Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘public health/safety’ Category

A journal said it would retract a paper about asbestos — now it’s “withdrawn.” What changed?

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journal-of-occupational-and-environmental-hygieneEarlier this year, an environmental journal told an activist group it was going to retract a study about the safety of roofing products made from asbestos. Now the journal has let the authors withdraw the paper — a different process, according to the journal.

The move follows multiple letters from critics asking to retract a study, which found exposure to asbestos-containing roofing products to be within safe limits. The study’s critics claimed that it contains multiple problems, including not declaring the approving editor’s links with the asbestos industry, grouping together different materials with varying levels of asbestos exposures, and providing misleading information.

Although the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (JOEH) initially said it planned to retract the paper, last month, Stephen Reynolds, president of JOEH’s board of directors, sent a letter to Kathleen Ruff, director of the organization Right On Canada, saying plans had changed: Read the rest of this entry »

Journal reverses acceptance of study linking vaccines to autism

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A journal posted an abstract online suggesting a link between vaccines and autism. After a firestorm of criticism, it removed the abstract, saying it was going to be re-reviewed. Now, the journal has decided to formally reject it.

As we reported last month, Frontiers in Public Health removed the abstract after it sparked criticism on social media. After doing so, the journal released a public statement claiming that the paper was “provisionally accepted but not published,” noting that the journal had reverted it to peer review to ensure it was re-reviewed.

Now, Gearóid Ó Faoleán, ethics and integrity manager at Frontiers (the journal’s publisher), told Retraction Watch that after consultation with an external expert, the journal has rejected the paper, adding: Read the rest of this entry »

Study linking vaccines to autism pulled following heavy criticism

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Frontiers in Public HealthA study linking vaccines to autism and other neurological problems has been removed by a Frontiers journal after receiving heavy criticism since it was accepted last week. 

The abstract — published online in Frontiers in Public Health after being accepted November 21 — reported findings from anonymous online questionnaires completed by 415 mothers of home-schooled children 6-12 years old. Nearly 40 percent of children had not been vaccinated, and those that had were three times more likely to be diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, the study found.

After receiving criticism on Twitter, Frontiers released a public statement, noting that the study was only “provisionally accepted but not published,” and is being re-reviewed. When asked for a comment, a Frontiers spokesperson referred us to the statement. Read the rest of this entry »

Journal editor resigns over firestorm from circumcision article

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10-5409-logoCircumcision is a hot topic. So hot, questions about a reviewer’s potential conflict with the author of an article promoting circumcision prompted a journal editor to resign, and one academic to call another a “fanatic.”

It began in August, when Brian Morris, professor emeritus of molecular medicine at the University of Sydney, published a critique of a paper that itself had critiqued the practice of circumcision. But the sole reviewer of Morris’s article was a frequent co-author of his, Aaron Tobian of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. In his reference section, Morris listed five papers on which he and Tobian were co-authors.

A tipster forwarded us emails from Eduardo Garin, editor in chief of the journal, saying he had resigned from the journal after it refused to retract the paper, despite the fact that its sole reviewer was a frequent collaborator of the author. However, Garin is still listed as editor in chief on the journal’s site.  

Garin confirmed to us that he resigned after the publisher refused to retract or correct the Morris article; however, Xiu-Xia Song, vice director of the editorial office at Baishideng, told us by email that Garin is still the journal’s editor.

Here are some specifics:

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Danish university revokes PhD of anti-terrorism researcher

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Nasrullah Memon

Nasrullah Memon

Anti-terrorism researcher Nasrullah Memon has lost his PhD after a committee in Denmark found he had plagiarized his doctoral thesis.

He’s also recently been let go by his latest employer, the University of Southern Denmark in Odense; a spokesperson for the university told us the decision stemmed from budgetary cutbacks, and was unrelated to the loss of his PhD.

We previously reported on 15 retractions for papers co-authored by Memon; in 2014, the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD) ruled that Memon’s thesis had been plagiarized.

