Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

JAMA tells readers: “Caution advised.” Here’s why.

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Last week, JAMA issued some unusual notices, letting readers know they should use caution when reading an editorial and letters associated with now-retracted articles by a bone researcher in Japan.

The notices — for papers by Yoshihiro Sato, now up to 14 retractions — remind readers not to heed the results of the now-retracted papers, and alert them to read any associated materials (specifically, an editorial in JAMA and letters in JAMA Internal Medicine) with caution.

The text of the notices describes them as “formal correction notices;” we asked Annette Flanagin, executive managing editor at The JAMA Network, why they chose that approach, instead of an expression of concern or retraction:

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Scientist steps down from South Korea government position over criticism of her role in stem cell scandal

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A professor at Sunchon National University has resigned from a prominent government position in South Korea after facing heavy criticism for being a co-author of a fraudulent stem cell paper.

Earlier this week, President Moon Jae-in appointed Park Ky-young to run a newly created Science, Technology and Innovation Office at the Ministry of Science and ICT. Critics quickly cried foul, noting that Park co-authored one of the stem cell papers by Woo-Suk Hwang, which made headlines 10 years ago after an investigation revealed the supposedly groundbreaking research had been fabricated.

According to the Korea Herald, Park’s position would have given her a say over the country’s R&D budget, worth 20 trillion won ($17 billion USD) in the science sector. The appointment does not require approval from parliament.

Today, Park agreed to step down. In a written statement, she said:

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Written by Alison McCook

August 11th, 2017 at 8:30 am

Paid to publish: It’s not just China

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A recent pre-print showed that scientists in China can earn up to $165,000 to publish a paper in a top journal, but that’s not the only place where researchers can get some extra cash.

Recently, we conducted an informal search for other institutions around the world that offer cash prizes for publishing research — and were surprised at what we found.

People have raised concerns about these incentives, given that they often just overload top journals with submissions, but don’t necessarily increase publication rates. Furthermore, there are concerns that these kinds of incentives can encourage fraudulent publishing practices — such as fake peer reviews — out of countries such as China.

Check out where else scientists can earn almost $14,000 USD per paper, as part of our latest feature in Science, out today.

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Written by Alison McCook

August 10th, 2017 at 2:05 pm

Posted in RW announcements

Researcher who shot dean after being fired for misconduct sentenced to 28 years in prison

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Hengjun Chao. Credit: Westchester County DA

A former researcher at Mount Sinai’s medical school has been sentenced to 28 years in prison for shooting the dean that fired him.

On the morning of Aug. 29, 2016, Chao, 50, attacked Dennis Charney, dean of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, with a shotgun outside a deli in suburban New York. In 2010, Charney fired Chao for scientific misconduct. Charney survived the shot, but was hospitalized for five days.

As reported by the Chappaqua-Mount Kisco Patch yesterday, Judge Barry Warhit sentenced Hengjun Chao to 23 years, each, for attempted murder and assault, to be served concurrently; the maximum sentence for the attempted murder charge that Chao faced was 25 years. The judge also sentenced Chao to the maximum for criminal use of a firearm — five years — which will be served consecutively, bringing the total to 28 years.

In June, a New York jury found him guilty of attempted murder and the two other felony charges.

Stewart Orden, Chao’s defense attorney, told Retraction Watch he was “shocked at the sentence:” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew P. Han

August 10th, 2017 at 12:13 pm

Unearthed emails: Monsanto connected to campaign to retract GMO paper

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A trove of internal documents from Monsanto, recently unsealed in a lawsuit against the agricultural biotech giant, has revealed the firm’s role in the knotty tale of a paper from the lab of a scientist known for his stance against genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

That paper is “Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize,” published in September 2012 in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) and retracted in January 2014. Gilles Seralini, a scientist known for an adversarial stance towards GMOs, was first author. The documents have also spurred the retraction of several pro-GMO articles on Forbes.com written by Henry Miller, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank at Stanford University. Emails showed that one of the articles, which didn’t discuss Seralini’s paper, was ghostwritten by Monsanto.

