Caveat scriptor: How a journal editor unraveled the mystery of the overlapping bad data

John Loadsman

Caveat scriptor—writer beware.

That’s the moral of a recent editorial in the Saudi Journal of Anesthesia, prompted by the retraction in that journal of a 2014 paper with bum data.

The editorial was written by John Loadsman, an anesthesiologist in Sydney, Australia, and editor of the journal Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, who played a role in the retraction. Here’s how.

According to Loadsman, he was considering an article for his journal — a meta-analysis of previously published findings. On inspection, he he noticed that some of the studies cited in the meta-analysis were potentially problematic, including Continue reading Caveat scriptor: How a journal editor unraveled the mystery of the overlapping bad data

Japanese university revokes PhD following a retraction

Tokyo Women’s Medical University has stripped a researcher of her PhD, following the retraction of a paper — for data duplication — that was based on her thesis.

The August 30th announcement notes that a degree was revoked on July 20. The announcement does not name the researcher, but refers to degree number 2881, which corresponds to Rika Nakayama’s PhD. The university describes carelessness and errors, but not misconduct.

Here’s a rough Google translation of the announcement: Continue reading Japanese university revokes PhD following a retraction

When it comes to retracting papers by the world’s most prolific scientific fraudsters, journals have room for improvement

Journals have retracted all but 19 of the 313 tainted papers linked to three of the most notorious fraudsters in science, with only stragglers left in the literature. But editors and publishers have been less diligent when it comes to delivering optimal retraction notices for the affected articles.

That’s the verdict of a new analysis in the journal Anaesthesia, which found that 15% of retraction notices for the affected papers fail fully to meet standards from the Committee for Publication Ethics (COPE). Many lacked appropriate language and requisite watermarks stating that the articles had been removed, and some have vanished from the literature.

The article was written by U. M. McHugh, of University Hospital in Galway, Ireland, and Steven Yentis, a consultant anaesthetist at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital in London. Yentis was editor of Anaesthesia during the three scandals and had a first-hand view of two of the investigations. He also is the editor who unleashed anesthetist and self-trained statistician John Carlisle on the Fujii papers to see how likely the Japanese researcher’s data were to be valid (answer: not very likely). Continue reading When it comes to retracting papers by the world’s most prolific scientific fraudsters, journals have room for improvement

Infighting at journal prompts retraction of editorial “full of misinformation”

An editor thought she did a great job running an anesthesiology journal. But her colleagues— including the new editor who took over for her—heartily disagree.

During her tenure at the journal, the outgoing editor penned an editorial taking credit for the journal’s rise to success. But, according to a new commentary published in the journal, the former editor’s article presented wrong statistics, and minimized the contributions of those who had come before her. So when the new editor took office, he retracted it—and published the lengthy commentary explaining why. Continue reading Infighting at journal prompts retraction of editorial “full of misinformation”

A retraction gets retracted

Last year, an emergency medicine journal retracted a letter to the editor because it didn’t include the author’s potential conflict of interest. Now, it’s had a change of heart.

Earlier this month, the Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine withdrew the retraction after determining the author, Guy Weinberg, had, in fact, provided information about his potential conflict  with his initial submission. Continue reading A retraction gets retracted

Caught Our Notice: 54 problems in three scientific images equals one expression of concern

Title: Effects of microRNA-223 on morphine analgesic tolerance by targeting NLRP3 in a rat model of neuropathic pain

What Caught Our Attention: Usually, an Expression of Concern (EOC) offers general language about “concerns regarding the validity of the data” or “concerns regarding the integrity of the study.” Here the language is anything but, saying that 54 Western blot bands within three figures have problems such as “visible pasted joints,” “square border,” and numerous “appear to be the same band.”  According to the notice, the authors have not responded to requests for the original blots, so the editors are allowing the article to remain intact, choosing instead “to alert readers to these issues and allow them to arrive at their own conclusions regarding the figures.” Continue reading Caught Our Notice: 54 problems in three scientific images equals one expression of concern

Caught Our Notice: Big journal, big correction

Title: Tranexamic Acid in Patients Undergoing Coronary-Artery Surgery

What Caught Our Attention: When the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) publishes a correction that is more than a misspelling of a name, we take a look. When NEJM publishes a 500-word correction to the data in a highly cited article, we take notice. This study tested the effects of a drug to prevent blood loss in patients undergoing heart surgery; it’s been the subject of correspondence between the authors and outside experts. The correction involved tweaks — lots of tweaks — to the text and tables, which did not change the outcomes.   Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Big journal, big correction

Society recommends 9 retractions for co-author of researcher with record number of retractions

The Japanese Society of Anesthesiologists (JSA) has requested the retraction of nine additional papers by a co-author of fraudster Yoshitaka Fujii, after investigating allegations of fraud in dozens of papers.

According to the report, a committee investigated approximately 40 publications by Yuhji Saitoh of Yachiyo Medical Center and Tokyo Women’s Medical University and “identified ten publications with clear ethics violations, one of which has already been retracted.”

Saitoh has collaborated on many papers with Fujii, an anesthesia researcher with more than 180 retractions. As we reported, Saitoh resigned from the JSA when the investigation began, and the society permanently banned him. Continue reading Society recommends 9 retractions for co-author of researcher with record number of retractions

Lancet retracts (and replaces) paper a year after authors report error that changes “all numbers”

In March 2016, researchers in Switzerland and Canada published a meta-analysis in The Lancet, exploring the optimal painkiller and dose for treating pain in knee and hip osteoarthritis. Soon after, the authors were informed of an error that would change “all numbers” in a paper that may influence clinical practice.

The authors contacted The Lancet immediately, in July 2016, to inform them of the issue. Sven Trelle, the paper’s corresponding author, also told us: Continue reading Lancet retracts (and replaces) paper a year after authors report error that changes “all numbers”

Former prof fudged dozens of images, says university

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:

Continue reading Former prof fudged dozens of images, says university