Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘environmental science’ Category

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In January, we reported that six of 10 papers flagged by an investigation into author Shyi-Min Lu have either been retracted or withdrawn.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 »

Authors retract study that found pollution near fracking sites

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Environmental Science and TechnologyThe authors of two environmental papers, including one about the effects of fracking on human health, have retracted them after discovering crucial mistakes.

One of the studies reported an increased level of air pollution near gas extraction sites, and the other suggested that 2010’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico contributed to air contamination.

According to the corresponding author of both papers, Kim Anderson at Oregon State University, the journal plans to publish new versions of both papers in the next few days. In the case of the fracking paper, the conclusions have been reversed — the original paper stated pollution levels exceeded limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for lifetime cancer risk, but the corrected data set the risks below EPA levels.

The fracking paper received some media attention when it was released, as it tapped into long-standing concerns about the environmental dangers of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), which extracts natural gas from the earth. A press release that accompanied the paper quoted Anderson as warning: Read the rest of this entry »

More than $100M worth of research may be tainted by govt lab misconduct

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usgsMisconduct by a chemist at a Colorado lab run by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has potentially affected  24 research and assessment projects, supported by $108 million in federal funding, government officials have disclosed.

According to a June 15 statement from the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees the USGS, the operator of a mass spectrometer in the Inorganic Section of the Energy Resources Program’s (ERP) Energy Geochemistry Laboratory in Lakewood has been accused of scientific misconduct and manipulating data. The unit is responsible for conducting coal and water quality assessments in projects both in the United States and abroad.

The inorganic section closed following the discovery of the misconduct, and we have yet to learn the fate of the employee involved. As the statement notes, problems with the lab’s data were common knowledge among workers at the facility: Read the rest of this entry »

Environmental group alleges scientific fraud in disputed methane studies

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icn-logoNote: We are reprinting below an article originally published at InsideClimate News.

The inspector general of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been asked to examine whether a significant recent study of greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas fields was technically flawed—and whether researchers brushed aside concerns that methane pollution was being understated.

The emission of methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas in the short term than carbon dioxide, has proven difficult to measure. The latest complaint is a volley in a long-running skirmish among academics, advocacy groups and regulators over how tightly methane should be regulated.

On Wednesday, a North Carolina environmental advocacy group, NC Warn, alleged that this dispute has risen to the level of fraud. Read the rest of this entry »

Ecologists pull paper on how climate change affects moths after model mixup

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science advancesEcologists have retracted a paper published only months ago in Science Advances, after realizing that they had misinterpreted a climate model.

The October paper examined the effects of climate change on populations of 155 species of British moths and butterflies. According to a press release from the authors’ institution, the University of York:

Using data collected by thousands of volunteers through ‘citizen science’ schemes, responses to recent climate change were seen to vary greatly from species to species.

But the authors quickly realized that the variation they had measured was not due to climate change alone, according to the retraction notice they issued for the paper last week:

Read the rest of this entry »

Journal retracts groundwater pollution paper for plagiarism

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ecotoxThe journal Ecotoxicology has retracted a paper that described a way to analyze nitrates in groundwater after discovering the authors had lifted a substantial amount of material from three other papers.

Here is the retraction notice for “Isotopic analysis of N and O in NO3 – by selective bacterial reduction to N2O for groundwater pollution:” Read the rest of this entry »