Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘environmental science’ Category

The “worst moment of my scientific career:” Two bird migration articles brought down by analytical error

with 3 comments

JAvianBio_ak19Evolutionary and conservation biologists in Spain are retracting two articles – one from the Journal of Avian Biology and the other from Ardeola – because they discovered a fatal flaw in their analysis.

The Journal of Avian Biology article, “Are European birds leaving traditional wintering grounds in the Mediterranean?” aimed to determine whether the abundance of passerines had decreased in recent decades, but failed to control for birds that may have gotten killed by hunters. Although it was published in January, we can only find an abstract from its acceptance by the journal in November 2014.

The authors detail the saga of their error in the retraction notice: Read the rest of this entry »

Citation manipulation the last straw for modified rice straw paper

with one comment

jnm_coverThe Journal of Nanomaterials has retracted a paper on modified rice straw over citation manipulation.

Rice straw, which makes up nearly half of the biomass in rice plants, is generally considered agricultural waste. However, in recent years scientists have discovered ways to modify the raw material to make it capable of absorbing heavy metal ions, making it useful to both prevent and clean up pollution from industrial processes.

The retracted paper, which analyzed the physical properties of different kinds of modified rice straw, was retracted for citation manipulation.

Here’s the short (and to the point) retraction for “Mechanical and Thermal Stability Properties of Modified Rice Straw Fiber Blend with Polycaprolactone Composite”: Read the rest of this entry »

Stats error has chilling effect on global warming paper

with 14 comments

global change biologyIt turns out a 2014 paper that found a surprising pattern of plant migration in response to global warming was not so surprising after all — it’s been retracted by the authors due to a mistake in the statistical analysis.

Most studies on migrating populations have found that species around the globe move north to escape the rising temperatures. But the authors of the 2014 paper in Global Change Biology found the opposite — according to their analysis, many plant species in Western North America had been migrating south, toward warmer climates.

The lead author Melanie Harsch told Science in 2014 that the team had been suspicious of the analysis, and so ran it twice: Read the rest of this entry »

Slippery slope? Data problems force retraction of landslide paper

without comments

The Mameyes Landslide, in Puerto Rico, buried more than 100 homes in 1985.  Source: USGS

The Mameyes Landslide, in Puerto Rico, buried more than 100 homes in 1985. Source: USGS

The authors of a 2014 paper in The Scientific World Journal on rock slopes have retracted their article for “erroneous” data.

The paper, “Slope Stability Analysis Using Limit Equilibrium Method in Nonlinear Criterion,” came from a group of researchers from institutions including the Changjiang River Scientific Research Institute in Wuhan, and the Key Laboratory of Transportation Tunnel Engineering at Southwest Jiaotong University in Chengdu. It’s about (we think) how to calculate the safety of rock slopes, and how vulnerable they are to landslides.

Here’s the notice, which as a pretty fair ratio of words to information:

Read the rest of this entry »

“I’m so done with it”: Conservationist speaks out against sexism in science

with 17 comments

Amanda Stanley

Amanda Stanley

Last week, we wrote about conservationist Stuart Pimm receiving criticism for casual sexism in a recent book review.

The journal did not retract the review, but it released an editor’s note condemning the language Pimm used, including quoting a movie scene in which a man told a woman “I don’t take whores in taxis.” Some readers have questioned whether this is really an instance of sexism, including here in the Retraction Watch comments.

So we reached out to Amanda Stanley, a conservation scientist who was so troubled by the book review that she wrote a letter to the editor, to be published soon in Biological Conservation. Here’s her powerful explanation of where this fits in the overall conversation about sexism in science:
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Cat Ferguson

November 24th, 2014 at 11:30 am

‘‘I don’t take whores in taxis”: Casual sexism in scientific journal leads to editor’s note

with 57 comments

Author Stuart Pimm.

Author Stuart Pimm

The Elsevier journal Biological Conservation has put out an apology, but not a retraction, after outcry over a bizarre, misogynistic non sequitur in a book review by Duke conservation biologist Stuart Pimm.

Here’s the introduction to Pimm’s review of Keeping the Wild: Against the Domestication of Earth, which went online in October ahead of its December print publication: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Cat Ferguson

November 21st, 2014 at 11:40 am

At a snail’s pace: Species rediscovered, but paper on its disappearance remains

with 11 comments

biology lettersA few weeks ago, in Weekend Reads, we highlighted the story of a snail species, thought to have gone extinct thanks to global warming, that had been rediscovered.

Now, as first reported by The Scientist, the journal in question has addressed the issue.

Here’s the story: In 2007, Biology Letters published a paper by Justin Gerlach describing the extinction of the Aldabra banded snail. But as journal editor Richard Battarbee notes: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

October 17th, 2014 at 9:30 am

Authors of three retracted PLOS ONE papers to retract four more, with one researcher resigning

with 41 comments

ChemosphereThe hits keep coming for a research group at the Institute of Microbial Technology (IMTECH) in Chandigarh, India.

Last week, we reported that PLoS ONE was retracting three papers by the research group because “there are no data available underlying this study and thus…the published results are fabricated.” Now, according to The Hindu, four more papers are being retracted:
Read the rest of this entry »

Republished Seralini GMO-rat study was not peer-reviewed, says editor

with 38 comments

env sci europeIn our coverage Tuesday of the republication of the controversial retracted study of GMOs and rats by Gilles Seralini and colleagues, we wrote this about a strange passage in an editor’s note on the paper:

The republished study was peer-reviewed, according to the press materials, and Seralini confirmed that it was in an email to Retraction Watch. But we were curious what “any kind of appraisal of the paper’s content should not be connoted” meant. We asked Seralini and the editor of Environmental Sciences Europe, Henner Hollert, but neither responded.

Hollert has responded to the same question from Nature, which reports: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

June 26th, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Retracted Seralini GMO-rat study republished

with 39 comments

env sci europeA highly controversial — and retracted — 2012 study by Gilles Seralini and colleagues of the effects of genetically modified maize and the Roundup herbicide on rats has been republished.

Retraction Watch readers may recall that the editor of Food and Chemical Toxicology decided to retract the heavily criticized paper because it was “inconclusive.” The editor, A. Wallace Hayes, claimed that this was consistent with Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) guidelines, although we and many others disagreed.

Here’s the original abstract of the Food and Chemical Toxicology paper, which has been cited 55 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

June 24th, 2014 at 5:00 am