Retraction Watch readers, we really need 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 really need your help

Researcher loses battle with Cell over wording of retraction notice

For months, a researcher has wrestled with a journal over the wording of an upcoming retraction notice. It appears that she has lost.

Earlier this week, Cell retracted the paper, despite the protests of first author Shalon Babbitt Ledbetter. When Ledbetter learned the journal was planning to retract the biochemistry paper over image manipulations, but wouldn’t name the culprit in the notice, she shared her concerns on PubPeer. Although a 2015 letter sent to Cell from Saint Louis University identified last author Dorota Skowyra as responsible for multiple manipulations, the journal wasn’t planning to say Skowyra was responsible in the retraction notice. Which would leave all other authors — particularly Ledbetter — under a cloud of suspicion.

Now, Cell Press has finally retracted the paper, along with another paper in Molecular Cell that lists Skowyra as corresponding author. Both notices describe image manipulations that were investigated by Saint Louis University (SLU). Neither identifies who is responsible.

Continue reading Researcher loses battle with Cell over wording of retraction notice

Author under fire has eight papers retracted, including seven from one journal

A researcher whose work on the use of nanomaterials has been heavily scrutinized on PubPeer — with one critic alleging a paper contained “obviously fabricated” images — has lost eight papers. [Editor’s note: See update below.]

The eight articles — seven from Biosensors and Bioelectronics and one from Analytica Chimica Acta, both published by Elsevier — all cite issues related to duplications, and conclude with some version of the following:

Continue reading Author under fire has eight papers retracted, including seven from one journal

Flawed climate science paper “exposed potential weaknesses” in the peer review process

Before we present this new post, a question: Do you enjoy reading Retraction Watch? If so, we could really use your help. Would you consider a tax-deductible donation to support our work? Thanks in advance.

How did a deeply flawed paper, which contradicts mainstream science on climate change, pass peer review?

That is what three editorial board members tried to figure out after the journal, Global and Planetary Change, faced heavy criticism for publishing the controversial paper last year. The board members published their findings earlier this month in a commentary.

Martin Grosjean, the corresponding author on the editorial, told Retraction Watch that the editors and publisher, Elsevier, share the same interest: Continue reading Flawed climate science paper “exposed potential weaknesses” in the peer review process

Weekend reads: A new publishing scam; reproducibility as a political weapon; prosecuting predatory publishers

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 a neither-correction-nor-retraction that made no one happy, a debate over an obesity intervention that ended without a resolution, and the retraction of a study that led to hyped claims about the dangers of tuna. Here’s what was happening elsewhere: Continue reading Weekend reads: A new publishing scam; reproducibility as a political weapon; prosecuting predatory publishers

That study reporting worrisome levels of zinc in tuna? It’s being retracted

Recently, a rash of news outlets posted concerns that canned tuna and other products may contain potentially dangerous levels of zinc. They were all wrong.

News outlets such as The Daily Mail and The Sun reported findings from a recent study, which showed that canned foods such as tuna may contain 100 times the daily limit of zinc — raising concerns about how such huge doses of the mineral could be causing digestion problems. The last author of the study told Retraction Watch the paper is going to be retracted, because the authors made a fundamental error calculating the amount of zinc present in canned foods.

Last week, the UK’s biggest health website NHS Choices posted a critique of the paper, in which they recalculated the levels of zinc present in canned foods:

Continue reading That study reporting worrisome levels of zinc in tuna? It’s being retracted

After issuing dozens of corrections to high-profile book, historian shuts down his blog

Charles Armstrong

A historian has shuttered his personal blog, which he created to respond to critics of his high-profile book.

Columbia University professor Charles Armstrong launched the blog in order to address the criticisms of his book about North Korea during the Cold War. Soon after Tyranny of the Weak appeared, Balazs Szalontai of Korea University uploaded a series of what he called “noteworthy problems” with the book — mostly allegations of including either irrelevant or non-existent sources to support Armstrong’s claims. In the end of 2016, Armstrong announced on his blog that he was going to issue dozens of corrections to the book, which won the John K. Fairbank Prize in East Asian History in 2014.

The book has now been re-published; as such, Armstrong told Retraction Watch he sees no need to maintain the blog further:

Continue reading After issuing dozens of corrections to high-profile book, historian shuts down his blog

Political science has a #metoo moment

Many political scientists are up in arms over an editor’s decision to use his journal as a platform to defend himself from allegations of sexual harassment.

The editor, William Jacoby of Michigan State University, has since removed a statement denying the allegations from the American Journal of Political Science (AJPS), and posted an apology. Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA), which publishes the journal, has announced it’s asked Jacoby to “suspend all editorial operations until the council can take formal action later this week.”

Continue reading Political science has a #metoo moment

Research problems at Australian university hit the news

A university in Australia that’s made headlines before over allegations of research misconduct has found itself in the news once again.

Last week, the University of Queensland (UQ) announced some of its authors were retracting a paper after discovering data were missing. Just days later, the university made headlines over an investigation into three papers about controversial therapies that were OK’d by UQ ethics committees. Continue reading Research problems at Australian university hit the news

Caught Our Notice: Why did Reuters remove a 3.5-year-old story?

Title: Oil producer Afren fires CEO, 3 other executives in scandal

What Caught Our Attention: Two days ago, the news organization Reuters mysteriously withdrew a 2014 story about the firing of four people from now-defunct oil company Afren, including its CEO. The only explanation: “it did not meet Reuters standards for accuracy.”

The executives were fired in 2014 for allegedly receiving unauthorized payments; two have subsequently faced criminal and civil charges. The news agency has retracted articles on rare occasions — but why a news story from nearly four years ago? The 2014 story appeared to report on an announcement from the company on that same day, which corroborates the facts reported in the headline (all that’s left of the original story). Other outlets also covered the same announcement.

All we know about why the 2014 story disappeared is what little a Reuters spokesperson told us:

Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Why did Reuters remove a 3.5-year-old story?