A university is revoking a student’s PhD — but not because of misconduct

Earlier this month, Tokushima University in Japan announced it was revoking a student’s PhD degree — but for a somewhat unusual reason.

The student didn’t appear to commit misconduct. Rather, the authors discovered a series of errors that invalidated the paper’s central conclusion.

The case has us wondering about how universities should respond when they discover some of a PhD student’s research is no longer valid — especially when there is no suspicion of misconduct.

Based on our Google translation of the more detailed description of what happened, the university concluded the problem was the result of the authors’ “simple mistakes:”

Continue reading A university is revoking a student’s PhD — but not because of misconduct

Study claiming “abortion reversal” is safe and effective temporarily withdrawn for ethical issues

A journal has temporarily removed a study by a researcher who has long championed a highly controversial “abortion reversal” method over concerns about its ethical approval.

The study, “A Case Series Detailing the Successful Reversal of the Effects of Mifepristone Using Progesterone,” appeared in Issues In Law And Medicine in April. Its first author, George Delgado, is the medical director of Culture of Life Family Services, which operates a ‘‘crisis pregnancy center,’ according to a 2017 New York Times Magazine article about “abortion-pill reversal.”

Medical abortion consists of two pills, mifepristone and misoprostol, taken some time apart. In order to see if its effects could be undone, here’s what the authors of the withdrawn study say they did: Continue reading Study claiming “abortion reversal” is safe and effective temporarily withdrawn for ethical issues

Gluten-free turkeys? Paper on dangers of wheat-based diet in birds retracted

The journal Scientifica has retracted a 2016 paper on gut disease in turkeys for a rafter of sins including plagiarism and authors plucked out of thin air.

The article, “Role of wheat based diet on the pathology of necrotic enteritis in turkeys,” was purportedly written by a team from Pakistan and France. But it turns out the first author, one Sajid Umar, appears to have misrepresented his affiliations and added names to the list of authors that didn’t belong there. He also plagiarized, although the journal took pains to avoid saying as much.

Here’s the notice: Continue reading Gluten-free turkeys? Paper on dangers of wheat-based diet in birds retracted

Weekend reads: Kim Kardashian loses an authorship; legal threats follow misconduct allegations; faked job offer leads to prosecution

Before we present this week’s Weekend Reads, a question: Do you enjoy our weekly roundup? If so, we could really use your help. Would you consider a tax-deductible donation to support Weekend Reads, and our daily work? Thanks in advance.

The week at Retraction Watch featured the retraction of a Nature paper over the objections of the first author — who hired a lawyer; a call for a new research misconduct body in the UK; and a look at why retractions take so long. Here’s what was happening elsewhere: Continue reading Weekend reads: Kim Kardashian loses an authorship; legal threats follow misconduct allegations; faked job offer leads to prosecution

Nearly two years after a university asked for retractions, two journals have done nothing

How long should a retraction take?

That’s a complex question, of course, depending on how long the alleged issues with a paper take to be investigated, whether authors — and their lawyers — fight tooth-and-nail against a retraction, and other factors. But once a university officially requests a retraction, how long should one take?

The answer, for two journals who published work by cancer researcher Anil Jaiswal, is 22 months — and counting. Continue reading Nearly two years after a university asked for retractions, two journals have done nothing

A publisher just retracted ten papers whose peer review was “engineered” — despite knowing about the problem of fake reviews for years

Many publishers have been duped by fake peer reviews, which have brought down more than 600 papers to date. But some continue to get fooled.

Recently, SAGE retracted 10 papers published as part of two special collections in Advances in Mechanical Engineering after discovering the peer review process that had been managed by the guest editors “did not meet the journal’s usual rigorous standards.” After a new set of reviewers looked over the collections, they determined 10 papers included “technical errors,” and the content “did not meet the journal’s required standard of scientific validity.”

Yeah, we’re not exactly sure what happened here, either. SAGE gave us a little extra clarity — but not much.

Continue reading A publisher just retracted ten papers whose peer review was “engineered” — despite knowing about the problem of fake reviews for years

Retraction Watch readers, we could still really use your help

Dear Retraction Watch readers:

We hope that you continue to enjoy Retraction Watch, and find it — and our database of retractions — useful. Maybe you’re a researcher who likes keeping up with developments in scientific integrity. Maybe you’re a reporter who has found a story idea in our database, or on the blog. Maybe you’re an ethics instructor who uses the site to find case studies. Or a publisher who uses our blog to screen authors who submit manuscripts — we know at least two who do.

Whether you fall into one of those categories or another, we need your help. Continue reading Retraction Watch readers, we could still really use your help

UK House of Commons committee wants to make sure “university investigations into research misconduct are handled appropriately”

As Retraction Watch readers may recall, the UK’s House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has been holding an inquiry into scientific misconduct for well over a year. During that inquiry, we submitted written evidence including some statistics about how the UK’s retraction rate compared to other countries, and our Ivan Oransky gave oral testimony late last year.

Today, the committee released a report of its findings, along with several recommendations. Among them are for all UK universities to “establish a national Research Integrity Committee to provide a means of verifying that university investigations into research misconduct are handled appropriately.”

Norman Lamb, chair of the committee, said in a statement:

While most universities publish an annual report on research integrity, six years from signing a Concordat which recommends doing so it is not yet consistent across the sector. It’s not a good look for the research community to be dragging its heels on this, particularly given research fraud can quite literally become a matter of life and death.

We asked C. K. Gunsalus, who serves as director of the National Center for Professional & Research Ethics and who has studied institutional integrity for decades, for her take on the report.

C. K. Gunsalus

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee’s Research Integrity: Sixth Report of Session 2017-19 Report is both good news and bad news. The good news is that the report crisply lays out the importance of a number of important challenges to research integrity, not only in the UK, but for all research communities internationally: Continue reading UK House of Commons committee wants to make sure “university investigations into research misconduct are handled appropriately”

University of Liverpool reverses course, names researcher guilty of misconduct

Daniel Antoine

A few weeks ago, we received a press release that gave us pause: The University of Liverpool said it had found one of its researchers guilty of research misconduct — but did not say who, nor which papers might be involved.

Now, less than one month later, the university is naming the researcher, and identifying a paper that it has asked the journal to retract.

After we covered the opaque release, we received some tips that the scientist might be Daniel Antoine, who studies liver damage. Last week, Liverpool confirmed that Antoine is the researcher in question.

After he left Liverpool, Antoine took a position at the University of Edinburgh. However, the faculty page is now blank, and a spokesperson told Retraction Watch he is “no longer employed by the University”:

Continue reading University of Liverpool reverses course, names researcher guilty of misconduct

Three years after questions surfaced, PLOS ONE retracts paper about potential antibiotic

In April 2015, two high-profile chemistry bloggers — and their commenters — raised questions about a paper that had been published in PLOS ONE some 18 months earlier. More than three years later, the journal has now retracted the paper, with a notice that echoes the 2015 blog posts.

So what took so long? PLOS tells Retraction Watch: Continue reading Three years after questions surfaced, PLOS ONE retracts paper about potential antibiotic