Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘environmental science’ Category

U.S. gov’t scientist says he was banned from climate research at work — so he used a pseudonym

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A scientist working for the U.S. government says he was told not to work on climate research during working hours, nor reveal his government affiliation when presenting results. So he published his research under a pseudonym instead.

The researcher explains all this in a recent erratum for one of the papers he published under a different moniker — confirming why he and his co-author used the same pseudonyms to publish another now-withdrawn paper that presented some controversial climate findings. That withdrawal — which we covered in in September (as did the Washington Post) — raised eyebrows after Twitter users began pointing out that the authors — Den Volokin and Lark ReLlez — have similar names to another pair of researchers: Ned Nikolov and Karl Zeller

Nikolov’s use of a pseudonym even prompted a misconduct investigation by his employer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

Here’s the erratum, issued last week for a 2014 paper in SpringerPlus:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

December 13th, 2016 at 11:30 am

Stolen data prompts Science to flag debated study of fish and plastics

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scienceIn August, Science told us it was considering adding an Expression of Concern to a high-profile paper about how human pollution is harming fish — and yesterday, the journal did it.

The move comes after a group of researchers alleged the paper contains missing data, and the authors followed a problematic methodology. In September, however, the co-authors’ institution, Uppsala University in Sweden, concluded there wasn’t enough evidence to launch a misconduct investigation.

The notice from Science stems from the theft of a computer carrying some of the paper’s raw data, making it impossible to reproduce some of its findings: Read the rest of this entry »

Authors retract paper linking nuclear power to slow action on climate change

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climate-policyDo pro-nuclear energy countries act more slowly to curb the effects of climate change? That’s what a paper published in July in the journal Climate Policy claimed. But the hotly debated study was retracted last week after the authors came to understand that it included serious errors.

An August 22 press release about the original study has been retracted by the University of Sussex, and no longer appears on ScienceDaily. An archived version notes:   Read the rest of this entry »

Should journals reject papers solely on ethical grounds?

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biological-conservation

Recently, an ecology journal received a submission that made them pause. In order to conduct their research, the authors had to kill thousands of fish. The study had been approved by conservation authorities, but it still wasn’t sitting well with the journal.

So it rejected the paper, on ethical grounds.

Biological Conservation explained its decision in a recent paper, noting the killing of thousands of vertebrates (marine and freshwater fish) in a protected area was “unnecessary and inappropriate,” and adds the journal will continue questioning and rejecting papers that “do not meet reasonable standards of practice.”

This is not a universal practice, however — years ago, The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published the results of a research project that resulted in 90 people becoming infected with HIV. Again, that study had obtained the necessary ethical approvals — but should the journal act as the final judge?

According to the editors of Biological Conservation, yes. In “Field work ethics in biological research,” they write: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

November 15th, 2016 at 11:30 am

Two journals, same name: Did one editor retract the other’s paper?

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amphibian-and-reptile-conservationTwo journals sharing the same title — allegedly due to an “academic divorce” between the founders — are giving two different accounts to why a paper may (or may not) have been retracted.

Confused yet? We are.

Here’s what we can piece together. The journal Amphibian and Reptile Conservation once had two editors, Craig Hassapakis and Robert Browne; both names appear on the same cover of a 2011-2012 issue of the journal, as librarian Jeffrey Beall noted in a blog post published last year. But since then, there seems to have been an “academic split” between the two (as defined by Beall), and each now publishes a different version of the publication named Amphibian and Reptile Conservation.

Recently, we came across a 2013 paper co-authored by Browne marked “Retracted” on the version of the site founded by Craig HassapakisBrowne’s version of the journal can be found here

Meanwhile, the study’s first author, Omar Fadhil Al-Sheikhly from the University of Baghdad in Iraq, claims the paper was never retracted in the first place: Read the rest of this entry »

Inquiry finds no evidence of misconduct in high-profile Science paper flagged by allegations

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scienceAn expert group at Uppsala University has recommended not proceeding with a full investigation into allegations of misconduct in a high-profile Science paper showing how human pollution may be harming fish.

