Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘corrections’ Category

Chemistry journal issues correction longer than original paper

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A 2011 chemistry paper required corrections so extensive that the author published the changes as a second, longer paper.

Both papers, published in the Chinese Journal of Chemistry, described the synthesis of a protein molecule with potential therapeutic applications in cancer. But when the paper’s corresponding author Yikang Wu tried to continue the work, he discovered that a substantial part of the 2011 study was incorrect.

The original paper is not marked with any editor’s note, even though the new paper — which is three pages longer than the 2011 version — acknowledges it is a “partial retraction/correction of previous results.” The new paper does appear in the list of “related content” for the 2011 article.

Given the errors, in the 2017 paper, Wu and his co-authors write: Read the rest of this entry »

Journal knew about problems in a high-profile study before it came out — and did nothing for over a month

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In June, Gene Emery, a journalist for Reuters Health, was assigned to write a story about an upcoming paper in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, set to come off embargo and be released to the public in a few days. Pretty quickly, he noticed something seemed off.

Emery saw that the data presented in the tables of the paper — about awareness of the problem of heart disease among women and their doctors — didn’t seem to match the authors’ conclusions. For instance, on a scale of 1 to 5 rating preparedness to assess female patients’ risk (with 5 being the most prepared), 64% of doctors answered 4 or 5; but the paper said “only a minority” of doctors felt well-prepared (findings echoed in an accompanying press release). On Monday June 19, four days before the paper was set to publish, Emery told the corresponding author — C. Noel Bairey Merz, Medical Director of the Women’s Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles — about the discrepancy; she told him to rely on the data in the table.

But the more Emery and his editors looked, the more problems they found with the paper. They alerted the journal hours before it was set to publish, hoping that was enough to halt the process. It wasn’t.

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Journal corrects paper by researcher sanctioned for misconduct

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A biology journal has issued a correction to a 2014 paper by a researcher with 11 retractions, citing “inadvertent errors” that don’t affect the conclusions.

The researcher, Rony Seger, was recently sanctioned by his institution (The Weizmann Institute in Israel) following a finding of “serious misconduct” involving data manipulation. Specifically, the institute barred him from supervising graduate students, even future ones; his lab is now dedicated to replicating his previous work, with the help of a technician.

Last month, Michal Neeman, vice president of The Weizmann Institute of Science, told us she wasn’t sure how many additional papers by Seger would need to be retracted or corrected.

Recently, one more was revealed — in the August issue of Molecular and Cellular Biology, the following correction notice appears:

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JAMA tells readers: “Caution advised.” Here’s why.

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Last week, JAMA issued some unusual notices, letting readers know they should use caution when reading an editorial and letters associated with now-retracted articles by a bone researcher in Japan.

The notices — for papers by Yoshihiro Sato, now up to 14 retractions — remind readers not to heed the results of the now-retracted papers, and alert them to read any associated materials (specifically, an editorial in JAMA and letters in JAMA Internal Medicine) with caution.

The text of the notices describes them as “formal correction notices;” we asked Annette Flanagin, executive managing editor at The JAMA Network, why they chose that approach, instead of an expression of concern or retraction:

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Newspaper series prompts CDC to correct paper on Legionnaire’s disease

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Post-publication peer review isn’t just for scientists. Newspaper reporters can help correct the scientific record, too.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has corrected a journal article on Legionnaire’s disease after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette revealed what seems to be efforts by the researchers to misrepresent their data.

In a series of articles last December, the newspaper raised questions about the CDC’s actions in the aftermath of outbreaks in 2011 and 2012 of Legionnaire’s that sickened 22 veterans, killing six. The Post-Gazette obtained emails from CDC scientists that appeared to reveal their disdain for the sterilization method the hospital had been using to suppress the growth of Legionella bacteria. That method, a copper-silver system, is widely considered to be effective. But according to the newspaper, the CDC investigators were so critical of the copper-silver disinfectant technology that the VA ultimately switched to a system based on chlorine.   Read the rest of this entry »

Months after neuroscientist flagged errors, Nature journal corrects them — and more

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When a neuroscientist noticed there were problems with his January 2017 paper in Nature Neuroscience, he didn’t wait for the journal to take action — instead, he published his concerns about four figures on PubMed Commons. Months later, the journal has issued formal corrections to those figures — along with several more.   

In February 2017, we praised Garret Stuber for alerting the scientific community to issues in his paper only 10 days after it first appeared online. On Twitter, he directed followers to the comment on PubMed Commons and asked them to retweet “for the sake of science integrity” — yet another example of how more researchers are taking matters into their own hands to alert readers to flaws in their papers. But according to the journal, the problems with the paper were more extensive than Stuber initially reported. Read the rest of this entry »

More notices appear for embattled Cornell food researcher

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Journals have posted two corrections alongside papers by Brian Wansink, a food researcher whose work has lately come under fire.

One of the corrected papers was among the initial batch that raised eyebrows last year; after Wansink praised the productivity of one of his researchers, critics suggested four papers contained critical flaws. The questions about his work soon extended to other papers, one of which was retracted in April. That month, an internal review by Cornell University announced that Wansink made numerous mistakes, but did not commit misconduct. Wansink has pledged to reanalyze multiple papers.

One paper that was among those initially criticized has received a formal correction notice from the Journal of Product & Brand Management. The notice, which appears behind a paywall, has drawn fire from a regular critic of Wansink’s work, Jordan Anaya, who argues “this correction actually needs a correction, actually several.”

Here’s the notice for “Peak-end pizza: prices delay evaluations of quality:”

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Historian returns prize for high-profile book with 70+ corrections

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A historian based at Columbia University has returned a 2014 prize after criticisms prompted him to issue more than 70 corrections to his prominent book about North Korea.

Charles Armstrong told Retraction Watch he returned the 2014 John K. Fairbank Prize he received for “Tyranny of the Weak” due to “numerous citation errors.” The book has faced heavy criticism, including allegations of plagiarism and using invalid sources.

The American Historical Society, which issues the Fairbank Prize, released a statement last week:

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Written by Alison McCook

July 5th, 2017 at 10:55 am

Big corrections usually weaken findings. But a recent NEJM one strengthened them, author says

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A 2016 study in New England Journal of Medicine has received a substantial correction, which affected several aspects of the article.

Typically, an error that affects so much of a paper would undermine the results (and possibly lead to a retraction). But in this case, the revised dose calculations actually strengthened the findings, according to the first author.

The NEJM study aimed to clarify whether patients with a neuromuscular disease called myasthenia gravis benefit from a surgical procedure to remove the thymus. About half of the patients received surgery plus the steroid prednisone, while the rest only received the steroid. The researchers found patients who received the surgery fared better.

Shortly after the paper was published in August 2016, the authors discovered an error in the calculation of the average prednisone dose. According to Gil Wolfe, the first author of the paper, when the researchers corrected the error: Read the rest of this entry »

Nature paper adds non-reproducibility to its list of woes

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Despite taking some serious hits, a 2006 letter in Nature isn’t going anywhere.

Years ago, a university committee determined that two figures in the letter had been falsified. The journal chose to correct the paper, rather than retract it — and then, the next year, published a correction of that correction due to “an error in the production process.” To round it out, in June of last year, Nature published a rebuttal from a separate research group, who had failed to replicate the letter’s results.

Still, the first author told us there are no plans to retract the paper, since the follow up experiments published in the corrections confirmed the paper’s conclusions.

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Written by Cat Ferguson

March 21st, 2017 at 9:30 am