Four years after readers raise concerns, journal finally retracts climate paper

The wheels of scientific publishing turn slowly … but they do (sometimes) turn.

In January, we reported on the case of a paper on global warming marred by several problems, including allegations of plagiarism and “false claims” by the authors — which readers had raised as early as 2014, with no result. (Find a discussion of those allegations here.)

Now, the journal, Elsevier’s Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews (ironic on multiple levels, when you think about it), is retracting the paper.

According to the long-time-in-coming retraction notice: Continue reading Four years after readers raise concerns, journal finally retracts climate paper

Flawed climate science paper “exposed potential weaknesses” in the peer review process

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How did a deeply flawed paper, which contradicts mainstream science on climate change, pass peer review?

That is what three editorial board members tried to figure out after the journal, Global and Planetary Change, faced heavy criticism for publishing the controversial paper last year. The board members published their findings earlier this month in a commentary.

Martin Grosjean, the corresponding author on the editorial, told Retraction Watch that the editors and publisher, Elsevier, share the same interest: Continue reading Flawed climate science paper “exposed potential weaknesses” in the peer review process

Can soil science research dig itself out from a citation stacking scandal?

Jan Willem van Groenigen

Last year, the soil science community was rocked by reports that an editor, Artemi Cerdà, was accused of citation stacking — asking authors to cite particular papers — boosting his profile, and that of journals where he worked. (Cerdà has denied the allegations.) The case had some major fallout: Cerdà resigned from two journals and the editorial board of Geoderma, additional editors resigned from their posts, and a university launched an investigation. In the midst of the mess, a group of early career scientists in the field released an open letter, urging the leaders of the community “to establish a clear road map as to how this crisis will be handled and which actions will be taken to avoid future misconducts.” Today, Jan Willem van Groenigen, Chair of the Editors in Chief of Geoderma, along with other editors at the journal, published a response to those letter-writers — including a list of the 13 papers that added 83 citations the journal has deemed “unwarranted.” The editorial includes a list of “actions we have taken to prevent citation stacking from recurring and to further strengthen the transparency of the review process” — including monitoring editors and showing authors how to report suspicious conduct.

Retraction Watch: It’s been nine months since the young researchers released their open letter — why respond now?

Continue reading Can soil science research dig itself out from a citation stacking scandal?

McGill dept chair says she was blindsided by coauthor’s plagiarism

When Parisa Ariya was invited to write a review for a special issue of the journal Atmosphere, she asked one of her former doctoral students to take the lead. But she soon regretted that decision after discovering Lin (Emma) Si had plagiarized and duplicated significant portions of the review.

Ariya, chair of the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at McGill University in Montreal, told Retraction Watch that she believes it’s important to foster the careers of young women in science and was excited for her former student, Si, to take on the challenge of writing her first review. (Si was cc’d on our email communications with Ariya, but did not respond to our individual request for comment.)
Continue reading McGill dept chair says she was blindsided by coauthor’s plagiarism

Caught Our Notice: Climate change leads to more…neurosurgery for polar bears?

Title: Internet Blogs, Polar Bears, and Climate-Change Denial by Proxy

What Caught Our Attention: There’s a lot going on here, so bear with us. (Ba-dum-bum.)

First, there was the paper itself, co-authored by, among others, Michael Mann and Stephan Lewandowsky. Both names may be familiar to Retraction Watch readers. Mann is a prominent climate scientist who has sued the National Review for defamation. A study by Lewandowsky and colleagues of “the role of conspiracist ideation in climate denial” was the subject of several Retraction Watch posts when it was retracted and then republished in a different form. And the conclusion of the new paper, in Bioscience, seemed likely to draw the ire of many who objected to the earlier work: Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Climate change leads to more…neurosurgery for polar bears?

Data in biofuel paper “had either been grossly misinterpreted or fabricated”

A biology journal has retracted a 2011 paper after the University of California, Los Angeles determined that the data in three figures “cannot be supported.”

In February, the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology retracted the paper, which explores efforts to engineer bacteria to convert plant biomass into biofuel.

Claudia Modlin, assistant director of UCLA’s Office of Research Policy and Compliance, told Retraction Watch that the university informed the journal about the issues last October, after reviewing the work. Continue reading Data in biofuel paper “had either been grossly misinterpreted or fabricated”

Fracking paper overstated size of methane leak from Marcellus Shale, earning retraction

via Greens-EFA

Last spring, a group of environmental scientists reported an impressive finding: Hydraulic fracturing (better known as fracking) in the Marcellus Shale region of the eastern United States was leaking enough methane to power a city twice the size of Washington, D.C. (We didn’t come up with that comparison, apt though it may be.)

Turns out that wasn’t true. Continue reading Fracking paper overstated size of methane leak from Marcellus Shale, earning retraction

Ever been asked to remove a reference for libel concerns? These authors have

Last month, Nature Ecology & Evolution published a series of responses to a previous article recommending essential reading for all ecologists. In one response, the authors argue that the list is highly biased in favor of white male authors, and raises the problem of bullying and harassment in academia. But the letter is missing one key reference from its original submission: To a recent news story in Science reporting “disturbing” sexual harassment allegations against a prominent field researcher.

Why is the reference missing?

Because the editor at Nature Ecology & Evolution asked the authors to take it out, citing concerns about libel.

Here’s the note the authors received on their original submission:

Continue reading Ever been asked to remove a reference for libel concerns? These authors have

They thought they might solve the world’s energy problems. Then they realized they were wrong.

Frederick MacDonnell

Researchers are retracting a 2016 PNAS paper that described a way to create gasoline-like fuels directly from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Senior author Frederick MacDonnell, a professor at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), told us he originally thought his team had made a preliminary breakthrough that might “solve the world’s energy problems.” Instead, he said:

It was an elaborate trap we fell into.

In a retraction notice that contains more information than we usually see, MacDonnell and his co-authors wrote: Continue reading They thought they might solve the world’s energy problems. Then they realized they were wrong.

PNAS retraction weakens theory that fish travel with siblings

In 2016, researchers at Oregon State University published a paper in PNAS that surprised the research community. They showed that certain fish species travel with their siblings — even fighting against the currents of the Pacific Ocean to stay together.

Needless to say, the research community was skeptical, given how difficult a feat this would be. And their skepticism appears to have been warranted.

Recently, the authors — led by Su Sponaugle — retracted the paper, saying a re-analysis of their data using newly developed research tools has erased their confidence in the results. According to Sponaugle, the quick reversal was thanks to the new technology and open data sharing, which led their findings to be successfully challenged within months of publication. She said her team conducted the study with the “best available knowledge we had at the time,” including what they thought were the most advanced tools available to them: 

Continue reading PNAS retraction weakens theory that fish travel with siblings