Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Caught Our Notice: A retraction that is “useful for investigators”

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Via Wikimedia

Title:  Yeast CAF-1 assembles histone (H3-H4) 2 tetramers prior to DNA deposition

What Caught Our Attention: Informative retraction notices can be infrequent, but rarer still are notices that fulfill an oft-ignored function: To be a source of learning for others in the field. Here, the authors offer a nearly 800-word “detailed description of the issues” with “some observations that may be useful for investigators conducting similar studies.” These authors embraced the retraction process, carefully explaining their findings or the lack thereof, for each figure from their now-retracted paper.     Read the rest of this entry »

Doctor with 9 retractions loses lawsuit over work as expert witness

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Cory Toth

A Canadian doctor with nine retractions due to misconduct has lost a court case seeking payment for an expert medical exam he performed in August 2014. The exam took place several months after his university found he had allowed a breach of research integrity in his lab and a month before news of the investigation and his departure from the school made national news in Canada.

On Dec. 5, Cory Toth, a former professor at the University of Calgary (U of C), appeared in an Edmonton, Alberta courtroom as the plaintiff in a lawsuit filed in Provincial Civil Court. The story was first reported by the Edmonton Journal.

Court documents, which we’ve made available here, show that in April 2016 Toth sued Western Medical Assessments (WMA) — the company that hired him to perform the exam, which was used in another case — and Michele Reeves — the lawyer who hired WMA. Toth alleged that he never received payment for his work and sought Can$2,000 (US$1,552) plus interest. In his claim, he said that despite the U of C finding: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew P. Han

December 13th, 2017 at 11:00 am

“Utterly awful:” David Gorski weighs in on yet another paper linking vaccines and autism

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David Gorski, via Wayne State

Retraction Watch readers may be forgiven for thinking that there has been at least a small uptick in the papers that claim to link autism and vaccines, and yet tend to raise more questions than they answer. Sometimes, they are retracted. See here, here and here, for example. We talk to David Gorski, well known for his fights against pseudoscience, about the most recent example.

Retraction Watch (RW): You describe a recent paper reporting high levels of aluminum in the brains of people with autism as “utterly awful.” What are your main criticisms of the paper? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

December 13th, 2017 at 8:00 am

Posted in elsevier

Lesson one: How to design a good experiment

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Len Freedman. Credit: Judy Licht/GBSI

Vivian Siegel. Credit: Maria Nemchuk

It’s clear science has a reproducibility problem. What’s less clear is how to address it. Recently, the U.S. National Institutes of Health awarded the Global Biological Standards Institute (GBSI) $2.34 million to train students in good experimental design (also covered by The Scientist). The first week begins June 2018 at Harvard Medical School. We spoke with Leonard P. Freedman, Founding President and Chief Scientific Officer of GBSI and Vivian Siegel, the education director of the program.

Retraction Watch: Why do students need extra training in experimental design? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

December 12th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Posted in not reproducible

Psychologist under fire leaves university to start private practice

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Jens Förster

Jens Förster, a prominent social psychologist whose work has been subject to much scrutiny, recently left his position at Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany to start a private psychology practice.

We’ve verified with the university that Förster no longer works there, but the circumstances of his exit are not entirely clear. 

Förster’s research has faced considerable scrutiny in the past few years. A 2015 report describing an investigation into Förster’s work concluded that several of his papers likely contained unreliable data. Three of those papers have been retracted and four others have received expressions of concern. Förster, however, has denied allegations that he manipulated his data. In 2015, he turned down a prestigious professorship, citing the personal toll the investigation had taken. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

December 12th, 2017 at 8:00 am

ORI: Ex-grad student “falsified and/or fabricated” data in PNAS submission

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A former graduate student falsified or fabricated data in a manuscript submitted to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, according to the Office of Research Integrity at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In a finding released Dec. 8, ORI said that Matthew Endo, a former graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly” caused false data to be recorded, and “falsified and/or fabricated data and related images” by altering, reusing, or relabeling them.

Endo has agreed to a settlement, effective Nov. 16, which requires him to work under supervision for three years on projects supported by the U.S. Public Health Service, among other conditions.

The manuscript entitled “Amphotericin primarily kills human cells by binding and extracting cholesterol” was submitted to PNAS, but withdrawn prior to peer review.

Specifically, ORI found that Endo used tactics to make results look better than they actually were, such as altering a laboratory test result to make a drug preparation “appear more pure than in the actual results of experimentation,” and lying about the number of times he’d run an experiment.  As an example: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew P. Han

December 11th, 2017 at 2:40 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Caught Our Notice: How can a publication be a surprise to a corresponding author?

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Via Wikimedia

Title: Umbelliferone reverses depression-like behavior in chronic unpredictable mild stress-induced mice via RIP140/NF-κB pathway

What Caught Our Attention: One would think that the corresponding author would have to be aware that they are submitting an article for publication — but apparently not, as this retraction demonstrates. The 2016 paper listed two corresponding authors — along with both of their emails and mailing addresses — but according to the retraction notice, one of them did not give consent “in any form” to the publication. Often, we see authors unaware of the use of their name when their email has been faked, but here, it’s possible the journal simply relied on the other corresponding author for all correspondence. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison Abritis

December 11th, 2017 at 11:00 am

New feature aims to draw journals into post-publication comments on PubPeer

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Brandon Stell

When a paper is challenged on PubPeer, is a journal paying attention? A new feature recently unveiled by the site makes it easier to find out. The Journal Dashboards allow journals to see what people are saying about the papers they published, and allows readers to know which journals are particularly responsive to community feedback. We spoke with co-founder Brandon Stell to get more information.

Retraction Watch: Can you briefly describe the Journal dashboards and how they work?

The dashboards are a collection of features that we created to make it easier for journal editors to track and react to comments on their journal.  The dashboards allow journals to create teams whose members receive immediate alerts to new PubPeer comments.  They will also be able to access other information such as statistics of commenting trends across the journal.  Specialized searches will also be available. At the moment the dashboards are available to journal editors only but we hope to offer a similar service for institutions in the near future.

RW: What prompted PubPeer to create the Journal dashboards?

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

December 11th, 2017 at 8:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Weekend reads: Peer review “ineffective and unworthy;” science a “profiteering enterprise;” Beall’s boss speaks

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Written by Ivan Oransky

December 9th, 2017 at 9:17 am

Posted in weekend reads

US court denies virus researcher’s latest appeal challenging 7-year funding ban

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Scott Brodie has almost run out of options.

A former professor at the University of Washington, Brodie is currently involved in his third lawsuit challenging a finding of scientific misconduct and a seven-year funding ban handed down in 2010 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Research Integrity. He says that in the time since his case was heard by an administrative law judge at the ORI level, new evidence has come to light that shows he “did not have a ‘full and fair opportunity to litigate’ the issues.” His lawsuit sought a court order to have the ORI revisit its decision.

Last year, a U.S. District Court judge dismissed the case, saying it revisited old issues that had already been litigated, but Brodie appealed that decision. Now, his quest may have come to an end: On Nov. 27, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit dismissed the appeal. If he wants to continue the case, Brodie’s only remaining option is to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the court order, the panel of three judges wrote:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew P. Han

December 8th, 2017 at 11:00 am