Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Renewable energy researcher with troubled record loses another paper

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renewable-sustainable-energy-reviewsA renewable energy researcher who recycled material in several papers — and has already agreed to withdraw 10 studies — has lost another paper.

In January, we reported that six of 10 papers flagged by an investigation into author Shyi-Min Lu have either been retracted or withdrawn. Now, Lu has lost another paper that was not among the previous ten — again, for reproducing figures from earlier works without seeking permission from original authors. This paper was on a hot topic: gas hydrates, considered to be a potential new energy source to replace oil in the 21st century.

The investigations into Lu’s work took place at the Industrial Technology Research Institute in Hsinchu, Taiwan, where he was formerly based, and the National Taiwan University, in Taipei, Taiwan, which fired Lu from his position at the university’s energy research center.

Here’s the retraction notice in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, issued last month: Read the rest of this entry »

What if scientists funded each other?

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Johan Bollen

Johan Bollen

We were struck recently by a paper in Scientometrics that proposed a unique way to fund scientists: Distribute money equally, but require that each scientist donate a portion to others – turning the federal funding system into a crowd-sourcing venture that funds people instead of projects. The proposal could save the inordinate amount of time scientists currently spend writing (and re-writing) grants, but would it actually work? First author Johan Bollen, of Indiana University, explains.

Retraction Watch: You propose something quite unique: Fund everyone equally, but ask them to give a fraction of their funding to someone else. Is the idea that scientists most respected by their peers will “earn” a higher percentage of funding, and everyone is just acting as reviewers? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

September 20th, 2016 at 9:54 am

Journal to retract study declaring safety of asbestos roofs: Report

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joehOnly a few months after publication, an environmental journal has told an activist group it plans to retract a paper about the safety of roofing products containing asbestos after facing heavy criticism.

This summer, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (JOEH) received multiple letters asking the to retract the paper. Critics of the paper — which concluded that exposures to asbestos-containing roofing products were within safety limits — argued the article provided misleading information, grouped different materials with different asbestos exposures together, and failed to note the approving editor’s ties to the asbestos industry.

The article was published as a case study, which is considered a type of “column” by the journal, thereby bypassing its peer-review system; according to an email the journal sent to the organization Right on Canada (which a representative forwarded to Retraction Watch), this served as the basis for the journal’s decision to pull the paper.

According to the email, the journal’s editorial board decided on August 10 to retract “Airborne asbestos exposures associated with the installation and removal of roofing products” due to

Read the rest of this entry »

Is it dangerous to set quotas for research output?

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roosy

Roosy Aulakh

Yes, argues Roosy Aulakh, an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics in the Government Medical College and Hospital in Chandigarh, India. In last week’s BMJ, she argues that recent measures to force researchers in India to produce a minimum number of publications to obtain promotions could set the stage for many problems, including fraud.

Retraction Watch: You cite a recent paper that showed more than 50% of Indian medical institutions and hospitals didn’t publish a single paper between 2005 and 2014. Did that finding surprise you?

Roosy Aulakh: Well definitely yes! With over 400 medical colleges in India producing more than 50,000 doctors an year, such poor research output surely came as a surprise.

RW: In response, the Medical Council of India (MCI) is now requiring researchers to publish at least four articles to become an associate professor, and eight to become a professor. Does that concern you? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

September 19th, 2016 at 11:00 am

Authors retract 2016 cancer study when data don’t align with figures

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cell-death-and-differentiationResearchers have retracted a 2016 cancer study, citing discrepancies between the data and images presented in the paper. 

Although the retraction notice itself contains relatively little information, we’ve obtained a letter from the last author — Jun-Li Luo of The Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Florida — to the editor-in-chief of Cell Death and Differentiation that says a bit more. 

According to the letter, after receiving the anonymous email, Luo conducted an investigation, contacting co-authors who contributed each of the figures in question. Although Luo writes that he has no reason to suspect fraud, the researchers were not able to provide some of the original data.

PubPeer commenters have questioned figures 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 in the study, “IKKα-mediated biogenesis of miR-196a through interaction with Drosha regulates the sensitivity of cancer cells to radiotherapy.”

In the letter, Luo tells Gerry Melino, co-editor-in-chief of the journal from the University of Leicester, UK, that figures 3D and 3E were provided by the study’s first author, Xing Fang, adding: Read the rest of this entry »

Weekend reads: How to create tabloid science headlines; sugar industry buys research; the citation black market

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booksThe week at Retraction Watch featured a look at whether we have an epidemic of flawed meta-analyses, and the story of a strange case involving climate research and pseudonyms. Here’s what was happening elsewhere: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

September 17th, 2016 at 9:52 am

Posted in weekend reads

When does “overlap” become plagiarism? Here’s what PLOS ONE decided

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PLOSOne

Consider this: Fragments of a PLOS ONE paper overlap with pieces of other publications. The authors used them without credit and without quotation marks.

This sounds an awful lot like plagiarism — using PLOS‘s own standards, even. But the journal isn’t calling it plagiarism. They’ve labeled this an instance of “text overlap,” a spokesperson told us, based on the amount of material that the paper shares with others.

The last author — Carlo Croce, who has two retractions under his belt — denies that he plagiarized, and says that his university has cleared him of a plagiarism charge from an anonymous whistleblower.

PLOS fixed this case last year with a correction notice — not the common course of action for a case of confirmed plagiarism. Take a look at the notice for yourself:

Read the rest of this entry »

Correction cites “unreliable” data in paper by researchers at center of Duke lawsuit

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Journal of Biological ChemistryA researcher charged with embezzlement — and now the subject of a multi-million dollar lawsuit — has earned another correction, again citing “unreliable” data.

But this doesn’t appear to be a run-of-the-mill correction notice.

Firstly, it affects a paper co-authored by Erin Potts-Kant and William Foster, former Duke employees now being sued (along with Duke) for including fraudulent data in $200 million worth of federal grants. Secondly, the notice in the Journal of Biological Chemistry is four paragraphs long, and includes six figures — it would normally be considered a “mega-correction.” But lastly, even though the notice is labeled a “correction,” it’s not immediately apparent which aspects of the paper are being changed.

Here are some excerpts from the newest notice: Read the rest of this entry »

Patients Like Me privacy breach complaint sinks paper

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A journal has removed a paper after realizing it contained a verbatim quote from a patient that could reveal the patient’s identity. Reposting as our subscription software appears to be acting up again. Read the whole post here.

Written by Ivan Oransky

September 15th, 2016 at 3:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Social networking site privacy breach complaint prompts retraction

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patients-like-meA journal has removed a paper after realizing it contained a verbatim quote from a patient that could reveal the patient’s identity.

The journal learned of the slip-up after receiving a complaint from a social networking site for patients called PatientsLikeMe, which enables people with similar conditions to connect with each other. The retracted paper — ironically about automatically sanitizing private information on social networking sites — included a brief quote from an HIV-positive user of the site, containing specific dates and infections the patient had experienced.

The corresponding author of the study in Expert Systems and Applications confirmed to us that the letter from PatientsLikeMe about two lines of text in the study triggered its removal.

The journal has republished an updated version of the paper without the problematic text. 

Here’s an excerpt from the complaint, sent by Paul Wicks, Principal Scientist and Vice President of Innovation at PatientsLikeMe, to the researchers and the journal in December 2015: Read the rest of this entry »