Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Weekend reads: A manuscript marriage proposal; a biotech company screw-up; “systematic failure” in run-up to vaccine trial

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Written by Ivan Oransky

January 13th, 2018 at 9:12 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Authors retract paper on psychopathic traits in bosses

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A paper on the prevalence of cruel social behavior in the corporate world has been retracted, following an investigation at the authors’ university. According to the senior author, she inadvertently paraphrased a dissertation on the same topic that did not belong to her student and co-author.

On Sept. 21, 2016, Katarina Fritzon, a professor at Australia’s Bond University, and Nathan Brooks, who was Fritzon’s graduate student at the time, published “Psychopathic personality characteristics amongst high functioning populations,” in Crime Psychology Review. The paper suggested that as many as one in five corporate executives exhibited the hallmarks of a psychopath, such as lack of remorse or egocentricity.

Fritzon told Retraction Watch the paper drew largely from the introduction to Brooks’s doctoral dissertation. Along with Brooks’ research, it received media attention worldwide. But Fritzon told us that in October 2016 she received a complaint from another university about the work: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew P. Han

January 12th, 2018 at 11:00 am

A Cardinal sin? Communications researcher accused of plagiarizing former Pope

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Peter Schulz

A communications researcher in Switzerland found guilty of plagiarism and sanctioned is facing more allegationsincluding that he plagiarized work by a former Pope.

Peter J. Schulz, who works at the University of Lugano, has already lost two book chapters. He also has retracted two papers and issued three errata; the errata note failing to properly cite other authors and plagiarism. In 2016, he was temporarily suspended by his university for misappropriating the work of others.

Most recently, Schulz has been accused of plagiarizing Pope John Paul II (who resigned died in 2005) and the English philosopher, Sir Anthony Kenny, in a 2001 book chapter. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

January 12th, 2018 at 8:00 am

“Devastated” researchers worry co-author’s use of fake reviews could hurt their careers

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In late December, Ana Khajehnezhad learned what no scientist wants to hear: One of her papers had been retracted. The reason: Her co-author had faked the reviews.

Khajehnezhad, who works at the Plasma Physics Research Center at Islamic Azad University in Tehran, Iran, told Retraction Watch she was “devastated” to hear the news:

I was so shocked. … I had absolutely no knowledge whatsoever on the actions taken by the corresponding author.

As we reported last month, Elsevier is retracting 26 papers affected by fake reviews; Ahmad Salar Elahi is corresponding author on 24 of them, including Khajehnezhad’s now-retracted paper published in International Journal of Hydrogen Energy. Many of Ehali’s co-authors are now facing the consequences of these retractions. Three of them shared their story. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

January 11th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Caught Our Notice: Journals still (slowly) purging archives of bad cell line studies

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Via Wikimedia

Title: Tanshinone IIA Induces Apoptosis in Human Oral Cancer KB Cells through a Mitochondria-Dependent Pathway

What Caught Our Attention: Thousands of papers have relied on contaminated or wrong cell lines, a problem journals have not been particularly proactive in addressing. So far, only a few studies have been retracted for using misidentified cell lines. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison Abritis

January 11th, 2018 at 8:00 am

Journal retracts “hopelessly flawed” paper linking cell phone radiation to pain

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Mario Romero-Ortega. Credit: UT-Dallas

A journal is retracting a paper linking radio waves from cell phone towers to pain in amputees, despite objections from the authors.

Anthropogenic Radio-Frequency Electromagnetic Fields Elicit Neuropathic Pain in an Amputation Model,” originally published Jan. 16, 2016 in PLOS ONE, suggested that rats with injured nerves experienced pain when exposed to the type of electromagnetic radiation emitted by cell phone network towers. A press release issued by the University of Texas at Dallas (UT-Dallas) — where the corresponding author Mario Romero-Ortega and two co-first authors are based — said that this phenomenon has been reported anecdotally by people missing limbs.

But the study, especially its methodology, met with immediate criticism in the article’s comment section. PLOS ONE noted in March 2016 that the authors had contacted the journal regarding an error in some of the exposure levels reported in the study, which journal staff were “looking into.” In December 2016, the journal told the authors it was going to retract the paper. Now, more than one year later, it finally has.

Ken Foster, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who commented in February 2016 that the paper was “hopelessly flawed,” told us: Read the rest of this entry »

Ever been asked to remove a reference for libel concerns? These authors have

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Last month, Nature Ecology & Evolution published a series of responses to a previous article recommending essential reading for all ecologists. In one response, the authors argue that the list is highly biased in favor of white male authors, and raises the problem of bullying and harassment in academia. But the letter is missing one key reference from its original submission: To a recent news story in Science reporting “disturbing” sexual harassment allegations against a prominent field researcher.

Why is the reference missing?

Because the editor at Nature Ecology & Evolution asked the authors to take it out, citing concerns about libel.

Here’s the note the authors received on their original submission:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

January 10th, 2018 at 8:00 am

Swedish gov’t rescinds grant for fish-plastics researcher

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Peter Eklöv

The Swedish government has terminated a four-year grant to a researcher at Uppsala University recently found guilty of misconduct — and, in a first, has also banned him from applying for grants for another two years.

A representative of the Swedish Research Council told us that it is “very rare” for the body to rescind a grant — and it has never simultaneously rescinded a grant and temporarily banned the researcher from applying for funding.

The researcher is Peter Eklöv, who co-authored a now-retracted Science paper which suggested fish larvae prefer to eat tiny particles of plastic over their own natural prey.  As soon as it appeared in 2016, the paper earned both media attention  and controversy, as critics alleged it contained missing data and used a problematic methodology. Late last year, the Swedish Research Council announced that Eklöv  was among more than 300 recipients of new grants; his totalled 3,300,000 ($355,440 USD).

At the time, a representative of the Swedish Research Council told us it knew Eklöv was under investigation by Uppsala, and was awaiting that decision.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

January 9th, 2018 at 11:05 am

Posted in sweden retractions

Accusations of ”false claims” in anti-global warming paper unresolved after three years

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Three years after receiving a complaint about extensive plagiarism and major errors in an anti-global warming paper, Elsevier says it’s still reviewing the allegations.

In 2014, readers complained to the Elsevier journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews about plagiarism and technical flaws in a 2013 paper questioning mainstream climate change science.

When we first began reporting the story last year, a spokesperson for Elsevier told us:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

January 9th, 2018 at 8:00 am

Caught Our Notice: “Ironically,” same error in same journal “was noted last year”

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Via Wikimedia

Title: Sleep quality and body composition variations in obese male adults after 14 weeks of yoga intervention: A randomized controlled trial

What Caught Our Attention: Last year, researchers led by David Allison at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Public Health called for the retraction of an article linking weight loss and obese female yoga participants in the International Journal of Yoga, citing problems with randomization and baseline statistics. Despite the first author’s statement that he planned to retract the article, the journal refused to retract it.   Read the rest of this entry »