Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Poll: What to do when peer review feels inadequate?

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How should scientists think about papers that have undergone what appears to be a cursory peer review? Perhaps the papers were reviewed in a day — or less — or simply green-lighted by an editor, without an outside look. That’s a question Dorothy Bishop, an Oxford University autism researcher, asked herself when she noticed some troubling trends in four autism journals.

Recently, Bishop sparked a firestorm when she wrote several blog posts arguing that these four autism journals had a serious problem. For instance, she found that Johnny Matson, then-editor of Research in Developmental Disabilities and Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, had an unusually high rate of citing his own research – 55% of his citations are to his own papers, according to Bishop. Matson also published a lot in his own journals – 10% of the papers published in Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders since Matson took over in 2007 have been his. Matson’s prodigious self-citation in Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders was initially pointed out by autism researcher Michelle Dawson, as noted in Bishop’s original post.

Short peer reviews of a day or less were also common. Matson no longer edits the journals, both published by Elsevier.

Bishop noted similar findings at Developmental Neurorehabilitation and Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, where the editors (and Matson) frequently published in each others’ journals, and they often had short peer reviews: The median time for Matson’s papers in Developmental Neurorehabilitation between 2010 and 2014 was a day, and many were accepted the day they were submitted, says Bishop.

Although this behavior may seem suspect, it wasn’t necessarily against the journals’ editorial policies. This is the peer review policy at RIDD:

Read the rest of this entry »

JCI retracts paper by stem cell biologist Jacob Hanna, citing “figure irregularities”

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jciapril2015The Journal of Clinical Investigation has retracted a 2004 paper by Jacob Hanna, a highly cited stem cell researcher in Israel whose work has been dogged by questions about its validity.

Questions about the work, and other articles on which Hanna was an author, were raised on PubPeer last November. This is his first retraction.

The retraction stems from “a number of figure irregularities;” the authors say they were “inadvertently introduced,” and subsequent work has supported their data and conclusions. However, due to the “number of serious mistakes,” the JCI editorial board chose to retract the article. Hanna and corresponding author Ofer Mandelboim at The Lautenberg Center for General and Tumor Immunology — part of Hebrew University, in Jerusalem, where Hanna used to work — say they have accepted the decision.

Hanna, currently at the Weizmann Institute of Science, studies ways to reprogram cells to become more versatile stem cells. He also spent time as a postdoc at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge and Mount Sinai, in New York City.

Six of Hanna’s papers have been cited more than 500 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. The most-cited, with more than 1,000 citations, was a 2008 Nature paper.

The retracted article, “Novel APC-like properties of human NK cells directly regulate T cell activation,” has been cited 121 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

The retracted paper examined the early steps of an immune response involving natural killer (NK) cells and antigen-presenting cells (APCs). From the abstract: Read the rest of this entry »

Wayne State neuroscientist fudged images in five papers

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Teresita L. Briones

Teresita L. Briones

Teresita Briones, a former nursing professor at Wayne State University in Detroit who studied neuroscience, manipulated images in five papers, according to the Office of Research Integrity.

Briones, who focused on neuroplasticity: Read the rest of this entry »

Former Columbia postdoc faked Alzheimer’s research in Cell and Nature

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cover_natureRyousuke Fujita, a former Columbia University postdoc who admitted to having faked the findings of a 2011 Cell paper in a retraction notice last year, also faked the results of a 2013 Nature paper, according to a new report from the Office of Research Integrity (ORI).

Fujita’s work, in conjunction with Asa Abeliovich, was widely hailed as a significant step forward, a way to turn skin cells into brain cells. But the story began falling apart when the Cell retraction said that he “acknowledged inappropriately manipulating image panels and data points, as well as misrepresenting the number of repeats performed.”

The ORI’s findings in the case also involve a 2013 Nature paper, “Integrative genomics identifies APOE ε4 effectors in Alzheimer’s disease,” and a paper never published. Fujita, according to the ORI: Read the rest of this entry »

Retraction to appear for beleaguered plant researcher Olivier Voinnet

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Olivier Voinnet

Olivier Voinnet

Olivier Voinnet, a researcher at ETH in Zurich who has corrected a number of his papers following critiques on PubPeer dating from late last year, is retracting a 2004 paper in The Plant Cell, according to the journal’s publisher.

Voinnet, the winner of the 2013 Rössler Prize, is a high-profile scientist, and scrutiny of his work has only grown since the initial revelations. In an unusual move, the journal and its publisher, the American Society of Plant Biologists, put out a press release about the situation today. Here’s the statement: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

April 6th, 2015 at 7:15 pm

Rolling Stone retracts UVA gang rape story: A view from Retraction Watch

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Rolling-Stone-LOGO-2Rolling Stone has officially retracted its blockbuster story on a gruesome gang rape at the University of Virginia, “A Rape on Campus.”

The story, which followed the case of a UVA student named Jackie, was retracted last night after a 12,700-word report was released by the Columbia Journalism School and published on Rolling Stone’s website. The CJR review uncovered a breakdown in very basic reporting principles, including pressing hard for outside confirmation of difficult stories and sending “no surprises” letters to every person being portrayed in an unflattering light. The report was accompanied by an apology from managing editor Will Dana, who penned the editor’s note we discussed in December. The writer, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, also released a statement, which read in part: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Cat Ferguson

April 6th, 2015 at 1:39 pm

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Second paper for Duke lung researchers expires in a retraction

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pnas 3 5 13Scientists at Duke and the National Institutes of Health have retracted a PNAS paper on asthma treatment after realizing the data from two sources didn’t match, and “most primary data” from several experiments were missing.

The mix up seems to have come from the pulmonary function laboratory that tested how well asthmatic patients’ lungs were functioning on an experimental anti-inflammatory therapy. As the authors say in the retraction note: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Cat Ferguson

April 6th, 2015 at 11:30 am

Cancer researcher under investigation in Italy notches eighth retraction

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ejcancerAlfredo Fusco, the researcher in Italy who is under criminal investigation and has had seven papers retracted, has lost yet another study.

The investigation, which came to light in late 2013, had focused on eight papers thought to demonstrate evidence of image manipulation.

The latest paper, in the European Journal of Cancer, studied mice with a genetic alteration associated with lipomas (benign fatty growths) in humans.

Here’s part of the notice for “Expression of a truncated Hmga1b gene induces gigantism, lipomatosis and B-cell lymphomas in mice”: Read the rest of this entry »

Weekend reads: Publication pollution, irreproducible research crisis, and broken funding models

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booksThe week at Retraction Watch featured an adventure in irony as a paper on plagiarism was retracted for…plagiarism, as well as another retraction for high-profile cancer research Robert Weinberg. Here’s what was happening elsewhere: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

April 4th, 2015 at 9:31 am

Posted in weekend reads

Other shoe drops for MIT cancer researcher Robert Weinberg as Cell retraction appears

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cell cloningRobert Weinberg, a prominent cancer scientist whose papers often notch hundreds or thousands of citations, has lost a fourth paper, this time a 2009 publication in Cell.

Journal Genes and Development pulled two of Weinberg’s papers in March, stating that they had retracted the 2009 study because data from several experiments was used in figures that seemed to represent only one. The Genes and Development papers were sunk because the “same analytical methodology was used.”

At the time, the Cell retraction was unavailable, though a spokesperson informed us it was forthcoming. The paper has been cited 482 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

Now that the notice has landed, here’s why the paper is being retracted: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Cat Ferguson

April 3rd, 2015 at 11:35 am