Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

“Credible threats of personal violence” against editor prompt withdrawal of colonialism paper

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A journal has withdrawn an essay that called for a return to colonialism after the editor received alleged threats tied to the article.

Soon after Third World Quarterly published the controversial essay, readers began to object. When the journal defended its decision, 15 editorial board members resigned in response. More than 10,000 people signed a petition to have it retracted. On September 26, the publisher posted a statement — including a detailed timeline of the paper’s peer review process — and said the the author had requested to withdraw the article. However, in the statement, the publisher said that “peer-reviewed research articles cannot simply be withdrawn but must have grounds for retraction.”

The journal has since changed its position, and withdrawn the paper entirely from its site, posting this notice in its place:

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Journal to retract paper called “anti-vaccine pseudoscience”

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A journal is planning to retract a paper that purported to link a component of vaccines to autism in mice.

The paper, about the effects of aluminum adjuvants in vaccines on the immune response in the brains of mice, is the second retraction for co-authors Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic, of the University of British Columbia. The journal’s editor told us he and the authors are jointly retracting the paper. 

Just over a month old, the paper has already received plenty of criticism. Numerous commenters on PubPeer have allegedly identified image duplications and other problems with the paper. One commenter described “clear and deliberate” removal of control results in the paper, while others suggested gel bands were duplicated within the paper, and appear similar to those from another paper published in 2014 by Shaw and Tomljenovic. In a blog post, David Gorski, a professor and surgeon at Wayne State University, called the paper “antivaccine pseudoscience.”

Shaw, the paper’s last author, told us that his lab became aware of the PubPeer discussion a few weeks after publication:  Read the rest of this entry »

Society recommends 9 retractions for co-author of researcher with record number of retractions

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The Japanese Society of Anesthesiologists (JSA) has requested the retraction of nine additional papers by a co-author of fraudster Yoshitaka Fujii, after investigating allegations of fraud in dozens of papers.

According to the report, a committee investigated approximately 40 publications by Yuhji Saitoh of Yachiyo Medical Center and Tokyo Women’s Medical University and “identified ten publications with clear ethics violations, one of which has already been retracted.”

Saitoh has collaborated on many papers with Fujii, an anesthesia researcher with more than 180 retractions. As we reported, Saitoh resigned from the JSA when the investigation began, and the society permanently banned him. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

October 9th, 2017 at 8:10 am

Weekend reads: Why critics criticize; a Big Bang Theory retraction; Nobels under scrutiny

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Written by Ivan Oransky

October 7th, 2017 at 9:40 am

Posted in weekend reads

Case report of stem cell therapy in child didn’t meet “ethical standards,” says journal

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A journal has retracted a recent case report about a stem cell therapy in a child with cerebral palsy, after discovering the study failed to meet “ethical standards.”

According to the journal, Regenerative Medicine, the ethical issue is that the authors failed to report the case to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare of Japan, which violates the country’s guidelines for conducting stem cell research. Unfortunately, we don’t know much more than that about what happened.

Laura Dormer, editorial director of Future Science Group, which publishes Regenerative Medicine, explained that the paper’s first author, Masato Kantake, requested the retraction because: Read the rest of this entry »

What types of researchers are most likely to recycle text? The answers might surprise you

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Willem Halffman

Serge Horbach

Historians, economists, biochemists, psychologists: Who reuses their own material most often? Does the rate depend on how many authors a paper has, and how far along a researcher is in his or her career? Serge Horbach and Willem Halffman at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands tried to answer these questions by reviewing more than 900 papers published by researchers based in The Netherlands. And they were surprised by their findings, published last month by Research Policy.

Retraction Watch: How does the amount of text recycling you identified among researchers at Dutch universities (6.1%) compare to what other studies have shown among other groups of researchers?

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Written by Alison McCook

October 6th, 2017 at 8:00 am

Early data on potential anti-cancer compound now in human trials was falsified, company admits

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A pharmaceutical company has admitted that one of its former researchers falsified early data on a compound that’s designed to fight cancer, now in human trials.

The data, published as an abstract in August 2015 in the journal Cancer Research, reported a therapeutic benefit of acalabrutinib in a mouse model of pancreatic cancer. The compound, developed by the company Acerta Pharma, has also been the subject of additional trials published in the New England Journal of Medicine and Blood in 2015. The 2015 NEJM study, which had several authors in common with the Cancer Research abstract, showed the agent had “promising safety and efficacy profiles in patients” with relapsed chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

But an investigation into the data underlying the 2015 abstract shows some were falsified, prompting the journal to retract the abstract.

Ed Tucker, senior vice president of Medical Safety, Quality and Compliance at Acerta Pharma, told us that in August 2016 the company identified an issue with the data in the Cancer Research abstract and started an investigation:

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Nature adds alert to heavily debated paper about gene editing

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Nature has added an “editor’s note” to a high-profile August paper alerting readers to the fact that the article has been subject to criticism.

Journals often flag papers that are being debated — what’s unusual here is that the journal doesn’t label the notice as an official “Expression of Concern,” which are indexed by PubMed. Yet the Nature notice reads just like an expression of concern.

Here’s the text of the new notice, which was added October 2 (and spotted by Paul Knoepfler):

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Second retraction for psychologist reveals clues about culprit behind misconduct

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A social psychologist has retracted a second paper that contains “fabricated or manipulated data.”

The first retraction for William Hart at the University of Alabama — also due to data manipulation — appeared earlier this year. The notice raised some questions over authorship: Hart was the sole author, but he blamed the retraction on a graduate student who supplied the problematic data. The questions continued when Hart’s colleagues posted blogs about the problems that occurred in Hart’s lab, using a pseudonym to describe the student, who apparently admitted to fabricating data.  

The author of one of those blogs, Hart’s colleague Alexa Tullett, told us in March that she was retracting another paper she wrote with Hart and the unnamed graduate student. Recently, she confirmed this latest retraction is that paper.

Looking at the author list of the newest retraction, by process of elimination, we now have a lead on the identity of the graduate student who allegedly took responsibility for the misconduct.

Tullett told us:

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Written by Alison McCook

October 4th, 2017 at 10:57 am

Can you spot a fake? New tool aims to help journals identify fake reviews

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Chris Heid

Fake peer reviews are a problem in academic publishing. A big problem. Many publishers are taking proactive steps to limit the effects, but massive purges of papers tainted by problematic reviews continue to occur; to date, more than 500 papers have been retracted for this reason. In an effort to help, Clarivate Analytics is unveiling a new tool as part of the release of ScholarOne Manuscripts, its peer review and submission software in December, 2017. We spoke to Chris Heid, Head of Product for ScholarOne, about the new pilot program to detect unusual submission and peer review activity that may warrant further investigation by the journal.

Retraction Watch: Fake peer reviews are a major problem in publishing, but many publishers are hyper-aware of it and even making changes to their processes, such as not allowing authors to recommend reviewers. Why do you think the industry needs a tool to help detect fake reviews?

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Written by Alison McCook

October 4th, 2017 at 8:00 am