Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘clinical study retractions’ Category

Soon-to-be-ex-rector of top Belgium university blames coverage of misconduct case for ouster

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May was quite a month for Rik Torfs, the rector of a prominent university in Belgium. On May 9, Torfs lost his re-election campaign for rector of KU Leuven by a slim margin—out of more than 2100 votes, he lost by a mere 48. And just 20 days later, on May 29, Torfs wrote his final column for the Flemish daily newspaper De Standaard  — whom he believes was at least partly to blame for his election loss.

Specifically, it was the paper’s reporting on the university hospital’s (UZ Leuven) investigation into pediatric oncologist Stefaan Van Gool, which came just months before the election, that Torfs said he believes may have led to his ouster: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

June 26th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Instead of retracting a flawed study, a journal let authors re-do it. It got retracted anyway.

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When a journal discovers elementary design flaws in a paper, what should it do? Should it retract immediately, or are there times when it makes sense to give the researchers time to perform a “do-over?”

These are questions the editors at Scientific Reports recently faced with a somewhat controversial 2016 paper, which reported that microRNAs from broccoli could make their way into the nuclei of human cells — suggesting that the food we eat could affect our gene expression.

After the paper appeared, researcher Kenneth Witwer at Johns Hopkins — who was not a co-author — posted comments on PubMed Commons and the paper itself, noting that the authors hadn’t properly designed the experiment, making it impossible for them to detect broccoli microRNAs. 

But instead of retracting the paper, the journal decided to give the authors time to do the experiments again, this time with correctly designed molecular biology tools. When that failed, they retracted it — and as part of the notice, reported the exact opposite conclusion of the original.

Witwer said the authors did a “tremendous job” with the follow-up study, but he still thinks the journal should have retracted the paper immediately. Letting the authors redo it is “a dangerous precedent to set,” he told us:   

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Journal retracts two papers by authors who lifted others’ data

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A journal has retracted two 2014 papers after the editors discovered the authors used data from other research groups without permission.

The papers, both published in the same issue of Cell Biochemistry and Biophysics and retracted in May, suffered from similar issues—the authors published data that was not theirs. The authors are all based at different institutions in China; as far as we can tell, the papers do not have any authors in common.

When we asked the publisher whether a third party, such as a paper mill, may have been involved, a spokesperson for Springer told us: Read the rest of this entry »

12 years after researcher found guilty of misconduct, journal retracts paper

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In 2005, the U.S. Office of Research Integrity found an obesity researcher had engaged in scientific misconduct.

More specifically, the ORI report revealed that Eric Poehlman, then based at the University of Vermont, had “falsified and fabricated” data in 10 papers. The 2005 report asked that the journals issue retractions or corrections to the papers. By 2006, six of those papers were retracted (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). In 2006, a judge sentenced Poehlman to one year and one day in prison for falsifying research data.

In 2015, we explored how long it takes a journal to retract a paper. We found that four of the 10 papers had still not been retracted — one appeared to be missing from Medline, another had received a correction (as the ORI report requested), and two had not been retracted or corrected (1, 2).

Until now. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

June 21st, 2017 at 11:45 am

Big corrections usually weaken findings. But a recent NEJM one strengthened them, author says

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A 2016 study in New England Journal of Medicine has received a substantial correction, which affected several aspects of the article.

Typically, an error that affects so much of a paper would undermine the results (and possibly lead to a retraction). But in this case, the revised dose calculations actually strengthened the findings, according to the first author.

The NEJM study aimed to clarify whether patients with a neuromuscular disease called myasthenia gravis benefit from a surgical procedure to remove the thymus. About half of the patients received surgery plus the steroid prednisone, while the rest only received the steroid. The researchers found patients who received the surgery fared better.

Shortly after the paper was published in August 2016, the authors discovered an error in the calculation of the average prednisone dose. According to Gil Wolfe, the first author of the paper, when the researchers corrected the error: Read the rest of this entry »

NIH researcher doctored 11 figures in 2016 paper, says ORI

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A former Research Training Awardee at the National Institutes of Health “falsified and/or fabricated data” in 11 figures in a 2016 paper, according to the U.S. Office of Research Integrity.

This is the first finding of misconduct issued this year by the ORI.

According to the finding, published in the Federal Register, Brandi M. Baughman — formerly at the National Institute of Environmental and Health Sciences (NIEHS) — tweaked data and text in a PLOS ONE paper about screening for compounds that inhibit an enzyme known as inositol phosphate kinase. According to the notice, however, some of those experiments didn’t proceed as described:

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Written by Alison McCook

June 19th, 2017 at 3:09 pm

Former prof fudged dozens of images, says university

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On Dec. 2, 2013, Alison Lakin, the research integrity officer at the University of Colorado Denver, received a concerning email.

The emailer was alleging several problems in a 2012 paper in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, co-authored by one of its high-profile faculty members. Lakin discussed the allegations with some administrators and agreed they had merit; Lakin sequestered an author’s laptop and other materials. Over the next few months, the university learned of additional allegations affecting other papers — and discovered even more serious problems in the JCI paper. Namely, the first author had inserted changes to 21 figures in the paper after submitting it, without alerting the other authors, journal, or reviewers.

That journal retracted the paper this month, citing numerous problems:

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Following outcry, American Psychological Association “refocuses” takedown notice program

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After a deluge of protests from researchers who received notices from the American Psychological Association (APA) to remove papers from their websites, the publisher announced it will shift its focus to commercial sites.

Earlier this week, researchers took to Twitter to lament the takedown notices they had received from the APA; one posted the letter in place of his paper. The letters were part of a pilot program by the APA to remove “unauthorized online postings of APA journal articles.”

That program has now taken a bit of a turn. In a release yesterday, the APA says that:

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Written by Alison McCook

June 16th, 2017 at 10:39 am

Researchers protest publisher’s orders to remove papers from their websites

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Researchers are protesting orders from the American Psychological Association to remove links to papers from their websites.

Multiple researchers took to Twitter recently to lament the takedown notices they’ve received from the APA; one posted the letter in place of the link to his paper. According to the APA, the letters are part of a pilot program to “monitor and seek removal of unauthorized online postings of APA journal articles.”

The notices cite misuse of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which enables internet users to protect their own content. But it can be heavily abused by people who file false copyright infringement claims to remove content they don’t like from the internet. (We have even been the target of such attempts.)

According to the letter posted by Nathaniel Daw at Princeton University, the APA says:

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Written by Alison McCook

June 14th, 2017 at 2:17 pm

Ex-researcher who shot dean found guilty of attempted murder

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Hengjun Chao Credit: Westchester County DA

 

A New York jury has found Hengjun Chao, a former research assistant professor at Mount Sinai, guilty of attempted second degree murder and two other charges.

Last year, Chao shot Dennis Charney, a Mount Sinai dean who had fired him in 2010 for misconduct, outside of a deli in a wealthy New York suburb. After the incident, Chao admitted to police he shot Charney. During the trial, Chao’s lawyer argued that Chao had done so to draw attention to what he believed to be misconduct at Mount Sinai.

As reported by the Chappaqua Patch, in addition to one count of attempted second degree murder, Chao was convicted of one count of criminal use of a firearm and one count of assault. He faces a maximum of 25 years in state prison.

Chao’s attorney, Stewart Orden, told Retraction Watch:

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Written by Andrew P. Han

June 14th, 2017 at 12:12 pm