Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Scientist who sued university earns two more retractions, bringing total to five

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A scientist who sued his employer for millions of dollars has earned two more retractions, for papers that had already been flagged by the journal.

By our count, Rakesh Kumar now has five retractions and multiple corrections.

Kumar sued his employer, George Washington University, for $8 million, alleging emotional distress when they put him on leave from his position as department chair following a finding of misconduct. That suit was settled last year, for undisclosed terms.

The two newest retractions in the Journal of Biological Chemistry — which tagged the papers with Expressions of Concern last year — both state that, according to Kumar, the problematic figures were assembled by “specific co-authors” — unnamed — in his lab. Here’s the first notice:

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Japan, Taiwan taking closer look at fraud — and how to stop it

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Two countries have recently announced plans to learn more about research misconduct, with the goal of preventing it from happening in the first place.

In Japan, the effort takes the form of a joint study group among six universities, which will interview researchers who have engaged in misconduct to discover patterns and common factors for their wrongdoing. In Taiwan, the government recently announced plans to establish an Office of Research Integrity, based on the version in the U.S., to investigate alleged cases of misconduct.

Here’s more about the new Taiwan office, from the Taipei Times:

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Written by Alison McCook

March 20th, 2017 at 9:30 am

Weekend reads: Investigations need sunlight; should we name fraudster names?; how to kill predatory journals

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The week at Retraction Watch featured a lawsuit threat following criticism of a popular education program, and the new editor of PLOS ONE’s explanation of why submissions are down. Here’s what was happening elsewhere: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

March 18th, 2017 at 9:30 am

Posted in weekend reads

Physics paper’s results off by factor of 100

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Researchers from China have retracted a physics paper after realizing an error led them to report results that were nearly 100 times too large.

What’s more, the authors omitted key findings that would enable others to reproduce their experiments.

According to the notice, the authors used a value to calculate a feature of electrons—called mobility—that “was approximately 100 times too small,” which led to results that were “100 times too large.” The notice also details several gaps in the presentation of experimental results, which preclude others from duplicating the experiments.

Here’s the retraction notice for “Bulk- and layer-heterojunction phototransistors based on poly[2-methoxy-5-(2′-ethylhexyloxy-p-phenylenevinylene)] and PbS quantum dot hybrids:” Read the rest of this entry »

Two more retractions for stem cell researcher appealing her dismissal

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Susana Gonzalez

Susana Gonzalez, a rising star in stem cell research, has had a rough year.

In addition to being fired from her former research institute (which she is now appealing), one of her grants (totaling nearly 2 million Euros) was suspended. Most recently, she has received two new retractions in Nature Communications over figure duplications and missing raw data. By our count, she has a total of three retractions.

Both of the new notices say the papers contained figures duplicated in other papers by Gonzalez, and neither includes Gonzalez among the list of co-authors who agreed to the retraction.

Gonzalez was dismissed from her position at the National Center for Cardiovascular Research (CNIC) in Spain last February over allegations of misconduct. According to the head of basic research at CNIC, Gonzalez is still embroiled in a legal battle with the Center over her dismissal. Vicente Andrés could not go into detail because of the ongoing litigation, but he told us: Read the rest of this entry »

Why don’t the raw data match what was reported in a chemistry paper?

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Chemistry researchers in China have retracted their 2016 paper after reporting that the raw data did not match what they presented in the article.

The authors were attempting to develop a method to produce large amounts of a high-quality two-dimensional form of antimonene, a prized crystal structure that has been notoriously difficult to synthesize reliably.

They were successful, according to the paper, achieving “a large quantity of few-layer antimonene” and demonstrating its “exact atomical structure” and properties.

But they may have spoken too soon. Read the rest of this entry »

Prominent NIH researcher up to a dozen retractions

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Stanley Rapoport. Source: NIH

Neuroscientist Stanley Rapoport hasn’t had much luck with his co-authors.

Recently, we’ve reported on multiple retractions of papers co-authored by Rapoport after three different first authors were found to have committed misconduct. Now, the fallout from one of those cases had led to four more retractions, bringing Rapoport’s total to 12.

The latest batch of retractions stem from the actions of Jagadeesh Rao.

Here’s the first notice, issued by Psychopharmacology:

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After lawsuit threat, journal forces author to heavily revise education paper

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Under threat of a lawsuit, an education journal changed its mind about publishing a paper that it had already accepted after peer review.

Last summer, Education Policy Analysis Archives, published by the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University, informed San Francisco State University professor Stanley Pogrow that the journal would be publishing his paper criticizing a widely used reform intervention for schools in poor districts called Success For All.

According to Success For All‘s website, the program is currently used in more than 1,000 schools in 48 states and received just over $10.5 million in grant funding in 2015. In 2010, the program was one of four recipients of the U.S. Department of Education’s $50 million Investing in Innovation Scale‑up grant.

Yet when Success For All’s co-developer, Robert Slavin at Johns Hopkins University, read a pre-publication draft of the paper, he threatened the journal with legal action if they published it. According to Slavin, the manuscript contained “libelous” and “defamatory” statements.

Subsequently, ASU declined to publish the accepted paper, and instead told Pogrow they would only publish a revised piece on the methodology used to evaluate which school interventions are effective — and thus should receive public funds. The revised paper does not directly mention Success For All or Slavin in the text (although it cites past articles by Pogrow criticizing the program). The revision, which Pogrow agreed to, “gutted the article,” he told us.  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Megan Scudellari

March 15th, 2017 at 2:00 pm

Another correction for prominent cancer researcher who’s dodged accusations for decades

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The chair of a biology department who has faced years of misconduct accusations has taken another hit—a lengthy correction due to text “overlap” between one of his PNAS papers and six other articles.

According to the correction, a reader contacted the journal to notify the editors that text and sentences in multiple sections of the 2015 paper — on which Carlo Croce is last author — were lifted from other sources without quotation marks.

This is the second correction for Croce in PNAS regarding overlap issues in just the last few weeks—the first was published on March 7 (see here). In both instances, PNAS did not call the textual similarities plagiarism, but the notice details multiple instances of overlap.

Croce, the chair of the department of cancer biology and genetics at The Ohio State University (OSU), is no stranger to controversy.

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Written by Victoria Stern

March 15th, 2017 at 11:30 am

PLOS ONE has faced a decline in submissions – why? New editor speaks

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By some measures, 2016 was a somewhat rocky year for PLOS ONE — it issued some high-profile retractions, and published fewer papers, in part due to a decline in submissions. Still, the first multidisciplinary open-access journal — which accepts all submissions that meet technical and ethical standards, regardless of the results — publishes more than 20,000 papers per year, juggling thousands of editors and reviewers. So what does the future hold for this “large and complex” journal? We spoke with its new editor, Joerg Heber, who assumed the role in November.

Retraction Watch: What are your primary goals for the journal, and how do you plan to achieve them?

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Written by Alison McCook

March 15th, 2017 at 9:42 am

Posted in plos,plos one