Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘environmental science’ Category

Are there foxes in Tasmania? Follow the poop

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Stephen Sarre, based at the University of Canberra in Australia, has made a career out of collecting and analyzing poop.

It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. Part of his work is designed to answer a multi-million dollar question: Is Tasmania home to foxes, a pest that carries rabies and other diseases and can ravage local wildlife? According to the Australian news outlet ABCthe Tasmanian and Australian governments have spent $50 million (AUD) on hunting foxes on the island since 2001 — even though many have debated whether they are even there.

In 2012, after analyzing thousands of fecal samples, Sarre published a paper in the Journal of Applied Ecology which boldly claimed that “Foxes are now widespread in Tasmania.” But many outside researchers didn’t buy it, and quickly voiced their criticisms of the paper, namely that there may be problems with false positives and the methodology used to analyze the samples. Recently, the journal issued an expression of concern for the paper, citing an ongoing investigation into the allegations.

Here’s the expression of concern (paywalled, tsk tsk):

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Journal hit by citation scandal named among top in field

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It’s been a mixed year for Wiley’s Land Degradation & Development.

Following accusations of citation irregularities at the journal (whose its Impact Factor rose dramatically from 3.089 in 2014 to 8.145 in 2015), its editor was asked to resign. Another editor resigned shortly after.

But last week, Clarivate Analytics named the journal among the top 10 in the field of climate change, as part of its annual Journal Citation Reports.

The annual report also lists a number of journals that have been suppressed from Clarivate’s analysis “due to anomalous citation patterns;” Land Degradation & Development is not listed among the 13 journals this year.

A spokesperson for Clarivate told us:

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Written by Alison McCook

June 19th, 2017 at 9:23 am

Ecologist loses appeal for whistleblower protection

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A top federal U.S. court has confirmed a decision by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to deny federal whistleblower protection to an ecologist who was fired after accusing a colleague of fraud.

After initially forcing NSF to more clearly explain its decision, the Denver-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit has agreed with the conclusions of NSF’s updated investigation, denying former Kansas State University researcher Joseph Craine’s appeal.

Attorney Paul Thaler, who has handled cases involving scientific misconduct (but was not involved with this one), told Retraction Watch that the latest decision appears to be the end of a cautionary tale of how not to report misconduct.

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Written by Andrew P. Han

May 5th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Updated: Science fish-microplastics paper retracted

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Despite continuing to vigorously defend their work, the authors of a controversial paper about the effects of human pollution asked Science to retract the paper last week.

According to a release from Uppsala University issued today, authors Peter Eklöv and Oona Lönnstedt submitted their request to Science last week, noting they wanted to withdraw the paper “as long as a suspicion of misconduct remains.”

The release — which echoes a statement that was also provided to Nature — notes:

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“Remarkable” it was ever accepted, says report: Science to retract study on fish and microplastics

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Science is retracting a paper about how human pollution is harming fish, after months of questions about the validity of the data.

The move, first reported by the news side of Science on Friday, follows a new report from a review board in Sweden that concluded the authors were guilty of “scientific dishonesty,” and the paper should be “recalled.”

The report had some strong words for the journal and the university that conducted a preliminary investigation:

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Another editor resigns from journal hit by citation scandal

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Another editor has resigned from an earth science journal following allegations over citation irregularities, which also took down its editor-in-chief.

According to Land Degradation & Development website, editor Paolo Pereira has stepped down from the journal. The journal does not say why, and a spokesperson for publisher Wiley did not elaborate. The website has included the announcement about Pereira above a longer statement regarding citation issues at the journal, which saw its Impact Factor rise dramatically from 3.089 in 2014 to 8.145 in 2015.

Pereira — based at Mykolas Romeris University in Lithuania — has co-authored multiple papers with Artemi Cerdà of the University of Valencia in Spain, who stepped down as editor-in-chief of the journal earlier this year.

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Written by Alison McCook

April 7th, 2017 at 11:54 am

An editor in chief was caught manipulating citations. Now he’s been asked to resign.

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Artemi Cerdà

An earth science journal has asked an editor to resign after it was revealed he had been manipulating citations at multiple journals.

Artemi Cerdà had already agreed to step down temporarily from Land Degradation & Development after the publisher, Wiley, was alerted that Cerdà had resigned from other journals for citation manipulation. In a new statement, the journal announces that Cerdà’s resignation has become permanent.

Here’s the entire statement:

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Written by Alison McCook

March 21st, 2017 at 1:35 pm

Editor steps down from journal while it investigates citation irregularities

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Artemi Cerdà

The editor of the journal Land Degradation & Development has stepped down amidst an investigation into citation problems at the journal.

The editor, Artemi Cerdà of the University of Valencia in Spain, has also disappeared from the list of editors at two journals published by the European Geosciences Union, which recently announced that one of its editors had engaged in citation manipulation.

Here’s a statement we just received from a spokesperson for Wiley, which publishes Land Degradation & Development:

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Written by Alison McCook

February 24th, 2017 at 11:35 am

How did a book chapter end up with two authors who didn’t contribute to it?

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An erratum for a book chapter about water pollution has removed two out of the three original authors. 

What’s more, the notice specifies that “any mistakes or omissions are the sole responsibility” of the remaining author, Michael Yodzis of the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. 

This isn’t something we see every day, but one of the removed authors told us he believes the paper is scientifically valid — he just didn’t have anything to do with it. Yodzis told us he included the two authors by mistake, after believing he had corresponded with them about the paper, which was an extension of their previous work together.

Here’s the erratum, issued in December: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

February 1st, 2017 at 9:30 am

Why don’t women peer review as often as men? Fewer invites and RSVPs, researchers say

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Brooks Hanson

Jory Lerback. Image courtesy of the University of Utah

Women don’t peer review papers as often as men, even taking into account the skewed sex ratio in science – but why? In a new Comment in today’s Nature, Jory Lerback at the University of Utah and Brooks Hanson at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) confirmed the same trend in AGU journals, which they argue serve as a good proxy for STEM demographics in the U.S. What’s more, they found the gender discrepancies stemmed from women – of all levels of seniority — receiving fewer invitations to review (both from male and female authors). And when women get their invites, they say “no” more often. We spoke with Lerback and Hanson about what might underlie this trend, and how the scientific community should address it.

Retraction Watch: What made you decide to undertake this project?

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Written by Alison McCook

January 25th, 2017 at 1:00 pm