Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘unreliable findings’ Category

First author refuses to sign PNAS retraction after “key findings” are not reproduced

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Two out of the three authors of a PNAS paper on mutations underlying lung diseases are pulling it after failing to reproduce key findings.

The paper, published in 2012, investigated how mutations in lung surfactant genes induce molecular changes that lead to lung pulmonary fibrosis and lung cancer might work. But follow-up work revealed problems. In the retraction note, last author Christine Kim Garcia and second author Christoper Cano, both at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, write:

Current members of the C.K.G. laboratory are unable to reproduce key findings reported in the paper.

Here’s the retraction note in full:

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Analysis of pilots with prostate cancer retracted for “inappropriate data”

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Aerospace Medicine and Human PerformanceIn case any pilots out there are worrying about their risk of prostate cancer based on a recent meta-analysis that found they are at least twice as likely to develop the disease, they should relax — the paper has been retracted.

The reason: “including inappropriate data from two studies that should be ineligible.”

“The risk of prostate cancer in pilots: a meta-analysis” reviewed eight studies to determine whether airline pilots, who are regularly exposed to radiation and other occupational hazards, have a higher incidence of prostate cancer. However, it also included studies that reported on prostate cancer among all U.S. Armed Forces servicemen, not pilots.

The retraction notice was posted in May — only months after it was published in Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance in February. The notice included a letter to the editor outlining flaws in the meta-analysis and an apologetic response from first author, David Raslau at the Mayo Clinic.

Here’s the notice (appearing at the bottom of page 2):

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Drugmaker accused of omitting side effect data from 2003 Risperdal paper

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cover7607A 2003 paper may have left out potentially “significant” data on the long-term side-effects of an antipsychotic drug used in children, according to a former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

As reported by the Toronto StarDavid Kessler is alleging that Janssen, the maker of Risperdal (and owned by Johnson & Johnson), omitted data about the risks of the drug: In particular, that boys who use it over a long period may be at risk of growing breasts.

There’s anecdotal evidence of the side effect. One family claimed the drug had caused their son to grow a pair of 46 DD-sized breasts in a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, reported the Wall Street Journal in February. They won, to the tune of $2.5 million. The suit is apparently just one of 1,200 like it.

The abstract of the paper, “Prolactin levels during long-term risperidone treatment in children and adolescents,” published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, suggests that levels of a key hormone aren’t a problem in the long term:

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Fruit fly paper retracted when gene turns out not to code for a protein as claimed

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1.cover-sourceThe Journal of Insect Science is retracting a paper on the genetics of a fruit fly after discovering one of the genes the authors sequenced doesn’t appear to code for a protein.

The paper, “Molecular phylogeny and identification of the peach fruit fly, Bactrocera zonata, established in Egypt” was published in 2011, and compared sequences of the Egyptian species to those from species in other regions. It has not yet been cited, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

Phyllis Weintraub, the editor-in-chief of the journal, told us she thinks that the paper’s fatal mistake stemmed from “bad science instead of deliberate falsification.”

The retraction notice should go live on the site today, according to Lisa Junker, director of publications and communications for the Entomological Society of America, which publishes the journal. Here’s the text:

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Images “may not be trustworthy”: Aluminum sheets paper folds into retraction

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1-s2.0-S0921509315X00153-cov150hFollowing questions “about the integrity of the microscopy images,” Materials Science and Engineering: A has retracted a paper on the properties of sheets of aluminum under strain.

The images in question show sheets after a few rounds of a process called “constrained groove pressing,” which smushes sheets between two grooved plates, and then between two flat plates, to evaluate how the material holds up.

According to the retraction note for the paper, imaging performed by a third party “may not be trustworthy.”

The paper has been cited 42 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

Here’s more from the retraction note to “Nano-structure and mechanical properties of 0–7 strained aluminum by CGP: XRD, TEM and tensile test“:

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Voinnet notches second retraction, two more corrections

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PNASOlivier Voinnet — a plant researcher who was recently suspended for two years from the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) after an investigation by ETH Zurich and CNRS found evidence of misconduct — has issued his second retraction and two more corrections.

PNAS posted the retraction earlier this week for a 2006 article after an inspection of the raw data revealed “errors” in study images. Authors confirmed the issues in some figures and revealed “additional mounting mistakes” in others.

Voinnet has promised to issue retractions and corrections for every study that requires them. These latest notices bring our tally up to nine corrections, two retractions and one Expression of Concern.

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Duke lung researcher up to seven retractions

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Enviromental Health Perspectives

More journals have pulled papers co-authored by researchers Erin Potts-Kant and Michael Foster, at Duke University, bringing the total up to seven for Potts-Kant and six for Foster.

Authors were unable to replicate the experiments after “concerns about the initial data from the animal physiology laboratory” led them to reanalyze source data, according to the note in Environmental Health Perspectives. The comparison showed “potential inconsistencies in the data,” which “significantly impact the overall conclusions of the manuscript.” Similar issues appear to have felled the pair’s other papers, including the other two recent retractions in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine and the American Journal of Physiology – Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology — but in the latter case, the discrepancies don’t affect the conclusion.

Potts-Kant was arrested on embezzlement charges in 2013. Authorities alleged that she stole almost $15,000 from Duke University.

Environmental Health Perspectives posted a retraction in July, for a 2012 paper that looked at the molecular underpinnings in airways that react to ozone.

Here’s the full notice:

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“To our horror”: Widely reported study suggesting divorce is more likely when wives fall ill gets axed

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home_coverA widely reported finding that the risk of divorce increases when wives fall ill — but not when men do — is invalid, thanks to a short string of mistaken coding that negates the original conclusions, published in the March issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

The paper, “In Sickness and in Health? Physical Illness as a Risk Factor for Marital Dissolution in Later Life,” garnered coverage in many news outlets, including The Washington Post, New York magazine’s The Science of Us blog, The Huffington Post, and the UK’s Daily Mail 

But an error in a single line of the coding that analyzed the data means the conclusions in the paper — and all the news stories about those conclusions — are “more nuanced,” according to first author Amelia Karraker, an assistant professor at Iowa State University.

Karraker — who seems to be handling the case quickly and responsibly —  emailed us how she realized the error:

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Retraction of monkey paper linked to problems at shuttered research institute

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Veterinary Pathology.Evidence of poorly treated lab animals has led researchers to retract a 2014 article in Veterinary Pathology that explored the neurological effects of dehydration in squirrel monkeys.

The study was pulled after Frederick Wang, the former director of the New England Primate Research Center, unveiled reports of a dozen squirrel monkeys that were found dehydrated and dead in their cages or euthanized between 1999 and 2011.

Wang told the Boston Globe in April that “human error” and “inadequate animal care” might have compromised the results of the study:

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Two crystallography papers break apart for “trivial errors,” says author

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ACBiophysicists in India have retracted two crystallography papers describing protein binding sites following “concerns,” according to one retraction note.

The last author on both papers, however, told us he believed the retractions were the result of “trivial errors.” Although one journal praised him in its retraction note for his “positive engagement,” he said the process left him feeling “disgusted.”

One paper, “Structural Studies on Molecular Interactions between Camel Peptidoglycan Recognition Protein, CPGRP-S, and Peptidoglycan Moieties N-Acetylglucosamine and N-Acetylmuramic Acid,” was withdrawn from the Journal of Biological Chemistry in August 2014.

The second, “Mode of binding of the antithyroid drug propylthiouracil to mammalian haem peroxidases,” was retracted from Acta Crystallographica Section F this month. Here’s the retraction notice: Read the rest of this entry »