Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Physics journal pulls two papers for data shortcuts

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New Journal of PhysicsA publisher is retracting two papers today by a team of physicists who took a short cut in reporting their data.

The papers present a method for imaging very small things — like biological processes on a molecular scale — that could be an alternative to electron microscopy, as the authors explain in a video. But after the papers were published in the New Journal of Physics, last author Ulf Leonhardt, now based at the Weizmann Institute of Science, found out that some of the data

 were pixel-by-pixel mirror-symmetric, which is impossible for genuine experimental data.

One of the researchers co-authored a subsequent paper that acknowledges one of the papers incorrectly assumed the data were symmetrical, and could therefore be extrapolated from one side to the other. A representative of the publisher told us they have not seen any signs of misconduct, and the problem seemed to result from a “series of apparent miscommunications between the authors.”

Here’s the retraction notice for “Evidence for subwavelength imaging with positive refraction:” Read the rest of this entry »

Journal flags duplicated text by gynecologic cancer researcher with 13 retractions

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cancers-logo

When journals discover duplicated material, many choose to retract — but a cancer journal recently faced with the same dilemma involving a researcher with multiple retractions under his belt has instead decided to flag the paper with an expression of concern.

An editor told us that Cancers considered retracting the paper, by gynecologic cancer researcher Noriyuki Takai, but decided not to because the paper

contains some novel content that is of interest to the scientific community.

Epigenetic Therapy in Human Choriocarcinoma,” published in 2010, has been cited once, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science, and self-plagiarizes from other publications by Takai and his co-author, Hisashi Narahara. Both are researchers at Oita University in Japan.

Here’s the expression of concern:

Read the rest of this entry »

Book publisher: Authors plagiarized “in good faith” because they cited previous work

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A publisher has retracted a chapter from a book on flow cytometry after determining the authors plagiarized some material — but noted that because the authors cited the article they lifted from, they likely acted “in good faith.”

We were tipped off to this retraction from the authors of the review article the chapter plagiarized from, who told us they were upset by the incident and doubted whether the authors had performed the experiments they described in the chapter.

More broadly, the retraction raises an important question: How can publishers retract one chapter of a book, leaving the rest intact?

First, let’s take a look at the retraction notice: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

May 3rd, 2016 at 9:30 am

How much does a retracted result pollute the field?

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Research Integrity and Peer Review

When a paper is retracted, how many other papers in the same field — which either cite the finding or cite other papers that do — are affected?

That’s the question examined by a study published in BioMed Central’s new journal, Research Integrity and Peer Review. Using the case of a paper retracted from Nature in 2014, the authors found that subsequent research that cites the retracted paper often repeats the problematic finding, thereby spreading it throughout the field. However, papers that indirectly cited the retracted result — by citing the papers that cited the Nature paper, but not the Nature paper itself — typically don’t repeat the retracted result, which limits its spread.

Here’s how the authors describe their findings in the paper: 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:

Read the rest of this entry »

Macchiarini did not obtain necessary ethics approvals, says Swedish Research Council

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lancetSurgeon Paolo Macchiarini did not apply for the necessary ethics approval to perform the pioneering transplants he’s known for, according to the Swedish Research Council.

Chief Legal Counsel Anna Hörnlund, who wrote a letter in this week’s The Lancet, says Macchiarini’s work needed to obtain ethical approval from one of six regional ethical review boards, as required by Swedish law — and neither Macchiarini nor his former employer, Karolinska Institutet, did so:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

May 2nd, 2016 at 11:30 am

Plant biologist’s paper pulled for falsification, three more questioned on PubPeer

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PMBP Cover ImagePhysiology and Molecular Biology of Plants has retracted a paper about using Darjeeling tea clones against abiotic stress for problems with one of the figures.

The specific problem: “falsification/fabrication” of data underlying the figure, which the corresponding author — Sauren Das from the Indian Statistical Institute in Calcutta, West Bengal — couldn’t resolve. Das told us he denies the allegations made by the journal.

Meanwhile, three other papers by Das have been questioned on PubPeer

Let’s take a look at the retraction note: Read the rest of this entry »

Weekend reads: Research parasite awards; money-back research guarantees; Sci-Hub takes over the world

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booksThis week at Retraction Watch featured a confession about research misconduct, and a debate over whether a paper should have been retracted. Here’s what was happening elsewhere:  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

April 30th, 2016 at 10:20 am

Posted in weekend reads

Why that Evolution paper should never have been retracted: A reviewer speaks out

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Ben Ashby

Earlier this week, we covered the case of a retraction that happened against one of the author’s wishes. That’s not all that unusual. What was unusual in this story, however, is that the author who objected to the retraction had published a well-considered paper in which she identified an error in the original work, and corrected it. That led many scientists on Twitter and elsewhere to ask: Doesn’t a retraction send the wrong message? Don’t we want researchers to correct and update their work?

One of the people asking those questions was Ben Ashby, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Exeter in the UK — who, it turns out, reviewed the corrective paper. Here, we present his thoughts: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

April 29th, 2016 at 12:56 pm

Posted in evolution

Premature adaptation leads to withdrawal of sexual function paper

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jsexmartherAhem.

The Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy has retracted a 2012 paper by a pair of authors in Spain who failed to obtain approval to adapt the model of sexual function they used in their study.

The article indicates that the work was based on previous research. But that declaration wasn’t enough to satisfy the creators of the model involved.

As the retraction notice states: Read the rest of this entry »