Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘clinical study retractions’ Category

What should journals do when peer reviewers do not disclose potential conflicts?

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Peer reviewers, like authors, are supposed to declare any potential conflicts of interest. But what happens when they don’t?

Take this case: In a court transcript from Feb. 23, 2017, Bryan Hardin testified that he was a peer reviewer on a 2016 paper in Critical Reviews in Toxicology, which found that asbestos does not increase the risk of cancer. In the deposition, Hardin—who works at the consulting firm Veritox—also said that he has testified in asbestos litigation on behalf of automakers, such as Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler, but said he had not disclosed these relationships to the journal.

Last year, the first author of the 2016 review withdrew a paper from another journal (by the same publisher) which concluded asbestos roofing products are safe, following several criticisms — including not disclosing the approving editor’s ties to the asbestos industry. In this latest case, the journal told us it believes the review process for the paper was up to snuff, but two outside experts we consulted said they believed Hardin’s relationships — and failure to disclose them — should give the journal pause.

We obtained a copy of the transcript from Christian Hartley, who was representing a man suing a mining company because the man developed cancer after being exposed to asbestos at work. When Hartley asked Hardin whether he had told the journal about testifying for companies involved in asbestos litigation, Hardin responded:

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JAMA tells readers: “Caution advised.” Here’s why.

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Last week, JAMA issued some unusual notices, letting readers know they should use caution when reading an editorial and letters associated with now-retracted articles by a bone researcher in Japan.

The notices — for papers by Yoshihiro Sato, now up to 14 retractions — remind readers not to heed the results of the now-retracted papers, and alert them to read any associated materials (specifically, an editorial in JAMA and letters in JAMA Internal Medicine) with caution.

The text of the notices describes them as “formal correction notices;” we asked Annette Flanagin, executive managing editor at The JAMA Network, why they chose that approach, instead of an expression of concern or retraction:

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Third retraction for former rising star found guilty of misconduct

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A once-prominent researcher in the field of infectious disease — who was found guilty of misconduct last year— has had a third paper retracted, a 2006 article in PNAS.

Last year, the University of Dundee in Scotland found that Robert Ryan had committed research misconduct, which included misrepresenting clinical data and duplicating images in a dozen different publications. After a failed attempt to appeal the decision, Ryan resigned.

In April, we covered Ryan’s first two retractions – a 2012 paper in Molecular Microbiology, which cited image errors, and a 2011 paper in Journal of Bacteriology, which cited image duplication.

Now, PNAS has retracted a 2006 paper, which cites potential image duplication as well as “irregularities” in the data.

Here’s the retraction notice for “Cell–cell signaling in Xanthomonas campestris involves an HD-GYP domain protein that functions in cyclic di-GMP turnover:”

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Researchers retract a paper when they realize they had sequenced the wrong snail’s genome

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Researchers in China thought they had sequenced the genomes of two snails that help transmit diseases to other species — an important first step to stopping the spread. But their hopes were soon dashed after they realized they had misidentified one of the snails.

The researchers published their findings earlier this year in the journal Parasites & Vectors. In the paper, the authors stressed that understanding the genetic makeup of these molluscs is important because many “freshwater snails are intermediate hosts for flatworm parasites and transmit infectious diseases” to humans and other animals. They also acknowledged that identifying snail species from their appearance alone can be tricky. Read the rest of this entry »

Publisher won’t retract two papers, despite university’s request

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Jens Förster

Jens Förster, a high-profile social psychologist, has agreed to retract multiple papers following an institutional investigation — but has also fought to keep some papers intact. Recently, one publisher agreed with his appeal, and announced it would not retract two of his papers, despite the recommendation of his former employer.

Last month, the American Psychological Association (APA) announced it would not retract two papers co-authored by Förster, which the University of Amsterdam had recommended for retraction in May, 2015. The APA had followed the university’s advice last year and retracted two other papers, which Förster had agreed to as part of a settlement with the German Society for Psychology (DGPs). But after multiple appeals by Förster and his co-authors, the publisher has decided to retain the papers as part of the scientific record.