The documents, posted last week by the law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei and Goldman, show Monsanto engaged with a network of scientists and other commentators to spread the message that the Seralini paper was bad science and should be retracted. Seralini told Retraction Watch that this proves what he has been saying all along, that Monsanto led a concentrated effort to discredit his science and protect its bottom line. He said:

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Written by Andrew P. Han

August 10th, 2017 at 8:35 am

Elsevier retracts entire issue after mistakenly publishing it online

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Publishing giant Elsevier has retracted an entire issue of one of its journals because the contents — abstracts from a conference about child neurology — were never supposed to make it online.

We discovered the retraction after realizing that every aspect of the issue in Brain & Development had been retracted, including the cover, editorial board, and the contents.

We contacted Elsevier, and a spokesperson told us:

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Fearing “stigmatization,” patient’s father seeks retraction of paper on rare genetic mutation

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The father of a boy with a rare genetic mutation has accused a scientist of exploiting his child by proclaiming the defect a “genetic syndrome” and naming it after herself.

At an impasse with scientists investigating, publicizing, and interpreting his son’s condition, the father seems willing to use any leverage he can muster to remove the “syndrome” entry in an online genetic disease database. Based solely on an email he obtained from the database director, the father became convinced that if the paper underpinning the entry were retracted, the syndrome would go down with it. So earlier this year, he withdrew his consent and asked the journal that published the paper for a retraction, based on improper patient consent. He has also threatened to lob accusations of research misconduct at the paper’s last author. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew P. Han

August 9th, 2017 at 8:00 am

“Right to be forgotten” takes down BMJ’s 15-year-old film review

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A subject in a documentary film about the psychology of religious ideation has pushed the BMJ to take down its review of the film, based on a complaint citing a European internet privacy rule.

On July 3, BMJ posted a retraction notice for an article that barely said anything:

This article has been retracted by the journal following a complaint.

The 2002 article is a review of a documentary film entitled “Those Who Are Jesus,” directed by Steven Eastwood, a British filmmaker. The review has been removed from the BMJ site, as well as PubMed.   

BMJ told Retraction Watch that it took down the film review in response to a European citizen exercising his or her “right to be forgotten,” an internet privacy idea that, according to the European Union, ensures:

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Written by Andrew P. Han

August 8th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Third retraction for former rising star found guilty of misconduct

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A once-prominent researcher in the field of infectious disease — who was found guilty of misconduct last year— has had a third paper retracted, a 2006 article in PNAS.

Last year, the University of Dundee in Scotland found that Robert Ryan had committed research misconduct, which included misrepresenting clinical data and duplicating images in a dozen different publications. After a failed attempt to appeal the decision, Ryan resigned.

In April, we covered Ryan’s first two retractions – a 2012 paper in Molecular Microbiology, which cited image errors, and a 2011 paper in Journal of Bacteriology, which cited image duplication.

Now, PNAS has retracted a 2006 paper, which cites potential image duplication as well as “irregularities” in the data.

Here’s the retraction notice for “Cell–cell signaling in Xanthomonas campestris involves an HD-GYP domain protein that functions in cyclic di-GMP turnover:”

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Researchers retract a paper when they realize they had sequenced the wrong snail’s genome

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Researchers in China thought they had sequenced the genomes of two snails that help transmit diseases to other species — an important first step to stopping the spread. But their hopes were soon dashed after they realized they had misidentified one of the snails.

The researchers published their findings earlier this year in the journal Parasites & Vectors. In the paper, the authors stressed that understanding the genetic makeup of these molluscs is important because many “freshwater snails are intermediate hosts for flatworm parasites and transmit infectious diseases” to humans and other animals. They also acknowledged that identifying snail species from their appearance alone can be tricky. Read the rest of this entry »