Retraction Watch is back at full speed. Here’s what you need to do to make sure you’re seeing our content.

Our readers will likely know that the site has been having significant trouble for more than two weeks. Thanks for your patience, your offers to help, and for sticking with us during that time. We’re happy to say that we seem to have identified all of the various issues involved, and have solved them. Some of those fixes may mean that you’ll need to resubscribe to our email alerts, so keep reading (or skip over the vaguely technical stuff in the next few paragraphs if you’d rather). Continue reading Retraction Watch is back at full speed. Here’s what you need to do to make sure you’re seeing our content.

Weekend reads: Automated image duplication detection?; journal editor frustrations; cash for catching errors

We seem to be past the worst of our technical issues, so thanks for your patience with us over the past few weeks. (Some of the fixes came at a cost, so we would be remiss if we did not ask readers to consider a donation to support our work.)

The week at Retraction Watch featured coverage of a now-dropped lawsuit against PNAS, how much it costs to have a PhD dissertation written for you, and findings of misconduct by a top academic recruit. Here’s what was happening elsewhere: Continue reading Weekend reads: Automated image duplication detection?; journal editor frustrations; cash for catching errors

Prof who just dropped $10M suit against PNAS: “I was expecting them to settle”

Mark Jacobson

Yesterday, Mark Jacobson, a researcher at Stanford University who studies the future of renewable energy, announced he would drop a $10 million defamation suit over a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that was critical of his work. As we reported, the announcement came just two days after the District of Columbia Superior Court heard oral arguments about the case because the defendants — the National Academy of Sciences and Christopher Clack, who runs a data analysis company called Vibrant Clean Energy — had asked the court to dismiss the case.

When the suit became public knowledge in November 2017, Jacobson’s decision drew criticism from both scientists and lawyers. We talked with him today about how he feels now that it’s over. Continue reading Prof who just dropped $10M suit against PNAS: “I was expecting them to settle”

Caught Our Notice: Big journal, big correction

Title: Tranexamic Acid in Patients Undergoing Coronary-Artery Surgery

What Caught Our Attention: When the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) publishes a correction that is more than a misspelling of a name, we take a look. When NEJM publishes a 500-word correction to the data in a highly cited article, we take notice. This study tested the effects of a drug to prevent blood loss in patients undergoing heart surgery; it’s been the subject of correspondence between the authors and outside experts. The correction involved tweaks — lots of tweaks — to the text and tables, which did not change the outcomes.   Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Big journal, big correction

Stanford prof plans to drop $10m suit against PNAS and critic

Mark Jacobson

A professor who is suing a journal publisher and critic for defamation has announced he plans to drop the case.

Yesterday, Stanford University professor Mark Jacobson announced on Twitter that he plans to “voluntarily dismiss the lawsuit” he filed last year in the District of Columbia, in which he alleged he was defamed when the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a paper critical of his research on the future of renewable energy. Continue reading Stanford prof plans to drop $10m suit against PNAS and critic

BMJ journal pulls case report after UK tabloids publish graphic photos

A BMJ journal has retracted a medical case report about a couple in the United Kingdom who were infected by parasitic worms while on a Caribbean cruise.

The paper in BMJ Case Reports included graphic photos of the patients’ buttocks, the site of the infection, which were republished within a week by UK tabloids.

Specifics about when and why the journal retracted the paper remains unclear. BMJ Publishing Group, the journal, and the corresponding author have not responded to multiple requests for comment.

A UK-based lawyer, who has represented doctors in cases that touch on publishing and media law, told us there could be legal trouble. Martin Soames, of London firm Simons Muirhead & Burton, told Retraction Watch that UK laws governing patient confidentiality or protection of personal information could apply, raising problems for both the publisher and the doctors who wrote the paper. Continue reading BMJ journal pulls case report after UK tabloids publish graphic photos

Psst…Need a PhD thesis? That’ll be $63,000

Cath Ellis

Many readers may have heard whisper of companies that offer a range of writing services — some more ethical than others. Although some companies offer to edit and polish writing, others can write PhD research proposals, masters’ theses, or even a dissertation. In other words, the students engage in so-called “contract cheating” — paying someone else to produce work they pass of as their own. We spoke to Cath Ellis at UNSW Sydney, first author of a recent analysis in the International Journal for Educational Integrity, about the extent of the problem, and what troubles her most about these services.

Retraction Watch: How many sites appear to offer PhD theses, which then might get published? Or any other services that could end up in the published literature (say, by even established researchers)?

Continue reading Psst…Need a PhD thesis? That’ll be $63,000

Retracted letter about vaccine safety made potentially “slanderous” claims

Last October, David Hawkes read a letter to the editor that shocked him: It alleged Hawkes and a colleague had lied about their professional affiliations.

Hawkes told Retraction Watch that he contacted the journal Toxicology on October 19 to complain that the letter contained “numerous factual errors that could adversely affect our professional standing,” and requested the journal retract it as soon as possible. Hawkes told the editors of Toxicology:

…the claims about both myself and Joanne Benhamu are factually incorrect and we have received professional advice that they could be considered slanderous.

The journal retracted the letter yesterday, four months after Hawkes’ request. Continue reading Retracted letter about vaccine safety made potentially “slanderous” claims

Author: Journal’s unapproved edits distorted my ideas

Researcher Floribert Patrick Endong had been looking forward to seeing his paper in print. Several months after he submitted it to Gender Studies, the journal told him in March that it was online. But when he read it, Endong was disappointed to see some changes he had not approved, which he believed “deformed much of the initial text.”

It turns out, the journal “did not allow me to vet the changes before publication,” he explained. Continue reading Author: Journal’s unapproved edits distorted my ideas

PNAS asks D.C. court to dismiss $10 million defamation lawsuit

WASHINGTON, DC — Lawyers for the National Academy of Sciences have asked a District of Columbia court to dismiss a $10 million defamation suit brought by a Stanford University professor.

Mark Jacobson, an engineering professor at Stanford who has published research about the future of renewable energy, alleged he was defamed in a June 2017 article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In September 2017, Jacobson sued both NAS and the first author of the article for libel in D.C. Superior Court. He also sued NAS for breach of contract.

In response, the co-defendants have each asked the court to dismiss the case under a D.C. law designed to curb so-called “strategic lawsuits against public participation” (SLAPP). Anti-SLAPP laws, which D.C. and 28 states have enacted, generally offer defendants a way to counter what they consider burdensome lawsuits that may have the effect of chilling speech on important issues. In a memo filed Nov. 27, 2017, in support of its motion, NAS claimed that Jacobson filed the suit: Continue reading PNAS asks D.C. court to dismiss $10 million defamation lawsuit