Many voices contributed to the discussion about these two papers — in November, 2016, the University of Amsterdam announced it was rejecting the appeal by another co-author on both papers, Nira Liberman, based at Tel Aviv University in Israel. The following month, Tel Aviv University announced that it believed the articles should not be retracted, based on its own internal review.

The APA reviewed the various recommendations, according to last month’s announcement:

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Newspaper series prompts CDC to correct paper on Legionnaire’s disease

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Post-publication peer review isn’t just for scientists. Newspaper reporters can help correct the scientific record, too.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has corrected a journal article on Legionnaire’s disease after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette revealed what seems to be efforts by the researchers to misrepresent their data.

In a series of articles last December, the newspaper raised questions about the CDC’s actions in the aftermath of outbreaks in 2011 and 2012 of Legionnaire’s that sickened 22 veterans, killing six. The Post-Gazette obtained emails from CDC scientists that appeared to reveal their disdain for the sterilization method the hospital had been using to suppress the growth of Legionella bacteria. That method, a copper-silver system, is widely considered to be effective. But according to the newspaper, the CDC investigators were so critical of the copper-silver disinfectant technology that the VA ultimately switched to a system based on chlorine.   Read the rest of this entry »

Researcher who stole manuscript during peer review earns second retraction

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The researcher whose brazen theft of a manuscript he had reviewed prompted a “Dear plagiarist” letter from the aggrieved author once the deceit was discovered has lost a second paper for plagiarism.

International Scholarly Research Notices, a Hindawi publication, has retracted a 2012 study by Carmine Finelli and colleagues, citing widespread misuse of text from two previously published articles. The removal was prompted by the curiosity of a scientist in England who, on reading about Finelli’s first retraction, made the logical assumption: once a plagiarist, often a plagiarist.

The review article was titled “Physical Activity: An Important Adaptative Mechanism for Body-Weight Control.” The journal is not indexed by Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, but the paper has been cited seven times, according to Google Scholar. According to the retraction notice: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by amarcus41

August 1st, 2017 at 8:00 am

PLOS ONE retracts paper after researcher admits to fabricating data

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On June 19, 2017, the U.S. Office of Research Integrity published its first misconduct finding of the year. The ORI reported that Brandi M. Baughman — a former research training awardee at the National Institute of Environmental and Health Sciences (NIEHS) — had “falsified and/or fabricated data” in 11 figures in a 2016 paper published in PLOS ONE.

Two days later, on June 21, PLOS ONE retracted the paper. (Note: The retraction process proceeded relatively quickly, but took longer than two days; a spokesperson for the journal told us that the authors alerted the editors of their concerns about the publication in May.)   Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

July 26th, 2017 at 8:00 am

Uni dings schizophrenia studies for problems with informed consent, other flaws

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Psychiatry journals have retracted two papers evaluating a schizophrenia drug after a university in Japan flagged issues, such as a lack of written informed consent.

The papers—published in Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical & Experimental in 2012 and Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences in 2014—examined the safety and effectiveness of an antipsychotic drug in patients with schizophrenia.

According to the retraction notice in Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, the ethics committee at St. Marianna University School of Medicine in Kawasaki found that “the trial included subjects who did not satisfy inclusion criteria.” For instance, not all patients provided written informed consent. But the university found no evidence for data falsification or fabrication.

A spokesperson for Human Psychopharmacology told us: Read the rest of this entry »

Following uproar, surgery journal retracts paper with male-only pronouns

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The Annals of Surgery has retracted a paper that used only male pronouns to describe surgeons following outcry from readers.

The journal plans to replace the article — a recent presidential address of the European Surgical Association — with a new version with more “gender inclusive language.”

The problem, said editor Keith D. Lillemoe, is that the address was delivered in April by previous ESA president Marek Krawczyk in Polish. According to an email Krawczyk sent to ESA leadership, which Lillemoe forwarded to us, Krawczyk says the pronoun “his” can include women in Polish.

Still, Lillemoe told us, the journal believed it needed to quickly retract the paper:

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Written by Alison McCook

July 24th, 2017 at 1:00 pm