Weekend reads: Vaccine-neurological damage paper retracted under protest; buy a PhD thesis for $10,000; retraction by press release?

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The week at Retraction Watch featured a three-part series about what happened when a team tried to publish a replication attempt in a Nature journal, the story of how an author hoodwinked a journal with a fake name, and one former editor’s frustration with a publication ethics group. Here’s what was happening elsewhere:

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2 thoughts on “Weekend reads: Vaccine-neurological damage paper retracted under protest; buy a PhD thesis for $10,000; retraction by press release?”

  1. Here is a link to a non-paywalled draft of the paper on registered reports in the last item.

    SSRN also has extensive anonymous quotations from conference authors, reviewers and attendees on the challenges of registration here , and from published authors discussing the impact of author discretion under the traditional editorial process < (e.g., p-hacking, HARKing) here . The quotes illustrate why the paper is titled “No System is Perfect”.

    Sample quote from a conference author:

    My view is that it is a very slippery slope if we start to allow authors of these registered reports to “reframe” the front end of the paper after the study is done. Maybe the best way to interpret our findings is not the motivation we used in the proposal; maybe the best theoretical framework to explain the findings is not what we used in the theory section; maybe we could have summarized our findings in
    a way that it makes it easier for the audience to cite
    unambiguous “take-aways”. But we shouldn’t. It is up to the readers to decide and discover a better “motivation” or theoretical framework for the findings (and it’s not necessarily the ones the authors discover after the study). It’s also up to the readers to figure out what the “take-aways” should be and how to cite the paper. That’s how scientific research should be done. Some researchers discover some facts, and others examine these facts and say “wait a
    minute, I have a better way of explaining these facts”.

    Sample quote from an author about the traditional (non-registered) editorial process

    84-Full Professor-Laboratory Experiments
    I was serving as a reviewer for a paper at a top journal, and the original manuscript submitted by the authors had found conflicting results relating to the theory they had proposed–in other words, some of the results were consistent with expectations derived from the theory while others were contrary. The other reviewer suggested that the authors consider a different theory that was, frankly, a better fit for
    the situation and that explained the pattern of results very well–far better than the theory proposed by the authors. The question immediately arose as to whether it would be ethical and proper for the authors to rewrite the manuscript with the new theory in place of the old. This was a difficult situation because it was clear the authors had chosen a theory that didn’t fit the situation very well, and had they
    been aware (or had thought of) the alternate theory suggested by the other reviewer, they would have been well advised on an a priori basis to select it instead of the one they went with, but I had concerns about a wholesale replacement of a theory after data had been collected to test a different theory. On the other hand, the instrument used in collecting the data actually constituted a reasonably adequate way to test the alternate theory, except, of course that it wasn’t specifically designed to differentiate between the two. I don’t recall exactly how the situation was resolved as it was a number of years ago, but my recollection is that the paper was published after some additional data was collected that pointed to the alternate theory.

  2. A journal has retracted a controversial paper claiming that mice given an HPV vaccine showed signs of neurological damage.

    “Japan as a whole has relatively low HPV vaccination rates….”

    They’re not alone.

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