The June paper — which caught the media’s attention for suggesting fish larvae are eating small particles of plastic rather than their natural prey — became the focus of scrutiny soon after it was published when a group of researchers raised allegations of misconduct. Earlier this year, Science told us it was considering issuing an Expression of Concern (EOC) for the paper, and Uppsala said it was conducting an inquiry, the first step in determining whether to launch a formal investigation.

The expert group who conducted the preliminary investigation has ultimately recommended against an investigation of the paper, according to an Uppsala spokesperson: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

September 20th, 2016 at 2:15 pm

Renewable energy researcher with troubled record loses another paper

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renewable-sustainable-energy-reviewsA renewable energy researcher who recycled material in several papers — and has already agreed to withdraw 10 studies — has lost another paper.

In January, we reported that six of 10 papers flagged by an investigation into author Shyi-Min Lu have either been retracted or withdrawn. Now, Lu has lost another paper that was not among the previous ten — again, for reproducing figures from earlier works without seeking permission from original authors. This paper was on a hot topic: gas hydrates, considered to be a potential new energy source to replace oil in the 21st century.

The investigations into Lu’s work took place at the Industrial Technology Research Institute in Hsinchu, Taiwan, where he was formerly based, and the National Taiwan University, in Taipei, Taiwan, which fired Lu from his position at the university’s energy research center.

Here’s the retraction notice in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, issued last month: Read the rest of this entry »

U.S. gov’t researchers withdraw climate paper after using pseudonyms

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adv-space-resClimate scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture have withdrawn a study they wrote under eyebrow-raising pseudonyms.

The withdrawn paper, about predicting surface temperatures of planets, appeared in Advances in Space Research in August, 2015, and is authored by Den Volokin and Lark ReLlez.

Normally, a withdrawal wouldn’t raise our eyebrows, but climate scientist Gavin Schmidt pointed out on Twitter that the authors’ names are eerily similar to another pair who have published climate papers together: Ned Nikolov and Karl Zeller. Yes, that’s correct — Den Volokin and Lark ReLlez are Ned Nikolov and Karl Zeller spelled backwards. Nikolov and Zeller are currently listed as a physical scientist and a meteorologist, respectively, at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The notice doesn’t state the reason for withdrawal, and Pascal Willis, editor-in-chief of Advances in Space Research from the Earth Physics Institute in Paris, France, referred us to the study’s authors for more information. Elsevier, which publishes Advances in Space Research, confirmed that the paper was retracted due to an “authorship issue” — namely, that the authors had used pseudonyms.

We used the contact information listed on the paper for “Den Volokin,” and got this response: Read the rest of this entry »

You’ve been dupe’d: Results so nice, they’re published twice

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obesity surgeryWith retraction notices continuing to pour in, we like to occasionally take the opportunity to cover several at a time to keep up.

We’ve compiled a handful of retractions that were all issued to papers that were published twice by at least one of the same authors — known as duplication. (Sometimes, this can be the publisher’s fault, although that doesn’t appear to be the case in any of the following examples.)

So here are five recently retracted papers that were pulled because of duplication: Read the rest of this entry »

High-profile Science paper on fish and plastics may earn notice of concern

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science mag coverScience is considering adding an expression of concern (EOC) to a June paper that caught the media’s attention for showing how human pollution may be harming fish, following allegations of research misconduct.

A group of researchers allege the paper — which suggested fish larvae are eating small particles of plastic rather than their natural prey — contains missing data and used a problematic methodology. After the researchers submitted a formal letter (available here), Uppsala University in Sweden is now conducting an inquiry, the first step in determining whether to launch a formal investigation.

A spokesperson from Science told Retraction Watch that once the journal independently verifies that an investigation is underway, it will issue an EOC for the paper: Read the rest of this entry »