Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘public health/safety’ Category

Public health journal’s editorial board tells publisher they have “grave concerns” over new editor

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First, an occupational health journal appointed a new editor with industry ties without consulting the editorial board. Then, with no explanation, it withdrew a paper by the previous editor that was critical of corporate-sponsored research — again, without consulting the editorial board.

At that point, they’d had enough.

Yesterday, the editorial board of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health sent a letter to the publisher, Taylor & Francis, expressing their “grave concerns” over the future of the journal, and its recent actions.

As part of the letter — signed by 30 past and present editorial members and the founding editor — they write:

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Written by Alison McCook

April 27th, 2017 at 9:30 am

If you use this research tool without permission, you’ll hear about it

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Sometimes, a seemingly run-of-the-mill retraction notice turns out to be much less straightforward.

Such was the case with a recent retraction of a 2016 paper in a journal published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, apparently over permission to use an evaluation scale designed to test whether patients take their medications as prescribed. But when we looked into this story, we learned this retraction was only the tip of the iceberg – a representative of the evaluation scale (titled “Chief Investigator”) told us he has contacted hundreds of so-called “infringers” over the last year who used the scale without permission. The authors must then apply retroactively and show they’ve used it correctly, and may even have to pay fees. Or, in the case of the retraction we saw (and at least one other in 2016), pull the paper.

According to the chief investigator, Steve Trubow, who oversees licensing and use of the scale worldwide, for some uses, there is no fee – but depending on what the researchers are using the Morisky Medication Adherence Scale (MMAS-8) for, it can cost up to $100,000. Once they’ve used it without permission, there are fees for that, too, Trubow told us:

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“Boom, headshot!” Disputed video game paper retracted

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After a years-long dispute over a 2012 paper which suggested there might be some effects of first-person shooter video games on players, the journal has retracted the paper.

The stated reason in the notice: Some outside researchers spotted irregularities in the data, and contacted the corresponding author’s institution, Ohio State University, in 2015. Since the original data were missing, Communication Research is retracting the paper, with the corresponding author’s okay.

But as our story last month about this years-long dispute reported, there is a bit more to it.  Read the rest of this entry »

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