Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘reference problems’ Category

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 »

Cancer researcher logs 5th retraction

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Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and NeoplasiaA cancer researcher has added a fifth retraction to his name — but the notice doesn’t mention any problems with the paper itself. 

Rather, the Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia decided to retract the paper because it referenced other papers that had been retracted as a result of data manipulation.

The notice doesn’t specify which references were problematic, but the list includes three papers that are now retracted; all three include Scott Valastyan (the sole author of the newly retracted paper) as first author, and two list Robert Weinberg, his former supervisor and prominent cancer researcher, as last author.

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Researcher hired lawyers to try to get journal to run correction he wanted

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BMCLogoWhen a researcher suspected a paper on fireflies had borrowed some of its methodology, he called lawyers to help him convince the publisher to craft a correction notice that was to his satisfaction.

Although the authors submitted a correction to BMC Plant Biology acknowledging Robert Birch as the original author of some material, as we reported previously, the publisher instead issued an expression of concern (EOC), noting that there was an “authorship dispute.”

When our post ran earlier this year, we didn’t know why a request for correction had turned into an EOC, which — as its name states — is typically more cause for concern than a correction. We’re still not sure exactly why, but we have learned that Birch disputed the content of the authors’ suggested correction, and hired lawyers to try to change the wording. From his perspective, there are several problems with the paper, he told us:

Read the rest of this entry »

Scientists call for retraction of “seriously misleading” paper with asbestos industry ties

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EBPHEleven scientists are asking a journal to consider retracting an asbestos paper with industry ties for including “seriously misleading information,” “several wrong statements,” and thrice citing a journal that doesn’t appear to exist.

Editors of the journal, Epidemiology Biostatistics and Public Health, however, say they will not retract the article, based on the advice of two external reviewers.

An earlier correction for the paper,  “Further Studies of Bolivian Crocidolite – Part IV: Fibre Width, Fibre Drift and their relation to Mesothelioma Induction: Preliminary Findings,” cited previously undisclosed competing interests for four of the paper’s five authors.

Earlier this year, scientists criticized “gross mistakes” in another paper from three of the same authors: Edward Ilgren, Yumi Kamiya, and John Hoskins. EBPH subsequently issued two corrections but did not retract that paper. Read our full coverage here. 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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