Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Journal hit by citation scandal named among top in field

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It’s been a mixed year for Wiley’s Land Degradation & Development.

Following accusations of citation irregularities at the journal (whose its Impact Factor rose dramatically from 3.089 in 2014 to 8.145 in 2015), its editor was asked to resign. Another editor resigned shortly after.

But last week, Clarivate Analytics named the journal among the top 10 in the field of climate change, as part of its annual Journal Citation Reports.

The annual report also lists a number of journals that have been suppressed from Clarivate’s analysis “due to anomalous citation patterns;” Land Degradation & Development is not listed among the 13 journals this year.

A spokesperson for Clarivate told us:

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Written by Alison McCook

June 19th, 2017 at 9:23 am

Weekend reads: Science’s citation problem; researcher rehab; a strange new journal

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The week at Retraction Watch featured the resignation of a researcher found to have fudged data in a study of Crossfit, and allegations of bullying by a scientist who wouldn’t let a trainee publish a paper. Here’s what was happening elsewhere: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

June 17th, 2017 at 9:55 am

Posted in weekend reads

Following outcry, American Psychological Association “refocuses” takedown notice program

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After a deluge of protests from researchers who received notices from the American Psychological Association (APA) to remove papers from their websites, the publisher announced it will shift its focus to commercial sites.

Earlier this week, researchers took to Twitter to lament the takedown notices they had received from the APA; one posted the letter in place of his paper. The letters were part of a pilot program by the APA to remove “unauthorized online postings of APA journal articles.”

That program has now taken a bit of a turn. In a release yesterday, the APA says that:

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Written by Alison McCook

June 16th, 2017 at 10:39 am

Journal flags cancer paper from Karolinska researchers

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A journal has issued an expression of concern (EOC) for a 2011 cancer paper, while Karolinska Institutet investigates “concerns” about some of the data.

After the Journal of Cell Science (JCS) received a tip from a reader, it investigated, but was unable to resolve the concerns. So the journal asked KI–where all the authors work–to investigate further, and issued an EOC to alert readers that there may be an issue with the paper.

According to the notice, the questions center on data from Fig. 1A, but the notice does not specify the nature of the concerns. The 2011 paper received a correction in 2016, which cites inadvertent figure duplication.

Earlier this year, the paper’s last author Boris Zhivotovsky and second author Helin Vakifahmetoglu-Norberg retracted a 2008 paper from Oncogene over potential image duplication. That retraction caught our attention because it was prompted by a 2016 correction to the paper, which had raised additional questions about potential duplication; ultimately, the authors retracted both the paper and its correction.

Here’s the expression of concern for the 2011 JCS paper: Read the rest of this entry »

Career derailed, ex-prof to sue Montana State for wrongful termination

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Ryan Jones. Credit: Kelly Gorham/MSU

A former assistant professor at Montana State University who was fired last year is planning to sue the school for defamation, wrongful termination, and violation of due process.

Ryan Jones, a microbiologist, was forced to leave his tenure-track position — which was technically a one-year contract, so could be terminated before he had the opportunity to apply for tenure. The case highlights the insecurity of non-tenured academic jobs, an issue the planned suit is tackling head on. In addition to monetary damages, the lawsuit seeks to void all one-year contracts at Montana State, which can be terminated for any reason — a system that exists elsewhere in academia.

Jones told Retraction Watch that he believes he was forced out based on what he alleges are cooked-up charges of research misconduct — specifically, he brought back insect samples from the Amazon but didn’t fill out a permit:

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Written by Andrew P. Han

June 15th, 2017 at 10:45 am

Meet PubPeer 2.0: New version of post-publication peer review site launches today

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Since it launched in 2012, PubPeer has grown to become a standard part of the scientific lexicon, and its numerous post-publication discussions have led to more editorial notices than we can count. But it’s also faced its share of critics, including a scientist who took the site to court to unmask commenters he alleged had cost him a job offer. The site won that case on appeal, but is today launching new features that will make it impossible for the site to reveal users’ identities, as well as easier to read and format comments. We spoke with PubPeer co-founder Brandon Stell about what to expect from the new site.

Retraction Watch: What changes have you introduced to the site?

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Written by Alison McCook

June 15th, 2017 at 8:00 am

Posted in pubpeer selections

Researchers protest publisher’s orders to remove papers from their websites

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Researchers are protesting orders from the American Psychological Association to remove links to papers from their websites.

Multiple researchers took to Twitter recently to lament the takedown notices they’ve received from the APA; one posted the letter in place of the link to his paper. According to the APA, the letters are part of a pilot program to “monitor and seek removal of unauthorized online postings of APA journal articles.”

The notices cite misuse of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which enables internet users to protect their own content. But it can be heavily abused by people who file false copyright infringement claims to remove content they don’t like from the internet. (We have even been the target of such attempts.)

According to the letter posted by Nathaniel Daw at Princeton University, the APA says:

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Written by Alison McCook

June 14th, 2017 at 2:17 pm

Ex-researcher who shot dean found guilty of attempted murder

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Hengjun Chao Credit: Westchester County DA

 

A New York jury has found Hengjun Chao, a former research assistant professor at Mount Sinai, guilty of attempted second degree murder and two other charges.

Last year, Chao shot Dennis Charney, a Mount Sinai dean who had fired him in 2010 for misconduct, outside of a deli in a wealthy New York suburb. After the incident, Chao admitted to police he shot Charney. During the trial, Chao’s lawyer argued that Chao had done so to draw attention to what he believed to be misconduct at Mount Sinai.

As reported by the Chappaqua Patch, in addition to one count of attempted second degree murder, Chao was convicted of one count of criminal use of a firearm and one count of assault. He faces a maximum of 25 years in state prison.

Chao’s attorney, Stewart Orden, told Retraction Watch:

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Written by Andrew P. Han

June 14th, 2017 at 12:12 pm

Springer purge of fake reviews takes down 10+ more neuroscience papers

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Back in April, Springer retracted a record number 107 papers from Tumor Biology after uncovering evidence they were subject to fake peer reviews. But it appears that the Tumor Biology sweep was only part of the story.

During the Tumor Biology investigation, Springer found evidence that the “peer review process was compromised” in a dozen papers on brain cancer published in another journal. The 12 Molecular Neurobiology retractions have trickled in over the past year or so, published before and after the Tumor Biology sweep.

A spokesperson at Springer confirmed that the 12 retracted papers in Molecular Neurobiology were related to the Tumor Biology retractions for fake peer review: Read the rest of this entry »

Quick: What does fish food have to do with X-rays? In this case, an Elsevier production error

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An MRI of a fish, not involved in this study. (via Wikimedia)

In 2012, a study claiming to show — after some intentional statistical tricks — that a dead salmon had brain activity in an fMRI won a prestigious (and hilarious) Ig Nobel Prize.

So five years later, when Bálint Botz tweeted wryly about a study of fish and plants in a radiology journal, we thought, “Aha, someone is trying to create another red herring!”

But alas, it turns out the reason a journal normally concerned with X-rays would suddenly be interested in aquaponics was far more prosaic: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

June 13th, 2017 at 11:30 am