Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘doing the right thing’ Category

Lancet retracts and republishes cardiology paper with admirable notice

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logo_lancetOne of the papers from a massive heart disease study in China, published in the Lancet, has been retracted and republished after the authors noticed a major statistical error.

The article, by authors from Peking Union Medical College in China, Yale University, and elsewhere, presented the results of the China PEACE-Retrospective Acute Myocardial Infarction Study, part of a national initiative to study and improve care for cardiac problems. After being posted online on June 24, 2014, the authors noticed that they’d incorrectly weighed one of the cities in their calculations, which threw off a number of national estimates.

After the corrections were made, the paper was peer-reviewed again, and reviewers stated that despite the mistakes, the original conclusions were sound.

Today is a banner day on Retraction Watch: This is our second excellent example of transparency in 24 hours, and therefore the second entry in our “doing the right thing” category. An editorial lays out exactly what happened, including a timeline, allowing scientists to feel confident they’re basing the next research step on solid and accurate data. (We also appreciate the hat tip to the Committee on Publication Ethics retraction guidelines, which we often send out to editors of bad notices as a gentle reminder.)

Here’s the notice for “ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction in China from 2001 to 2011 (the China PEACE-Retrospective Acute Myocardial Infarction Study): a retrospective analysis of hospital data”: Read the rest of this entry »

Authors issue a model retraction for mistaken bacterial identity

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jcmA group in the Netherlands has retracted a case study on the diarrheal pathogen Campylobacter jejuni, commonly found in animal feces, after repeated tests showed the bacteria was actually C. fetus, which also causes spontaneous abortion in cows and sheep.

The 46-year-old man who had previously had an aortic valve replacement came to the doctors with endocarditis, an inflammation of the heart. Initial tests showed that it was due to a C. jejuni infection, which often lives in chickens, wombats, kangaroos, and sheep.

Only a few cases of endocarditis caused by C. jejuni had ever been reported. Unfortunately, a thorough followup made it clear that a different pathogen was at play. Let’s consider this retraction a model for all others in its clarity and thoroughness.

Take it away, notice for “Aortic Homograft Endocarditis Caused by Campylobacter jejuni“: Read the rest of this entry »

Researchers retract Science paper claiming to have detected a single proton

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science jan 2015Less than three months after publishing a paper in Science which they claim to have been able to detect the spin of a single proton, the authors have retracted it for “a potentially serious issue with the main conclusion.”

Here’s the notice: Read the rest of this entry »

Thalidomide paper retracted for lab error

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fertstertResearchers at the University of Pittsburgh have retracted a paper on using thalidomide, which led to an estimated 10,000 birth defects by the time the drug was pulled from the market in 1961, to prevent chemo-induced sterility.

Alkylating agents, which prevent DNA replication in cells, are a commonly-used cancer treatment. Unfortunately they also damage the ovaries and testes, sometimes causing infertility. The University of Pittsburgh scientists published a paper in Elsevier journal Fertility and Sterility in 2011 that suggested thalidomide, which causes severe birth defects when used during pregnancy, might help protect ovaries during chemo.

However, according to the notice, the authors tried and failed to replicate their results. They had two separate scientists who were not authors take a look at the results; everyone agreed that the original study incorrectly reported the number of primordial follicles, the precursor to mature eggs.

Here’s the notice for “Thalidomide treatment attenuates chemotherapy-induced gonadal toxicity”: Read the rest of this entry »

Paper recommending calorie limits on Happy Meals retracted

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Image via Stefan

A paper estimating the effects of limiting fast food meals with toys to under 550 calories has been retracted after concerns arose regarding the scientists’ use of an outdated model for estimating weight changes in kids.

The paper estimated that kids who eat fast food twice a week would avoid gaining two pounds a year if calorie limits are imposed on meals with toys. However, everyone we spoke to, and the notice, indicated that their estimate was inaccurate.

Here’s the notice for “Modeling Potential Effects of Reduced Calories in Kids’ Meals with Toy Giveaways”:

Read the rest of this entry »

“You don’t retract a paper, you retract the results within:” Why one scientist still displays one of his mistakes

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lance fortnow

Lance Fortnow

And now, one from the archives.

In 1989, then MIT grad student Lance Fortnow (he’s now chair of the computer science department at Georgia Tech) wrote a mathematical proof and published it as conference proceedings. He later went to publish the proof in a journal.

But he then discovered “unexpected technical challenges” and published a retraction in 1997. Both are still available on his personal website.

Not everyone would be that transparent. We reached out to ask why he left them up for people to see. He gave us his rationale: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Cat Ferguson

December 15th, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Can you hear me now? Neuroscience paper sunk by audio stimulus error

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j neurophysHave you ever noticed that hearing something read aloud as you follow along helps you remember what you’re reading better?

Two bioengineers at Trinity College Dublin, Michael Crosse and Edmund Lalor, decided to investigate the underlying reason for the phenomenon. Unfortunately, after they published their findings in the Journal of Neurophysiology earlier this year, they tried to recreate the experiments and discovered that their equipment didn’t line up the audio and visual stimuli properly.

They did the right thing and contacted the journal for a retraction. Here’s the notice for “The cortical representation of the speech envelope is earlier for audiovisual speech than audio speech”: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Cat Ferguson

November 21st, 2014 at 9:30 am

Doing the right thing: Authors retract PNAS paper when new experiments show “conclusion was incorrect”

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pnascoverResearchers in Sweden and Australia have retracted a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) after follow-up experiments disproved their conclusions.

Here’s the notice for “Dominant suppression of inflammation by glycan-hydrolyzed IgG,” which is signed by all nine of the paper’s authors: Read the rest of this entry »

Doing the right thing: Particle physicists pull paper after equation collides with the truth

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physicalreviewlettersThree physicists at Imperial College London have retracted a paper on Coulomb collisions, a kind of fender bender between two charged particles, after realizing their equations were written wrong.

The mistake resulted in an erroneous conclusion about the strength of the collisions.

Here’s the notice for “Effects of Large-Angle Coulomb Collisions on Inertial Confinement Fusion Plasmas”: Read the rest of this entry »

Downstream effects: Comment on retracted narcolepsy paper retracted

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stmcoverThe recent retraction of a paper in Science Translational Medicine reporting “one of the biggest things to happen” in narcolepsy research has claimed a bystander: A letter that commented on the no-longer-landmark article.

The authors of the letter are with GlaxoSmithKline’s vaccine division. Here’s the new notice: Read the rest of this entry »