Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘misconduct investigations’ Category

“We should err on the side of protecting people’s reputation:” Management journal changes policy to avoid fraud

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Patrick Wright, via the University of South Carolina

Patrick Wright, via the University of South Carolina

How can academic journals ensure the integrity of the data they publish? For one journal, the key is looking deeply at statistics, which revealed crucial problems in the research of recent high-profile fraudsters such as Anil Potti. Editor-in-chief of the Journal of Management, Patrick Wright from the University of South Carolina, recently authored an editorial about how he’s taken those lessons to heart — and why he believes retractions don’t always hurt a journal’s reputation. 

RW: Can you take us through the changes in the editorial policy of your journal? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

July 13th, 2016 at 9:30 am

Broken windows, threats, and detention: Is whistleblowing worth it?

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Wyn Ellis

Wyn Ellis

Several years ago, a UK academic living in Thailand for decades decided to expose the fact that a Thai official had plagiarized his PhD thesis. And he’s paid the price. Last year, Wyn Ellis was held in a Thai airport for five days, as officials claimed he was a “danger to Thai society.” As some new developments have emerged in the case, Ellis ponders the after-effects of his actions.

This month marks the 4th anniversary of the very public revocation by Chulalongkorn University of the PhD degree of Supachai Lorlowhakarn, the former director of Thailand’s National Innovation Agency (NIA), for ethical violations, and plagiarism of his thesis.

For me, as the original whistleblower who first alerted authorities to the problems with Lorlowhakarn’s PhD thesis, the knowledge that justice was eventually served is far from cause for celebration. Indeed, the Byzantine twists and turns, the lawsuits, surveillance, physical attacks, and even death threats over the past nine years have — without a doubt — taken their toll on my family and I, and should serve as a salutary lesson to anyone harboring naive notions of civic duty. This was certainly my own motivation back then, as an advocate and passionate supporter of Thai science and innovation.

Here are some of the threats I encountered: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

July 12th, 2016 at 2:00 pm

A prominent psychiatry researcher is dismissed. What’s happening to his papers?

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Alexander Neumeister. Source: Yale School of Medicine

After a prominent researcher was dismissed due to multiple instances of misconduct in his studies, how are journals responding?

When an investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found multiple issues with the work of psychiatry researcher Alexander Neumeister, New York University (NYU) Langone Medical Center shut down eight of his studies. (Disclosure: The author of this post is an NYU journalism student, but has no relationship with the medical school.) The agency concluded the studies, which involved using experimental drugs to relieve symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), were tainted by lax oversight, falsified records, and inaccurate case histories, according to the New York Times. (Neuroskeptic also recently analyzed the case.)

We reached out to the journals that have published Neumeister’s papers, to ask if these recent events have caused them to take a second look at his work. Several have responded, with some noting they plan to investigate, or will do so if asked by the institution. But many believe there is little cause for concern. Read the rest of this entry »

PLOS ONE pulls malaria study for “inappropriate manipulation” of figures

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PLOS OnePLOS ONE has retracted a malaria paper after an institutional investigation found evidence the authors had manipulated multiple figures.

According to the notice, the authors’ institution — the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) in New Delhi, India — recommended the journal retract the paper.

Here’s the retraction notice, issued by PLOS ONE on June 30: Read the rest of this entry »

Five more retractions for biologist with funding ban brings total to six

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Journal of Cell ScienceAn erstwhile cell biologist has retracted five papers published in the Journal of Cell Science (JCS), all of which had been flagged in a recent investigation by the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI).

The investigation found John Pastorino, previously a cell biologist at Rowan University in New Jersey, guilty of doctoring more than 40 images, resulting in a five-year funding ban.

The probe identified eight papers co-authored by Pastorino, six of which had already received expressions of concern (EOC) — including all of the newly retracted JCS papers. Nataly Shulga is a co-author on all eight papers.

