Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘environmental science’ Category

Lawyers call libel suit against journal and critic “lawless” but “well written”

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Mark Jacobson

A $10 million defamation suit filed by a Stanford University professor against a critic and a journal may be an assault on free speech, according to one lawyer, but at least it’s “well written.”

Kenneth White, a lawyer at Southern California firm Brown White & Osborn who frequently blogs about legal issues related to free speech at Popehat, told us:

It’s not incompetently drafted, but it’s clearly vexatious and intended to silence dissent about an alleged scientist’s peer-reviewed article.

Scientists have publicly bemoaned the suit’s existence, as reported by several outlets, including Mashable and Nature. Mark Jacobson, an engineering professor at Stanford, has alleged that he was defamed in a June article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), which was critical of a 2015 paper co-authored by Jacobson in the same journal. In a complaint filed Sept. 29 in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Jacobson accused the journal’s publisher, the National Academy of Sciences, and the paper’s first author, Christopher Clack, an executive at a renewable energy analysis firm, of libel.

White told us that there are several pitfalls that could trip up the lawsuit, including a DC law that allows defendants an early opportunity to ask the court to dismiss cases muzzling free speech and recover attorneys’ fees. But another attorney said the complaint should at least clear the lowest hurdle in the way of getting to trial. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew P. Han

November 13th, 2017 at 11:10 am

Senior NOAA appointee calls for retraction of paper on illegal fishing

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Chris Oliver

A top US official at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who was recently appointed by President Donald Trump, has called for the retraction of a paper that suggests the country exports a significant amount of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

The paper, published July 6 in Marine Policy, estimated that in 2015 approximately one-fifth of Alaska pollock exports to Japan were either illegal, unreported, or unregulated — a value of as much as $75 million.

In an Oct. 11 letter (first reported by IntraFish), Chris Oliver, NOAA assistant administrator for fisheries, criticized the paper’s methodology for calculating the illegal hauls.

Oliver wrote to the journal’s editor-in-chief to say that the National Marine Fisheries Service: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew P. Han

November 6th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Nature tags glacier paper with note of concern due to data mix-up

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Nature has tagged a recent paper on the importance of glacial melt to water supply in Asia with an expression of concern (EoC), after receiving a tip that the author had misused some data.

The EoC for “Asia’s glaciers are a regionally important buffer against drought,” published by Hamish Pritchard, a glaciologist at the British Antarctic Survey, came out today. The May 11, 2017 article — which has been cited three times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science — considers the contribution of glaciers to water supply in Central Asia and the potential for glacier loss to exacerbate water stress in the region. The paper received limited news coverage when it came out from science sites, including Phys.org.

Pritchard appears to have improperly used a particular data set — an error that was reported to the journal by two outside experts within weeks after the paper was published.  Read the rest of this entry »

The three-year delay: Journal finally retracts paper based on made-up data

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Three years after an investigation revealed a 2013 paper was based on fraudulent data, a journal has finally retracted it.

The paper, published in Journal of Hazardous Materials, was one of seven articles by a team at the Institute of Microbial Technology (IMTECH) in Chandigarh, India that contain fabricated data, according to an investigation by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in New Delhi. (IMTECH is part of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.) Although it took one journal years to take action, another still has not retracted one of the seven flagged papers. Read the rest of this entry »

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