Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

UPitt investigation brings total retraction count to four for pair of cancer researchers

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Journal of Biological Chemistry1An official inquiry by the University of Pittsburgh has led to two more retractions for a pair of cancer researchers, Tong Wu and Chang Han. By our count, the pair now have four retractions under their belt, all the result of the university investigation.

The Journal of Biological Chemistry published the notices earlier this month, after it was discovered the papers contained cropped panels, among other issues. Importantly, the two papers appear to even have shared some data.

One 2006 paper, “Modulation of Stat3 Activation by the Cytosolic Phospholipase A2α and Cyclooxygenase-2-controlled Prostaglandin E2 Signaling Pathway,” investigated the molecular actors in cancer growth, such as overexpression of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). It has been cited 34 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. Here’s the notice:

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Weekend reads: Fame bias at journals; retractions as good news; hoarding data as bad news

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booksThis week at Retraction Watch featured the retraction of a widely covered paper on marriage and illness, and the resignation of a high-profile lab head in Toronto. Here’s what was happening elsewhere: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

July 25th, 2015 at 9:30 am

Posted in weekend reads

Head of major diagnostic lab in Canada steps down amid investigation

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AJPA_v185_i7_COVER.inddA prominent endocrinologist pathologist has resigned from running the largest hospital diagnostic laboratory in Canada following an investigation that has uncovered evidence of falsified data in two papers, Retraction Watch has learned.

Sylvia Asa was the Program Medical Director of the Laboratory Medicine Program at the University Health Network, affiliated with the University of Toronto, until this past spring when she stepped down, according to UHN spokesperson Gillian Howard:

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Written by Ross Keith

July 24th, 2015 at 4:17 pm

What do you do after painful retractions? Q&A with Pamela Ronald and Benjamin Schwessinger

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ARNOLD1

Pamela Ronald and Benjamin Schwessinger, wearing the shirts of a swim competition they entered

2013 was a rough year for biologist Pamela Ronald. After discovering the protein that appears to trigger rice’s immune system to fend off a common bacterial disease – suggesting a new way to engineer disease-resistant crops – she and her team had to retract two papers in 2013 after they were unable to replicate their findings. The culprits: a mislabeled bacterial strain and a highly variable assay. However, the care and transparency she exhibited earned her a “doing the right thing” nod from us at the time.

After many months spent understanding what went wrong and redoing the experiments correctly, today Ronald and her team release another paper in Science Advances that reveals the protein they thought they had identified in 2013.

Ronald and co-first author Benjamin Schwessinger (who recently became an independent research fellow at the Australian National University in Canberra) spoke to us about the experience of recovering from the retractions and finally getting it right. The conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

-What did you do differently this time so you didn’t repeat the same mistakes?

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Written by Alison McCook

July 24th, 2015 at 2:00 pm

“Part of a paper that had already appeared”: Materials paper pulled for plagiarism

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1-s2.0-S1387181115X00035-cov150hMicroporous and Mesoporous Materials has retracted a 2015 paper after it was discovered the authors “have plagiarized part of a paper that had already appeared.”

The paper, “Ionic liquid assisted synthesis of flexible and super-hydrophobic porous gels,” described the synthesis of a form of flexible aerogels “through a facile one-pot preparation,” according to the abstract. According to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge it has been cited zero times.

Here is the retraction note, in full:

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Author’s ties to NFL lead to correction for review that cast doubt on brain risk from sports

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PLOS ONE

A review paper that suggested the degenerative brain disease that’s striking former football players may not be tied to contact sports has been corrected to reveal the first author spent decades working for the National Football League.

The correction appears in a review in PLOS ONE about chronic traumatic encephalopathy the degenerative brain disease that was the basis of a $765 million settlement for former NFL players, along with a number of similar lawsuits. It fixes incorrect statements and adds conflicts of interest, including those with with first author Joseph Maroon, who spent more than 30 years working with the NFL and seven for the wrestling group the WWE.

It appears as if all the original paper declared was that Maroon was an “unpaid consultant” to the Pittsburgh Steelers. But apparently there was a lot more to it, according to the notice:

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Data “mismatch” and author’s illness pluck bird sex-ratio study from literature

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coverInaccessible data and an author’s illness are to blame for the retraction of a paper on sex ratios of baby finches, according to the authors.

The paper, “Experimental evidence that maternal corticosterone controls adaptive offspring sex ratios,” published in Functional Ecology, outlined how a hormone in mother finches can “skew” the number of males vs females that hatch from the eggs in her nest.

But after questions about the data were raised, the authors were unable to address the “mismatch” between the experimental data and those that were published. Compounding the situation is the fact that, while working on the paper, first author Sarah Pryke at the Australian National University “was suffering from a medical condition that likely impaired her cognitive abilities,” according to a statement from Pryke’s co-authors.

An email to Pryke was met with an out-of-office reply:

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Cell biologist Hanna issues two errata; images mysteriously disappear from Imgur

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Jacob Hanna

Jacob Hanna

Cell biologist Jacob Hanna, the highly cited stem cell researcher currently at the Weizmann Institute of Science,  has posted a long erratum for a 2005 paper in Blood for “inadvertent mistakes,” among other issues; soon after, Hanna’s team issued another erratum for a 2009 Cell Stem Cell paper.

There’s more to tell: Last month, commenters on PubPeer noticed that images from at least 10 of the research papers Hanna coauthored in seven journals — that commenters had posted on the image hosting website Imgur and linked to on PubPeer — had been deleted.

Imgur did not confirm whether these specific images had been deleted, but told Retraction Watch:

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HIV vaccine researcher who confessed to fraud files appeal of 57-month prison sentence

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court caseDong-Pyou Han, who was sentenced earlier this month to nearly five years in prison for faking the results of HIV vaccine experiments, has appealed the decision.

According to Report on Research Compliance, which first reported the news, the appeal was filed on July 15. In addition to the prison sentence, Han had been ordered on July 1 to repay more than $7 million to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and to serve three years of supervised release following his prison term.

Former ORI director David Wright told Report on Research Compliance (paywalled) that Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

July 22nd, 2015 at 6:18 pm

Posted in dong-pyou han

Second correx for controversial paper on the financial benefits of climate change

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Journal of Economic PerspectivesThe Journal of Economic Perspectives has published a second correction for a 2009 paper that argued that some amount of global warming could lead to economic gains.

The author of “The Economic Effects of Climate Change,” Richard Tol, a professor of economics at the University of Sussex, blamed earlier problems with the paper on “gremlins.” In a notice posted last year, Tol wrote that “minus signs were dropped”; he also added a pair of “overlooked estimates” and several recently published studies.

After the first correction was published, several people contacted the JEP to point out more issues with the paper. Editors worked with Tol and outside researchers to update the paper again.

Here’s some text from the newest correction notice:

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