:

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Written by Alison McCook

July 5th, 2017 at 10:55 am

High-profile book on North Korea earns 52 corrections

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The author of a high-profile book about the history of North Korea is issuing 52 corrections to the next edition, scheduled to appear this spring. The changes follow heavy criticism of the book, alleging it contained material not supported by the list of references.

Last month, author Charles Armstrong, a professor at Columbia University, announced on his website that he was issuing the changes after reviewing the book in detail, especially the footnotes. He writes:

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Written by Alison McCook

January 31st, 2017 at 9:30 am

We’re not “citation police:” No more errata for omitted citations, says economics journal

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An economics journal has corrected a paper for the second time for failing to cite previous studies — and said in a separate note that it no longer plans to publish similar errata, with rare exceptions. 

In September 2015, we reported on the first erratum for “Incentives for Creativity” — a paper that analyzed ways of inspiring creativity in the workplace — after it failed to cite relevant papers. One year on, the same paper has another erratum for a similar reason: not citing relevant papers from another field.

You don’t often see two errata for the same mistake — omitted citations — on one paper. Even less often do you see journal editors co-publishing a note saying they don’t plan on issuing any more such notices. Here’s an excerpt from the editor’s note in Experimental Economics: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

December 15th, 2016 at 9:30 am

Criticism swirls around high-profile history book about North Korea

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80140100484410mAn award-winning account of North Korea during the Cold War has fallen under criticism, claiming the author included material not supported by the list of references.

One historian has uploaded a series of what he calls “noteworthy problems” with Tyranny of the Weak, winner of the John K. Fairbank Prize in East Asian History in 2014. Balazs Szalontai of Korea University primarily accuses author Charles Armstrong of citing either irrelevant or non-existent sources to support his claims.

Armstrong, a professor at Columbia University, told us: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

October 13th, 2016 at 9:30 am

A paper on chemical safety was accepted one day after submission. Was it peer reviewed?

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Toxicology Reports

Some scientists raise their eyebrows when they see a paper was accepted only a day or two after being submitted — which is exactly what happened during an academic debate over a controversial topic: e-cigarettes.

In 2015, a group of Harvard researchers published a paper in Environmental Health Perspectives suggesting the flavoring added to e-cigarettes could be harmful; the next year, another group criticized the paper in the journal, noting the chemicals may not be as dangerous as the original paper claimed. The Harvard researchers then fired back, noting that the criticism cited two papers that were accepted within one and three days after submission, and therefore “appear not to have been peer reviewed.”

However, a little digging suggests otherwise. 

The editor of the journal that published both of the cited papers in question — Toxicology Reports — told us the papers were peer reviewed at Toxicology, but transferred to his journal as part of a process known as portable peer review.

Here are more details from Lawrence Lash, editor-in-chief of Toxicology Reports from Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, Michigan: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

October 5th, 2016 at 9:35 am

You cited which paper?? Reference errors are more common than many realize

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Marilyn Oermann

Marilyn Oermann

We all make mistakes – but when it comes to the scientific literature, too many authors are making critical mistakes in their list of references, making it difficult for readers to retrieve a cited paper. We spoke with Marilyn Oermann, the Thelma M. Ingles Professor of Nursing at the Duke University School of Nursing, who has studied this problem extensively in the nursing literature.

Retraction Watch: You’ve published multiple papers looking at reference problems in nursing research. What are the main types of “reference problems” that usually occur? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

October 4th, 2016 at 9:46 am

Authors retract two papers on shock therapy, citing language barriers

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the-journal-of-ectAn electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) journal has retracted two 2016 papers after uncovering problems in the data analyses, which the author says were due to language barriers.

Interestingly, two authors of the newly retracted papers — Yu-Tao Xiang from the University of Macau in China and Gabor Ungvari from the University of Western Australia — also recently co-authored another paper on an entirely different topic that has received a lengthy correction. That paper — on the use of organs from executed prisoners in China — raised controversy for allegedly reporting a “sanitized” account of the practice. The correction notice, in the Journal of Medical Ethics, was accompanied by a critics’ rebuttal to the paper.

According to Xiang, the newly retracted papers in The Journal of ECT — which examined the efficacy of ECT in treating schizophrenia — were pulled due to “genuine errors” resulting from differences in language. All the authors agree with the retraction, Xiang noted. 

Xiang told us: Read the rest of this entry »

Authors didn’t generate key brain images, probe finds

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Frontiers in Human NeuroscienceA neuroscience journal has issued a retraction after discovering some of the paper’s integral images didn’t originate from the authors’ labs.

The retraction notice  — for a study about a condition once known as “water on the brain” — cites an investigation by the journal’s publisher, Frontiers, which determined that the figures were not “duly attributed.” The authors say they agree with the retraction.  

Here’s the retraction notice for “Revisiting hydrocephalus as a model to study brain resilience,” published by Frontiers in Human Neuroscience: Read the rest of this entry »