Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘doing the right thing’ Category

Nutrition study pulled after statistical flaws emerge

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Nutrition JournalA paper that suggested that eating flaxseed could reduce inflammation in men at risk of heart disease has been retracted, after researchers pointed out the paper’s flaws.

The retraction is part of a large initiative on the part of nutrition researcher David Allison and colleagues to clean up the literature, which we’ve previously covered. Regarding this paper, he told us:

When we looked at the study…it was very clear that the statistical methods used were not correct. These are not matters of debate or opinion, these are just…verifiably incorrect.

The Nutrition Journal published the paper in January 2015, and retracted it in June 2016, one day after publishing a letter by Allison and a colleague critiquing the paper

Here’s the retraction notice for “Impact of weight loss diet associated with flaxseed on inflammatory markers in men with cardiovascular risk factors: a clinical study:” Read the rest of this entry »

“Great shock and sadness:” Publishing gadfly to retract paper for duplication

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untitledA vociferous advocate for correcting the literature — who has been banned by two publishers for his persistent communications — has asked journals to retract one paper and correct three others for duplications.

After a reader flagged his 2004 paper on PubPeer last month, author Jaime Teixeira da Silva “immediately” contacted the journal to alert it that the paper had been duplicated, as he noted on a recent comment on our site:

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Genotyping mistake costs lab two papers and year of work

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PNASResearchers are retracting two papers about molecular signalling in plants — including one from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) — after discovering some inadvertent genotyping errors. But that was only after they used the problematic plants for an entire year without realizing they’d made a mistake.

In a pair of refreshingly transparent and detailed notices, the authors explain that the transgenic plants used in the papers included genotyping errors, which invalidated their findings. According to the notices, first author Man-Ho Oh generated the problematic transgenic plants, while corresponding author Steven C. Huber, based at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), took responsibility for omitting some critical oversight.

Huber told us that there were only two papers that used the transgenic plants in question, so no other retractions will be forthcoming.

Here’s the notice in PNAS for “Autophosphorylation of Tyr-610 in the receptor kinase BAK1 plays a role in brassinosteroid signaling and basal defense gene expression:”  Read the rest of this entry »

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 »