In May this year, an official from Aalborg University (AAU) in Denmark — where Memon earned his PhD — told us the university was considering whether to revoke Memon’s PhD. They ultimately decided to do so, Inger Askehave, AAU’s pro-rector, told Retraction Watch: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

November 8th, 2016 at 9:30 am

Retracted paper linking HPV vaccine to behavioral issues republished after revisions

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immunological-researchA retracted study linking the vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV) to behavioral problems in mice has been republished by a different journal.

The paper has been significantly revised, an author told us, but it still comes the same conclusions. 

In February, the journal Vaccine temporarily removed the study without explanation, and told the authors the editor had asked for further review. Later that month, Vaccine retracted the paper, citing “serious concerns regarding the scientific soundness of the article,” and “seriously flawed” methodology. 

In July, another journal — Immunologic Research — republished the paper. The new version of the paper has been significantly changed, co-author Christopher Shaw from the University of British Columbia (UBC) told Retraction Watch:

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Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

October 24th, 2016 at 11:30 am

A paper on chemical safety was accepted one day after submission. Was it peer reviewed?

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Toxicology Reports

Some scientists raise their eyebrows when they see a paper was accepted only a day or two after being submitted — which is exactly what happened during an academic debate over a controversial topic: e-cigarettes.

In 2015, a group of Harvard researchers published a paper in Environmental Health Perspectives suggesting the flavoring added to e-cigarettes could be harmful; the next year, another group criticized the paper in the journal, noting the chemicals may not be as dangerous as the original paper claimed. The Harvard researchers then fired back, noting that the criticism cited two papers that were accepted within one and three days after submission, and therefore “appear not to have been peer reviewed.”

However, a little digging suggests otherwise. 

The editor of the journal that published both of the cited papers in question — Toxicology Reports — told us the papers were peer reviewed at Toxicology, but transferred to his journal as part of a process known as portable peer review.

Here are more details from Lawrence Lash, editor-in-chief of Toxicology Reports from Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, Michigan: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

October 5th, 2016 at 9:35 am

Journal to retract study declaring safety of asbestos roofs: Report

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joehOnly a few months after publication, an environmental journal has told an activist group it plans to retract a paper about the safety of roofing products containing asbestos after facing heavy criticism.

This summer, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (JOEH) received multiple letters asking the to retract the paper. Critics of the paper — which concluded that exposures to asbestos-containing roofing products were within safety limits — argued the article provided misleading information, grouped different materials with different asbestos exposures together, and failed to note the approving editor’s ties to the asbestos industry.

The article was published as a case study, which is considered a type of “column” by the journal, thereby bypassing its peer-review system; according to an email the journal sent to the organization Right on Canada (which a representative forwarded to Retraction Watch), this served as the basis for the journal’s decision to pull the paper.

According to the email, the journal’s editorial board decided on August 10 to retract “Airborne asbestos exposures associated with the installation and removal of roofing products” due to

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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 »

Study of air quality around Damien Hirst’s artwork retracted — against most authors’ wishes

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via Flickr Commons

Damien Hirst’s “Away From The Flock” — exhibited at Tate Britain, via Flickr Commons

The corresponding author of the study that detected toxic leaks from the work of prominent British artist Damien Hirst has now retracted it — but most of his co-authors disagree with the decision.

The April Analytical Methods study was covered extensively by the media when it suggested staff at Damien Hirst’s 2012 exhibition at Tate Gallery in London of dead animals embalmed in formaldehyde were being exposed to higher than recommended levels of the carcinogen. 

Tate and Hirst’s company, Science Limited, immediately objected to the results; we’ve obtained what appears to be letter from a lawyer for Science Limited to the corresponding author of the paper — Pier Giorgio Righetti of the Polytechnic University of Milan in Italy — saying it was “deeply concerned and troubled by the claims” in the paper.

Last month, the journal issued an expression of concern (EOC) for the paper, nothing the data may not be reliable, and on July 15, Righetti announced in a joint statement with Hirst’s company that he will be retracting his study.

Now, the paper has been officially retracted, noting more recent measurements show formaldehyde levels to be much lower than originally reported. But most of Righetti’s co-authors disagree with the decision, the notice says:  Read the rest of this entry »