Last week, we reported on the first of the expected retractions of the flagged papers in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Here are the retraction notices, which are the same for all five JCS papers: Read the rest of this entry »

Authors pull Mol Cell paper for “inappropriate manipulation” of data

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Molecular CellThe authors of a Molecular Cell paper have retracted it due to issues with multiple figures — including one with evidence of “intentional misconduct.”

According to the authors’ institution, IMIM in Barcelona, all co-authors are aware of the retraction. The penultimate author — Antonio García de Herrerosretracted three papers in May from the Journal of Biological Chemistry for reusing images to represent different experiments, and recently corrected multiple figures in a Journal of Cell Science paper over “possible duplications and/or splices.”

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

Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

June 29th, 2016 at 9:30 am

Here’s why this lawyer defends scientists accused of misconduct

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Paul S. Thaler

Paul S. Thaler

More scientists are trying to settle accusations of misconduct in court, a trend very familiar to Washington, DC-based lawyer Paul Thaler. Regular readers may recall the name of one of Thaler’s clients — Rakesh Kumar, a scientist at George Washington University who filed an $8 million lawsuit for how the school handled an investigation into his work. He’s also representing Bharat Aggarwal, the subject of an investigation at MD Anderson who has threatened to sue us (and logged his ninth retraction this week). For 25 years, Thaler has been representing scientists embroiled in misconduct proceedings. He spoke to us about his family’s highly pedigreed background in science, and why everyone deserves an advocate.  

Some of your clients have committed misconduct, but you still work to protect their reputations and even help them continue to do research. Why? 

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Shannon Palus

June 28th, 2016 at 2:00 pm

Researcher committed misconduct “recklessly,” says investigation

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American Journal of Physiology Renal PhsyiologyA physiology journal has retracted a paper after an institutional investigation found that portions of the work had been falsified by the first author.

According to the notice issued by the American Journal of Physiology – Renal Physiology (AJP), the last author initiated the investigation at the University of Houston in Texas, which found the first author — Mousa Abkhezr — to be guilty of falsifying and duplicating images. 

We’ve obtained a copy of the investigation report, which concluded that Abkhezr committed misconduct “recklessly,” and the paper must be retracted. Although the report noted that Abkhezr argued that the problems stemmed from an honest error, the investigation committee ruled that data from the retracted paper cannot be included in his doctoral thesis.

The last author told us there is a separate ongoing “academic honesty enquiry” into Abkhezr’s dissertation. 

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

Investigation raises questions about top cancer researcher’s work

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Journal of Pathology

A prominent pancreatic cancer researcher has lost a meeting abstract and corrected a Nature paper following an institutional investigation.

Queen Mary University of London determined that, in an abstract by Thorsten Hagemann, “elements of the study summarised by this abstract are not reliable.” Hagemann has recently issued a correction to a 2014 Nature paper he co-authored, which also cited the Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) investigation, noting there was reason to question the provenance of the data.

Hagemann is currently the medical director of Immodulon Therapeutics, and has long been recognized for his work in the field, including a three-year grant of £180,000 from the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund in 2013.

Here’s the retraction notice from the The Journal of Pathology, regarding an abstract from the 7th Joint Meeting of the British Division of the International Academy of Pathology and the Pathological Society of Great Britain & Ireland: Read the rest of this entry »

Two journals retracting papers from University of Malaya featuring widely criticized figures

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The image that excited twitter: Figure 6 from the Scientific Reports paper

The image that excited Twitter

One journal has retracted a paper containing images that recently raised suspicions of obvious duplications, and another journal is planning to do the same.

Scientists first leveled accusations against the newly retracted paper in Scientific Reports, along with two others by the same researchers, earlier this month on Twitter. One other journal — PeerJ — has announced that it plans to retract one of the questioned papers, as well. The third paper, in Frontiers in Pharmacology, bears an expression of concern.

It was unusually quick action on the part of the journals, as well as the authors’ host institution, the University of Malaya, which announced last week the authors had manipulated figures in all three papers, along with one other.

Here’s today’s retraction notice from Scientific Reports for “Novel piperazine core compound induces death in human liver cancer cells: possible pharmacological properties:”

Read the rest of this entry »