Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘doing the right thing’ Category

Labor pains study brought into this world twice

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YJPAI_v16_i6_COVER.inddA group of authors published two articles about one study on pain during childbirth, so one journal is retracting it.

This may seem like a standard case of salami slicing — but this one comes with a nearly 600-word commentary co-authored by the editors of the two journals in question.

The commentary lays out — in a refreshingly transparent way — exactly why the journals came to a joint decision to retract one of the papers:

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Makeup use linked to testosterone levels? Not so fast, says retraction

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Psych SciA psychology journal is retracting a 2015 paper that attracted press coverage by suggesting women’s hormone levels drive their desire to be attractive, after a colleague alerted the last author to flaws in the statistical analysis.

The paper, published online in November, found women prefer to wear makeup when there is more testosterone present in their saliva. The findings were picked up by various media including Psychology Today (“Feeling hormonal? Slap on the makeup”), and even made it onto

However, upon discovering a problem in the analysis of the data, the authors realized that central finding didn’t hold up, according to Psychological Science‘s interim editor, Stephen Lindsay: Read the rest of this entry »

News site The Intercept says reporter created fake quotes, sources

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interceptThe Intercept is apologizing to readers after an investigation revealed one of its reporters fabricated multiple quotes and even created a fake email address for a source to deceive his editors.

The online news site is retracting and correcting several articles by former staff writer Juan Thompson, who was employed there from November 2014 until last month.

In a note issued earlier today, editor Betsy Reed revealed some details of the results of the investigation to readers:

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What to do when you make a mistake? Advice from authors who’ve been there

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cpp-150After a group of researchers noticed an error that affected the analysis of a survey of psychologists working with medical teams to help pediatric patients, they didn’t just issue a retraction — they published a commentary explaining what exactly went wrong.

The error was discovered by a research assistant who was assembling a scientific poster, and noticed the data didn’t align with what was reported in the journal. The error, the authors note, was:

an honest one, a mistake of not reverse coding a portion of the data that none of the authors caught over several months of editing and conference calls. Unfortunately, this error led to misrepresentation and misinterpretation of a subset of the data, impacting the results and discussion.

Needless to say, these authors — who use their “lessons learned” to help other researchers avoid similar missteps — earn a spot in our “doing the right thing” category. The retraction and commentary both appear in Clinical Practice in Pediatric Psychology.

Their first piece of advice in “Retraction experience, lessons learned, and recommendations for clinician researchers” — assume errors will happen, and not vice versa: Read the rest of this entry »

Misidentified DNA leads authors to retract zebrafish cholesterol paper

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Authors are retracting a 2012 paper on cholesterol metabolism in zebrafish after realizing it included a case of mistaken identity in a DNA sequence crucial to some aspects of the experiment.  

A postdoc misidentified the plasmid in question after failing to fully sequence it before including it in the experiment. A technician in the lab found the mistake, last author Steven Farber, a researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Maryland, explained:

When the omitted region was correctly sequenced we discovered it had an error.

He told us in a phone interview what that felt like:

We were like, holy crap.

Next came months of back and forth with the journal, discussing whether to correct or retract the paper. Farber tells us the mistake, which affects two figures,

was unfortunate. Most of the paper is in fact correct.

The paper, “Visualization of Lipid Metabolism in the Zebrafish Intestine Reveals a Relationship between NPC1L1-Mediated Cholesterol Uptake and Dietary Fatty Acid,” published in Chemistry & Biology, has been cited 21 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

Here’s the detailed retraction noteRead the rest of this entry »

Neuroanatomy paper riddled with errors pulled by authors

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Journal-of-NeurosurgeryAuthors have retracted a paper from the Journal of Neurosurgery that contained many errors, including mislabeled figures, anatomical errors, and mismatched citations. They said that the paper’s preparation was rushed and not all authors had a chance to verify that it was accurate.

Two of the authors of the paper had previously contacted the journal to request the paper be withdrawn. Jo Ann Eliason, communications manager for the Journal of Neurosurgery, said that the withdrawal request came too late, since the paper had already been published online: Read the rest of this entry »

E. coli gene paper falls to mistaken mutation

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asmcoverResearchers in Germany have retracted their 2011 article in the Journal of Bacteriology after another lab pointed out a fatal error in the paper.

The article, “Escherichia coli Exports Cyclic AMP via TolC,” came from a group at Tübingen University led by Klaus Hantke. The paper focuses on the crucial role of the membrane channel TolC in exporting cyclic AMP (cAMP)-cAMP receptor protein (CRP) complex, which regulates nearly 200 E. coli genes. According to the abstract:

The data demonstrate that export of cAMP via TolC is a most efficient way of E. coli to lower high concentrations of cAMP in the cell and maintain its sensitivity in changing metabolic environments.

But the conclusions rested on a gene mutation that wasn’t quite what it seemed. Here’s the notice: Read the rest of this entry »

Astrophysicists issue two detailed corrections

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1.coverA group of astrophysicists has notched a pair of corrections for papers on galaxy clusters, thanks to an error that affected several figures in the papers, but not the overall conclusions.

The errors came in the catalog of “mock” galaxies that first author Fabio Zandanel, a postdoc at the University of Amsterdam, created to model features that are found in clusters of galaxies. Two mistakes canceled each other out “almost perfectly,” says Zandanel, making the changes that resulted from them subtle.

Zandanel explained the errors to us:

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Five years after a retraction, company’s stock is up more than 500%

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wntloggawntresearchwebny1Is ethical behavior good for business?

Five years ago this month, Swedish pharmaceutical company WntResearch immediately notified shareholders when authors retracted a 2009 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) paper on a potential cancer therapy that was key to the company’s business.

At the time, the company’s decision to disclose the retraction hurt its finances, as WntResearch delayed its planned initial public offering for three weeks. It also offered investors and shareholders the opportunity to withdraw their shares of WntResearch stock.

But, aside from one of the paper’s co-authors, “No one did that,” Nils Brünner, WntResearch’s CEO, told us. Since the company’s IPO on December 17, 2010, its stock price has increased from Read the rest of this entry »

Chemists pull non-reproducible paper on method to make opal films

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When two chemists based in China couldn’t reproduce experiments in their paper on opal films, they retracted it.

As the retraction note explains:

In this article we report a method to fabricate 2D TiO2–WO3 composite inverse opal films via a mechanical co-assembly route with a template of polystyrene spheres. Upon repeating the experiments described, we found that this was not an effective method for forming the films; often the film was broken or did not form at all.

The note also explains why the experiment didn’t work:

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