A misconduct probe — which led to 20 retraction requests — took four years. Why?

Santosh Katiyar

A probe into the work of a researcher who studied natural products for cancer had many stops and starts along the way — including five extensions granted by the U.S. Office of Research Integrity — according to documents obtained by Retraction Watch.

Following a public records request, we recently obtained a copy of the report on the investigation of allegations of misconduct by Santosh Katiyar, issued jointly by the University of Alabama Birmingham and the Birmingham VA Medical Center. As a result of the report, the institutions have requested 20 retractions of work by Santosh Katiyar, who received millions in funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health

How does the report stack up?

Continue reading A misconduct probe — which led to 20 retraction requests — took four years. Why?

Fecal transplant paper pulled for “personal issue”

Last month, the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition pulled an article on fecal transplantation for a reason that, well, doesn’t pass the sniff test.

The paper, by Sonia Michail of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, appeared online in October 2017 and described a randomized controlled trial of fecal transplants to treat kids with ulcerative colitis. (If you’re interested, here’s an overview of how fecal transplantation works.) The trial, or one awfully like it, is listed on ClinicalTrials.gov, and shows Michail as the lone investigator on the study, which is aiming to gather more than 100 participants.

But the journal retracted the article — which was the subject of a laudatory editorial in the journal pointing readers to the findings — with an entirely opaque statement, saying that the work   

Continue reading Fecal transplant paper pulled for “personal issue”

Journal holds firm on decision not to retract Macchiarini paper, despite outside pressure

Earlier this year, the president of the Karolinska Institute, Ole Petter Ottersen, contacted the journal Respiration, saying KI had conducted an investigation and determined that a 2015 paper co-authored by once-lauded surgeon Paolo Macchiarini had been tainted by misconduct. Please retract the paper, Ottersen said. When the journal said no — opting to publish correspondence from KI and the authors’ response instead — Ottersen posted some of their correspondence online, in an attempt to pressure the journal to do the right thing. It’s not going to work, according to Thomas H. Nold, publication manager at Karger, which publishes Respiration. We spoke to Nold about the journal’s plans for the paper.

Retraction Watch: How do you feel about KI’s decision to publish your correspondence?

Continue reading Journal holds firm on decision not to retract Macchiarini paper, despite outside pressure

Meet the scientific sleuths: A dozen who’ve had an impact on the scientific literature

Over the years, we have written about a number of the sleuths who, on their own time and often at great risks to their careers or finances, have looked for issues in the scientific literature. Here’s a sampling: Continue reading Meet the scientific sleuths: A dozen who’ve had an impact on the scientific literature

Weekend reads: How to kill zombie citations; wanted: 6,000 new journals; does peer review matter anymore?

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 retraction and replacement of a diet study in the New England Journal of Medicine, an introduction to the philosophy plagiarism police, and an explanation for why some PLOS ONE retraction notices include more information lately. Here’s what was happening elsewhere (and it was a lot):

Continue reading Weekend reads: How to kill zombie citations; wanted: 6,000 new journals; does peer review matter anymore?

University of Liverpool announces it’s investigating someone for misconduct. But don’t ask who.

University of Liverpool

Transparency begins …. with a T, as Ali G once said. That seems to be extent of the University of Liverpool’s commitment to openness, at least in the handling of an ongoing misconduct investigation at the UK institution.

We know this much: The school in late 2017 launched an inquiry into one of its scientists — apparently someone involved in liver research. The investigators concluded that the employee, who has since left the institution, had indeed committed research misconduct, according to a statement from the university.  

The problem is, that’s all we know at this point. The university is refusing to name the researcher, identify any affected papers or shed any other light on the matter. The only salient facts in the statement are that the work involves:

Continue reading University of Liverpool announces it’s investigating someone for misconduct. But don’t ask who.

Two years of stonewalling: What happened when a scientist filed a public records request for NASA code

Nathan Myhrvold

Retraction Watch readers may know Nathan Myhrvold, who holds a PhD in physics, as the former chief technology officer at Microsoft, or as the author of Modernist Cuisine. They may also recall that he questioned a pair of papers in Nature about dinosaurs. In that vein, he has also been raising concerns about papers describing the sizes of asteroids. (Not everyone shares those concerns; the authors of the original papers don’t, and astronomer Phil Plait said Myrhvold was wrong in 2016.) Last month, Myhrvold published a peer-reviewed paper as part of his critique. The final version of that paper went live today, as did a story about the science in The New York Times and a detailed explanation by Myrhvold in Medium. As the discussion over the results continues, here he shares his experience trying to obtain details about the methodology the authors used.

Two years ago, I uploaded a preprint to arXiv.org describing what I considered serious problems, including apparently irreproducible results, that I had uncovered when analyzing a set of research articles published by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) NEOWISE project. NEOWISE is the largest scientific analysis of asteroids ever conducted; the researchers on the project have so far published estimated sizes of more than 164,000 objects in the solar system, estimates they have claimed were all derived by applying a standard approach to raw observations from the WISE space telescope.

My findings generated quite a stir in the media, including stories in The New York Times, Science, and Scientific American, among other outlets. My hope and expectation was that shining light on these troubling issues would spur the JPL researchers to retract or correct their papers. At the very least, I thought, they would release the various unpublished techniques that they had used in a series of highly cited papers, stretching from 2011 to 2015, thus lifting the veil of secrecy that had prevented me and other astronomers from replicating their results. Continue reading Two years of stonewalling: What happened when a scientist filed a public records request for NASA code

An awkward correction later, these researchers have a warning for would-be authors

Mitchell Knutson

Mitchell Knutson learned to take a journal’s policies seriously the hard way.

Early in 2017, Knutson, a professor at the University of Florida in Gainesville who studies iron metabolism, had findings he and his team were excited about publishing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). So they submitted a manuscript on January 30. Continue reading An awkward correction later, these researchers have a warning for would-be authors

Does the Mediterranean diet prevent heart attacks? NEJM retracts (and replaces) high-profile paper

The New England Journal of Medicine has retracted a 2013 paper that provided some proof that the Mediterranean diet can directly prevent heart attacks, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems.

The original paper, “Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet,” has been cited 1,759 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.

But the findings haven’t disappeared — the authors have replaced the paper with a new version, which softens its earlier claims. Continue reading Does the Mediterranean diet prevent heart attacks? NEJM retracts (and replaces) high-profile paper

Journal corrects, but will not retract, controversial paper on internet porn

Gary Wilson

Dismissing concerns of the Committee on Publication Ethics and extensive allegations of misconduct, a journal has corrected, but is refusing to retract, a 2016 paper linking online pornography to sexual dysfunction in men.
The article, “Is internet pornography causing sexual dysfunctions? A review with clinical reports,” appeared last year in Behavioral Sciences, which is published by MDPI.
After publication, critics asked COPE to look at the paper, and in particular whether the authors had obtained adequate informed consent for two patients described in the work. COPE, which has no enforcement authority, said in an email to the publisher that it would have recommended retraction of the article.

Continue reading Journal corrects, but will not retract, controversial paper on internet porn