Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘public health/safety’ Category

“A gut-wrenching experience:” Authors retract, replace JAMA paper

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When economist Jason Hockenberry looked at data comparing some of the financial issues facing different U.S. hospitals, he was surprised by what he saw.

Hockenberry was examining the effects of a recently introduced U.S. program that penalizes hospitals with relatively high rates of readmissions for certain conditions by reducing Medicare payments. Although Hockenberry expected hospitals that serve low-income and uninsured patients to have more readmissions (and therefore more penalties), he saw these so-called “safety-net hospitals” had been steadily improving their performance since the program began in 2012, and had faced fewer penalties over time.

The results were so striking, they ended up in JAMA on April 18, 2017. But within one week after publication, Hockenberry learned outside researchers had raised questions about the analysis.

The outside researchers thought the authors had incorrectly categorized some of the safety-net hospitals. After looking into their concerns, Hockenberry — based at Emory University in Atlanta — realized the analysis did contain errors that affect the findings. This week, he and his co-authors retracted the article, replacing it with a corrected version. The new paper still reports that the gap between the penalties faced by safety-net and non-safety-net hospitals is closing — but not for the reasons they initially thought.  

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Journal republishes withdrawn paper on emergency care prices, amid controversy

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The Annals of Emergency Medicine has republished a controversial paper it withdrew earlier this year which compared the cost of emergency care at different types of facilities.

Because the paper drew heavy criticism when it was originally released, the journal has published a revised version, along with several editorials and discussions between the authors and critics. One point of contention: The analysis stems from data provided by an insurance company — Blue Cross Blue Shield — which it declined to share.

The paper — originally published in February —  caught national attention (and raised concerns among some emergency care providers) when it reported the cost of treatment in emergency departments can be significantly higher than at urgent care centers, even for the same conditions. The journal withdrew the paper in spring, and re-published it Tuesday, with minor changes.

First author Vivian Ho at Rice University told us she made “slight changes”  to some headings, phrases, and the appendix, but:

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Amid legal battle, psych journal issuing caution about torture paper

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A psychology journal plans to issue an editor’s note about a controversial paper exploring what the author called “the biggest scandal to hit” the American Psychological Association (APA) in years.

The note cautions readers that the subject of the paper, published in the SAGE journal Teaching of Psychology, is part of a pending lawsuit, and that “teachers considering using the article in their classrooms” should watch for developments in the case.   Read the rest of this entry »

What should journals do when peer reviewers do not disclose potential conflicts?

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Peer reviewers, like authors, are supposed to declare any potential conflicts of interest. But what happens when they don’t?

Take this case: In a court transcript from Feb. 23, 2017, Bryan Hardin testified that he was a peer reviewer on a 2016 paper in Critical Reviews in Toxicology, which found that asbestos does not increase the risk of cancer. In the deposition, Hardin—who works at the consulting firm Veritox—also said that he has testified in asbestos litigation on behalf of automakers, such as Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler, but said he had not disclosed these relationships to the journal.

Last year, the first author of the 2016 review withdrew a paper from another journal (by the same publisher) which concluded asbestos roofing products are safe, following several criticisms — including not disclosing the approving editor’s ties to the asbestos industry. In this latest case, the journal told us it believes the review process for the paper was up to snuff, but two outside experts we consulted said they believed Hardin’s relationships — and failure to disclose them — should give the journal pause.

We obtained a copy of the transcript from Christian Hartley, who was representing a man suing a mining company because the man developed cancer after being exposed to asbestos at work. When Hartley asked Hardin whether he had told the journal about testifying for companies involved in asbestos litigation, Hardin responded:

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Plagiarism costs author five papers in five different journals

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An engineering researcher has written about models tackling a range of complex issues — security problems in Iraq, poverty in Europe, and emergency responses to humanitarian crises. But there may be some limits to his expertise: Between 2016 and 2017, five journals have retracted five of his papers, citing plagiarism.

Some of the notices describe the plagiarism as “extensive,” “significant,” and “substantial.” One journal editor, who retracted one of Kubilay Kaptan’s papers last year, told us the paper “was simply a direct copy from an existing one.”

The editor noted that Kaptan — who lists his affiliation as the Civil Engineering Department at Beykent University in Istanbul — claimed to be “the victim of a personal smear campaign, which involved submitting plagiarised manuscripts in his name.” We reached out to Kaptan several times by phone and email to verify this claim, but did not hear back.

Here’s the most recent retraction, for a 2016 paper published in Journal of Refugee Studies  Read the rest of this entry »

Battle between public health journal and editorial board wages on

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Past and present members of the editorial board of a public health journal have filed a formal complaint against the publisher after it appointed an editor with industry ties without consulting the board, and unilaterally retracted a paper by the former editor.

Meanwhile, the board and publisher of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health continue to exchange letters about the issue; the latest from the publisher, Taylor & Francis, answers some of the board’s ongoing questions — and declines to answer others.

For instance, managing director Ian Bannerman previously told the board that the publisher “reached out to” editorial board member Jukka Takala of the Workplace Safety and Health Institute in Singapore (by phone and email) before contacting new editor Andrew Maier. Takala told us last month, however, he was “never consulted on Dr. Maier.” In a letter dated May 25, Bannerman told the board:

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Written by Alison McCook

June 6th, 2017 at 9:30 am

BMJ journal yanks paper on cancer screening in India for fear of legal action

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BMJ Global Health has pulled a paper that criticized U.S. research of the effects of cervical cancer screening in India over defamation concerns.

That’s not what the notice on the paper says, however — at the moment, it just reads:

This article has been withdrawn.

However, forwarded email correspondence between the first author and an associate publisher reveals the journal published the paper and planned a press release, then realized it should be reviewed by a legal adviser. When first author Eric J. Suba at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center inquired about the status of the paper and any potential press release, he was told the journal could no longer publish it, out of concern they would be taken to court.

Suba told us that, when he learned the paper would be pulled:

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Gender-based violence researcher now up to 10 retractions for plagiarism

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A publisher has retracted all of the papers it published by a researcher in Nigeria, citing plagiarism.

The papers, all about terrorism and gender-based violence, were written by Oluwaseun Bamidele. The journal editors and the publisher, Taylor & Francis, decided to retract nine papers by Bamidele because of the overlap to other works — which he also failed to reference.

Bamidele — who also lost a paper on Boko Haram for the same reason — told us he didn’t learn about what constitutes plagiarism until his graduate studies, after he’d already written the now-retracted manuscripts:

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Publisher responds to public health journal editorial board’s “grave concerns”

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A representative of Taylor & Francis has responded to concerns raised by former and current editorial board members of an occupational health journal, after the publisher took some significant actions without consulting the board.

The board’s main concerns: That the publisher hired a new editor with industry ties, and withdrew a paper by the former editor that was critical of corporate-sponsored research.

In a letter to the editorial board of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health dated last week, managing director Ian Bannerman writes:

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Written by Alison McCook

May 12th, 2017 at 12:15 pm

Despite author’s protest, journal removes paper on emergency department prices

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A journal has temporarily removed a paper showing the dramatic differences in the cost of providing emergency care that caught national attention (and some criticism from emergency care providers), despite the first author’s claims that the results are valid.

The paper, published online in February by the Annals of Emergency Medicine, showed that it can cost significantly more for patients to be treated at emergency departments than at urgent care centers, even for the same conditions. Soon after the paper was published, first author Vivian Ho at Rice University was told by the American College of Emergency Physicians, which publishes the journal, that there were some errors in the appendix, and they wanted to reanalyze the entire paper.

Ho told us:

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