Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘doing the right thing’ Category

Authors retract non-reproducible Cell paper

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CellAuthors have retracted a paper from Cell after they were unable to reproduce data in two figures, compromising their confidence in some of the findings.

The authors revisited their experiments after another lab was unable to replicate their data, about proteins that may play a role in lung cancer.

The first author told Nature News in 2013 that the paper may have helped her secure her current position at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research in Massachusetts.

Pulling “Cytohesins are cytoplasmic ErbB receptor activators” appears to be a case of doing the right thing, given the detailed retraction notice:

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Structural biology corrections highlight best of the scientific process

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Nature_latest-coverIf you need evidence of the value of transparency in science, check out a pair of recent corrections in the structural biology literature.

This past August, researchers led by Qiu-Xing Jiang at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center corrected their study, first published in February 2014 in eLife, of prion-like protein aggregates called MAVS filaments, to which they had ascribed the incorrect “helical symmetry.” In March, Richard Blumberg of Harvard Medical School, and colleagues corrected their 2014 Nature study of a protein complex called CEACAM1/TIM-3, whose structure they had attempted to solve using x-ray crystallography.

In both cases, external researchers were able to download and reanalyze the authors’ own data from public data repositories, making it quickly apparent what had gone wrong and how it needed to be fixed — highlighting the very best of a scientific process that is supposed to be self-correcting and collaborative. Read the rest of this entry »

Ecologists pull paper on how climate change affects moths after model mixup

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science advancesEcologists have retracted a paper published only months ago in Science Advances, after realizing that they had misinterpreted a climate model.

The October paper examined the effects of climate change on populations of 155 species of British moths and butterflies. According to a press release from the authors’ institution, the University of York:

Using data collected by thousands of volunteers through ‘citizen science’ schemes, responses to recent climate change were seen to vary greatly from species to species.

But the authors quickly realized that the variation they had measured was not due to climate change alone, according to the retraction notice they issued for the paper last week:

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The standard in transparency? Editor praises author honesty that led to retraction in anesthesia journal

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Sometimes, a junior member of the team sees things an editor-in-chief misses.

Regular readers know that we’re always delighted when we get a chance to commend researchers and journals for doing the right thing. Here’s an example that sets the standard.

Anesthesia & Analgesia (A&A) is retracting a 2015 paper which purportedly found important differences in patient outcomes based on the quality of their anesthesiologists. The trouble with the article: Read the rest of this entry »

Authors retract, replace highly cited JAMA Psych paper for “pervasive errors”

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JAMA PsychiatryAuthors have retracted a highly cited JAMA Psychiatry study about depression after failing to account for some patient recoveries, among other mistakes.

It’s a somewhat unusual notice — it explains that the paper has been retracted and replaced with a new, corrected version.

The study, which included 452 adults with major depressive disorder, concluded that cognitive therapy plus medication works better to treat depression than pills alone. But after it was published, a reader pointed out that some of the numbers in a table were incorrect. The authors reviewed the data and redid their analysis, and discovered “a number of pervasive errors.”

The notice (termed “notice of retraction and replacement”) explains the consequences of those errors:

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NEJM quickly corrects disclosure statement, errors in diabetes paper

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NEJM LogoAfter publishing a paper about neuropathy in diabetic patients last week, The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) immediately corrected it after editors learned of errors and some missing disclosures within the article.

The notice explains that the sole author of the paper, “Diabetic Sensory and Motor Neuropathy,” reported incorrect doses for several medications, and received royalties for the tool to measure quality of life used in the paper. The author told us all the declarations were “discussed in detail” between him and the journal, and both parties agreed to the final decision. 

Let’s take a look at the lengthy correction notice — what some of our readers might call a “mega-correction:” Read the rest of this entry »

Physicists retract Nature paper on Earth’s core after findings aren’t reproducible

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cover_naturePhysicists have retracted a highly cited paper from Nature on the behavior of electrons at the center of the Earth after other researchers could not reproduce their findings.

The 2015 paper earned coverage in Science News and Live Science, where co-author Ronald Cohen explained:

There was a big problem in how you generate a magnetic field, and now, because of our results, that problem has basically gone away.

Here are more details about what the original paper claimed, courtesy of a press release from The Carnegie Institution for Science, where co-authors Peng Zhang and Cohen work: Read the rest of this entry »

Now this is transparent: Retraction for plagiarism earns 4-page editor’s note

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The Photogrammetric Record

A journal has retracted a paper about 3D imaging after concluding the authors used equations from another researcher without attribution — and has conveniently included a detailed editorial explaining exactly what happened.

It’s rare for us to see a journal be so transparent in explaining what went wrong with one of its papers, so we’re thanking Stuart Granshaw, from Denbighshire in Wales, UK, the editor of The Photogrammetric Record, for doing the right thing.”

Even the retraction note is reasonably forthcoming: Read the rest of this entry »

More retractions bring total to 7 for neuroscience pair, 2 more pending

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JOCNAuthors have retracted two papers about visual perception and working memory from the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, after the first author admitted to falsifying or fabricating data in four other papers.

The authors have requested another two retractions, as well, which will bring the total for Edward Awh and his former graduate student David Anderson to nine retractions. (Earlier in 2015, they lost a paper due to an error in the analytic code, which Awh told us was unrelated to the misconduct.)

The retraction notice attached to both articles cites a 2015 settlement agreement between the Office of Research Integrity and first author Anderson (the “respondent”), who admitted to misconduct while working as a graduate student in the lab of Awh at the University of Oregon in Eugene. Since then, “additional problems” were discovered in the newly retracted articles, such as removed data points.

Awh, who has since moved to the University of Chicago, sent us a lengthy statement, explaining the concerns about each article: Read the rest of this entry »

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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