Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘nutrition’ Category

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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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 We found that four of the 10 papers had still not been retracted — one appeared to be missing from Medline, another had received a correction (as the ORI report requested), and two had not been retracted or corrected (1, 2).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

First retraction appears for embattled food researcher Brian Wansink

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Brian Wansink

Earlier this month, a high-profile food researcher who’s recently come under fire announced a journal was retracting one of his papers for duplication. Today, a retraction appeared — for a 2002 study which contained “major overlap,” according to the journal.

The Journal of Sensory Studies has retracted a paper by Cornell’s Brian Wansink about how labeling of foods can affect how they taste, after determining it borrowed too heavily from a 2000 paper. Wansink is the first author on both studies.

Here’s more from the retraction notice:

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Written by Alison McCook

April 10th, 2017 at 2:50 pm

Cornell finds mistakes — not misconduct — in papers by high-profile nutrition researcher

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Brian Wansink

An internal review by Cornell University has concluded that a high-profile researcher whose work has been under fire made numerous mistakes in his work, but did not commit misconduct.

In response, the researcher — Brian Wansinkannounced that he has submitted four errata to the journals that published the work in question. Since the initial allegations about the four papers, other researchers have raised numerous questions about additional papers that appear to contain duplicated material. Wansink noted that he has contacted the six journals that published that work, and was told one paper is being retracted.

Here’s the statement from Cornell about its initial probe:

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Written by Alison McCook

April 6th, 2017 at 3:23 pm

“Strange. Very strange:” Retracted nutrition study reappears in new journal

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In an unusual turn of events, a nutrition paper has come back to life a year after being pulled from its original publication.

After the paper was retracted from the journal Obesity, the authors revised it and republished it in another journal, Pediatric Obesity. Both journals are published by Wiley. The second version of the paper doesn’t mention the previous retraction. Indeed, the journal editor told us he didn’t know the paper had been retracted. Still, he stood by his decision to publish it.

The authors told us the paper was retracted after editors at Obesity raised concerns over the authors’ methodology. The authors revised the paper, adding some analysis and explanation of their methodological approach, and said the new version was accepted by peer reviewers before being published in Pediatric Obesity.

However, an outside expert who reviewed both papers for us said he thinks the authors didn’t change enough. According to Patrick McKnight, head of the Measurement, Research methodology, Evaluation, and Statistics group at George Mason University and a Statistical Advisory Board member of

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Written by Megan Scudellari

March 28th, 2017 at 9:30 am

Patient misdiagnosed with rare neurological side effect in retracted case study

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When two surgeons in Greece learned that a patient had developed a rare side effect following weight loss surgery, they were eager to publish the case.

After extensive testing, the patient was diagnosed with Wernicke’s encephalopathy—a neurological disorder caused by thiamine deficiency—following a sleeve gastrectomy procedure. As the authors note in the paper, they had seen only eight other cases following the procedure in the literature.

It turns out, theirs was not the ninth. After the patient unfortunately died, he was examined by a coroner, who ruled he did not, in fact, have Wernicke’s encephalopathy. So Dimitrios Manatakis and Nikolaos Georgopoulos, both based at Athens Naval and Veterans Hospital in Greece, have retracted their 2014 case study.

When the first learned of the patient, the authors wanted to alert the surgical community to the case, given the rarity of this side effect, Manatakis told us: Read the rest of this entry »

“Social science isn’t definitive like chemistry:” Embattled food researcher defends his work

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Brian Wansink

It’s been a busy few months for Brian Wansink, a prominent food researcher at Cornell University. A blog post he wrote in November prompted a huge backlash from readers who accused him of using problematic research methods to produce questionable data, and a group of researchers suggested four of his papers contained 150 inconsistencies. The scientist has since announced he’s asked a non-author to reanalyze the data — a researcher in his own lab. Meanwhile, criticisms continue to mount. We spoke with Wansink about the backlash, and how he hopes to answer his critics’ questions.

Retraction Watch: Why not engage someone outside your lab to revalidate the analysis of the four papers under question? 

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Written by Alison McCook

February 16th, 2017 at 10:15 am

Backlash prompts prominent nutrition researcher to reanalyze multiple papers

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Brian Wansink

To Brian Wansink of Cornell University, a blog post he wrote in November, 2016, was a meant as a lesson in productivity: A graduate student who was willing to embrace every research opportunity submitted five papers within six months of arriving to his lab, while a postdoc who declined two chances to analyze a data set left after one year with a small fraction of the grad student’s publications.

But two months and nearly 50 comments on the post later, Wansink — known for so much high-profile nutrition research he’s been dubbed the “Sherlock Holmes of food” — has announced he’s now reanalyzing the data in the papers, and will correct any issues that arise. In the meantime, he had to decline requests to share his raw data, citing its proprietary nature.

As Wansink writes in the second addendum to the November blog post, “The Grad Student Who Never Said ‘No’:”

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Written by Alison McCook

February 2nd, 2017 at 2:30 pm

JAMA article on zinc for the common cold retracted

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Authors have retracted a JAMA article summarizing the evidence behind the benefits of a supplement, after the systemic review upon which it was based was withdrawn.

The 2014 paper, “Oral Zinc for the Common Cold,” drew from a 2013 Cochrane Review, considered the gold standard for rigorous analyses of clinical treatments. That Cochrane review was withdrawn last year, a decision that the editors upheld this past September. Both were co-authored by Rashmi Ranjan Das, of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, in Bhubaneswar, and Meenu Singh, of the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, in Chandigarh, India.

JAMA editor in chief Howard Bauchner told Retraction Watch that this week’s retraction followed an investigation by the journal: Read the rest of this entry »

Bone researcher with lifetime funding ban earns third retraction

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via WCH

A researcher who received a lifetime funding ban for misconduct from a Canadian agency has logged her third retraction, after a re-analysis of her work unveiled “serious inconsistencies.”

In July, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) released a report about Sophie Jamal, following an investigation by her former employer, The Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, Canada. The probe concluded that Jamal had manipulated data, which resulted in her being banned from CIHR funding for life, and the retraction of a study in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

After that retraction, researchers that made up the the Canadian Multicentre Osteoporosis Study Group (CaMos) decided to take a second look at Jamal’s work. In August, we reported on a retraction that came out of that examination, in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases (AJKD). At the time, a senior researcher from the group told us the group had also requested another journal retract a CaMos paper. 

Now, that other retraction has appeared. Here’s the retraction notice Osteoporosis International issued earlier this month: Read the rest of this entry »