The top ten stories at Retraction Watch in 2023

Each year since 2013, we put together a roundup of the 10  most-read stories we published on the blog over the past 12 months.

This list doesn’t have some of what you might think are the biggest stories of the year—Stanford president Marc Tessier-Lavigne’s resignation and retractions, allegations of fraud against Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino, and the unraveling of the claimed discovery of a room-temperature superconductor. Or more recently, allegations of plagiarism, with associated corrections, by Harvard president Claudine Gay.

When other outlets are paying a lot of attention to a retraction-related story, we think it’s a better use of our limited resources to focus on stories they’re missing. This year, that included a prominent nanoscientist who retracted a paper after PhD students found an error, the delisting of 19 Hindawi journals from a leading index, and a Yale history professor whose first book misrepresents primary sources, according to other scholars. (And if you want to help us cover even more stories in 2024, it’s not too late to make an end-of-year tax-deductible contribution!)

The following list reflects the stories that grabbed our readers’ attention the most in 2023:  

  1. A researcher used ChatGPT to generate a paper on millipedes and posted it to a preprint server not once, but twice. The affair came to light when another scientist got an email notification that the preprint cited his work–but some of the papers he’d supposedly written didn’t exist. Staff at the preprint server pulled down the paper, which the corresponding author later reposted to a different server, still with fictitious references. 
  2. After the open-access publisher MDPI complained about an article in Research Evaluation classifying some of its journals as “predatory,” the offending article was retracted and replaced with a version with softer conclusions. Language throughout the article was changed to describe the findings less definitively, although some critical language remained. 
  3. Paul Weiss, a high-profile nanoscientist and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, retracted an article after three doctoral students, one of whom was an author of the original study, flagged an issue with a measurement. The original data were lost, the authors said, and they’d not yet been able to replicate the experiments. 
  4. Nineteen Hindawi journals were removed from Clarivate’s Web of Science in March, and the hits just kept coming for Wiley, which bought the open-access publisher in 2021. Wiley retracted more than 8,000 Hindawi articles linked to paper mills this year, closed four journals, and lost an estimated $35-40 million revenue in the current fiscal year. 
  5. Late last year, a notorious paper with capital Ts apparently pasted onto a graph as error bars was retracted from a special issue in a Hindawi journal. The Ts attracted lots of attention on, but they were just the most obvious strange thing about the paper. The journal that published the article was one of the 19 Hindawi titles Clarivate later delisted from Web of Science. 
  6. Anca Turcu, a political scientist at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, found an “unpleasant surprise” when going over her publication stats earlier this year: a paper with her name on it that she hadn’t written, which we found had plagiarized another article. We later heard from the academic listed as editor in chief of the journal that published the article in Turcu’s name, who told us he also was “not associated with the journal in any way.” 
  7. The journal Genetika, which lost its impact factor and spot in Clarivate’s Web of Science index this year, made good on a promise to retract dozens of papers with “compromised” peer review. Its retraction notice for the 31 articles and a corrigendum also stated that the journal had blacklisted the authors and reviewers of the papers. 
  8. The first book of a Yale professor of Chinese history “fails to meet basic academic standards” and is “filled with misinformation,” according to a no-holds-barred review. Two other critical reviews were subsequently published. The book’s author recently published a response in the same journal that ran the initial review, in which she “rebut[s] the reviewer’s false claims that the book is full of errors and that I have committed academic malfeasance.” 
  9. Lara S. Hwa, an assistant professor of neuroscience at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, faked data in two published studies and two grant applications submitted to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), according to the U.S. Office of Research Integrity. One of the articles, published while she was a postdoc, has been retracted. Its notice stated the authors determined the published data “did not match the raw data values,” and after re-analyzing the raw data, “there were multiple changes in statistical significance, leading to an overall change in the interpretation of the results.” 
  10. A former chemistry professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville admitted to reusing data in four grant applications to the NIH while claiming that it came from different experiments, according to another ORI finding. She agreed to have any federally funded work supervised for four years.

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