Retraction Watch readers may be familiar with the story of a paper about gender differences by two mathematicians. Last month, in Weekend Reads, we highlighted an account of that story, which appeared in Quillette.
The piece, by one of the paper’s authors — titled “Academic Activists Send a Published Paper Down the Memory Hole” — touches on issues familiar to those who follow the culture wars, which isn’t all that surprising given the controversial topic, one once discussed by then-Harvard president Larry Summers.
A biologist is crying foul at a journal’s decision to correct (and not retract) a paper he claims plagiarized his work — and one of his colleagues has resigned from the journal’s editorial board as a result.
The 2016 paper,publishedbyScientificReports, is an application of a previously published algorithm designed to better identify regulatory sequences in DNA. The three authors, based at the Shenzhen campus of the Harbin Institute of Technology, used the technique to identify recombination spots in DNA. They called it SVM-gkm.
On April 2, Michael Beer of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore notified the editors of Scientific Reports that he believed the paper had plagiarized his work. Despite Beer’s efforts, the journal ultimately decided to issue a correction notice, which cites “errors” and the authors’ failure to credit Beer’s work. That isn’t good enough for Beer — nor one of his colleagues at Johns Hopkins, who resigned from the journal’s editorial board saying “the recent affair with Mike Beer’s work being plagiarized did not impress me.”
A mathematics journal has withdrawn a paper after discovering that the results were not new.
The paper, published online in March in Communications in Algebra, explored the properties of group rings, a discipline of algebra. According to editor-in-chief of the journal, Jason Bell, author Francis E. A. Johnson, a professor of mathematics at the University College London, devised a property associated with group rings, and defined it using the term “weakly finite.” But, at the time, Johnson was not aware that other experts had already defined the same property, using the term “stably finite.”
Bell, a professor of mathematics at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, and Lance Small, the journal’s other editor-in-chief, stressed that this issue was “definitely not a matter of plagiarism.” Bell and Small told us in a joint statement that “it was ultimately no one’s fault—it is just one of these things that can happen occasionally in mathematics research.” But given the overlap, the editors thought it best to withdraw the paper, they said:Continue reading No new math: Journal pulls math paper with “already known” results
A Rutgers computer scientist is retracting conference proceedings via an unusual channel: his personal blog.
On April 7, Anand Sarwate wrote that he was retracting a mathematical proof from the proceedings from the 2016 IEEE International Conference on Acoustics, Speech, and Signal Processing (ICASSP), after discovering errors that invalidated the result.
He explains in the blog post why the mistake occurred:
After issuing a retraction notice May 30 for a biomedical engineering paper, the journal has since pulled the notice, citing “a potential problem.”
After doing some digging, we’ve learned more about the “potential problem.”
Apparently, the retraction was requested by Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore. NTU has been investigating the first author for months, after it received an allegation about an unrelated manuscript. As a result, NTU terminated first author Hamidreza Namazi‘s contract as a research fellow earlier this year.
As part of the investigation, NTU began to look at Namazi’s other papers, and discovered several with potential problems — including this one, which NTU believes did not receive proper ethical approvals. So it contacted the journal to raise its concerns.
Namazi, however, told us that he and his colleague obtained approval from another organization, but didn’t make that clear in the paper — so the journal has retracted its retraction notice while it investigates Namazi’s claim.
Last week, we wrote about a somewhat remarkable retraction, of a 15-year-old paper by a current Illinois senator who used to be a mathematician. At the time, we were a bit perplexed by the language of the notice, which the senator — who helpfully took our call — couldn’t answer, since he wasn’t involved in drafting the notice.
We’ve since heard back from the journal that retracted the paper, which explained that their phrase that “most results are false” meant the findings by state senator Daniel Biss were inaccurate — not fraudulent.
Here’s more explanation from a joint statement sent to us by Jan van Mill and Jerry Vaughan, the editors in chief of Topology and its Applications:
Here’s something you don’t see every day: A state senator with an academic publication record, in his former career as a mathematician. Even more unusual: A retraction of one of his 15-year-old papers, after the journal realized most of the results were incorrect.
According to the notice, some aspects of the paper by Daniel Biss — now a democratic Illinois State Senator — are also “ambiguous.”
We spoke with Senator Biss, who told us he had been contacted by an editor who told him someone had raised questions about the paper, but he didn’t have much input in the notice: