Data mishap forces retraction of paper on gun laws, domestic killings

The authors of a 2018 paper on the effects of gun laws on domestic violence have retracted the article after discovering errors in their analysis and replaced it with a clean version. The new study shows that some gun laws — particularly ones that keep firearms out of the hands of violent offenders, even if their offenses don’t involve domestic assaults — do seem to reduce the incidence of domestic killings.

The paper, which appeared last November in the American Journal of Epidemiology and received some press coverage, including this piece in the New York Times, looked specifically at whether laws that keep guns away from people convicted of violent crimes beyond domestic abuse reduce the number of intimate partner homicides. It also considered the effect of laws that covered dating partners and not simply spouses or former spouses. The first author is April Zeoli, of Michigan State University. Zeoli has published other papers on the topic and delivered a TEDMED talk on it as well.

According to the abstract of the article: Continue reading Data mishap forces retraction of paper on gun laws, domestic killings

How much cancer stems from diabetes, obesity? Lancet journal swaps high-profile paper

Six months ago, the media was ablaze with the findings of a new paper, showing that nearly six percent of cancer cases are caused, at least in part, by obesity and diabetes. But this week, the journal retracted that paper — and replaced it with a revised version.

The new paper doesn’t change the main findings much — the share of all cancers attributable to diabetes and obesity changed from 5.6% to 5.7%, which wouldn’t change any headlines about the original paper. But soon after the paper was published, a group of researchers noticed the authors’ mistake — which was significant enough to prompt the journal to retract the paper entirely, and swap it with a new one.

According to first author Jonathan Pearson-Stuttard at Imperial College London:

Continue reading How much cancer stems from diabetes, obesity? Lancet journal swaps high-profile paper

A frustrated former editor asked a publishing group for help. He didn’t like what they said.

When the former editor of a public health journal didn’t get a straight answer about why the journal retracted his paper that was critical of corporate-sponsored research, he brought his concerns to an organization dedicated to promoting integrity in academic publishing. He wanted the group to help resolve the impasse he’d reached with the publisher, but was sorely disappointed.

David Egilman, the former editor of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, had been seeking answers about the paper for a year. In November, the journal’s editorial board resigned, in protest of the “apparent new direction that the journal appears to be moving towards.” They objected to the “unilateral withdraw[al]” of Egilman’s paper, with little explanation, the delay in publishing other papers that had been accepted under Egilman’s leadership, and the decision to appoint a new editor with industry ties.

Amidst all that upheaval at the journal, Egilman still wasn’t getting the answers he wanted about why his paper was withdrawn. So he brought his concerns to the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE).

Continue reading A frustrated former editor asked a publishing group for help. He didn’t like what they said.

Don’t like a paper, but don’t want to retract it? Just issue an “editorial statement”

Last April, the American Journal of Epidemiology and the American Journal of Public Health published a rare joint editorial statement. It concerned a pair of papers on the topic of mortality and obesity. Several complaints had prompted the journals to investigate. Their assessment: These papers contained inaccurate results.

The statement was not a retraction—it was a compromise the editors came up with that would set the academic record straight, while not tainting the authors’ publication record, given that they had (in the editors’ opinion) made honest mistakes. It was an unusual solution to a not-uncommon problem (criticisms of a paper), in which the editors tried to balance their duty to the scientific record against its potential impact on the authors. And it left few people happy — including researchers in the field, who are left unsure about the validity of the results.

Roland Sturm, an economist at Pardee RAND Graduate School who was not a co-author on the papers, told Retraction Watch:

Continue reading Don’t like a paper, but don’t want to retract it? Just issue an “editorial statement”

Study that said hate cuts 12 years off gay lives fails to replicate

A highly cited paper has received a major correction as a result of the ongoing battle over attitudes towards gay people, when a prominent — and polarizing — critic showed it could not be replicated.  

In December 2017, researchers led by Mark Hatzenbuehler of Columbia University corrected the paper, originally published in Social Science & Medicine in February 2014, which showed that gay people who live in areas where people were highly prejudiced against them had a significantly shorter life expectancy. The corrigendum came more than a year after a researcher who has testified against same-sex marriage was unable to replicate the original study.

“Structural stigma and all-cause mortality in sexual minority populations,” has been cited 102 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, and attracted media coverage when it was published, from outlets such as Reuters and U.S. News & World Report.

Continue reading Study that said hate cuts 12 years off gay lives fails to replicate

For the second time, researchers retract — then republish — a vaccine paper

Photo credit: Blake Patterson

Two researchers with a troubled publication history about vaccine safety have withdrawn their third paper.

Along with several other co-authors, Christopher Shaw, of the University of British Columbia, and Lucija Tomljenovic, of the Neural Dynamics Research Group, recently withdrew a 2017 paper about a controversy over a tetanus vaccination program in Kenya.  

The paper has been republished in the same journal, adding another chapter to Shaw and Tomljenovic’s confusing record of publishing and withdrawing papers. The journal did not respond to our request for comment, but Shaw told Retraction Watch:

Continue reading For the second time, researchers retract — then republish — a vaccine paper

Journal retracts “hopelessly flawed” paper linking cell phone radiation to pain

Mario Romero-Ortega. Credit: UT-Dallas

A journal is retracting a paper linking radio waves from cell phone towers to pain in amputees, despite objections from the authors.

Anthropogenic Radio-Frequency Electromagnetic Fields Elicit Neuropathic Pain in an Amputation Model,” originally published Jan. 16, 2016 in PLOS ONE, suggested that rats with injured nerves experienced pain when exposed to the type of electromagnetic radiation emitted by cell phone network towers. A press release issued by the University of Texas at Dallas (UT-Dallas) — where the corresponding author Mario Romero-Ortega and two co-first authors are based — said that this phenomenon has been reported anecdotally by people missing limbs.

But the study, especially its methodology, met with immediate criticism in the article’s comment section. PLOS ONE noted in March 2016 that the authors had contacted the journal regarding an error in some of the exposure levels reported in the study, which journal staff were “looking into.” In December 2016, the journal told the authors it was going to retract the paper. Now, more than one year later, it finally has.

Ken Foster, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who commented in February 2016 that the paper was “hopelessly flawed,” told us: Continue reading Journal retracts “hopelessly flawed” paper linking cell phone radiation to pain

RAND re-releases withdrawn report modelling child mistreatment

A think tank has re-issued a report on child welfare in the U.S., six months after it pulled the document amidst criticism from dozens of researchers.

The report offered policy recommendations for improving the child welfare system, based on numerical modeling conducted by researchers at the RAND Corporation.

RAND pulled the initial version of the report in June, after researchers — including Richard Barth, dean of the University of Maryland’s school of social work and Emily Putnam-Hornstein, of the University of Southern California — criticized the model for underestimating the rate of maltreatment over a child’s lifetime.

The report, reissued Dec. 11, contains updates detailing how the RAND researchers addressed the criticism. However, Jeanne Ringel, a senior economist at RAND and the study’s lead author, told us: Continue reading RAND re-releases withdrawn report modelling child mistreatment

“This is about saving kids’ lives:” Authors update pivotal car seat safety results

A BMJ journal has published an updated analysis of a 2007 paper that shaped current car seat safety recommendations, which reports less conclusive findings about the safest way to install the seat.

The updated analysis follows an expression of concern the journal Injury Prevention added to the paper in June 2017, after the authors and an outside expert could not replicate the results.

The 2007 paper made a big claim: Children ages one to two years old are five times more likely to sustain serious injuries in a crash when restrained in a forward-facing car seat than a rear-facing seat.

Benjamin Hoffman, a professor of pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland who was not involved in the 2007 research, told us: Continue reading “This is about saving kids’ lives:” Authors update pivotal car seat safety results

Caught Our Notice: To know if someone’s been vaccinated, just asking isn’t enough

Via Wikimedia

Title: Hepatitis B Virus Infection in Preconception Period Among Women of Reproductive Age in Rural China – A Nationwide Study

What Caught Our Attention: When researchers set out to study hepatitis B among women in rural China, and they wanted to know if the women had been vaccinated against the virus, they simply asked them. While that can sometimes be useful, apparently it was a mistake in this case, as the reliance on patient memory injected too much doubt into these findings.  Continue reading Caught Our Notice: To know if someone’s been vaccinated, just asking isn’t enough