Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Retraction after education researcher tries to repeat a grade–er, paper

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AEHEAn education journal has yanked a 2014 article by a pair of scholars in Asia after discovering one had already published a “substantially similar” article.

The article, “Dynamic nature of washback on individual learners: the role of possible selves” in Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, is about how taking a major English test influenced learning in Chinese undergraduate students. Author Ying Zhan is listed at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, in mainland China; Zhi Hong Wan, at the Hong Kong Institute of Education.

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

Authors retract PNAS Epstein-Barr virus paper for “anomalous and duplicated” figures

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pnas 2515PNAS has retracted a paper on the cancer-causing Epstein-Barr virus just two months after publication, in a notice that fingers a now-former graduate student for manipulating figures.

The paper tries to explain how Epstein-Barr virus blocks the immune system’s attempts to destroy it. According to the notice, the three “nonexperimentalist authors” – identified in the paper as two P.I.’s from University of Texas at Austin and one from the University of California, San Francisco – didn’t know the figures “were not reflective of original Northern blot and immunoblot data.”

That leaves UT Austin PhD student Jennifer Cox under the bus. Her LinkedIn says she pursued a PhD from 2010-2015, though it’s unclear if she’s received a degree. Cox’s name is at the top of P.I. Christopher Sullivan’s list of past lab members, and she’s the only one on the page whose name doesn’t hyperlink to additional information, such as a contact.

The school issued a press release about the study that quoted Cox, which has been removed from the UT site but is still available on Science Daily: Read the rest of this entry »

An end to fake papers? New software to check for SCIgen-created manuscripts

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springerSorry, fans of papers by Maggie Simpson and I. P. Freely, your days of chortling may be coming to an end.

Springer, responding to a case last year in which it and IEEE had to eventually retract more than 120 papers created by SCIgen, is making software that detects such manuscripts freely available.

From a Springer press release: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

March 23rd, 2015 at 11:30 am

PubPeer Selections: Promoting homeopathy; comments lead to Cell and JBC corrections

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pubpeerPubPeer failed to convince a Michigan judge last week that they should be able to keep the identity of one of their commenters confidential. Here’s another installment of PubPeer Selections: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

March 23rd, 2015 at 9:30 am

Weekend reads: Widespread p-hacking; sexism in science (again); retraction totals

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booksThis week at Retraction Watch featured retractions by a high-profile cancer researcher, and a loss in court for PubPeer. Here’s what was happening elsewhere: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

March 21st, 2015 at 11:01 am

Posted in weekend reads

University finds Dutch economist guilty of misconduct; he responds

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Peter Nijkamp

The Free University of Amsterdam found Peter Nijkamp, one of the nation’s leading economists who has lost several papers for self-plagiarism, has been found guilty of “questionable research practices,” according to the newly released results of an investigation.

Nijkamp has published a strongly worded criticism of the report (at least according to Google Translate, since his writing is in Dutch).

According to independent student publication Ad Valvas, the commission, led by Jaap Zwemmer, a professor emeritus at the University of Amsterdam, found Nijkamp was guilty of “questionable research practices.” University rector Frank van der Duyn Schouten, on the other hand, said in an official statement that there was “insufficient basis” to claim questionable research practices for each article.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Cat Ferguson

March 20th, 2015 at 11:30 am

Judge tells PubPeer to hand over information about anonymous commenter; site weighing “options”

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pubpeerA Michigan judge has ruled against a motion by PubPeer to protect the identity of an anonymous commenter, and asked the post-publication peer review site to give her any information they have about the commenter.

According to one of the lawyers present, the site said in court the only identifying information it has is an I.P. address. The judge will decide March 24 (Tuesday) whether or not to share the I.P. address with the lawyer representing a cancer researcher who has demanded PubPeer release information about those who have written anonymously about his work.

On March 5, PubPeer had a better day in court, when the judge agreed to allow the site to protect the identities of its other anonymous commenters. For the remaining commenter, the judge asked to hold another hearing yesterday.

During that meeting, the judge ordered PubPeer to produce “identifying information for that commenter,” said Alexander Abdo of the American Civil Liberties Union, who helped represent PubPeer in this case: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

March 20th, 2015 at 9:30 am

Two more retractions appear for prominent MIT cancer researcher Robert Weinberg

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genes and developmentTwo identical retraction notices have popped up for MIT professor Robert Weinberg, a highly-cited cancer researcher who had a retraction and a correction in 2013, both in Cancer Cell. 

These two new retractions, in Genes and Development, stem directly from another paper by Weinberg and colleagues in Cell that will apparently be retracted, as the “same analytical methodology was used,” according to the notices [see bottom of the post for an update].

Weinberg is highly regarded, and at least 20 of his papers have been cited over a thousand times.

First author Scott Valastyan was a promising postdoc at the time of the paper’s publication. He was a 2011 Runyon Fellow at Harvard, a three-year, $156,000 award for outstanding cancer postdocs. He doesn’t seem to have published anything since 2012, though he is listed as a joint inventor with Weinberg on patents filed in 2009 and 2014.

Here are the notices for “Concomitant suppression of three target genes can explain the impact of a microRNA on metastasis” (cited 73 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge) and “Activation of miR-31 function in already-established metastases elicits metastatic regression” (cited 54 times), both paywalled: Read the rest of this entry »

Troubled article ranking business schools earns expression of concern

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jpimAn article that ranked University of Missouri-Kansas City number one in an area of business school training is set to receive an expression of concern. The move follows months of questions over the ranking’s legitimacy, following revelations such as a relationship between the authors and both the school and its top ranked researcher in the field.

In 2011, the business world got a bit of a surprise: In the field of innovation management, the study of how entrepreneurs convert good ideas into profit, the number one school – according to an article in the Journal of Product Innovation Management — was UMKC. Not Harvard, not Stanford, not any other institution that normally tops these types of rankings. UMKC’s Henry W. Bloch School of Management was also home to the number one researcher in that field, Michael Song.

The school, of course, was elated, immediately issuing a press release titled “UMKC Ranked No. 1 in the World.”

But after publication, a UMKC professor raised concerns about the paper’s methodology. An investigation by the Kansas City Star uncovered some issues:

Read the rest of this entry »

Sticky situation: Paper using honey for healing pulled over data issues

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honey

Image via Hillary Stein

A paper on dressing wounds with honey has been retracted after the journal realized that an outlier patient was throwing off the data analysis.

Honey has been used for millennia as an antimicrobial wound dressing. Doctors can even buy sterile preparations of the sweetener. But the evidence that honey is better than other wound dressings is still inconclusive.

According to the retracted paper, published in International Wound Journal in 2008, Manuka honey has an acidic pH which helps reduce the alkaline environment of chronic woulds. Indeed, the authors found that Manuka honey dressings lowered wound pH and reduced wound size.

Sadly, the paper was pulled in 2014, after someone realized one patient had a particularly large wound that was throwing off statistics. The injury was 61 cm^2 at the beginning of the study, while the others ranged from .9 to 22 cm^2. After removing that patient from the analysis, the results no longer held up.

Read the rest of this entry »